FI Lifestyle Personal Finance

June 2020 Update

shiba meetup 2

Mika has enjoyed the loosening restrictions (and our return to the monthly Shiba meetup)!

June was a relatively uneventful month, but even uneventful months have moments worth sharing! Here’s how June went at the ESBFI household…

Life update

Same old, same old 

Life in June hasn’t changed much. Our daily routine, which I shared in my last update, is almost identical to May. However, my kids finished school the third week of June, so the final week was a lot less scheduled and a lot more lazy.

Now we have two months of summer fun ahead! We’re still not sure how we’ll fill our days (it’s going to be a very different summer). But I think we’ll be getting outdoors A LOT with Mika!

COVID-19 in Vancouver

In Vancouver and the rest of our province, restrictions slowly loosened in May and June. According to modelling by our provincial health ministry, we’ll be able to keep the virus under control if we return to 60% of normal activity:

bc modelling chart

Even at 60% of normal, BC will be okay (Image credit: Government of British Columbia)

Over the last couple of weeks, our numbers have risen a bit, but there have been no crazy outbreaks. I have 100% faith in our public health team (led by the incredible Dr. Bonnie Henry) so I’m not worried.

This summer is probably the safest time to get somewhat back to normal here in Vancouver—before the inevitable second wave hits us in the fall. 

Loosening our personal restrictions

With our numbers as low as they are right now, we’re feeling safer and have loosened our personal restrictions. During this lull, we’re okay with: 

  • Occasionally, less than 2 meters of distance from others (but only outdoors, and only with people we know are being careful).
  • Going quickly into stores (only when necessary).
  • Getting takeout more often.
  • Not sanitizing takeout containers or groceries.
  • Not quarantining mail and packages.
  • Letting other people pet Mika (if she’ll let them—she is a grumpy Shiba, after all)!
  • Petting other people’s dogs (as long as they’re okay with it).

We’re still playing it safe

However, the virus is still circulating, so I’m still not comfortable with:

  • Indoor gatherings, even if they’re small.
  • Sharing food and serving utensils (such as at a backyard barbecue).
  • Eating in restaurants.
  • Lengthy in-store shopping trips.
  • Letting my kids hang out with their friends.
  • Driving in a car with anyone other than my immediate family.
  • Travelling (even locally).

I know I’m being extra-cautious, but it’s too much worry and effort to try and be safe in all these situations. Since they’re not essential activities, it’s easier to avoid them for now. 

Wear your masks!

covid 19 face mask

My pretty face mask, made by my friend, Doctor Jenny

We continue to limit how often we go into public indoor spaces. But when we have to go into stores, we always wear our masks. It’s just the right thing to do. As my new blogging friend, Dr. Plastic Picker wrote in a recent post, stop being a baby and wear your mask!

I honestly don’t understand why this is even an issue. It makes me so angry and frustrated! There’s a whole lot more that I could say but I won’t. Just follow Dr. Plastic Picker, and virtually every doctor’s advice and WEAR YOUR MASK!

I know my readers are the mask-wearing type, so this isn’t directed at you! It’s just hard to not be upset when I see our friends to the south suffering so much.

Investing update

Our investments went up

We sold some of M’s recently-vested stock options and used the proceeds to finish topping up our TFSAs for 2020. Combined with the continuing stock market recovery, this helped our investments grow by 1.8% in June. We’re now back to where our investments were in December 2019—not bad!

My dad’s investments

The process of cleaning up my dad’s investments continued in June, with annoying bits of paperwork needing to be dealt with every week or two. Why are things like this never easy?! Some of the trickier things we had to deal with included:

  • Converting his spousal RRSP into an individual RRSP.
  • Calling his bank to ask if his locked-in RRSP was administered federally or provincially.
  • Getting a form notarized so that we could unlock his locked-in RRSP.

Getting all this done during a pandemic was both easier and harder. It was easier because everyone’s more flexible about receiving scans and digital signatures instead of mailed-in forms. 

But it was harder because we still needed some forms signed in-person. This meant we had to figure out how to get the forms to my dad and have him sign with us and a lawyer—while physical distancing. 

