Archive for ‘Money’

August 4, 2011

3 Bucks For Retirement

It’s one latte or 0.000005% of my retirement savings.

Today, doing some casual work I was able to earn $30 cold hard Canadian cash. I know that’s probably what you spent on lunch today but such is my life, for today, and I accept that. Yesterday I made a commitment to you all that I would begin to “pay myself first” by taking ten percent off the top off all of my earnings for savings. In my example, I used $50 with my savings being $5.  The universe decided to see how serious I was with my commitment today by starting me off with an even smaller example. Ah universe, always a card.

It’s Party Time

I am here to say that my whopping $3 has been transferred to the ashtray in my car (Do new cars even have ashtrays?) to ensure that it is not spent inadvertently. I was kind of hoping for balloons and confetti and party hats in my head when I started my savings plan, but I guess that’s always been part of the problem. I shouldn’t need a pat on the back and a great job to take care of myself like a mature adult.

So, the $3 is gone. Out of site out of mind. So as to avoid looks of confusion and perhaps endless giggling, I will wait until I have saved up at least $100 before I open some sort of savings or investment account.

One baby step, one less latte, one day at a time. I can do this.

Peace,

Leslie

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August 3, 2011

Piggy-er Bank

I recently posted about how I am going to start taking aggressive action to address financial MEbucket of my life. I thought it was important to take some immediate action, even though I am not working yet, and cash flow is virtually non-existent. There is something to be said for having the framework in place before you start and it is in this spirit that I take step one.

Many years back, likely around the time of its first printing around 1989, I read the book The Wealthy Barber and like most that read it, was immediately inspired. I connected in this book in a very real way, but like many other things in life my approach was that I would start taking the books recommended actions “tomorrow.” Well this is tomorrow.

The biggest thing that sticks out in my head from when I read David Chilton’s The Wealthy Barber is “pay yourself first.” This is something that immediately resonated with me, especially because I had seen it in action in my own life. For a time, I was paying into an RRSP that I paid to before I paid any other items; before bills, before entertainment, and before life’s other necessities. Like “Roy” says in the book, you adjust your life to this not being a part of your cash flow and for all intents and purposes it disappears. The great part of course is that it doesn’t disappear, in reality you are saving, making money off interest and growing your financial independence.

Starting today, I am paying myself first. Ten percent right off the top. This is pretty hard to do when you are taking in virtually no income, but I can do it. For now, if I make $50 bucks, $5 is going into my virtual piggy bank for now. Once it’s in my “MEbank” it’s no longer available for ongoing expenses and can only be used for my retirement. Once I have a few bucks there, I will open an RRSP and keep the savings going that way.

As a guy with black and white thinking, this is something that I would definitely struggle with in the past. What’s the point?? If I can’t save something substantial, why bother. Why not wait until my income improves? That logic has brought me where I am today and it’s time for a little more colourful thinking. For now, I will do what I can, when I can do more, I will do more.

Novel concept.

Peace,

Leslie

August 1, 2011

Show Me Your ASS(ets)

Caution, Roadwork Ahead

Lately there has been real focus on my Health bucket, with good reason. The saying “if you don’t have your health you don’t have anything” is a pretty accurate one. If I don’t have my health I am no good to anyone. For the first time in my life I feel like I am truly heading down the right path in this area, physically, mentally and spiritually. I know I have a long way to go, but I am ok with that. I am enjoying the journey.

Looking at the MEbucket’s today, there was a flashing beacon around one bucket in particular – finances.  Action in this bucket has been sparse, for good reason. It’s hard to work on finances when you don’t have any. Being off of work has produced a very black and white approach to money for the short term. Money comes in, money goes out – period. That said, I have taken some steps to shore up my foundation. My spending habits and my expectations on what I need to be able to live happily have both contributed to growth here.

Does This Foundation Make Me Look Dumb?

I will use the analogy of a house. If my life is a house, and I have been refurbishing from the inside out, my financial foundation has been decrepit for years. Initially, when I started to refurbish, cash flow was non-existent so instead of bringing in an expert to professionally repair my foundation, I just patched it up as best as I could myself.

Now is the time to bring in the experts. Like many other areas of my life, circumstance and poor execution have inhibited my success. I believe that I have a very solid understanding of how finances work and what I need to do improve my results in this bucket. I have done this with great success professionally, but not personally. Like other areas then, I need to ask for help and be willing to try new things, as well as add a level of accountability that I have not had in the past.

Here Ye Here Ye!

