Confessions of a Phone-aholic

In the drink she goes :(

We had two weeks left to go on our near-four month trip around South East Asia. The decision was made to spend the remainder of our time lazing about one of the lesser developed Thai islands. An island where one of our good friends spent the last five winters building himself a house.

It was not a tough decision for us to make.

As our faithful, long-tailed passenger ferry dug it’s chin into the beach on the island, the ladder was flipped down to the water’s surface for us to disembark upon. Bags were being unloaded, friends were waving from the beach, shoes were being thrown from the boat, the captain was at the back revving the engine impatiently.

By the time it was finally my turn to unload, the boat had drifted out a fair bit due to the action happening all around. Down the ladder I absentmindedly went, expecting a wet pair of shins. But in I went, up to my chest.

And so would end the relatively long life of my eighteen month-old iPhone 4S that lived in my pocket.

And so would start my two week addiction rehabilitation program.

Luckily, I guess, I had brought my laptop along with me on the trip. Though it certainly would have been a pretty interesting experiment in the end had I not. In any case, I wasn’t to be completely cutoff from the world.

We were however at our friend’s house, and the only form of internet available to me at this point was teathering to his phone, instead of my own. Possibly a good thing as it kept me in check, knowing every bit of data I pushed or pulled across the network was costing him money. I tried as best I could to keep my internet usage short, and to once a day at most, unless two were necessary for some real reason.

I realize that this may not sound all that severe to some. After all, I did have some form of the internet and a laptop! It really does sound ridiculous, I know. But I also know that most people who read this would have a very tough time doing what I had to do. Go on – try to leave your phone in a drawer for even two days without looking at it. Let alone two weeks. I dare you.

Almost everything I use my phone for can also be done with my laptop. But it is all slightly different. In a way, I had to re-learn the old way of doing many things. It was like going back to the dark days of 2010.

In case you are interested, here is a roughly prioritized list of all the things I use my phone for on a regular basis. Many of them daily. Or even hourly. I’m sure there is nothing earth-shattering in there to most readers, skip the rest of this paragraph if you don’t care: receiving and sending email through four different accounts, chatting regularly on Google Hangouts about a project a group of us are working on, managing our airbnb account, looking at stocks and investments, looking after this blog, taking photos and posting some on Instagram, listening to music, using WhatsApp, playing games, reading books, browsing Facebook and Twitter, googling things, and doing online banking.

At home, there is obviously texting as well, and perhaps three phone calls a week, but by this point in the trip that was a distant memory.

Again, I can do all these things on my laptop too. The one exception is posting photos to Instagram since they don’t have a web interface. At least not the last time I checked. Note that posting a photo anywhere on the internet is quite annoying when living like it was the year 2010: it involves using my old crappy camera, then transferring the image on a memory card to my laptop. But then I can’t conveniently use any of those filters on Instagram, forcing you to have to look at what it actually looked like in real life. Oh, and I guess there is the odd WhatsApp message too. I doubt there is a web interface for that, but I didn’t look.

In any case, what did I continue to use, having to go the old way? I kept an eye on my email accounts, though it took a while to figure out the web interface for one of them, I managed airbnb, I kept an eye on Google Hangouts, and I peaked at Facebook once or twice throughout rehab. I think that was about it.

Convenience Breeds Obsession

There is no doubt in my mind that it was a great exercise for me. I actually believe the universe spoke that fateful day on the ferry: my high level of phone usage is something I often ponder, and the universe forced my hand.

To be quite honest, not having a phone throughout the rehab program was never much of a huge ‘load off’, like I thought I might get out of it. It was more annoying than anything else, and continues to be even now, albeit, a lot less than initially. Things change in life, especially in this day and age, and we get really used to the results of each change that happens. It can be hard to go back to the way things were before a change, especially if that change is one that added convenience to your life.

I bet you weren’t expecting to hear that from the Noble Anarchist. And please don’t take that as me saying all change is good! That is not at all the case.

