FI Lifestyle Personal Finance

November/December 2019 Update

Checking out the beautiful holiday lights at English Bay in Downtown Vancouver (in the rain)!

Hello again, my amazing readers! 

I hope you had a nice holiday and that you got some time off to spend time with loved ones. My family indulged in lots of yummy food and enjoyed one of the least-stressful Christmases ever.

This was largely because of our decision to go giftless with most of our family and friends this year. (More on this below and in my green Christmas article.) We saved a lot of money and a lot of time.

With few gifts to open, sort, return, or exchange, I actually found myself with spare time after Christmas! And that’s how I was able to write this update (which is a surprise to me since I thought the next time I’d post would be January).

Changes to my monthly updates

It’s been a while since my last update (I missed doing one for November) and I’ve missed being able to connect with all of you. I really like the conversations that happen after I post my updates. They’re important to me, so I’d like to maintain a regular update publishing schedule.

But given my challenges with balancing life, podcasting and blogging, I’ve decided to make changes that’ll help me hit publish more easily:

Let go of perfection

Instead of trying to make every post pretty and perfect, I’m going to let go of perfection and be happy with good enough. That means no more editing and re-editing my writing. And no more sourcing/creating images or graphics for every section—a single featured image at the top will do!

Less structure

My update posts were getting more structured and detailed with each new update; I was creating a monster! Moving forward, I’ll go more free-form with my updates.

No more FI progress updates

This is a FI blog, so I felt I needed to justify my updates by including FI progress updates (aka our portfolio gains and losses). But updating the numbers and creating the graphics took a lot of time and attention to detail. 

Additionally, since I don’t share our actual numbers, I don’t know how helpful that section was anyway. I’m doing away with FI progress updates and will instead sprinkle in actual numbers for some of our expenses and savings.

Going back to what matters

I’ve come full-circle and am going back to the post where I decided to start doing monthly updates. In it, I stated that what I really love about other bloggers’ updates isn’t their numbers, but their real-life stories. 

I believe that’s the true value of blogs and what sets them apart from corporate websites. They’re real and personal, and that’s what makes them engaging. I’d like to go back to that—more stories, less numbers.

Learning from other bloggers

I always look forward to reading Abigail and Revanche’s entertaining but simple update posts. Their uncluttered formatting is appealing and easy to read. And importantly, these two ladies manage to post frequently and regularly. I aspire to do the same, so I’m learning from their example!

Other benefits 

Minimally formatting my update posts will bring other benefits, including:

  • More opportunities to connect with my readers;
  • More consistency in my posting schedule;
  • More practice letting go of my perfectionism;
  • More practice with writing faster.

BUT if I’ve learned anything about blogging, it’s that best-laid plans can still go awry! For now, this will just be an experiment… let’s see how it goes!

 

November update

Here’s what happened at the ESBFI household in November:

My dad’s medical scare

In my October update, I wrote about my dad’s bladder cancer diagnosis. Some of you were so kind to check in to see how he’s doing. Thank you all for your caring and kindness.

We have good news to share—my dad’s bladder cancer was completely eradicated with the removal of his tumour in November. He’ll continue to be monitored for the next ten years, but it’s highly unlikely that the cancer will return. 

I’m so grateful that my wonderful family jumped in to help however they could. It sure made a stressful time less so with all the support. Thank you, family!

Oh no, braces!

In November, we received the bad news that Kid 2 will need braces next year. The rough estimate for his braces is $7,000—ugh!

We had some coverage through M’s extended health insurance at work, but those funds were exhausted in phase 1 of Kid 2’s treatment. That means we’ll be 100% out of pocket for phase 2 (aka braces).  

There’s a tiny silver lining though: our orthodontist offers a 5% discount if we pay the entire balance in cash, so that’s what we plan to do. I’ve set up a YNAB category to put away $700/month over 10 months*, so we’ll have the cash ready when the time comes.

This is a bit of a bummer since it means we won’t be able to put that money into investments. But I guess our kids need to have functional bites and teeth that actually meet when they chew. Sigh!

This large expense reminds me again of the importance of financial literacy and sound money management. Without these basic foundations of FI, we would be in a panic, have to go into debt, or just not be able to pay for the braces.

Having a solid financial footing is crucial when unexpected expenses hit. And it’s why I think everyone should pursue FI—even if they have no interest in FIRE.

*As always, I save the cash in our EQ Bank Savings Plus Account1, which earns us 2.45%2 in everyday interest!

 

FI blogger meetup

I had the pleasure of attending another FI blogger meetup in November. (Thanks to Bob for organizing again!) We met with ChrisLiquidMoney MechanicPhia, and Stephanie to talk shop and all things FI.