To that end, I am a man on a mission. I am on a mission to find new best practices and to find out what works for others.  If you know me, expect an awkward phone call when I probe into your financial practices. If you don’t know me I will be the one who stops you on the sidewalk to ask if you are ready for your retirement.

I would love you to email me your thoughts. You can also comment right here on MEfurbish. What’s your favourite book? Who is your most trusted financial adviser? What golden nugget are you willing to share? Expect to see more on this topic in the weeks ahead on MEfurbish.

Peace,

Leslie

June 22, 2011

To Be or Not To Be

What Is The Question?

Hamlet the pig was even excited about the buzz from yesterday with my second interview on CBC Radio One; even he was cheering me on today when I swam 80 laps!

Once again, I am truly overwhelmed with the response I am receiving to my interview and story with CBC’s Hallie Cotnam. The comments on the CBC follow-up article have been overwhelmingly positive. I have received numerous emails, friend requests, and continue to even get replies to my original article.

I am keeping today’s post brief because sometimes less is more.

Thank you to all of you for your continued support.

Peace,

Leslie

June 6, 2011

Weekend For The Soul

What a great weekend!

Friday was a PD day for the school kids in Ottawa so that meant a day off and in essence, a long weekend spent with my daughter. Awesome! The owner of the home where I swim suggested my 12 year old was welcome to join me at the house swimming and even cooler, invited us to come out later in the weekend to show her the horses as well. I gladly took her up on both of these offers.

Play Like A Kid

After some much needed rest and a lazy morning sleeping in, we headed out to the pool and hit the water. I had explained to my daughter that I needed to do my laps first and then we could frolic about after that. While it was a slight distraction to have someone in the pool while I was doing my laps it paled in comparison to the fun that we had when I had finished the “exercise” portion of the swim. Once I was done we grabbed a foam football and started to toss it back and forth to each other making dramatic dives for the catch. We invented our own little game had a best 2 out of 3 series. What a blast! I thoroughly enjoyed myself. We laughed hard and made fools of ourselves for about an hour, but it felt like only minutes has passed. The focus was not on the exercise but we were getting some nonetheless. It was a great start to the weekend.

Just Say I Do

Friday evening I had the pleasure of witnessing some dear friends of mine “tie the knot.” It was a great wedding and the entire evening was filled with more laughter, moments of intimacy, and a real sense of what is important in life. Family, friends and time spent connecting and celebrating with those that are important to us. While the numbers fell as the evening progressed there were several of us who kept the party going. We were further rewarded when we were able to be a part of some even more special moments during the after party at a local pub, and the late-late night or early-early morning breakfast at a local diner. Highlights included the father of the bride showing up at the pub unannounced to fanfare, and who will ever forget the spontaneous applause in the jam packed diner when the bride arrived in her stunning dress. Unforgettable!

Horse-Play

Sunday brought moments of joy that any parent can relate too. As my daughter and I drove out to the ranch to meet the horses and the awesome family who lives there, I could sense her anxiety. Understandably, meeting new people at the best of times is can be awkward and stressful. Throw in the circumstances by which our two families have met (my swimming pool ad), and finally the apprehension about perhaps sitting on or riding a horse for the first time and you have a potpourri of emotions tugging in all directions.

Our hostess did a fantastic job of easing my daughter into the process. She started with introducing the horse, explaining a little bit of his history, then moved into the grooming of “Spider”. Together they cleaned the coat, the hooves, and saddled the horse with a focus on safety, both for the horse and the rider. Next, sitting on the horse, feeling Spider’s movements and tendencies, being lead on the horse with myself and another on either side of the horse, and then finally actually riding, steering, starting stopping and instructing the horse on her own. I was completely amazed in the transition. What I witnessed was a microcosm of how gaining confidence works. Her demeanour from beginning to end was truly night and day to see as an outsider. By the time she was done, she was beaming, sitting tall with confidence and looking each of us in the eye just a little bit more.

Leave it to a twelve year old to reiterate to me what continues to need being reiterated. When we come upon a challenge in life we have two choices, the safe easy way or the challenging, sometimes stressful path that is inevitably more rewarding. She reminded me that I have been doing that myself! When I say to her “you must be so proud of yourself for putting yourself out there,” it reminds me that I too should be proud. I am proud. I can only hope that along the way I will try to continue to take the next step in putting myself out there. With that, there will continue to be substantial rewards and endless learning.