That said, just because something is convenient, does not make it okay to do it obsessively. Nor does it make it okay to do it when it is not appropriate. That I believe is the big problem with these pocket devices of today.

I recently read that we check our email nineteen times a day. Nineteen times. Zowie. But then I did the math: sixteen waking hours a day, so once per hour, plus another three for good measure… Yup. That doesn’t sound too, too crazy for many.

Except it is crazy!

How often does something come in that is so important it needs to be dealt with that very hour, in the middle of you sitting and enjoying a pint with your friends. Perhaps never? People don’t realize how disruptive emails are. Receiving one that needs dealing with at some point in the future is almost guaranteed to take you out of the enjoyable moment you might have been in the middle of.

I would often check my email at less appropriate times so I could verify what I hoped was true: that nothing new has come in for me to worry about. But then often times that wasn’t the case, ruining the moment I was in. No news is good news, as the saying goes.

I now realize the absurdity of that behavior. It is way better to learn how to be comfortable with not knowing whether or not there is email waiting for you, and then checking it at an appropriate time later on, when you can actually deal with it if need be.

The Phone as a Cloaking Device

Another bad habit I am really not a fan of, but of course am as guilty of as anyone is at times, is using my phone as a way to avoid interacting with people I don’t know.

Get into an elevator with a stranger, and immediately pull the phone out and look at the headlines so I don’t have to acknowledge their existence. Get on the bus and quickly find something to stare at so my eyes don’t meet someone else’s. Walk to work with my headphones on to ensure I don’t get asked for change by anyone.

I really don’t think these sorts of actions help our society in any way at all. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Keeping the Habit Curbed

Moving forward, my phone usage is going to stay curbed by a few changes. First, I now need to get a new phone. Signing a big, expensive contract for the latest iThing would strongly go against the principles of this blog. So I will have a go at using the Windows Phone I got for free that I have sitting in a drawer at home. Cross your fingers for me. It isn’t nearly as fancy as the iPhone was, so I’m hoping I won’t want to play with it so often.

Second, I am bent on keeping my phone bill well below the seventy five dollars per month I was paying before. So I recently moved to a forty dollar a month plan at a better company that restricts my data usage to only 200MBs per month. That should help out.

And lastly, I will be making an honest effort at keeping my obsessive email checking down to a minimum, and to times when I can be effective and actually respond to things. Three times a day sounds like a nice number to shoot for.

How do you think you do with your phone? Are you happy with your habits? Do you feel they are appropriate? Do you obsess over it? Do you see the typical phone habits of people adding up to a negative impact on society as a whole?



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Learning Not to Spend for Dummies

learning-not-to-spendA guest post by the First Lady giving some interesting insight into what it is like to be pressured by someone into learning not to spend the way you might want to, or be used to spending. Perhaps a good read for anyone who is just getting started down fiscal lane!

* * * * *

What are some easy, practical, relatively painless ways to spend less and save more? These are questions that come up in conversation with friends over and over, especially when the Noble Anarchist is around. It helps when we talk because I get ideas, and it keeps it front of mind. Plus it makes me feel better knowing I’m not the only one struggling with this, and that if it was easy we’d all be doing it.

I’ve learned a lot from the Noble Anarchist over the years, not all of the lessons were pleasant. Actually, a lot of them weren’t and some ended in tears. Mine, not his. We have such different spending and saving habits, each having learned them from a very early age. It’s hard to change a life time of habits. What’s easy and obvious for him is a struggle for me, and it usually takes me at least six months or a year to come around to his way of thinking, or at least start to grasp it.

I’ve been trying to think of ways that I can spend less, and eventually save some money in ways that work for me, are sustainable, and aren’t based on following a strict permanent budget. I could read endless books or articles telling me how to do this, or I could follow the Noble Anarchists model, but so far none of that feels quite right to me. After all, we aren’t all starting from the same place, and don’t all have the same resources or goals. I have a decent amount in a pension plan, but know I can’t count on it (pension plans do fail from time to time), and know it’s not going to be enough. Besides, I can’t touch it until I’m 55, so it doesn’t do me any good right now. For added fun and excitement (ie. stress), I recently quit my job (the one with a good pension plan and good pay), and at least in the short term anticipate making a living with a part time job, and selling my homemade candied nuts. Solid plan.