As you’d expect from a bunch of money nerds, it was a frugal and casual meetup. We pulled up a few chairs in the entrance hall of the main library downtown and chatted away. 

It was awesome to finally meet my online buddy Chris in person. We’re similarly eco-minded, and I love picking his brain on such matters. I didn’t have a chance to chat a lot with Liquid, but I’m glad he was able to join us.

And of course, it’s always nice to see Bob, Money Mechanic, Phia, and Stephanie again. I’m so fortunate to have this amazing group of bloggers to call my friends (and that they all live close enough that we can get together in real life!)

Updating our FI plans

After a year of conscious lifestyle inflation it was clear that our old FI number would no longer cut it. It was time to revisit our plans, and I got started with some rough calculations in this free spreadsheet.

Since math isn’t my strong suit (and I’m not a financial expert) I called on our financial planner, Ed Rempel, for help. It was about time for our annual review anyway, so the timing was good.

I always look forward to chatting with Ed. He and I like to nerd out with the numbers and he totally gets my hyper-optimized way of thinking. I’d happily talk money with Ed every day if I could! 

Why our FI number increased

While it pains me to admit that our spending increased this year, that’s not the only reason for the change to our FI number! We’d also like to plan for some big, one-time expenses post-FI. Gasp!

Below is the complete list of increased spending and expenses we’ve included in our revised financial plan:

  • Maintenance and ongoing expenses for M’s classic Mustang.
  • 10–15 more years of dog ownership.
  • Continuing to travel overseas with our kids while they’re still young and willing.
  • Slightly bigger budgets for eating out and shopping (M’s requests).
  • A major home reno in 15–20 years (also M’s request).
  • A lump sum for each of our kids to put towards a wedding or home (their education savings are already taken care of).
  • No reduction in our travel budget even after the kids move out (we’ll just travel even more without them).

The damage

After incorporating all of the above, Ed’s calculations turned out similar to mine. The news wasn’t great, but it’s what I expected: our path to FI will be delayed by two years. 

We’ll still retire in our 40s, but it’s disappointing nonetheless—even when we know the delay is completely due to decisions we’re willingly making!

Maybe FI’s an unattainable dream

M was pretty disappointed to hear about the two-year delay to FI. It was hard to hear him say, “Maybe FI’s an unattainable dream.” I disagree with M on this, but I can sympathize and understand why he’d feel this way. 

It’s defeating for him to have worked so hard for his promotion and raise, and to save as hard as we have for so many years, only to be told we’ll reach FI later than we’d hoped. Sure, he’s got his dream car and we love having a family dog, but it’s still hard to accept news like this.

It’s time to work on earning more

I spent the next few weeks reworking our numbers and thinking of ways to improve them. It’s clear that we can’t cut anymore—we’re happy with our spending as it is. It’s all in line with our values and makes our lives comfortable and rewarding. 

Cutting anything back would cross into deprivation, and neither of us are okay with that. It was time to look into the other side of the equation: earning more.

M and I got to work and brainstormed some ideas. We were in agreement that me going back to work, even part-time, would create a lot of stress for the family. So that was off the table.

Related: How Much Does It Cost to Be a Stay-at-Home Parent?

Side-income ideas

M and I talked some more and came up with a few ideas that’ll help improve things without significantly affecting our lifestyle. While they might not move the needle a whole lot, we’ll start with these easy changes and go from there:

  • Host more students: We’ll continue to host short-term students, and will try to accept more students more often.
  • Sell on Teachers Pay Teachers: It’s free to sell on TpT, and I’ve already designed the materials (posters and library signage for our school). With a few minor edits, I can upload my files and start selling right away. 
  • Do our own house cleaning3: Up until I was pregnant with Kid 1, we did all our own cleaning. With the kids old enough to help now, it’s time to go back to that. While we love our cleaning lady and feel good knowing we’re giving her another avenue to earn income, it’s a rather large expense (we pay her well).

Since we were headed into the busy holiday season, I still haven’t had time to start working on these changes. Hopefully I’ll have more time in January and can report on them in my next update.

Moving on

Talking about our expenses and income took considerable time, but it allowed M and me to process our disappointment and put some new goals in place. This helped us feel in control again and move on.

M and I made peace with our choices and quickly went back to feeling happy and satisfied with our progress. He continues to love and excel at his job, and knows there’s no rush to reach FI. 

I think it’s natural to feel letdown when you get close to your goal, only to have the goalpost suddenly jump farther away. We realize that our numbers are in our control, and we’re consciously choosing a lifestyle (both now and post-FI) that’s slightly more costly. 

And that’s totally okay! Slow FI is the path we’ve chosen, and we’re happy with it.

