Category Archives: Environment

Too Close to Dorm Life?

This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any.  Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

My wife and I were at a friend’s place over the long weekend for a tobogganing party.  Temperatures in the last week made the tobogganing sub-par, but I was able to build a fairly good fort with the kids that were there (it was good igloo snow).  My wife and I normally get together with this set of friends every 6 to 8 weeks to have some laughs, play some board games and just hang out.  Some of these friends I have known for around 20 years, and we have stayed close the entire time.

My wife and I were talking about where we were going to live when we retired.  I jokingly told a couple of my friends that I was going to put up a tiny house in their back yard.  We talked about this for a little bit, with my wife still not really all that excited about this idea (or many of the others).

My friends kids are 7 and 3 right now, but we said that those ages worked out just about right to match our retirement date – we could move into one of their kid’s rooms.  I wouldn’t say that this is a concrete plan by any means, and I wouldn’t say that these friends are particularly in favour of this living arrangement, but in general (to me anyways) this type of living arrangement makes a lot of sense for older adults.  I can see the following as benefits:

Lower cost per person to live – Costs which are essentially fixed, like heating, property taxes, delivery charges for water, electricity and gas (which make up the majority of my household utility costs) would be significantly reduced.

More efficient use of space – Rather than having a total of 3,000 square feet of space for 4 adults in two houses, resulting in significant waste, both financially as well as space.  I don’t need that much space and I think that generally speaking most people don’t – cutting housing down by half would limit this waste.

Easier social interactions – Much like University, it is much easier to hang out if you don’t have to travel a significant period of time (or at all) to do.

The problem that I can see in living with a bunch of adults is the same problem that came up during school with a bunch of people – there will be days that people will not get along.  I didn’t really have any problems myself, but I saw what could happen between roommates, which did not always end very well.

Personally, I would prefer to have my own space in a Tiny house, but cohabitating is another option and would require significantly less cost and fewer resources.

Would you, or could you live together with friends?  What could you see as potential problems?

Spending Too Much Money

This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and works as a financial adviser. He is married, has three kids and plans to retire at age 35.  Robert and his wife then plan to return to school and become teachers, eventually living and working overseas.

Last week, Sir Ken Robinson was in Red Deer as part of the local teachers’ convention. The teachers made an evening session available to the public. If you are not familiar with Sir Ken (@SirKenRobinson for those on Twitter), he gave a very popular TED Talk in 2006 entitled “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”. It’s available on ted.com and on YouTube. He has been a teacher, professor of Arts Education at the University of Warwick and he has mentored the Oklahoma Creativity Project.

Sir Ken Robinson is an amazing speaker and it was a real treat to see him live. The entire hour was inspiring, and I wanted to share one tidbit today. Sir Ken said:

The population on Earth is almost 7 billion and will approach 9 billion by 2030. For context, that’s almost 10% of the number of humans that have ever lived (by most estimates). The maximum population of the Earth, at the consumption rate of the average Rwandan, is 15 billion. However, the maximum population at the consumption rate of the average North American: 1.7 billion.

I can’t verify these statistics, so I’m going to take his word for it. After all, it seems believable that North Americans spend almost 10 times the average Rwandan. And if everyone were to spend like an inhabitant of North America, it’s easy to believe that we would soon run out of resources. What are some things we can do to reduce our consumption of the world’s limited resources?

Sir Ken specifically mentioned that fast food is one of the least efficient ways to feed people. For the family that cooks at home, the food is generally higher quality. It is also lower in fats and salt, making it healthier. Chances are that it costs less money and it provides some family time to sit down and connect at meal time.

Clothes, if properly cared for, can last years. For adults, this means only shopping for new clothes rarely, while preferring higher quality. At the same time, it means having items that can be combined into a variety of outfits. People in Rwanda don’t even have that luxury.

Can you manage with one car instead of two? While there are occasional inconveniences in a city not planned for pedestrian traffic or even public transit outside of the core, it is very possible for our family to manage with a single vehicle. (I admit, it’s a minivan). This reduces our impact on the environment, it reduces our spending to buy a vehicle and it reduces regular costs in fuel, insurance and maintenance.

We are fortunate to have many entertainment options available to us. While it’s fun to see a movie, it’s something we rarely pay for. For one thing, it’s hardly worth it with kids. For another, we can get all the books and DVDs we want for free from the library. We have a playground near our house and a small lake in the community. Most of our family activities are done for little or no cost, and they have the additional benefit of taking us out in our community where we can meet our neighbours.

Keeping our consumption in check is helpful in making progress toward financial goals. But it also feels like the ethical thing to do, given the global context of people who simply cannot afford our lifestyle and the limited resources that we all share. How do you keep your consumption in control? What motivates you?

We Just Haven’t Needed It Yet

This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any.  Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

Both my own and my wife’s family really don’t know how we’re able to live without it, but since we moved into our new house we’ve gotten by without a dryer pretty easily.  We talked about buying one at the same time that we bought our washing machine (there were no appliances in the house we bought), but decided to try to live without it and see how it went.  After 20 months, I think I can comfortably say that we don’t really need it.

Rather than spending the money on a dryer and the constant electricity it eats up, we spent $12 on a retractable clothes line for our basement.  I don’t need to worry about lint fires (something that caused one of my wife’s friend’s houses to burn down this winter), upkeep (other than perhaps a new $12 line) or breakdowns with my “old-school” system.

Living without a dryer (especially after having grown up with one) has meant some logistics needed to be taken into consideration, especially in the winter, when things take an extra day or so to dry.  One solution to this was to actually buy more clothes and linen, especially items that need washing more frequently such as clothes I wear to the gym and towels.  The downside of not having a dryer that my wife and I both miss is fluffy towels, which is now a luxury when we go to other people’s places or hotels, but is basically the only major thing that we miss from not having this appliance readily available.

So, is this a world-changing sacrifice, giving up the convenience of this appliance?  Not really at all, but I figure it saved me a few hundred dollars on the initial purchase (or less if I bought used) and probably $100-$200 per year to run it.  Not having a dryer by itself would not make or break my monthly budget, but as a part of a money-saving plan this is one of the many areas that we looked at that has reduced our monthly expenses to as low as we couple possibly get them.

Would I recommend our laundry system to everyone?  There’s only my wife and I in our house, so our laundry needs are not too large, but I think it would be easily done for a large family – in fact I know it’s possible because up until the last hundred years or so people did not have the option of plugging something in to cut the drying time down for their clothes.   I think that most families had more children per family then today and I think that people survived by line-drying.

Electrical smart-meters are being implemented in the coming months in my city, as in most Canadian cities.  Reading about other people’s experiences (which on a whole are not positive) I’m thinking that having one less large appliance adding to my energy costs is not going to be a bad thing.

Could you give up your dryer?  How about your washing machine?  How have you tried to cut back on electricity expenses?