It was a little awkward, but we’re 95% done. Hopefully, this is the last that I’ll be writing about it!

Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth

simple wealth inevitable wealth book

I recently finished reading Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth by Nick Murray. As mentioned in my previous update, I received this wonderful little book from my financial planner, Ed Rempel

As I’d expected, I loved the book! Nick Murray’s investing philosophy is simple and timeless—buy and hold for the long term. In particular, he advocates investing in 100% equities. 

This is how I invest, and it was reassuring to read this rational, non-jargony take on the subject. I highly recommend this book, and consider it a must-read for all investors.

Spending update

We did a crazy thing

Call us crazy, but we rebooked our flights to Japan! (Yes, we really did!) Against my better judgement, I somewhat obsessively monitored flight prices from Vancouver to Tokyo for a spring 2021 trip.

When I saw the prices dip to $700, and then $600, I started getting excited, but I didn’t pull the trigger. With the airlines being as strict as they were with cancellations, I didn’t want to take any chances.

But then I saw an offer from Air Canada that was too good to pass up: if we booked before June 30*, we’d be able to cancel one time for free and receive a credit with no expiry. This was a no-brainer!

*I was mistaken, or Air Canada updated their deal, but now it appears to be running until July 31

“We have implemented highly flexible and expanded booking options. You can make a one-time change without a fee for all new or existing bookings made through July 31, 2020 for original travel between March 1, 2020 and July 31, 2021. If you booked directly with Air Canada and you need to cancel for any reason, you can convert your ticket to an Air Canada Travel Voucher that has no expiry date or to Aeroplan Miles with an additional 65% bonus miles.”

The cherry (blossom) on top 

cherry blossoms in japan

We can’t wait to see the Japanese cherry blossoms again

The cherry on top came when I checked the flight prices again—they were now down to $572 per person, direct flight round trip from Vancouver to Tokyo! This is unheard-of for direct flights. (Even flights with 1, 2, or 3 stops rarely get this cheap!)

M and I talked it over and we agreed that it was worth going for. We’ll always be able to use Air Canada credits. And with the ability to cancel for free up until 2 hours prior to the flight, there was very little risk.

I booked the flights for a total of $2,288—$700 less than the flights we had to cancel in March. That savings alone more than pays for one of our tickets! 

However, this all relies on the pandemic mostly abating and travel restrictions being lifted by next spring. I hope we aren’t being overly optimistic! We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed…

Cashback for our property taxes

June was an expensive month! Not only did we pay for our flights to Japan, but we also paid for our property taxes. I was very fortunate last year that I was able to use Paytm to pay our property taxes with a credit card, which earned me some cashback. 

Unfortunately, Paytm started charging service fees for this service, so I stopped using it. But the good news is, I found an alternative! However, I’m afraid to write about it too publicly. It’s a pretty amazing hack, and I fear that it’ll get too popular and be taken away.

We discussed it in the ChooseFI Canada Facebook group… so join the group and message me there and I’ll send you a link to the thread. You can also contact me and I’d be happy to share the info via email.

You can also try Google—if you do enough searching, you’ll figure out what I’m talking about. Much of the info is out there, but one of the ‘secret’ features isn’t openly listed. I just don’t want mention it here and be the one who blabs too much, then ruins it for everyone!

Again, feel free to contact me and I’ll tell you more. Just keep it to yourself, ‘kay? 🙂

And that’s a wrap!

How was your June? Are there still restrictions where you are? I’d love to hear from you—leave a comment below and let me know how you’re doing.

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  • Reply
    July 7, 2020 at 6:55 am

    Your personal rules for what you will and won’t do sound very sensible. I will say I’m guilty of eating in a couple restaurants (honestly not really worth it, the safety precautions kind of ruin the ambiance) and have gatherings with friends and people’s houses. However, everyone I see is relatively young and healthy and none of us are in contact with older/immuno-compromised people. Masks are also mandatory in public here in Ecuador (indoors and outdoors). They’ve becoming completely normal for all of us, and I haven’t heard barely anyone complain.