 

December update

Our green Christmas

Earlier this month, I shared my tips for a greener Christmas. One tip in particular—limiting gift giving—made a huge impact for us this year.

I haven’t tallied the final numbers for our Christmas expenses, but I’d estimate that we’ve cut our Christmas spending by 30–40%. That’s an enormous cost savings since Christmas normally costs us $1,000+ per year. Yikes!

What we gave each other for Christmas

While we limited gift-giving with our friends and extended family, we didn’t cut back on our own. Since we’re already very frugal with gifts for each other, we didn’t actually need to cut back.

The boys and I gave M a few bottles of his favourite holiday beers along with some unique edibles that he’d normally not buy for himself. I, as always, requested no gifts, and my family obliged. (M always feels guilty about this, but I assure him every year that not buying me gifts is a gift!)

Our boys received one small shared gift from Santa, new pajamas, and a small gift (a used Keva set for Kid 2 and cash for Kid 1). This is in stark contrast to years past, where each kid received 4–6 gifts from us and Santa.

Unexpected benefits

I was honestly a little worried that we’d face disappointed faces on Christmas morning, but that wasn’t at all the case! Our boys were actually happier this Christmas. With fewer gifts, they could really savour our time together and be grateful for the gifts they did receive. 

Also, with hardly any wrapping and packaging to deal with, we gained back hours of time. For me, that’s the best gift of all! (It also felt really good to not have a massive pile of packaging to recycle or dispose of.)

Green Christmases are here to stay

Our friends and family unanimously agreed that replacing gifts with quality time was a brilliant suggestion. It was incredibly freeing for all of us to not have to lug a pile of gifts to and from our various gatherings. 

Based on this runaway success, we plan to go giftless with even more friends and family next year. See Simple Tips for a Green Christmas for my tips on going giftless (along with lots of other green Christmas ideas).

Blog and podcast update

In my October update, I decided to separate my blog and podcast updates from these life updates—and I’m still sticking to that. This is just a quick note to let you know that a blog and podcast update is coming!

It’s not quite ready yet because I’m rolling it into my one-year blogiversary post (yay!) I’m furiously working on a detailed post for that, so I’ll update you very soon on how things went for both of my online projects.

And that’s a wrap!

How was your December? Did you do anything to go green and save money or the Earth? I’d love to hear your holiday stories. Also, share your easy income-increasing wins. I could use more ideas!

This will be my final post for 2019, so I’ll send you off with Happy New Year wishes—I hope 2020 brings you good health and wealth!

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    December 30, 2019 at 5:24 am

    Love the update. So many nuggets of goodness in here. I’m impressed that your friends and family were so supportive of a gift less Christmas. I have tried to implement this many times with my family but it never works. This year I found Christmas morning to be very overwhelming. Am going to reflect on this more for the future.

    Happy new year to you and your family. May 2020 be your best year yet.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      December 31, 2019 at 3:24 pm

      From your post about avoiding a transactional Christmas, it sounds like you’ve done a lot of work already to make Christmas more mindful. We’d also tried a few times to implement a giftless Christmas and failed—but that was with our parents’ generation.

      This year, we approached the cousins who are all millennials, and they were more than happy to oblige. I wonder if age played a part?

      It also helps that our kids aren’t little anymore, so there’s less of a thrill for the older generation who liked to see them excited about certain toys!

      Good luck with shrinking your gift list next year. I know it’s not easy, but keep working on it and hopefully you’ll make progress one family member at a time!

  • Reply
    Shaidah
    December 30, 2019 at 9:39 am

    Thanks for sharing your update! To earn more money, have you thought about selling digital material on Etsy? With your graphic design skills, and super cute pup, you could create some greeting cards for targeting a niche market.

    Your xmas soundS stress free! And no disappointed kids! Success!

    Have a great 2020!!!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 2, 2020 at 10:22 pm

      Shaidah: Etsy is a great suggestion and something I’ve always wanted to dabble in. Thanks for reminding me of it. I’ll think about some cute things I might be able to design and sell. I hope you have a wonderful 2020 as well, my friend!

  • Reply
    PhiaFreedom101
    December 30, 2019 at 9:45 am

    Wonderful post Chrissy! I love how intentional you and M are being in designing your ideal post-FI life, in conjunction with living to your values now!!

    I truly believe that is the most sustainable way to experience FI. Adding 2 years to the goal date is a bummer, but it sounds like you will lol enjoy the journey and destination much more in the end 🙂

    So happy to hear about your Dad! That is wonderful news!!!

    Looking forward to your continuing updates – and they still look awesome to me!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 2, 2020 at 10:25 pm

      Phia: your comments never fail to make me smile. I’ve learned a lot from you about intentionality and designing an ideal FI life. It’s helped me to make peace with some of the spending decisions we’ve made recently. Thanks for the comment. I wish you and Mike a Happy New Year!