Last night our weekend wound down surrounded by family and extended family enjoying a meal together. A fitting end to a weekend for the soul. A glass of wine, a cold beer, some great conversation and the sound of kids giggling in the background.

It really doesn’t get much better as far as weekends go. I need to remember that it didn’t take a flight, a reservation, or a new gadget to bring the contented feeling that this weekend brought. There is no reason why I can’t do it again next weekend.

Actually, there is no reason that I can’t find a way to do it today, right now.

Peace,

Leslie

May 18, 2011

MEbucket Is Full

20/20 As They Say

It’s funny how the passage of time or some new insight can totally shift your perception on something. I was spending some time this morning reflecting on MEbucket’s and looking too see where I need to take some action. I began by going through my list of bucket items to see where I have not taken any action recently and an interesting fact came to light.

When I placed my ad on Kijiji at the beginning of the month, there was no doubt in my mind what bucket I was trying to take action in – Health. It is really interesting to me that now in hindsight; I can see how this action is having an impact in the area of every one of my MEbucket’s. Here’s my breakdown.

Health

This one is pretty obvious and was my original intention. The most basic goal here is to get some activity. In my struggles with my weight, most recently I have found it hard to find exercise that I can actually do. Finding access to a pool that I can use will be easier on my joints and as a result, I will be able to sustain it. It’s also something that I love and miss doing. To be excited about exercise is something that I know will only benefit me in the long run.

Finances

Money talks, and since I don’t have any, there hasn’t been a lot of talking going on lately in this area. With my current financial situation, it was imperative that I look for a means of exercise that was cost effective. What could be more cost effective than free! My willingness to do some manual labour in return for access to a pool is my means of “payment.” The other less tangible thought I have is that my overall health and level of fitness are both likely to have a positive impact on my ability to generate income in the future. So this saves me money now, and makes me money in the future. I like that!

Creativity

I have received many many emails, comments, well wishes, and shows of support since my CBC Interview was broadcast on May 17th. Without a doubt the word used most to describe the steps I took to prioritize my exercise by placing an ad to do manual labour in exchange for pool access was “creative.” I would never have really looked at it that way unless others told me it was the case, but now I can see it clear as day. I guess desperation is a real springboard towards creativity.

Environment

The impact to the environment is a little more subtle than some of the other more apparent buckets nut it is there, in the nuances.  There are many times that I end up using my car in a situation where I would certainly be able to use a bike or my legs if I was in better shape. Running errands locally, doing fun things with my daughter and a variety of other things that I typically use my car for could be done without the vehicle.  Wear and tear on my clothes, the amount of packaging I end up using, and even the frequency of my trips to the doctor are all impacted by my size.

Community

This one is a no-brainer. The community has just opened up in front of my eyes as a result of this situation. I am getting so much support from the community it is mind blowing. Even more, I am going to be meeting some members of the community as I get out there and start to use their pool. The interview on CBC was a direct and extreme form of conversation with the community and the connections I have made are priceless.

Fun

This may be the most exciting bucket that is going to be filled by my reaching out. The idea of swimming frequently has been something that I have carried around with me for some time. When I was younger I was a fish! We had a pool in our backyard when I was in elementary school and I missed it ever since.  I am so pumped about getting an opportunity to get into the water and get my heart pumping.

Relationships

I will be forging new relationships and making the ones I have stronger. I have already met several new folks and plan to me meeting more over the next few days and beyond. Exercising, getting in better shape, and spending time discussing this project with friends and family are already having an impact.

I know I have made a great decision for my overall happiness when I can look back and see that every bucket I have is filling up. Something tells me that I may even start to overflow in a bucket or two and really, can I ask for anything more than that?

Isn’t life grand?

Peace,

Leslie

May 17, 2011

The Universe Came Through!

Putting Myself Out There

I’m sitting here in the well-worn seat of my Starbucks home office and my mind is racing.

As many of you are aware, I have posted on my attempts to get more active and a big part of MEfurbish is my sharing of this journey with you. I have had limited success with MEcycle and MEactive and the reality is that this is direct result of my current size and some of my physical limitations.   The Wii Active 2 has been hard on my knees within the 90 day challenge that I was doing. I have had to put this on hold for a while. Cycling has been better on my knees, but harder on my back and other joints.

On May first, I posted an ad on Kijiji looking for access to a pool in exchange for me cleaning the pool. Kind of a win-win was my thought. You can read that Kijiji ad here. Perhaps not surprisingly, I had not seen a reply of any kind until late last week when Hallie Cotnam from the CBC Radio One Ottawa Morning show contacted me with an interest in my ad and story. She in fact asked if she could interview me for an eye towards a program CBC is running called Live Right Now and I obliged. We met yesterday and had a great talk and our chat was broadcast live on the morning show today.

