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Friday, October 24, 2014

Winter Activities

Posted by Dave on October 21, 2014

As I’ve written previously, my wife and I basically hibernate in the winter – spending most of our time holed up in our house and staying as warm as possible. Last winter, we noticed that we barely socialized at all. Although we’re mostly okay with that, it is nice to see people the odd weekend, so this winter we’re going to make more of an effort to hang out with friends on a more regular basis. In the summer, I have a built-in excuses to hang out with people – either through golfing or by inviting people over for barbecues and to visit on our patio. This winter, we needed new plans.

I really like to cook, so that’s one way to get people to our house – have a Pad Thai night, which most people usually enjoy, and is quick and easy to cook for a few people with most of the prep work done before people show up. Tacos are also lots of fun to do – getting the cast-iron pan glowing in order to make home-made masala flour soft-shells (our favourite).

Another activity that we both enjoy is boardgames. We’ve found a few couples who share this interest, and it’s mostly making the minor effort to set up a “play-date” together on a Friday or Saturday night to get together. Right now, we’ve found that good “couples” games are Settlers of Catan and Cards Against Humanity. I prefer more strategic games, and own the Euro-Games Agricola and Carcassonne. The games I like are significantly less social in nature, and require a lot more planning and long-term strategy than the 2 previous games, but are an excellent way to pass a cold winter afternoon or evening.

I also seem to read much more in the winter – attacking many more of the almost infinite books I’ve placed on my “To Read” list on Goodreads. Additionally, I try to increase my days in the gym from an average of two to three days a week to three to four days, attempting to balance my lack of movement from spending time indoors.

The thing that most of the activities need to have in common for us is that they’re cheap and don’t require us to be outside at all. We don’t like the cold, but are hoping that winter will go more quickly if we share our misery with our friends.

How do you plan to pass the winter?

Now on Sale

Posted by Tim Stobbs on October 17, 2014

I was recently out of town for work and I happen to look up at TV in the lobby the other day and saw the headline “Stock market Plunges” with a big red number and a negative sign in front of it.  I typically don’ t follow the market day to day so I was sort of obvious to the fact this had been a several day event of dropping values.  But in my head I translated the headline to “Stocks Now on Sale.”

I’m amused that the panic that seems to seep into people when a market takes a correction, they all consider it a bad event but I’m nearly jumping up and down at the thought of picking up some quality companies on discount.  So when I got home my wife and I put together three trades in our accounts for about $13,000 and proceeded to become the proud owners of some Royal Bank shares, and Canadian Index ETFs.  Ironically the market rebounded yesterday after we put in the trades so the Royal Bank shares alone were already up $154 in value.

I really do believe all the negative media coverage on these corrections tend to fog people’s head about “Oh, I’m losing money I should do something.”  This of course results in panic selling and losing money.  The issue is on an emotional side we fear losses more than we enjoy gains, so at the time this feels like a good idea to stop the loses.  Yet we tend to ignore the somewhat obvious point of the stock market…you never lose or gain anything until we sell.  At that point you lock in what you sell for and determine your gain or loss.  Up until that point the stock market is nothing more than a overly excited neighbour trying to buy your kids swing set and offering you a new price every single day.  So like any reasonable person you should relax and ignore your overly excited neighbour most of the time…that is until they offer a huge price where you can sell the old one and take the profit to buy a new one and still pocket some extra money.

Another issue people tend to forgot is when you get overly emotional you don’t think straight.  Your logic is impaired and you really shouldn’t be making any big decisions at that point.  So for my family we tend have a rough plan for our investing laid out in advance for the year.  It isn’t hugely detailed, but just an idea of how much we want to save, to which accounts and what investments we are interested in getting (often just sectors rather that a specific company).  That way when the market goes nuts, I tend to think about how can I use this to help the plan proceed rather than run around like Henny Penny thinking the sky is falling.

So how did you react to the market this week?  Buy anything or just ignoring it all?

Using the Information

Posted by Dave on October 14, 2014

I was talking to a couple of guys at work over the past week – they knew that my wife and I had paid off our mortgage earlier this year and had a lot of questions about spending. Both guys seem to be living paycheque to paycheque, and have trouble making it through all of their bills by the end of the month. I explained how my wife and I set up our finances and how we prioritize our spending on a month-to-month and annual basis.

One thing that I told them might help them find “holes” in their finances would be to use an app and track every dollar they spend for a month or two. There are a ton of free apps, and a lot more for under $5 that have easy tracking of expenses along with weekly and monthly reports and comparisons. From the standpoint of someone “not knowing where the money is going”, this kind of thing would be really helpful.

Personally, I’ve never used budgeting software – almost every cent I spend in a month is on my credit card, so I can easily look at a statement and see where my paycheques have been spent. What I have used in the past is diet tracking apps on my phone. I’m 6 feet tall and weigh somewhere between 175 and 180 lbs at about 15% bodyfat (based on the handheld tool I own). I have this goal of getting my bodyfat percentage down under 10% to demonstrate that I have abdominal muscles.

I used the calorie tracking app consistently for a few weeks – tracking each and every thing I was eating….until I didn’t feel like doing that anymore. There was a weekend where I knew I wasn’t going to hit the caloric goals that I was supposed to, in order to achieve the lofty goal I had set for myself. So, I didn’t count calories that weekend, and then went back to tracking during the week when my diet is much healthier and stable.

What makes this kind of tracking stuff work, is actually using it. If I had a day where I was supposed to eat 2,000 calories and basically ate a whole pig instead, tracking anything isn’t really all that beneficial. Similarly, tracking expenses doesn’t really do anything if you aren’t willing to give up spending on things that you find are causing you to run out of money at the end of the month. The tracking doesn’t really work if you don’t use it.

Do you track anything on a daily basis? How do you stick with the tools?