The Resolution 2018: Wrap-up

res·o·lu·tion /ˌrezəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n/noun  
1. a firm decision to do or not to do something
2. the quality of being determined or resolute.

A “New Year’s” Resolution is just one way of making resolve

It takes resolve to see something through. A “New Year’s” resolution is simply a pledge to take something on at the start of a New Year that you intend to maintain throughout the year (or beyond). But we take make all sorts of resolutions of all shapes and sizes at any time we like. The turning of a New Year is simply a convenient tracking marker.

This year, I plan to focus much less on updating my blog with monthly spending updates, as they became the crux of the blog by the end of the year. The intention of The Resolution, of course, was simply to find out how much I really spend, on everything, which I have more or less done.* I will try to get back to writing about my journey to financial freedom and the meaningful adventures I make and things I learn along the way, while applying Resolve in many other important aspects of my life and financial journey.

Things Learned

The power of tracking/data

Although it is important for us to never forget that correlation and causation are not one in the same, there is no denying that during 2018 my spending was much better in the months where I was blogging more. If one were to jump to conclusions on this – and I am – one might suggest that the consistent awareness of my goals and values, as well as the impacts my actions have on my ability to fulfill these, allowed me to avoid needless spending and consuming. That is, by using real-world data to find out how I am doing in relation to my desired outcomes, I was better able to achieve those outcomes.

On the other hand, during the months where I was blogging less and thus paying a little less attention to my goals and short, medium and long-term intentions and resolutions, I drifted. The mind is a powerful being and if left to its own devices can convince you of almost anything – like that you’re not spending more than you know you should be or want to be. But by re-visiting your goals on a regular (daily if necessary) basis and reviewing exactly where your spending is occurring, one is much more likely to succeed.

So Data is Power after all. Fancy that.

Having spent $24,450.87 CAD in 2018, my sustained spending tracking efforts has now set me up for a real number I can use to base my 2019 goal on. And although I would like to push to keep it under $18,000 again (and still might in the end), I am going to use REAL data to inform my policies and set my goal at $24,000 CAD spending for 2019.** Like I said at this time last year, it is better to set yourself up for success than for failure, and I may even spend less by having this larger goal, as it will be harder for that defeatist attitude to creep in if the first few months don’t go so well.

I’ve also made some improvements to my tracking spreadsheet for 2019, and am going to work out a version that I can share with you soon so you can at least see how I’ve organized myself and see if that works for you or not.

Poco a Poco

Here’s my monthly budget for 2019:

At $1,230, I’ve reduced this by $145 since the start of 2018. I eliminated my motorbike storage costs finally ($50/month), and my Life Insurance ($30/month) as well as some bank account maintenance fees (from $30/month to $4/month).

I recently re-added my Audible subscription after taking up the not-so-bad habit again and wanting to purchase a few books that would cost me more than several months’ subscription would have. Coupled with the recent increase in rates by Netflix, this now-called ‘Media’ (formerly ‘Luxuries’) portion of my budget has increased for 2019 from $21 to $39.

2019 Goals (The Resolution 2.0?)

By the end of 2019 I will have hopefully also eliminated my storage unit, in which only a few things remain. This will remove a further $83 from my monthly costs. Between now and when I turn 65, that could represent an additional $128,784 in savings and investment earnings.

Now that my budget is even more simplified, my debt is all-but-eliminated and my spending is minimal, it will be even easier to improve the sync-ing of  my Mint.com budget and spending tracker with my personal budget and spending tracker which I keep in a Google Sheet.  Because it is simple, the google sheet isn’t too onerous, and while in Mexico I use a fair amount of cash so it is difficult to track that with the mint app, beyond just calling it a ‘cash withdrawal’, for which I may buy a number of things such as food and chelas. However, I would still like to make improvements and further automate this in the future. Otherwise, it is likely that my spending tracking may eventually ‘peter-out’, as I adopt the habits its data has brought me and move on to new goals, just as I have done in the past with my caloric intake, output and weight after

Of course, some form of tracking will always continue, but it may just become a little less item specific and day-to-day once I am confident that I have gleaned from that practice the information what I can and naturally move on to new areas of improvement in my life.

There was a lot more learned in 2018, but it’s time for this ‘blogger’ to not kick this horse anymore and move onto more meaningful and interesting posts again.

And that is my latest item of resolve.

*like any form of measurement, a reasonable margin of error must be assumed. I chose to track my spending primarily ‘by hand’, but also used Mint.com as a supplement as well.

