Enjoying some sunny spring weather with my sister’s kids
If you’re a regular reader, you may have noticed I didn’t post a FI update for February. That’s because it was such a quiet month—I had a tough time coming up with enough updates to fill the post!
I decided instead to combine it with my March update… so you’re getting two updates in one this month. So, without further ado, here’s what happened at my house in February and March.
An eventful (but leisurely) February long weekend
Chinese New Year fell on Friday, February 12th this year. (It’s based on the lunar calendar, so the date changes every year.) The next day, we had our family Zoom dinner to celebrate. Then, it was Valentine’s Day on the 14th and Family Day on the 15th—phew!
On a normal, non-COVID year, it would’ve been a very hectic weekend: Chinese New Year potluck dinner, Valentines’ cookie decorating with friends, then a fun outing for Family Day. I’m exhausted just thinking about it!
This year, it was anything but hectic: we mostly stayed home to putter and lounge around. The only thing we got out for was a couple of tobogganing sessions on the local hill. (Vancouver got a nice dusting of snow over the long weekend.)
Enjoying the slower pace
As much as we’re missing gatherings with friends and family, I have to admit that I appreciate the leisurely pace of life in COVID. I don’t relish the thought of returning to the craziness of non-pandemic life and am already planning for a new normal.
Most likely, it’ll mean saying no more often and yes with more thought and intention. Let’s hope those vaccines continue to be rolled out and that we’ll all get the opportunity to design our new normal soon!
One year of COVID
On March 13th, 2020, M had his last day of in-person work, the boys had their last day of in-person school, and we had our last indoor dinner at M’s parents’ house. I can’t believe it’s been more than a year since we shrank our bubble to just our household.
We’ve now experienced an entire year of firsts in COVID: birthdays, holidays, school breaks, seasonal changes, etc. It’s surreal, depressing, and hard to believe that we’ll now have to experience all these things for a second (and hopefully the last) time in a pandemic.
Still, there’s lots to feel hopeful about, with vaccine distributions continuing all around the world. (Though I hope we’ll be able to get more vaccines to developing countries.) Warmer weather is also on its way, giving us more opportunities to safely socialize outdoors.
I’m actually feeling excited and optimistic about the year ahead—what about you?
So different—but also still the same
Looking back on my COVID posts from 2020, it’s apparent how much things have changed—but also stayed the same:
- We know a whole lot more about the virus—but there’s still so much we need to learn.
- We no longer worry as much about catching the virus from surfaces—but we’re still distancing from others.
- We can see the light at the end of the tunnel—but it’s still not safe to travel.
- We’ve learned how effective remote learning and work can be for many—but disadvantaged groups are still unable to easily access these options.
March 2020–2021 was definitely a year that’ll go down in history. Let’s hope we’ll see more and more of a return to normalcy over the next twelve months.
A sniffle-free year
Continuing with my COVID reflections—I still find it odd to realize it’s been more than a year since any of us was sick. No one in our house has had colds, flus, or tummy bugs… nothing. We’ve all been healthy and sniffle-free for over a year.
That’s just crazy to me! When our kids went to regular, in-person school, we got used to viruses circulating through our household from fall to spring. I wonder if this means we’ll be extra-susceptible to colds and flus once we return to normal life? 😬
Our trip to Japan was cancelled—again
Back in March last year, I wrote about the craziness of cancelling our fully-booked trip to Japan.
BUT, even after all that stress and hassle, in July, I rebooked flights to Japan for travel this spring. (What can I say? The flights were a steal and the cancellation terms were excellent!)
We were to depart Vancouver on March 10, 2021—but clearly, that did not happen! I dragged my feet on cancelling the flights, hoping beyond hope that vaccination miracles would come through for us.
Well, unsurprisingly, they didn’t. 😢 Then, Air Canada made the decision for us by cancelling our flights in early February. So, we now have four credits that we can use within 24 months (or convert to Air Canada gift cards that never expire).
Well, what now? It all depends on our vaccination schedule…
Vaccines in BC
The vaccine rollout in BC (and the rest of Canada) has been bumpy and slow. In addition, the Public Health Agency of Canada has decided to wait four months between doses, to allow more people to be partially vaccinated earlier.
At this point, M and I (who are in the 40–45 age group) should receive our first doses in May, and our second doses in September. That means we’ll be all set if we want to travel in spring 2022.
However, the kids are another story. Their age group (12–16) still hasn’t been fully approved for any vaccine. (However, it sounds like there’s been progress on this recently, so I’m cautiously optimistic!)
My hopeful prediction is that my kids will receive their first doses in September. However, I think December is the more likely scenario. If that’s the case, it means they may not be fully vaccinated until April 2022.
Given the wide spread of dates and the continuing unknowns, I’m not getting my hopes up for Japan in spring 2022. Still, me being me, I will be watching for deals… and I may just grab one regardless—if the price and cancellation terms are right!
Not little anymore
Well, it’s official—we reached two big milestones recently. Number one: I am now the shortest person in my house. 😑 And number two: we now have two teenagers in the house. 😱 That’s right—Kid 2 turned 13 and has entered the dreaded teen years! How did that happen?!
Milestones like these always bring mixed emotions for me. On one hand, I’m thrilled to see my kids growing up and becoming happy, independent humans. But on the other hand, I can’t help but reminisce on years gone by.
I reflected on this in a post I wrote in August 2019: The Sadness of Motherhood. I reread the post on Kid 2’s birthday and was surprised to realize that I’ve become better at letting go. I’m still sad, but less so.
Maybe it’s because I’m looking forward to seeing how far my boys will go as young adults. Or maybe I’m just maturing as a mom, and can see that motherhood doesn’t end just because my kids aren’t tiny anymore.