    • Reply
      July 8, 2020 at 3:27 pm

      Hi Maggie—Ecuador and Canada are pretty darned safe right now, so I’m sure I’m being overly cautious! It’s just my personality. I’m a worrier, so it’s easier for me to err on the side of caution. TBH, I think we’ll just have to get used to skating the line between being too cautious and accepting some risk.

      It’s always interesting for me to hear how people are handling things in other countries, so thanks for sharing your experience in Ecuador.

  • Reply
    Chris @ Mindful Explorer
    July 7, 2020 at 9:58 am

    Great update…of course always a good post when it starts out with a little pack of Shibas 🙂
    What a wonderful score with the flight, no commitment and a way out if you decide to not go through with it. All cheaper than you originally planned.

    • Reply
      July 8, 2020 at 3:30 pm

      Hi Chris—the Shiba meetup is unreal! There can be 30 or more Shibas in the park at once, and it feels like you’re in some crazy alternate universe. All you see are Shibas, of every size, shape, and colour, ha ha.

      I do hope we can go to Japan, but we’re not holding our breath. I’m only 50% confident that things will be okay enough to travel by then. If we can’t, oh well. At least our money is helping Air Canada stay afloat for now.

  • Reply
    Court @ Modern FImily
    July 7, 2020 at 1:43 pm

    Score on the flights!!! We canceled our flight to Van Island back in April with Air Canada and we’re told we’d be getting an email with more details regarding a credit and still haven’t received anything yet so I’m way more bearish to be dealing with airlines these days.

    Ooo ooo I know the secret hack! Haha Although I haven’t used it myself yet so I may be messaging you as our property taxes are due in September.

    • Reply
      July 8, 2020 at 3:34 pm

      Hey Court—my sister is also waiting on a refund from Air Canada. Very frustrating that it’s taking as long as it is. If it wasn’t for the extra reassurances Air Canada offered, we wouldn’t have taken a chance on booking the flight. But those two offers were too good to pass up!

      Feel free to ask me anytime if you have questions about the hack. My suggestion for now is to send a tiny payment through, like $1.03 or something like that. Then you can test if you linked up the account properly, and will be ready in September to make the full payment.

  • Reply
    July 7, 2020 at 1:58 pm

    I’m so excited for you about the Japan flights! What a steal. Fingers crossed things will be improved by then and you can enjoy your trip in peace.

    It seems like perhaps things are better where you are in terms of re-openings. I don’t know why American news stations are acting so surprised every time they report our cases are rising exponentially… of course, the minute we open up bars and everyone starts frolicking in massive groups together without masks the rates are going to rise. Not sure what they expected, really. We’re picking and choosing activities that we’re comfortable with, just like you are, though I do fear we may have to shut down again. Ugh. Take care of yourself!

    • Reply
      July 8, 2020 at 3:46 pm

      Hi Elise—I also hope we can enjoy the trip in March! We will have to wait and see… many things have to align for it to work out.

      I am so puzzled by California’s recent rise in cases. You shut down early and hard, and your numbers were looking good for a long time. It’s unfortunate that those early gains are slipping away. I hope things get under control soon.

      At least you and Adam are still managing to stay fit and busy in safe ways. 🙂

  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    July 7, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    All of your personal restrictions are pretty much the same as what we are doing too. I can’t believe people don’t want to wear a mask and are proud about it. It’s super easy and you can get all sorts of “trendy” masks. I’m lucky that my mom made us a bunch. My little one and I even have matching masks (although she’s too young to need one so it’s kind of a novelty item).

    Love the secret hack. I used it to pay the property taxes for all our rental properties this year. Why didn’t I know about this sooner?

    • Reply
      July 8, 2020 at 3:49 pm

      Hi Maria—it seems most of us have a similar sense of what we want and need to do to stay safe. It’s helpful for me to hear from others, so I know we’re not off-base! I love the matching masks idea. How adorable!

      I agree about the secret hack—wish I’d known about it sooner! Did you know you know you can also use it for one other huge bill payment? That’s the biggest secret that I don’t want to reveal to too many people! You may already know about it, but if not, PM me on Twitter and I can tell you more!

  • Reply
    Family Money Saver
    July 7, 2020 at 9:34 pm

    That’s a great deal to Japan! I keep getting Travelzoo deals but haven’t pulled the trigger on anything.