**I know, this is a novel concept – real data informing policy – in today’s landscape. 

Indexing: A Timely Check-in

With the passing of John C. Bogle recently, it is as timely as ever for this blogger to do a little quick-take on his investing strategy and to make sure all is still in line with his goals and beliefs.

Bogle, of course, was the man who pioneered the Index Fund, an investment vehicle designed to mimic or track its respective Stock Market Index. This index can be a particular part of the market, such as, say, Information Technology (VGT) or, say, all of the US stock market (VTI) by bundling many companies together in one ‘stock’ that an individual can purchase at a relatively low fee in comparison with hiring an active money or mutual fund manager.

Since this time, this investing strategy has saved investors hundreds of millions of dollars in fees and birthed an entirely new investing strategy, particularly for long term investors who believe that even the most ardent professionals will not be able to consistently beat the market.* Mr. Money Mustache, his predecessors, and virtually all of the FIRE bloggers that have come since employ indexing as a fixture of their investment strategy.

I often listen to some great podcasts related to saving and living well. A lot of them are long-form interviews such as The Tim Ferriss Show, or news and opinion such as The Economist or various programs from NPR such as Planet Money and The Indicator. And within all of these there is a ton of great information and inspiration for blog posts and discussions, but sometimes the lag time and my inability to turn the inspiration into an article before the next spark of inspiration has hit means I don’t get these great thoughts and bits of information out to you, the readers! And that is the true shame, as the point of all this – besides continually reminding myself of and being accountable to my goals – is to pass on a little bit of useful information to others that can make their lives and the world just a little bit better (bit by bit).

Anyway, today I was listening to a fairly new podcast from The Economist – a program they call Money Talks – in which and the host are discussing Index Funds and the legacy of Bogle, as well as the current state of the industry and some of the potential perceived drawbacks to the investing strategy, etc. So, instead of using my insistence that every blog post I write be full of detail and completely in-depth on every topic I breach in order to even consider writing it, I just thought I would try to get some of the take-homes of this great discussion out there to you, and perhaps spark a little discussion of our own (in the comments or on Twitter).

  • At first (and still sometimes now), people laughed at the idea and were even hostile towards** it, and even said it was ‘un-American’ in its aim to strive for ‘average’ (which it turns out is pretty good actually, especially when it’s free)
  • Although difficult to actually measure, about 20-40% of the public equities markets are ETFs or Index Funds. A “significant minority”.Although some still say passive management removes efficiency from the market and detracts from the market’s ability to hold companies accountable by overwhelming it, the evidence for this is weak, as is the track record of institutional investors’*** to actually do this themselves.
  • The last point may depend on what type of person is using Index Funds vs. actively investing in individual stocks. Presumably, it is people who don’t have the time, information or know-how to actually beat the markets that are attracted to the idea. People such as me, with their so-called ‘dumb money’ are probably much better off in one fund that owns hundred of company than trying to pick one long-term winner out of all companies. And this may actually improve the efficiency of the markets to price equities correctly vs. if this money were being used to ‘guess’ at stocks as it was before (or simply not in the market at all, yet another variable to consider).

So, for now it seems the reasons so many of us are currently using Index Funds still hold sound and that it’s a good strategy for almost all investors.

After all, every company ‘goes to zero’ eventually****.

*unless based on largely chance which, ultimately, will be the end of consistency

**This was in about 1975, following a bad time for stocks, so in general investor sentiment was low at the time as well.

*** (i.e. hedge funds, etc. that claim to be able to take your money and beat the market for you with it, then charge you the difference whether or not they actually do)

****google search “Sears”

The Resolution: December 2018

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Ok folks.   Here it is.  The last entry of the 2018 Resolution series, and the last time (in 2018 anyway) that I will call you all folks.  This was just a small part of the blog at this time last year, but is currently all I am posting as I have found myself wrapped up in other creative pursuits with my free time such as a renewed focus on photography and have been learning some graphic design skills through online training in the Adobe Creative Suite, which has led me to even trying my hand at art, such as this*:

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It’s been a wild ride.  I started out strong and ambitious, with goals of spending as little as $12,000 CAD for the year.  It didn’t take long to realize that I needed to adjust that goal, and later I adjusted it again, ultimately settling on a goal of $18,000 spending for the year (less than $15,000 USD).

Continue reading “The Resolution: December 2018”

The Resolution: November 2018

Nov 2018 Spending

The end is nigh.  The end of the year, that is.  And thus, The Resolution.