Once in recent memory I was able to save money for a few months, and I didn’t even feel deprived. I did this by figuring out my fixed expenses vs. income, how much I wanted to save each paycheque, and then what was left over I was allowed to spend, but only in cash. No credit cards allowed. With a small weekly spending allowance, I had to make choices. For example, I would still go out for food and drinks with my girlfriends, but instead of ordering a full dinner, I’d have a snack before and just order an appetizer, which wasn’t really a hardship because the point was to be out with friends. Or if I wanted to buy a new sweater, I’d have to say no to a few nights out. Obviously, this was simply a budget, but I’d never followed one before so it was new to me. I think the reason it worked is I was really clear about why I needed to do it, it was short term, it felt good to meet my weekly target, and I wasn’t able to use credit cards.

Happily, more and more often I find that when I spend less, I not only feel better about myself and more responsible, but I’m learning to truly be ok with the lesser hotel, or the not as nice bottle of wine.

I’ve realized that I try to justify most of my spending, but anything that has to be justified should probably be given a second thought. Here’s some fun examples:

  • I like to encourage people (especially the Noble Anarchist!!) to go shopping and buy stuff so I can live vicariously through them. I always find a way to help them justify their purchases.
  • Even though I didn’t need it and it just made my backpack heavier, why wouldn’t I buy a 680 ml bottle of Mandalay Rum for the equivalent of $1.50? Yes, that’s right, a bottle of rum in Burma only costs as much as a pack of gum at home.
  • Why wouldn’t I buy a bottle of delicious local wine for $10 when it would cost $20 back home, even though I could have bought a lower quality one for $5? I get excited when we cross the border to the US and wine is half price. And then I buy two bottles instead of one because I’d spend the same amount at home anyway. It’s practically saving money to spend money sometimes!
  • I’d rather spend another $5 a night when travelling to get a private bathroom instead of a shared one, or to not end up in a fleabag hotel. After all, if I didn’t spend the extra $ on the room, I’d only end up spending it on nicer food, or alcohol to console myself for the hotel situation.

There’s also the emotional and experiential benefit I get from buying things. Actually, if I think about it, that’s usually why I buy things. I mean, let’s be honest, how often do I buy a new pair of jeans only when my old ones are falling apart? I buy a new pair of jeans when I think my less new ones are a little out of “style”, or when they’ve lost their shape after a few washes.

I recently saw a billboard in Myanmar that really struck a chord. It said “Reduce Reuse Reject”. I’m not sure if they meant to write recycle instead of reject, but I kind of like reject better. It fits for where I’m at now, trying to spend and consume less. I also find it sometimes helps me buy less if I consider the environmental and ethical impact my purchases have. I know I’m just one person, and buying one less pair of jeans won’t make a difference in the big picture, but at least it’s something. But of course I can also be a hypocrite and the next day will find a way to justify another cheap pair of rubber flip flops from Old Navy because they’re in a colour I don’t have and really, really want.

I wrote this post with the intention of giving others like me hope that with time, effort and more conversations it’s possible to get better at learning not to spend so much money, and if anyone has any other inspiring words on how to do this, I’d love to hear it. Of course, it helps to have the Noble Anarchist close at hand with daily reminders, so if anyone wants to borrow him, let me know!!

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Me Love You Laos Time

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We Sold our House!


Our old house

I was thirty three years old not very long ago.

I had been living and working very hard in a good-looking, and extraordinarily expensive city for about a decade by then. Financially speaking, I had little to show for where that time had gone:

  • I was one of three names on some papers for a piece of recreational property that the bank owned. The place continues to be worth the same today as when we signed those papers six years ago.
  • I had managed to sock away perhaps $30,000 of stocks and investments by then. It sounded like a lot at the time! But no, it really was not. Given where that money was sitting, I was on track to have maybe $150,000 by the time I’m sixty five. Not nearly enough to squeeze twenty five years of retirement out of, especially after taking taxes and inflation into account.
  • Similar to most people I knew back then, we lived in a rental suite. Ours happened to be in someone’s basement.