    We’re doing similar sensible restrictions as yourself. We had a small outdoor gathering, but with plastic cutlery and paper plates.

    I’m shocked and disappointed in myself that I’m not aware of the property taxes hack! I’ll need it now that I’ve used up all my Plastiq FFD’s.

    • Reply
      July 8, 2020 at 3:53 pm

      Hi Family Money Saver—I also get those tempting deals from Travelzoo, but have to ignore them. If Air Canada hadn’t offered the free cancellation and non-expiring credit, there’s no way I would’ve booked!

      Just this weekend, we saw two groups of friends, but both were outdoors and each family brought their own dishes and food. Disposables would’ve been a good idea too.

      You can also use the property taxes hack for utilities and one other huge expense. Send me an email or PM me on Twitter and I can tell you more!

  • Reply
    July 8, 2020 at 9:39 am

    Great update. Your restrictions are similar to mine. I’ve definitely started ordering in more food and using the drive-thrus versus in April when it was a full lock-down mode.

    You got me all excited about booking travel for next year; I’ll need to look out for that Air Canada offer. I think this shutdown has rekindled my wanderlust.

    • Reply
      July 8, 2020 at 4:01 pm

      Hi Yetunde—thanks for reading and commenting. It’s really hard for me to not dream about travelling again! If you’re considering booking a trip, it looks like Air Canada is still offering the same deal until the end of July. Here’s what it says on this page:

      “We have implemented highly flexible and expanded booking options. You can make a one-time change without a fee for all new or existing bookings made through July 31, 2020 for original travel between March 1, 2020 and July 31, 2021. If you booked directly with Air Canada and you need to cancel for any reason, you can convert your ticket to an Air Canada Travel Voucher that has no expiry date or to Aeroplan Miles with an additional 65% bonus miles.”

  • Reply
    July 8, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    On the COVID front, all I have to say is this: Bonnie Henry <3 I’m not even front BC and I love her. Incredible indeed! Actually, I find a lot of our (PREDOMINATELY FEMALE!) chief medical officers across the country really amazing. Definitely helps with the whole making-things-feel-better thing, eh? Also: I am with you on the mask thing. I don’t get the big issue. It’s literally one of the most effective AND SIMPLE things a person can do to prevent the spread of this stupid thing. Does it take getting used to? Sure. But…it’s not hard. It blows my mind that this has become controversial.

    Ooh, hopefully things get better for your Japan trip! That sounds like a great deal.

    June wasn’t all that eventful for us, either, outside our big power outage. As far as restrictions go, things are significantly looser in NB than they were. We just bubbled with the rest of Atlantic Canada, which will be interesting to watch. That said, the consensus opinion by public health experts is that the risk is going to be fairly low. Personally, we don’t really have any big plans to do much with this change — we’re both working and, when we’re off, sticking closer to home. That said, I did finally go to Bath and Body Works to buy more soap! Is it sad that was a highlight? Haha.

    • Reply
      July 9, 2020 at 10:54 pm

      Hi Tara—Dr. Henry is like everyone’s favourite aunt. I just want to hug her every time I see her. 🙂 You’re right about the female chief medical officers… and the female world leaders. There is a difference in the way they handle things, and it’s worth paying attention to that and taking some notes.

      I’ve been watching the Atlantic bubble closely. I know there was a small uptick in PEI, but everywhere else is doing great. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for continued good health and safety for all of you.

      (And I don’t think it’s sad that Bath and Body Works was a highlight, LOL! It’s the little things that count right now—nothing wrong with that!)

  • Reply
    July 9, 2020 at 8:11 am

    Your rules are good. It’s conservative but better safe than sorry. We are doing mostly the same. Our son sees his friends about once per week, though. He needs the social contact.

    Good luck with your trip. I want to go see my parents in Thailand, but I have no idea when I can go. 🙁

    • Reply
      July 9, 2020 at 10:59 pm

      Hi Joe—the social contact is so important for kids. It’s a tough decision that we plan to revisit every couple of weeks.

