It’s time for another update!
Ack—it’s been a while since I published a new post! Summers are always a crazy time for me, but this July was even more so because we were on a three-week vacation.
I’ll share more on that below, along with everything else that’s happened since my last update. (It’s a looong update, so grab a cool drink and settle in!)
- Tried his hand at container gardening (and realized that it’s probably not his thing).
- Revived our patio furniture with a fresh coat of spray paint and new wooden armrests. (Thanks to M’s Uncle G for cutting and supplying us with the wood!)
- Set up our back patio underneath our new awning. (This included repurposing and arranging handed-down tables, TV and wall mount, mini fridge, and gym equipment.)
- Got a sewing lesson from me, then sewed a fabric cover for our outdoor TV. (This was M’s first-ever project using a sewing machine, and he did great!)
- Carried out best man duties for a good friend.
- Attended that wedding and another one the month before.
- Fixed a fluid leak and a bunch of other things on his Classic Mustang.
- Watched Top Gun: Maverick in theatres TWICE! (One viewing was a Tuesday matinee with his retired uncles and aunts—he’s really retired now! 😆)
A very tedious project
For most of May and part of June, M and I took on an overdue and much-needed home maintenance project: redoing the grout and caulking in our ensuite shower.
Given the tiny square footage of our shower stall, it should have been a small, easy project. However, it turned out to be far more tedious and time-consuming than we’d expected.
This was due to:
- My perfectionism. (Cue M rolling his eyes.)
- My decision to strip out all the stained caulking and not just the sections that had failed. (Cue M rolling his eyes again.)
- Silicone caulking being a gigantic pain in the butt to remove. 😫
- The strip of mini tiles we had to grind out the grout from. (That was a lot of grout lines, ughhh!!!)
- Our Dremel spewing grout dust all over our bathroom.
- Our shop vac spewing even more grout dust all over our bathroom. (We didn’t have a fine enough filter.)
- Wiping down our bathroom several times after the dust settled.
- Waiting for the grout to cure before we could seal it.
- Waiting for the sealant to cure before we could apply the new caulking.
- At the last minute, discovering that our tubes of silicone caulking had dried up.
- Running out to get more caulking (but trying to time it with other errands to save gas).
- Waiting for the caulking to cure before we could use our shower again.
It was a long and painful project, but we’re relieved it’s finally done, and are very pleased with the results! Check out the before/after shots below. (Click on the thumbnails to see the full-size photos.)
The value of DIYing
When I mentioned this arduous task to our financial planner, Ed, he had this to say: “Now that you are independently wealthy, you know you can hire grout people… “
I laughed and told him that he should know us by now—there are certain things we simply prefer not to spend on. Yes, we could have afforded to hire a contractor. But this was a simple enough project that we could easily DIY it.
And, now that M’s retired, we have time to tackle things like this. After many years of wanting to redo our shower, we were finally willing and able to take it on.
Given how time-consuming the project was, I’m sure we saved at least a couple of thousand dollars. (And, as the Wealthy Barber says, a dollar saved is two dollars earned!)
We also think of it a different way: instead of paying a contractor, we’re paying ourselves to do the job. If it’s an amount that’s worthwhile and we can safely take it on, then we’ll do it.
If not, we’re more than happy to pay a professional for help. (As we did when our gas boiler needed a replacement valve.)
In the end, we felt this project was well worth our time. We learned some new things, spent time together, and saved ourselves a bunch of money. Still, we never want to redo our grout again, so it had better last until we sell the house! 😆
We hosted a student
Much to our surprise, we decided to host a homestay student again. (Our first since October 2019!) Truth be told, we hadn’t expected to host a student again anytime soon—and especially not a long-term one! So how did it happen?
Well, in early April, we heard that one of our old agencies desperately needed last-minute hosts. We missed hosting students and had a relatively open schedule, so we figured, why not? M and I discussed it and quickly decided to go for it.
Our new student
Our agency was happy to have us as hosts again and promptly sent us the info for our new student, Naoya. He arrived from Japan in late April and stayed with us until the end of June.
During his 2.5 months in our house, Naoya happily devoured our cooking, discussed all things Japan, played Mario Kart with the boys, and joined us for several family gatherings. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed getting to know him.
We were sad to say goodbye. But the good news is, Naoya will still be in Vancouver studying and working for another ten months. We’ll be sure to have him over again before he leaves.