For years, I hummed and hawed about clawing my way into my good-looking, and extraordinarily expensive city’s real estate market. “Half a million dollars for a six hundred square foot apartment? Is this some sort of cruel joke? These prices can’t possible stay this way. They have to come down!”

But they never did. Even when they did seemingly everywhere else around my continent, they kept going up and up in my city.

Then one day my landlady got snippy with me about something, and that was it. I was done with sharing things with strangers. And I was done with giving away my money, waiting on the market sidelines, too. I was done being a child.

Onto MLS I went that night, and within a month we were living in our very own house, with our very own yard. We made it! We finally grew up!

We loved that house. It was perfect for us in every way. Old and full of character, yet modern and charming. We decorated it nicely, maintained it well, and even befriended some of the neighbours.

We made it into our home.

Houses and Homes are Not the Same

It is important to make the distinction between a house and a home. They are not the same thing, despite what your realtor might want you to believe.

A house is a physical structure that was built by someone. It’s purpose is to shelter and protect you. It is inanimate, and virtually never moves. When purchased, it is an investment. A business decision.

A home on the other hand is as full of life as you make it. It is a mindset and it is different for everyone. It moves with you wherever you go, and can remain in one place for as briefly as a single day. A home is where you hang your hat, as the saying goes.

I know it can be tough to keep the two separate. Especially when you feel you’ve found, or perhaps built your dream house. But failure to do so can allow emotion to get in the way of sound judgement, which can result in lost opportunity.

Our House… Was a Very, Very, Very Fine House

And so after three enjoyable years of living in our fine house, we made the decision to leave our good-looking, and extraordinarily expensive city in favor of the recreational property we’d be hanging onto. Through no fault of our house, of course.

At first we hung on to the house because we feared it might continue to rise in value. I question if the real problem was us being emotionally attached to it though. Probably the truth was somewhere in the middle. And so we found people to rent it while we ‘waited to see what happens with the market’.

But after a short while of enduring the pain of renting to someone, and after learning how much money we could make out of the deal if we did sell the house, we put our emotions aside, and made the decision to put it on the market.

As of this month, the house is gone. And we have one hundred and twenty thousand dollars in our pockets that we didn’t have three and a half years ago. Boy did we get lucky.

As an aside, from the sounds of all the feedback we got from potential buyers, I really don’t get the feeling that its value was going to go up much further any time soon. Its natural limits seem like they were being met: it was only a two bedroom house, and the basement was insufficient to be made into a mortgage-helping suite. Yet the cost of purchasing it was bordering on necessitating a doctor’s salary to afford it. Interesting times in our old city, I must say.

In the end, the feedback was a good thing to hear because it makes me think our decision to sell was the right thing to do.

So Now What?

The immediate plan with that money is quite simple. Of course I will also be keeping my eye open for other opportunities that may come my way, like any good investor would do!

But until then, it will go into our investment account along with my sixty two thousand that I already have in there. So a total of around $180,000 of our money will be invested.

That account is a margin account which means I can borrow up to an additional $180,000 at a cost of 4.5% per year. Which I will likely do, at least in part.

So I will purchase a diversified array of around $350,000 worth of stocks. Probably somewhere between ten and twelve different ones.

If I can make around 7% per year which I believe I can do most of the time through a combination of dividends and value increase, we will profit around $18,000 per year. Some years I believe I will make more than that, some years I may make less. We will see.

If I make less than 4.5% in a given year, well that’s just the risk I’ll have to take. But don’t fool yourself into thinking there is no risk involved with hanging on to a hundred year old house that you paid more for than you may ever see in your entire life! Again, a house is just an investment. Their value can go up, and it can go down.