Whatever the case, I try to use these bittersweet milestones as reminders to live in the moment with my kids (even as they smirk when yet another person tells them they’re taller than me)!
FI and investing update
More ESPP shares
Twice a year, in February and August, M receives ESPP (employee stock purchase plan) shares from his company. Whenever he receives them, we generally try to sell them right away.
Some people don’t agree with our strategy, preferring to hold on to at least some of their company stock. However, nearly all of M’s human capital is tied up in his company—that’s enough for us!
As much faith as he has in his company, we’d prefer to be more diversified. That’s why we treat those stock options like hot potatoes and sell them as quickly as we can. Unfortunately this time, we weren’t quick enough, and the value of the shares tanked.
We’ve decided to hold onto them for a while, to see if they’ll go back up. For the record, I don’t do this with any of our other investments! If it’s time to sell, we sell. But M really hates selling his ESPP and RSU shares at a lower value than he received them at.
Since I get to call the shots on all our other investments (with M’s input, of course) I let him have his way with his stock options. Also, a single batch of ESPP shares is a very small part of our overall portfolio, so I’m okay with letting them ride until M’s ready to sell.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to report in next month’s update that we finally sold!
Related: Learn how I manage M’s stock options (ESPPs) and grants (RSUs) in The Ultimate Guide to ESPPs and RSUs.
Liquid net worth update
February was a good month for us as our liquid net worth hit another new high—increasing by 3.2%! This was mostly due to good returns from our stock investments. In addition, we received (as mentioned above) another batch of M’s stock options.
Unfortunately, March wasn’t as great. It was a bumpy month for stocks, so we saw a drop of 0.8% in our liquid net worth. As usual, this small drop doesn’t faze me—it’s par for the course and a normal part of investing.
I’ll hope for better next month but am fully prepared for more bumpiness if that’s what’s headed our way.
I did our taxes
Well, more accurately, my financial planner Ed Rempel’s team is doing our taxes (for free)! But I did spend a few days collecting our tax records, organizing them, and mailing them to Ed’s office in Ontario.
To be clear, I used to always file our taxes myself (and actually found it enjoyable). But ever since we started using leverage to invest, I’ve been more than happy to have professional help.
That’s because you need to be extra careful when claiming borrowed interest as a deduction. Any mistakes could be costly and stressful, and I have an unnatural fear of getting in trouble with CRA!
It’s a huge load off my mind, knowing that Ed’s team will do our taxes properly and quickly. As of this writing, our returns should be just about complete. That means our tax refund will arrive fairly soon!
As was the case last year and the year before, I’m expecting an outsized refund (thanks to the write-off from the interest on our investment loan). I’ll share an update on it next month! 😊
The food delivery conundrum
Throughout the pandemic, I’ve mentioned our increased efforts to support local small businesses, especially restaurants. To do what we can to keep them going, we’ve ordered more takeout than we normally would.
As much as possible, we call the restaurants directly to place our order, then pick up it ourselves. (As opposed to ordering through a delivery service like Door Dash or Uber Eats.) That’s because these services take a big cut from each order and don’t pay drivers fairly.
For us, it made sense to avoid these services for those reasons alone. On top of that, they’re actually quite expensive to use, making already-pricey takeout food even less affordable. However, I recently had a slight change of heart…
A different take
In my neighbourhood’s Nextdoor chat, someone started a thread to encourage everyone to avoid food delivery services. Like me, the OP (original poster) didn’t appreciate their price gouging policies and poor treatment of workers.
However, another neighbour (who drives for said delivery services) chimed in to share his perspective. As someone who was unemployed due to COVID, food delivery was a decent way for him to earn income.
This neighbour made some valid points I hadn’t considered:
- It’s completely voluntary—restaurant owners decide whether or not to join the delivery services.
- Most restaurants still choose to join these services, even with the high fees. That’s because they earn more money with the delivery services than not.
- Delivery services benefit more than just restaurants. They also generate income for drivers, customer service reps, tech support people, maintenance shops, etc.
- Delivery services help to keep everyone safer during COVID, with fewer people needing to leave home and go in and out of restaurants.
It’s not black and white
My food-delivering neighbour worked in the restaurant industry and sees both sides of the issue. He agreed with commenters that these services are a mixed blessing—they’re not perfect, but they’re also not evil monsters.
However, he still felt that it was better for restaurants, drivers and customers to use these services than not. I see now that it’s not a black and white issue. There are many factors to consider—both good and bad.
I’ll be watching to see how this new industry evolves over time. Hopefully, using and working for these services will one day be fair and equitable for all. (And hopefully, emission-free as well—with 100% of deliveries by EV or bike.)
What we’ll do from now on
We’d already been taking a hybrid approach when it comes to takeout—mostly ordering and picking up ourselves, with the occasional delivery to our door. But now that I know it’s not all bad for restaurants and drivers, I won’t feel as guilty when we have to use the delivery services.
For the record, we never use delivery services on our own dime! (I am a FIRE blogger, after all—using these services isn’t cheap!) We’re very fortunate that M’s company occasionally gives him vouchers for Uber Eats.
Whenever we use these vouchers, we tip generously and add extra food—over and above the voucher amount. This makes placing the order more worthwhile for everyone.
The rest of the time, we’ll continue to order and pick up takeout ourselves. (We always try to do this when we’re out anyway, and the restaurant is on our route. That way, we’re not increasing our emissions just to pick up food for dinner.)
I think this hybrid approach strikes a good balance—we can continue to support different people, but not blow our takeout budget on too many delivery fees and tips.
And that’s a wrap!
What do you think of food delivery services? Do you use or work for them yourself? Also, let me know what stands out to you as you reflect on one year of COVID. What are you most looking forward to, once the pandemic’s behind us?
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