Ask And You Shall Recieve

Ironically, I actually received another reply to my ad late last night prior to the interview even being broadcast with an offer to talk about my barter proposal. Since the interview was broadcast this AM I have also received many emails of general support and a couple from folks in similar situations who are eager to see how this works out.  I have also had several responses from other interested in offering me their pool.

What’s the lesson here? Ask and you shall receive. You may even receive more than you asked for which is the case for me today. I have received a show of support that I could never have imagined and that is priceless!

You can listen to the CBC interview with Hallie Cotnam here:

Peace,

Leslie

April 29, 2011

Voting With Head Or Heart

What To Do?

I have never been a big fan of politics; it’s just too…political for my liking. It is however a necessary evil, and if I want my country to be run in a way that matches my values, I need to do everything I can to help put the right person, or party really, at the helm. This is where things get muddy though for me.

It’s no secret that I support the Green Party. Once you are done giggling we can get back to the point. I have no interest in debating which party should run our country with you; I just told you I don’t like politics. The real question I am trying to answer prior to voting is do I vote for the party I support or do I vote with a strategy that will impact who what party will actually be in power. This is a real dilemma for me.

What I really want is both. I want to be able to walk into the voting booth and put an X beside who I want to win, and another X beside who I am voting for.  Let’s face it, putting an X beside my Green Party candidate is a waste of my time. I know I can support my party in many other ways when not at times of election, donation, canvassing, and even sharing ideals and values like I do through MEfurbish. Now that it is actually time to vote, I can’t think of a good reason to vote for my party. I am sure some political genius could explain to me the pros and cons of each, but I am not sure that is really what I am looking for in the end.

If you had this same dilemma and have come to some sort of resolution, I would love to hear from you!

Peace,

Leslie

April 28, 2011

How Hard Can It Really Be?

How hard can it really be? Yes I’m talking to you. I want to know how hard it can really be to just open your eyes and look at what is in front of you. . I spent one hour today sitting in a local Bridgehead coffee shop and witnessed a microcosm of what I expect is a global outbreak. I am absolutely astonished at the number of recyclable items that are thrown into the trash in one hour.

Bridgehead should be one of the better scenarios out there. It is a company that puts a great deal of effort into environmental and social responsibility and is a business that has taken care to have recycling and composting options available in addition to traditional waste. Every village, town and city has a cross section of options, some cities are worse than others, but in this case we are talking about a business that is taking extra care to provide solutions.

 

I sat and sipped on my Organic Fair Trade Ethiopian blend coffee, out of my mug and watched as customer after customer, with a few exceptions, scraped the entire contents of their lunch waste into the garbage bin. Six inches away from the garbage can is a big hole labeled “compost”, and six inches to the right of that was another opening labeled “glass and plastic.”

What is the problem here? The problem is consumer apathy; there is just no other excuse. It’s bad enough that when someone has had their food and beverage “for here” they still choose to get it in a paper cup or bag, but then to just pitch it all in the garbage can is a complete disrespect for the planet and its inhabitants.

According to all-recycling-facts.com “nearly 60 to 70 percent of waste found in dust bins can be recycled and reused and close to 50 percent of the same waste can be composted.” The same site reports that “almost every hour, nearly 250,000 plastic bottles are dumped. It is not surprising that plastic bottles constitute close to 50 percent of recyclable waste in the dumps.” These statistics are alarming, but not surprising based on what I saw in person.

We need to wake up, give our heads a shake, and make an effort. Those of us who are already doing our part have to try and have an impact on a few people that don’t seem to care. Those of us who are blindly contributing to the problem need to snap out of our lethargy.

What are you going to about it?

Peace,

Leslie

Article first published as How Hard Can It Really Be? on Technorati.

April 26, 2011

Right Back At It

Four Day Week!

It was a busy Easter weekend, and while it was great, and it was nice to spend some extra time with family and friends, I am glad that it’s over. In my journey of MEfurbishment, one of the most important things I have going for me are my routines. Much has been said and written about the routines of children over the years. I have come to believe that routines are equally important to adults too but certainly they are to me.