Related: Learn all about homestay hosting in my Homestay Series
Farewell to online school
In early June, our kids finished their second successful year of online school. We loved the experience and would happily do it all over again. Even so, the kids and we have decided that they’ll go back to regular, in-person school in September. 😥
Related: Read about our online school experience in Remote Learning During COVID-19
For Kid 1, the decision was easy. As much as he enjoyed learning online, he really wants to experience his graduation year in person. He also misses his friends and classmates and is looking forward to seeing more of them at school.
Kid 2’s indecision
For Kid 2, the decision was a little more complicated. He loved the freedom of online school: working at his own pace, pushing hard to gain more free time later, and being able to take a day off if needed.
He’s also quite cautious about COVID and has been happy to be safe at home for the last two-plus years. All these factors gave him pause when considering going back to in-person school.
He was very conflicted, so we gave him lots of time to decide. As the months passed, we discussed the pros and cons, listened to his concerns, and reassured him that we would support whatever decision he made.
And, in the worst case, if he realized several months in that he’d made the wrong choice, we would help him reverse his decision. (To the extent that we could.)
In the end, Kid 2 decided that he’ll try going back to in-person school. (In all honesty, M and I feel he made the right choice, given how extroverted he is.) He may lose the perks of online learning, but it’s worth it for the benefits of face-to-face interactions.
My mixed feelings
So, the decision’s been made. In about a month, both boys will say farewell to online school and return to in-person learning. I’m filled with a mixture of excitement, trepidation, and sadness (as I always am when my kids go back to school).
It’s been a lovely couple of years for us as a family, with the boys and M learning and working from home. And now that M’s retired, it’s an even more ideal time for the boys to continue learning from home.
But we respect Kid 1’s wishes and want Kid 2 to experience high school in person. As bittersweet as it may be, I know that returning to school is the right decision. I’ll share how it all goes down in my next update (probably in a few months). Fingers crossed that it goes well!
Our summer vacation
Our first major vacation post-COVID was going to be a trip of a lifetime: two months of travelling across Canada (and back) with my in-laws… in their RV! However, the logistics proved to be more challenging than expected.
We learned that travelling with a dog and a large motorhome is very tricky—especially in and through busy city centres. Reluctantly, we decided it would be best to shelve the trip and do it another time (perhaps by VIA Rail, when it’s just M and me).
Making new plans
Our cross-Canada trip was off the table, but we still wanted to take a trip in the RV. M’s parents were planning to sell it soon, so it would be a last hurrah. (They’d bought the RV to travel with us when I was pregnant with Kid 1, so we’ve had seventeen years of memories in it. 🥰)
We pondered our options and decided to stay local with a trip to good ol’ Vancouver Island. Believe it or not, M and I had never been to Tofino or Ucluelet, and we thought it was about time we finally visited!
I also really wanted the boys to see Cathedral Grove and the Goats on the Roof. Additionally, on our way to the west coast of the island, we could drop in to visit M’s uncle and aunt in Port Alberni. Everyone was on board with the plans, so we went ahead and made the bookings.
The beauty of slow travel
Our friends often tease us for our unusually long trips, and this vacation was no different! We spent 21 days meandering the island… and it was amazing! Over three weeks, we visited Parksville, Port Alberni, Ucluelet, Tofino, Nanaimo, Victoria, and many points in-between.
The slow pace allowed us to take our time and experience each location to its fullest. It also made for a verrry relaxing vacation—especially since M and his mom did all the cooking! (And wow, did we eat well on the trip. Every one of their home-cooked meals was sooo delicious. 😋)
Our vacation photos
Here’s a small selection of photos from our trip (click on the thumbnails for full-size photos):
Travelling in an RV with six people (and a dog)!
I’m sure you’re wondering how so many of us travel in an RV (with less than 200 square feet of living space) without driving each other crazy! 🤪
It’s definitely possible, but it requires consideration, cooperation, and lots of flexibility. (It also helps that M’s parents are lovely and very easy to spend time with.)
I’ve been travelling with them since M and I started dating, and we’ve continued to even after we had kids. I’m so grateful to them for making each and every vacation so fun and special. ❤️
For those who are curious, here are the real-life logistics of travelling as a group in a tiny space:
- Everyone gets up and goes to bed around the same time. (Note: this wasn’t possible when the boys were little—we had to put them to bed first, then try to be really quiet until we went to bed!)