This money is obviously not enough to fully retire on yet, but it does give us a huge leg up on this lifestyle we are pursuing. When other sources of income are coming in, like I pick up a short contract somewhere, or I release a video game, or I write a book on traveling through Asia, or I build a deck for someone, or Jen has a great month selling nuts at the farmers’ market, or whatever, the money will sit there and compound, increasing its ability to payout.

But in times of need, like while I’m writing a book, or working on a video game, or traveling through Asia, or whatever, the bills will continue to get paid and we won’t starve or go into debt. Note that $18,000 is in fact enough money to cover all of our annual, mandatory bills, if need be. That is a key ingredient to this plan having any hope of working at all.

Also note that even if I wanted to go lower risk with this plan, and not borrow out of my margin account, we would still make enough to at least live mortgage free from now on. That is also a pretty attractive option which we may end up going with in the end.


Well I hope you got something out of this post, I do believe there are a number of important points in there. But if you could only take away one thing, it would be this: A house can be a good investment. No doubt. But it is also possible to invest your money in a way that you don’t need to wait twenty five or more years before you see any benefit from it.

Thanks as always for reading, and pass on the good word if you enjoyed!

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Comfort Zone: The Lazy Mammal’s Danger Zone


A Lazy Lion

On a three week trip through Myanmar, the First Lady and I were staying in a small town for a few days. We wanted to go see one of the sites that was about ten kilometers outside of town. Since bicycles only cost two dollars a day and the distance was easily bikeable, not to mention the health benefits and ultimate freedom biking gives you, it was the logical way to go.

Navigating our way down a dusty, bumpy, dirt road, most of the locals zipping past us rich, nostalgic foreigners on their modern motorbikes, I began to think a lot about the situation.

“Man, humans sure are lazy”, was the start of my thinking. Which quickly turned into “No, it goes much deeper than that. All mammals sure are lazy”. But then that soon morphed into “Humans are lazy because they are mammals. And they have a lot of odd behaviors surrounding their laziness too”.

Why We Are So Lazy

It didn’t take long to figure out why we are so lazy. Clearly it is a hold over from the days of old when food was scarce and we had to use a lot of energy to get it. And then had to conserve our energy because we didn’t know when the next meal would come. This is still the way of life for most mammals. For example, lions.

Our dusty bike ride was starting to make a lot of sense to me. Humans used to walk everywhere. Then we learned how to make animals let us sit on them while they did the work. Then a guy attached a cart to one of his animals and sat on the cart instead.

Then someone invented the bicycle and that was often much more practical than a horse and cart. Then someone discovered you can build a bicycle that uses a form of energy you can buy without having to eat and use up the hard way. Even easier. Note that we witnessed each one of these modes of transportation on this single stretch of road!

It all made perfect sense. Our laziness could not be denied. It is part of why we evolve the way we do.

That was about the time a truck drove by and interrupted my thinking with a nice blast of dirt and exhaust in my face.

Two Main Ways to be Lazy

Very broadly, our laziness can be divided into two main brands: physical and mental. I want to say mental laziness is just another form of physical laziness given that your brain is just a physical part of your body. But actually I don’t think that is true. Your brain is an organ, which is quite different from a muscle.

There are so many strange behaviors surrounding both types of human laziness. Truly.

As an example, we might live a mere five kilometers from the place where we spend most of our waking days. But instead of walking or riding a bike to get there each day, the free and healthy way, because we are so physically lazy we spend money driving a car or sitting in a bigger type of vehicle shared with other people to get us there.

But then we sit all day working our brain to it’s limit, until mental exhaustion sets in. Because that’s one way we know of making the money we need. It amazes me what people will put themselves through, mentally, every single day at the office. I know because I’ve been there. It can be exhausting at times. And once in a while satisfying too. I get it. But mostly, it is exhausting.

But then we get fat because we are so mentally busy every day, and we feel it is all we have the time or energy to do. Not to mention the stress induced by the constant mental exercise actually exacerbating the problem. So we use a bunch of the money we earned that day to drive home after the daily mental marathon and then possibly use some more of the money to force ourselves to do some physical exercise, required now as a result of the whole bizarre situation.

