Yes, it does snow in Vancouver—we got a light dusting in January!
While January was relatively uneventful at my house, I still have a few interesting and helpful things to share in this month’s FI update. I tried to keep it short, as I’m busy preparing to publish my first FIRE spending interview soon! (Hopefully, it’ll be ready next week.)
To be notified when the interview goes live, be sure to subscribe to my email list (in the sidebar or scroll to the form at the bottom of my contact me page).
Remote learning: we’re halfway!
I can’t believe it, but we’re at the halfway mark in the boys’ school year. They’ve been learning remotely since September, and it continues to be an amazing experience.
It was unexpected and wonderful that we’ve enjoyed the experience so much, but it’s making it really hard to want to go back to regular school!
We’re still planning to wait until the end of the year to make the final decision, but I can already tell it’ll be a very tough call. Once the school year’s over, I’ll write a full update on our year of remote learning—stay tuned!
Until then, if you haven’t read my post on our experience up to October 2020, you can read it here: Remote Learning During COVID-19: How It’s Going So Far
We celebrated a couple of family members’ birthdays in January. The celebrations (of course) happened over Zoom. It’s odd to realize how normal this has become. Even so, we can’t wait to get back to our usual in-person gatherings!
My hopeful estimate is that we’ll all be vaccinated by October. However, my realistic estimate is that it won’t be for another year or more. (The kids will most certainly be delayed, given that they’ve only just started testing teenagers.)
What’s your estimate for when we’ll see a return to normalcy?
FI and investing update
Liquid net worth update
For the month of January, our liquid net worth dropped by 0.9%. This was partly due to market fluctuations but also due to us selling a bunch of M’s stock options.
Instead of reinvesting all the cash from the sale, I held onto some of it to even out our cash flow. (M’s paycheque drops every January as his EI and CPP deductions start again for the year.)
Related: Learn how I manage M’s stock options (ESPPs) and grants (RSUs) in The Ultimate Guide to ESPPs and RSUs.
Teachable moments with meme stocks
My kids are old enough now that they actually pay attention and want to know more about trending news. Recently, the meme stock craziness caught their attention.
One story that was particularly interesting to them was about the boy who ‘got rich’ from selling his GameStop shares. While it was a nice ending for that kid, it prompted a discussion about how all this madness isn’t sound investing—it’s speculation and gambling.
We also discussed short sales, hedge funds, and the likely consequences of this situation. It was an interesting opportunity for my kids to learn about investing in real time.
Hopefully, all this money talk will ensure that they enter adulthood with a strong grasp of how to build wealth: not by gambling, but by building it slowly but surely!
My friend Family Money Saver wrote a post about this topic: GameStop / AMC / Dogecoin FOMO—How to Recognize Manias & Avoid Risk. It’s an excellent reminder to get educated and stick to a solid plan.
Helpful FI calculators
I recently shared two useful FI/retirement calculators in the ChooseFI Canada Facebook group. They seemed to be well-liked, so I thought I’d also share them here:
- WalletBurst Coast FIRE Calculator: This is the best online Coast FI calculator I’ve come across. It’s clean, simple, and fun to play around with!
- Financial Mentor Ultimate Retirement Calculator: This one is great for quick, semi-detailed calculations. Unlike more simplistic calculators, it has a number of extras built-in (inflation rate, one-time lump-sums, future income streams, etc.)
I’d like to eventually write a post about all the FI/retirement calculators I’ve used over the years, but I hope you have fun with these two for now!
While we didn’t make it a no-spend January, it tends to be a low-spend month for us anyway. That’s partly because none of our large annual expenses are due in January.
We also tend to be all shopped out, after getting all the things we needed on Black Friday and Boxing Day. We were also fortunate that we didn’t have any unexpected expenses or repairs in January. (Though there was almost one! I’ll tell you more in the next section.)
How I unbricked my phone
Remember how I bought a new-to-me phone in November? (See my Fall 2020 Update, and scroll to the spending update for the full story.) Well, that same phone decided to throw a tantrum last week.
For no reason at all, it sent itself into a boot loop, powering itself off then right back on, over and over again. I tried every troubleshooting tip and even got on a chat with Google support, but nothing worked. We couldn’t interrupt the loop.
The support person said my only hope was to bring the phone to uBreakiFix It to have it inspected and repaired. I couldn’t believe it! I’d just bought this thing! Now it would cost me $200+ to replace the motherboard (the likely issue)—more than half of the $390 I paid for it! Ugh.
I was furious, and took to Google to do more research. Eventually, I found a support thread about this very issue. There were over 130 comments! I scrolled through them, gradually losing more and more hope as I went.
However, something kept me scrolling to the end… and I’m so glad I did. At about the 126th comment, I came across this:
It sounded too easy and spammy to actually be true, but I had nothing to lose. My phone was bricked anyway, so why not?
I gave it a try… and guess what? It actually worked! I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to see my screen turn off and stay off! And then, even more amazing: when I turned the phone back on, I finally saw my lovely lock screen appear before my eyes:
SO happy to see my lock screen again!
I couldn’t believe I’d unbricked my phone—all thanks to a random internet stranger. I’m so relieved to not have to spend more money on this phone (or have to recycle it and buy a new one). It’s been a week and the phone is fully back to its happy, functional self. Let’s hope it stays that way!
An alternative to YNAB?
Most of you know that I’m a huge YNAB fan. I’ve used this amazing budgeting software since I won a free copy in 2015… and it’s changed my financial life. (For the record, I don’t use YNAB to budget, but to track our spending and give every dollar a job.)
The only problem with YNAB is I’m on the desktop version—and it’s no longer supported. Eventually, I’ll have no choice but to move to the new, web-based subscription version. I was fully prepared to one day pay the $84/year subscription (yes, YNAB is that amazing). But a new alternative recently came to my attention…
A member of ChooseFI Canada recently shared a link to Aspire Budgeting, and it looks like a YNAB clone! At a quick glance, the only major difference I can see is the price: Aspire Budgeting is free! It’s also kind of cool how it runs on Google Sheets.
I’ve yet to try it out, but I did a bit of research, and it sounds like a worthy contender. If you end up giving it a try, let me know what you think!
And that’s a wrap!
How was your January? Are you also itching to get back to in-person gatherings? Any estimates for when that might be??? Also, let me know if you also got caught up in the GameStop/meme stock frenzy. (It was tough not to!)
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