- M’s parents sleep on the queen bed in the bedroom, Kid 1 sleeps on the fold-down side couch, Kid 2 sleeps in the fold-down dinette, M and I sleep in the queen bunk above the cab, and Mika sleeps on whichever bed(s) she feels like sneaking onto for the night. 😆
- We take turns showering in the RV (navy style, to conserve hot water) and/or use the campsite shower facilities.
- M and his mom do the menu planning and cooking. (I help with a tiny bit of the prep.)
- We all help with grocery shopping. (But M’s mom does the majority of it.)
- M and I try to help with washing the dishes. (But M’s mom usually pushes me out of the way!)
- M’s mom does the laundry at the campsite laundromats. ( I try to help with the folding, but she usually does it all!)
- M and his dad share the driving.
- M’s dad does most of the maintenance and troubleshooting, but M pitches in and helps as much as possible.
- M’s dad, M, and the boys handle the sewer and water hookup/unhooking duties.
- M and his dad set up the campsite (moving the picnic table, putting out our folding chairs and tables, etc.)
- The boys (with some help from the adults) set up and take down their beds every night and morning.
- At home, I’m the chief Mika walker. But in the RV, M’s mom takes her for her long morning walk, M or his dad takes her for her short nighttime walk, and we all walk her on our daytime outings.
You’re probably seeing a pattern here, and you’re not wrong—I’m pretty much useless and a lady of leisure on our RV trips! (Do you see why I said our vacation was super relaxing? 😆)
M’s parents are simply awesome and such a joy to travel with. We’ll miss all the fun times we’ve had with them in this RV. But, whether they buy a new RV or not, we look forward to returning to Hawaii, California, Florida, and other locales with them.
Our portfolio continues to drop
Well, all that travel talk was a fun diversion! But this is a FIRE update, so I also have to discuss our finances. Things aren’t looking pretty, but here we go…
As expected, our investments have continued on a downward trend. To be frank, it’s pretty stunning how much we’ve ‘lost’ on paper. Seriously—it’s a lot. Like, A LOT a lot! 😱 Even so, M and I are continuing to keep our cool.
I’ve done the math (and keep redoing it). And I keep getting the same results: even if our investments reach a 50% decline from their peak, we’ll still be well below a 4% withdrawal rate for 2022.
As of mid-July, we were ‘only’ down about 26% from our high point in early January. So, we’ve still got a lot of buffer. I sincerely hope we’ve hit the bottom of this bear market, but if not, we’re ready for worse to come.
High inflation continues
Unfortunately, inflation continues to rear its ugly head. But as mentioned in a previous post, we’re not overly concerned. That’s because our personal inflation rate is still close to 0%.
I also mentioned that, if needed, we could cut more of our discretionary spending to fight inflation. And we did just that recently by:
- Lumping more errands into one trip and being even more mindful about how often we drive.
- M cutting back on how often he drives his Classic Mustang. (Especially after we realized a couple of half-day outings in June cost $30 each in gas!!!)
- Deciding not to take our Mazda 5 along on our RV trip, which saved us gas and ferry costs. (We were going to bring it for convenience since my in-laws’ RV is enormous and challenging to find parking for.)
In addition, we’re continuing to postpone large purchases until our investments recover. Otherwise, we’ve continued to spend as we normally would.
I hope, for all our sakes, that inflation will be back in the 2–3% range ASAP. 🤞 But if not, we can cut more discretionary spending and/or rely on our many other contingencies.
And that’s a wrap!
Phew, that was a looong update! I guess that’s what happens when I can’t blog as much as I’d like… which reminds me of something I’d like to say to my regular readers. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for sticking with me and my blog.
I know I’ve been less consistent with new posts than most bloggers and that this is annoying for some people. 😕 I sincerely apologize for that and genuinely wish I had more time to devote to blogging.
But even with the odd unhappy comment, I keep going because of you—the ones who hang in there. (Even with my inconsistent posting.) Your engagement through comments, social media, emails, and shares means the world to me and keeps me going!
Share your thoughts
The last few months have been rather eventful for my family, but what about you? How has your summer been, and how are you navigating the current financial challenges?
Also, do you have any questions about travelling in an RV with kids, in-laws and a pet? I’m happy to answer your questions and would love to hear from you, so leave a comment below!
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