My level of awareness, regarding what contributes to stress and what alleviates it in me, has grown considerably over the past year. While I absolutely love holidays and special events, they also add more stress in my life because of their impact on my routines. Routine becomes a stress reducer in many ways because of its familiarity but also because it ensures that I am getting what I need to be happy and healthy. As long as my routine is set up with my MEbucket’s in mind, there is a dramatically positive impact on my happiness and well-being.

Our routines ensure that we have a balance of all of the buckets that we want to work on in our lives. Changes to these routines can sometimes swing a pendulum too far in the direction of one particular area. For example, I can very easily put all of my focus on family and friends and take time away from things like health, finances and creative endeavours. Coming out of a holiday weekend I can often feel like I have spent too much money and really need time to myself. In recent months I am also discovering that when I don’t prioritize my creative endeavours I really notice a difference in my energy and contentedness.

Going into this long weekend, I took a look at each of my buckets and decided how I would ensure I maintained the balance that I need in my life. Let’s have a look at how I did:

Health

Going into Easter weekend I wanted to focus on two major things to ensure that I was prioritizing my health bucket.  I wanted to make certain that I kept up my meditation practice during the weekend. This is something that I can easily let slip on a long weekend and I really notice the difference in my level of grounded-ness when I meditate. The other key ingredient was healthful food choices. I managed to make both of these happen despite a visit from the Easter Bunny.

Finances

My tendency is to spend too much money at holiday times and I wanted to make sure this was not the case this Easter. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not the holiday event itself where I regret my spending but in the other things I write off in holiday weekend cash dumps. Going out for meals, additional un-needed shopping sprees, and a desire to fill up my long weekend with additional events like, movies, concerts, museums and the like are all things that have derailed me in the past. This Easter weekend I was able to keep my spending in check which is a great feeling coming into the start of the week.

Creativity

Normally the first thing to go during a busy holiday weekend, creativity was something that I was really focused on making sure it still had its place. A couple of things helped me out in that area. I wanted to make a new and exciting Vegan Easter feast, this being my first Vegan Easter. Cooking is always a creative experience for me because I rarely use a recipe as it is written. I will often use a recipe as a base and experiment with it until it is perfect for the MEkitchen.  I ended up with a delicious Carrot Coconut Bisque and a hearty Mushroom Quinoa Loaf. Next was time spent writing and taking pictures of my gastronomic fun to share on MEfurbish. The photography aspect of the recipe posts really got my creative juices flowing. I have missed photography and while I would not call the quick point and shoot stuff I did this weekend very creative, it really got me thinking about what I could do with recipes and photography in the future. I am really looking forward to working on this more in the months ahead.

Environment

There were a few ways that I made the environment a focus this weekend. With all its busyness it would have been easy to just pick up something like Tofurky instead of spending the time preparing my own meal, especially with the fact that I am the only vegan in my home. Taking the time to pick up bulk, and mostly local ingredients, saved on packaging and travel and making a large batch of food will save on energy costs in the upcoming few weeks as I enjoy leftovers. Another way in which I expanded on the environment bucket was to attend a local EcoExpo here in my home town of Ottawa. Any time I can educate myself and make new contacts I am making progress here.

Community

Community is something that was fostered by the EcoExpo I was at as well. The ‘Green”  community as well the Vegan community both had a presence at the Expo and networking with these individuals and gaining awareness about the industry as a whole is helpful.  I also made a decision to attend a function of another community organization I belong too instead of one of the family events that I have taken part in every year since my childhood. The event I let go of  does not feed me in the same way as the function I chose. It was a hard decision to make, but one that I am glad I made in the end for my own peace of mind.

Fun

This was an easy one for me to work on. Spending time with family and friends, buying treats and gifts for my daughter, cooking, listening to tons of music, and spending lots of time writing are all things that I find fun. I was able to easily work these and more into the four days of the weekend.

Relationships

Like fun, relationships are easy one for me to focus on within a holiday weekend. Spending time with family and friends works on these relationships by default. In looking for opportunities to take special action in working on key relationships I made a concerted effort to spend time with some of them that have taken a back seat lately. One area that may seem trivial but that was important to me was taking the time to send a few emails that I haven’t made the time to do recently. Out of all of the steps I took this weekend, this simple one, may have had the greatest impact on my mood, and serenity. Clearly, it was something that was taking up too much space in my head.

Even with all the work on keeping things balanced, things just seem to go smoother when the day to day routines kick back in. Spontaneity and routine used to seem like polar opposites to me, but what I have found is that my routines allow me to be spontaneous without feeling like I am taking away from something else. This is a big shift and an enjoyable one.

Peace,

Leslie