What an odd mix of being lazy, but also not lazy at the same time. So much about it just doesn’t make sense, at least from an ancestral perspective.

In regard to this complicated daily routine, the old days of just working a job where you got some exercise once in a while makes a whole lot more sense. I have often thought that working in an office for two days a week, and then doing physical labour for the following two days might be the ultimate combination. (Yes, that adds up to four days of work per week, not five!)

It is interesting that so many people with such high levels of intelligence endure the daily mental exhaustion, day in and day out. They can design a bridge, or a microprocessor, or an X-ray machine or a rocket ship. But for some reason they can’t seem to work out a way to not have to work so incredibly hard to survive. It really goes against what we were bred for.

You might argue that people “enjoy the challenge of a problem” and that is what keeps them going. True, I often feel that way myself. But there are so many ways of finding challenges in life, and some are much more enjoyable to conquer than others. And so why not work towards being in a position where you are only dealing with the challenges you enjoy the most? And doing it on your own clock, not someone else’s?

That Dangerous Comfort Zone

There is definitely some evil lurking in the waters here given our strong desire to be lazy, and how unlazy we sometimes are. And that evil is our strong addiction to being in the comfort zone. It is so strong in fact, amazingly, it trumps our desire to be lazy. Hence the post-work gym monkey driving his car to and from work and the gym. Hence the unhappy computer programmer slogging it out at something he doesn’t enjoy, month after month, year after year. Driving a car is more comfortable than riding a bike, just like having a regular pay cheque is more comfortable than searching out alternative ways to pay the bills.

It is widely believed that forcing yourself out of your comfort zone is good for you. I couldn’t agree more with that statement. It gets you thinking outside of the box. It gets you thinking about alternatives. It gets those creative juices flowing. It is the reason I love to travel so much!

Maybe it is time for you to start pushing yourself out of your comfort zone a little more when you can. Get up on that bike and ride, so to speak.

Or even better, look for ways to completely stop doing the things you don’t enjoy doing. Even if they help to keep you in your comfort zone. Instead, concentrate on only doing the things you do enjoy.

If you keep at it, the comfort will eventually return. And in a superior form. I guarantee it.

I will leave you with a quote I saw the other day, very coincidentally, as I already had this post all typed up and ready to go!

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

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Myanmar Meander: The Road From Mandalay

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Debut-Year Postmortem: A Penny for Your Thoughts!

postmortemIt is hard for me to believe, but it will have been one full year this coming Friday since I worked my last day at a job as a regular, full-time employee. Time flies! Albeit, much more slowly now that I’m no longer enduring the monotony of a day after day after day, day job.

What better time to stop and reflect with a debut-year blog postmortem!

So what are your thoughts on the blog?

Some people have told me they like the more practical posts, and want to see more. And I have had other people tell me my inspirational posts actually inspire them. I enjoy writing both styles very much, so the news is good!

Any other thoughts? Would you prefer to see more practical advice? More inspirational? More financial? More travel? Less of any or all of it? Do I sound like an asshole and it ain’t working for you? Or maybe I don’t? Or maybe I do, but you need that sort of thing to get you motivated? You used to read the blog but now you don’t and you just happened to click on this one because my new FB page is so awesome?

Give me your thoughts in the comments section if you do so desire! Or, feel free to use the Contact page if you don’t want to be so public about it. Now is your chance to help mold the future of the Noble Anarchist!

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How to Save Money Like Some Kind of Kate Moss

how-to-save-moneyWhen Kate Moss is hired to do a shoot for some glamorous company, in some glamorous magazine, there is one thing that is certain: Kate is ready for action whenever her agent needs her to be ready for action.

For that to be the case, Kate can never let herself go. Every decision she makes must always be in favour of how she looks. Which means making a serious decision every time food comes her way. Is this the healthiest choice she can make? What else will she be eating that day? Is she staying on track or falling off the rails? No Bon Bon benders for Kate. Ever!

In other words, Kate’s career necessitates that her low calorie eating habits are part of her lifestyle.