There’s no doubt my spending goals have slipped throughout the year, but things come and go, and you’ve got to stick with something in good times and bad in order to make any real gains.  Ultimately it will still be my most financially efficient year ever, and still likely my least expensive year in terms of spending money as well.  I am determined to reset the The Resolution in The New Year and apply what I have learned.

Continue reading “The Resolution: November 2018”

The Resolution: October 2018

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Well folks, well more than half way through the final quarter and November itself, and here I am letting you know how my spending went in October!  Ugh.

Props to all them real bloggers out there that keep their practice alive day-in-day-out.  There’s no question my commitment to keep writing has waned in recent months, and I think it’s safe to say that my spending has been inversely correlated during that time.  I am going to assume that this correlation is actually a causal factor and do my best to get back to blogging about my spending, finances and thoughts on the matters more diligently and regularly.  After all, this all started as a reminder to myself of my goals and intentions regarding my lifestyle, finances and environmental and social impacts. Continue reading “The Resolution: October 2018”

The Travel Necessities of a Professional Surf Bum

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In my last article I broke down my trip to Costa Rica, highlighting some of the travel and excitement but also providing a detailed list of all expenses associated with the trip.  As I was re-reading it, however, I realized that there were some things I had not mentioned that helped me to save money and maximize my enjoyment.  A lot of these things are subtle little additions to my bag – or the bag itself – that my moderate amount of travel experience over the years has allowed me to pickup, and I’ve been building a list to help me prepare for future trips without forgetting (too) much.

Continue reading “The Travel Necessities of a Professional Surf Bum”

Costa Rica Surf Trip: A Travelogue and Budget

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Although this blog is premised around financial freedom and early retirement, I don’t consider it to be the best place for one to come to receive nitty gritty down and dirty theoretically sound numbers and figures on how to best invest their money or leverage their earnings.  No.  I mean, you will get a fair taste of data still – after all, numbers make the world go round and one needs to support their arguments with facts – but I am here more to compliment that data or show it to you in such a way that encourages you to re-think the way you go about approaching your retirement.  Your finances.  Your freedom.  I am simply out to show you another model.  Not the only model, not even necessarily a better model.  Simply another model.

In addition, the fact of the matter is that my ideal for life beyond full-time work will include regular travel, even more than I have been able to do lately.  Thus, it is not inconceivable that this blog will eventually be considered a travel blog above all else.

A Freedom Blog is what I have come to call it.

Continue reading “Costa Rica Surf Trip: A Travelogue and Budget”

The Resolution: September 2018

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September is one of those months.  Not quite fall, no longer really summer.  It doesn’t come with a lot of expectations besides back-to-school and the occasional way-too-early Christmas-themed items for sale in stores, yet it can be one of the better months of the year in terms of weather.  Combined with the slowing of the summer tourist crowds, it can often sneak up as one of the most enjoyable months of the year.  At least that is the case in British Columbia, where I grew up.  Here in Mexico, ‘muggy and buggy’ is the word during September.

Continue reading “The Resolution: September 2018”

The Resolution: August 2018

Aug 2018 SpendingHere we are again, a little over a year since my first post on Freedom 33 last August.  And what do you know – it has been my least productive and most expensive month yet!  I won’t dwell on it – I was on a trip and have been working on some other personal projects a little more.  Let’s just chalk it up to a good healthy summer break.  But I am back!  And as you can see, I spent a lot in August!

Continue reading “The Resolution: August 2018”

The Resolution: July 2018

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You know what they say, ‘what gets measured gets managed’.  I started this blog last August when I got fed up with failing to meet the savings goals I had in mind, and decided to take a closer look and, well, get my shit together.

It started with spending, and I remain largely focused on that.  I realize that I am earning a lot.  It may not be as much as Ramit followers think they need to earn in order to live lavishly guilt-free with no consideration for anything but their…guilt…but I do consider myself to be very fortunate by virtually all measures.  I suppose if I could find a way to start earning hundreds of thousands per year or more, perhaps my savings of an extra $30 here and there would be less relevant, as Ramit claims, but that wouldn’t consider the value of the habits and perspectives we’re developing by exercising our frugality muscles regularly, whether we’re financially independent or not.  Remember, it’s not just about you, it’s about the planet and the rest of the people on it.

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Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

When it comes to consuming, just because you can doesn’t mean that you should.

Continue reading “The Resolution: July 2018”