      It’s so hard to know when we’ll be able to travel. To be honest, if Air Canada hadn’t offered those perks, I wouldn’t have booked! I hope things improve so that you can visit your parents. I’m sure it’s hard to be apart for so long.

  • Reply
    July 14, 2020 at 8:11 am

    Hi Chrissy! I’m a new reader to your blog and really enjoy your monthly updates! With regards to your Japan trip, will you be taking any extra precautions with hotel bookings and travel insurance? I’m also dreaming about 2021 travel but hesitant to book anything with so many unknowns. Curious how other travelers are approaching this. Thank you and have a great day! 🙂

    • Reply
      July 15, 2020 at 11:34 pm

      Hi Halona—welcome, and thanks for being a reader. 🙂

      At this point, we have only booked the flights, and those are a pretty safe purchase due to Air Canada’s offers (no change fee and non-expiring credit).

      When it comes time to book accommodations, we’ll have to be very careful. We tend to book Airbnbs when we travel, and they were VERY good to us in March when we had to cancel our trip. I will have to check their policies before we book for next year.

      Hotels have always had excellent cancellation policies, so that may be a safer option for us if there is uncertainty. We booked some hotel nights and some apartment rentals through and they were very flexible with their cancellations.

      I also plan to double-check the travel insurance coverage on our existing credit cards, and may apply for new cards if they offer better coverage. As a last resort, we will look into cancel-for-any-reason travel insurance. However, I’ve heard that’s quite pricey, so I’m not sure about that.

      Our general plan will be to wait as long as we can to make any further bookings. We will only do so when we’re pretty confident that it’ll be safe and enjoyable to travel again. (Because who wants to travel if it means no eating indoors or visiting museums and some indoor attractions?)

      I hope that helps!

  • Reply
    July 16, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    You had a good month. Kids finished school and you rebooked your trip to Japan! That’s wonderful plus a nice savings. It’s nice to hear some optimism with travel plans for next year.

    Love the Shiba meetup and the social distancing. Hope you’re off to a great summer.

    • Reply
      July 16, 2020 at 11:14 pm

      Hi Ana—it was a good month! And yes, we’re being pretty optimistic about Japan… but we’re also not holding our breath! The way things are going, I’m not even sure if we’ll feel safe to travel in two years’ time.

      Summer has been good so far. Relaxing and fun, despite the so-so weather here in Vancouver! Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

  • Reply
    Teresa - MIL
    July 16, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    On the news today, it mentions that people in Japan always wear masks so that is likely one of the safest places to visit. I am not sure why some people are so against wearing one – it hides most of my face and I can forget about makeup 🙂 Yesterday I took my 94 year old mom for a CT scan at Vancouver General Hospital and there were staff there that were not wearing masks – you would think they should know better.

    • Reply
      July 16, 2020 at 11:18 pm

      Hi Mom—you’re so funny. Going makeup-free is a nice side benefit of masks! I can’t believe the hospital staff weren’t wearing masks. 🙁 Well, at least infection rates are low here. Let’s hope they stay that way, despite the maskless staff people.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2020 at 5:48 am

    Thank you Chrissy for the shout out! I am so happy that Canada and your region are doing okay. That is great that your Shiba meet-ups are back on. The quarantine here has been wearing on everyone’e mental health, especially our teens. Suicidality thoughts are 1 in 4 teens right now in the US. This was completely avoidable.

    • Reply
      August 18, 2020 at 11:07 pm

      Hi Dr. PP—I worry for these teens. 🙁 They’re old enough to be aware, but too young to have the life experience to know how to cope with such big burdens. Poor kids.

      As bad as things are, one thing that makes me feel a little better is that there are amazing doctors like you who care so much for their patients and their families.

      Hang in there, my friend. Your optimism and passion are so needed right now. ❤

    • Reply
      August 18, 2020 at 11:08 pm

      Hi Dr. PP—I worry for these teens. 🙁 They’re old enough to be aware, but too young to have the life experience to know how to cope with such big burdens. Poor kids.

      As bad as things are, one thing that makes me feel a little better is that there are amazing doctors like you who care so much for your patients and their families.

      Hang in there, my friend. Your optimism and passion are so needed right now. ❤

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