Consuming Calories is Just Like Spending Dollars

Whereas the supermodel knows every calorie she consumes counts against her, the savvy-saver knows every dollar she spends, similarly counts against her.

The savvy-saver knows this because she maintains her very own Dollar Army. She understands that every dollar in her army is a soldier working for her. And that it takes work to add another soldier to her army. So it’s best not to lose soldiers if she can at all avoid it.

Just like it takes work for the supermodel to maintain her figure. It is often easier for her to avoid consuming the calorie in the first place than it is to have to work it off later.

How to Save Money: Stop Dieting and Instead Make it Part of Your Lifestyle

The trick to knowing how to save money is no more about learning how to budget, than the trick to being a supermodel is about learning how to diet.

True, having a budget can often keep your spending under control. It can even enable you to accumulate some money if you do it right. Just like a diet can help you to lose some weight if you try really hard at it. Have you noticed yet how a diet is nothing more than an eating budget?

Unfortunately though, a spending budget doesn’t get to the heart of the problem. It still promotes spending. Granted, less spending. Instead you need to learn to not want to spend money. Managing your Dollar Army should help with that.

Furthermore, like a diet, more often than not a spending budget is just a temporary measure. Either to get out of a debt, or to save up enough to buy something, if you’re one of the smart few who avoids your credit card. Just like many diets and boot camps I’ve tried in the past, a budget can help, but as I learned, the truth comes down to the need for a change in your lifestyle.

The Lifestyle of a Savvy-Saver

So what is this lifestyle I speak so freely of?

Well for starters, every decision you make has to put the money aspect of it at the forefront.

That doesn’t mean you just always have to pick the cheapest thing when a choice is given to you! We all know the second cheapest wine choice is always the best choice, right?

But it does mean you should probably always keep your choice within the top three cheapest choices. Unless you have a very strong argument to go for the fourth cheapest choice. But it better be a good argument.

When you think you need to spend money for some reason, you need to seriously re-evaluate the thing you’re spending the money on. Do the math to help convince yourself.

Be ultra-careful about recurring costs: Are you spending three dollars a day, five days a week on something? Multiply it by 250 to see what you are spending a year on it. Now punch that number into a compound interest calculator over 20 years, since you could be instead investing that money. Do you really need to buy that coffee every day when they are free at the office?

Do the same with recurring monthly costs too, except multiply it by 12. Do you need 300 channels of cable tv? Could that hundred dollar phone bill be fifty dollars instead? Fifty dollars invested per month over 20 years at a return of 6% adds up to be $28,250. That’s a lot of money for removing a couple minor bells and whistles from your phone plan.

You need to avoid trying to look cool by buying fancy cars or fancy clothes or rounds of drinks for your friends. Unless it’s your turn to buy, of course!

You need to become hyper-aware of every dollar you spend. And then you need to grow a genuine distaste for spending it because you understand how to instead invest it.

Pay with cash so that you actually feel the money slipping through your fingers as you give it to someone else.

It is a new way of thinking, a personal paradigm shift.

A change in lifestyle that affects you each and every time your wallet comes out of your pocket.

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Life Expectancy and Why Science Won’t Turn You Into a Tortoise

life-expectancy-tombstoneThe life expectancy of us Canadians has been rising at a fairly consistent rate of around two years per decade ever since 1920. So whereas back in the “Roaring 20s” a Canadian male was expected to live until age 59, today – almost 10 decades later, a Canadian male is now expected to live until age 79. Pretty good progress indeed! Note the important point that this trend is almost perfectly “linear”.

Interestingly, the average age of death of a Canadian in the year 2005 was actually 74.2 years old. From what I understand, the discrepancy is to do with the fact that the older you are, the more likely you are to live longer. If that makes sense?? So for example if you were lucky enough to make it through the stage where you learned how to drive, you are more likely to live even longer than before. Or something along those lines.