  • Reply
    Sam
    December 30, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    Chrissy, thanks for the update. It’s great to hear how things are going and how you are tweaking your FI plan. In my family we haven’t exchanged presents in quite a number of years and I just have to buy for my two nephews. As well as the financial savings I find it so much less stressful. People constantly ask me, ‘Are you ready for Christmas?’ and are amazed when I say that I don’t have much to buy. Sometimes I think that as a society we impose stress on ourselves, regarding social norms as mandatory, when in fact we can all make a choice. We just have to be prepared for the possibly negative response from others. Happy New Year and I look forward to reading your posts and listening to ExploreFICanada in 2020.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 2, 2020 at 10:29 pm

      Sam: wow, gifts for only two nephews, then you’re done? That’s AMAZING! We’re slowly getting there. You’re absolutely right that a lot of our spending is based on what general society perceives as the norm. That’s why it’s so freeing to be part of the FI community, where all of that gets thrown out the window. As always, thank you for being such a supportive reader and listener. We love you, Sam! Happy 2020 to you as well.

  • Reply
    Chris @ Mindful Explorer
    January 1, 2020 at 9:56 am

    First off… Happy New Year !
    The meetup was awesome and I am glad I was able to doing it somewhat affordably by using public transit the whole way and leaving the car back on the island. It was great to meet you in person as well as the rest of the Vancouver blogging crew.

    Stoked to help hold each other accountable or at least mindful on our environmental footprint. While everything we do as individuals won’t make a dent like corporations and industry doing their part, it at least helps some. Thanks for the shout-out on this topic.

    I feel the same as you on blog posts, I have no schedule and always worry about making big well laid out posts when I could get away with simple more frequent updates. I’ll have to see how your changes go.

    As for FI, the path should be organic but don’t let lifestyle inflation creep it, be mindful and hyper aware of that. Yes get rid of the house cleaner, do the math of the savings for 2020 you will experience and what the compounding interest would generate by the time you FI.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 2, 2020 at 10:46 pm

      Chris: Happy New Year to you too, friend! You know I love conversing with you on environmental topics. I’ve felt a lot more hopeful about the plight of our planet since meeting you.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on posting frequency. In a niche where everyone else seems to post multiple times a week, I’m glad I’m not the only ‘underachiever’! Ha ha.

      You bet I’m keeping a close eye on our lifestyle creep! It bothers me like nothing else! But there’s a certain special someone in my life who’s a big part of this spending equation. I do need to take his preferences into account, even if I wouldn’t make the same choices. (It’s only fair, given he’s the one bringing home the bacon!)

      Still, you make an excellent point. 25x what we save by doing our own cleaning is a big chunk of money! Thanks for the reminder to do that. I will continue to monitor our expenses to find ways to save.

  • Reply
    Teresa
    January 2, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    I love giftless christmas because it lightens the stress & Christmas should not be all about gifts. For years (actually decades) I have made huge batches of Swedish Nuts & packed them in simple Christmas cellophane bags to give to people like teachers, family doctor, garbage collectors, family that come for Christmas dinner. It worked out to be less than$5/gift this year despite the price increase. I have not sent out Christmas cards for almost 30 years even when I was a Realtor & donated $1,000 to our local food bank. Clients & friends appreciated that for sure. Many professionals I know have followed my lead which I feel is doing more good than adding more cards to the landfill.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 2, 2020 at 11:06 pm

      Teresa (aka Mom/MIL): You are a wonderful, generous soul. We need more people like you in this world to give back to the community as you have. Your Swedish nuts are an incredible deal for such a lovely, thoughtful (and yummy) gift! I need to learn how to make them with you one day (but a baker I am not)!

  • Reply
    Kris
    January 3, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Thanks for an update Chrissy on what’s going on in your world!! So glad to hear about your dad’s health is going well after that scare a couple months.
    Extending your FI goal for couple of years is kind of a downer but the main thing you are still on the path to reach it. It may not be your original date but trying to achieve it already really good. I haven’t really thought about when I want to reach FI. I believe we need to buy a home first then I’ll focus on figuring out when we could possibly reach FI.
    Happy New Year and looking forward to reading more of your blog posts and listening to your podcasts in 2020!!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      January 7, 2020 at 9:54 pm

      Kris—you always have such kind words of encouragement to share. You’re right that just being on the path to FI is already a great thing. I’m working on being a little less driven (aka obsessive) about my goals! Thanks for the perspective. I’ll keep rooting for you and hoping that the SF housing market drops in the near future. (We feel your pain up here in Vancouver!) Happy New Year to you and your family too!

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