But back to the concept of life expectancy, let’s assume for a minute that the current linear trend continues, which really is not an illogical thing to do, given the long stretch of data we have to rely on. Five more decades from now the life expectancy of a Canadian male should have eked out an additional 10 years, somewhere around age 89. At that point in time I will be 88 years old and thus about ready to call it quits. Assuming of course I made it past the above mentioned average, which may not be the case given how much I like riding on minibuses in the developing world.

Why Science Won’t Turn You Into a Tortoise

Over the years I’ve heard a number of people tell me they think science will allow them to live well into their hundreds. And given the way I see so many people pretty much killing themselves at their unpleasant jobs for so many years, I have to assume there are a lot more out there with that same assumption. But we will get to why I assume that soon!

There is no doubt that science has advanced in the medical field. And I know “they” are researching things like stem cells, and nanobots, and a host of other things seen on the front covers of Popular Science magazines. And I know we are in the Information Age, and the Science Age, and whatever Age comes next. But just because computer processor speeds and population growth have been exponential over the past 100 or so years, does not mean life expectancy is going to get all exponential on us too.


Because the human body has it’s natural limits. And the ripe old age of 90 is somewhere right around those limits. And here’s the kicker: because us First Worlders’ life expectancy is getting very close to the human body’s natural limits, all that exponential trending in science and research is now required to even attempt at keeping up the linear trend in life expectancy we’ve been enjoying over the past century.

Simply put, it is no longer as simple as learning about hygiene to stop moms and babies from dying at birth. The low hanging fruit has been harvested!

An Analogy

If you are looking for a simple but effective analogy for what I mean, the oil and gas extraction industry is a perfect example. Back around the time when we were dying at age 59, it was much simpler to get oil out of the ground. Often all you needed to do was dig a hole in your backyard in Texas, and poof – you were an instant millionaire! The Energy Return on Investment (EROI), or, the amount of energy required to get at the oil back then was somewhere around 1200:1. Meaning for every $1 invested, you would get $1200 in return.

Since the 1920s, the world’s thirst for oil has been going up somewhere in the neighborhood of one to two million barrels per day, per year. Another very important linear trend, just like our life expectancy.

But oil extraction is no longer as easy as digging a hole in the ground and having it spew out! It would seem another natural limit has been met. As a result we are having to use all sorts of expensive and high-tech techniques to get at the stuff, many of them also appearing on the front cover of Popular Science magazines. We are even revisiting old wells to get at the tough stuff that we missed the first time around. To put it in perspective, the EROI of the tar sands in northern Canada is down around 5:1, or even as low as 3:1 according to some reports.

The result of all our technical prowess in the industry? A continued linear trend of an extra one to two million barrels per day per year, or so.

Does the analogy make sense?

Life Expectancy and Current Lifestyle

So where the hell am I going with all this morbidity, and talk about the oil and gas industry? The truth hurts sometimes, and I know how people hate facing the facts, so lets get to the point!

As I alluded to earlier in the post, I see so many people slogging it out at a job they don’t want to be at. Day in and day out. 40 (or more) out of 112 conscious hours a week, plus 10 commuting to and fro. 49 (or more) out of 52 weeks a year. 50 (or more) out of 90 years of their lives. But not just any years, the best years. The ones where they are healthy, and full of life. The ones where they have children. And can travel the world. Build a house. Climb mountains. Go skydiving.

I can’t imagine any sane person would give all their best years away to some company they work for, knowing that they will only have 10 or maybe 20 less functional years at the end of it all to finally live how they want. No, they must be assuming they’re going to have a lot more time at the end than that. Right?

I’m almost 40 years old right now. The bad news is I am close to being half-dead already. The good news for me? I’ve given up on my old ways and am working on ensuring that the next 40 or so years will be spent the way I want. And if I may be so bold, perhaps you too should give some thought to your current situation if you aren’t already doing so.

People often need a medical scare of some sort to kick them in the butt. One that makes them realize how short and precious life is. And then sometimes they act on that realization.

My hope is that this post might fill that role for a few of it’s readers.

Time is ticking, you ain’t getting any younger, no one gets out of here alive, and you can’t take anything with you, so get to it and make that good life happen now!


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