Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Happy 4th condo-versary to me!

Hey remember that time I bought a condo? Would you believe that was FOUR years ago? Where does the time go?

My mortgage broker sent me an (automated, I’m sure) “happy anniversary of having bought your condo” email, which is what reminded me that tomorrow is 4 years since I took possession of my humble abode. So I looked at my trusty mortgage countdown spreadsheet (because of course I have a spreadsheet) and according to my calculations, I have paid off 53% of my mortgage principal in 4 years. Not too bad, if I do say so myself. Of course, I ridiculously lucked out when I bought this place – the price was very good1, plus I have a few different source of income in addition to my day job, so I have had the luxury of being able to make lump sum payments. Also, I’ve had very little in the way of additional expenses, as my unit has been very well taken care of and the strata does an excellent job of maintaining the building.

Given that the Greater Vancouver real estate market continued to rise at an insane rate since I bought, I’m actually in the position where I own an even bigger proportion of the place than I would otherwise. When I bought the place, I made a 25% downpayment, meaning the bank technically owned 75% of my place. If the price of the place had stayed the same over the past four years, I would now own 65% of my place and the bank would own 35%. But since the value of the place has gone up, I now own 77% of the place if we use the most recent assessed value (which is what the province assessed my place as being worth as of July 1, 2017). If we use the average amount that units in my building that are identical to mine have sold for in the past few months2 (assuming that I could sell my place for that price), I currently own a whopping 82% of my place and the bank owns a mere 18%. It’s a weird situation – I like to remind myself that the “value” of my place is really all just theoretical given that I’m not planning to sell anytime soon. But it does give me the opportunity to do some fun math! #nerdery

Anyway, my next hurdle is that I’ll have to renegotiate my mortgage next year, as my mortgage was a 5 year term. The interest rates are higher now than they were 4 years ago, so I’ll have to pay a higher interest rate. Boo-urns. I guess I have a year to figure out how all that works.

  1. In the context of the time and place in which I bought it. It was an absolutely insane price if you compare it to just about anywhere else in the world. []
  2. Which is almost double what I paid. []

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Donations

My charitable giving “strategy” has typically been to wait until one of my friends is doing a fundraiser, or someone passes away and the family suggests a donation in their memory, and then to donate to those. I do have a few charities that I give to at least once a year without prompting from someone I know doing fundraising – Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA) (from where I adopted my beloved kitties), Centre for Inquiry (CFI) Canada (which I believe does important work), and the Wikimedia Foundation1 (because I think it’s important for knowledge to be freely available to all). I also have some money that I’ve leant out through Kiva ((Props to Sarah and Dave who introduced me to Kiva many years ago by giving me a gift card of funds to start loaning through Kiva)), which I just re-lend to new borrowers as existing borrowers re-pay their loans.2 This year I also gave to the BC NDP during the provincial election, because I thought it was really important to get the BC so-called “Liberals” out of power3. But this year it seems like not very many people I knew were doing fundraising, as I’m looking at my 2017 charitable tax donations and I haven’t donated very much at all. So I’m thinking I should probably come up with a better system than just waiting to be reminded to give.

I recently heard about Give Well, which makes recommendations for charities to donate to that are “evidence-backed, thoroughly vetted, and underfunded”, so you know that your donations are doing the most good. As someone who values evidence, this appealed to me! However, this is an American website and being that I am selfishly interested in getting a tax deduction when I can, I tried to find a similar one for Canadian charities, but the only one I found was Charity Intelligence Canada, which does give charities a score for the impact they have, but doesn’t include it in their rating of the charities, which seems weird. Then when I was playing around on their website, I discovered that to get some of their ratings, you have to subscribe! And the only other stuff I could find was articles rating charities based on things like how much of the money they raise goes to overhead vs. how much goes to the services for the cause itself, and other articles talking about how that’s not a good way to rate charities (because does it matter if all the money goes to the “cause” if it’s not effective in making a difference?)

Anyway, I guess all this is to say that I still don’t have a solid charitable donation plan for the new year, but I’m thinking about how to come up with one. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

The other thing that I really should be donating is blood. I’m needle phobic, especially when it comes to someone taking my blood (more so than I am about, say, getting a vaccine injected into me) but I feel guilty about not giving blood when people whose need is much greater than my mere queasiness at the thought of a needle poking into me and my blood pumping out of my body into a bag4.

Image Credit: Posted by Jamez Picard on freeimages.com.

  1. I really wish there was a Canadian arm of the Wikimedia Foundation, as when I give to this charity I don’t get a tax receipt since it is American. []
  2. I also started supporting a podcast through Patreon, but I that doesn’t count as a charitable donation, since you are technically supporting someone to create something, but if feels a bit like one, since one could just listen to the podcast for free. In case you are interested, the podcast is called Onlightened and it’s by one of the former hosts of Caustic Soda, a podcast that I loved but only discovered as it was ending. It’s just getting started and I’m hoping that in 2018 there will be more regular episodes! []
  3. And donations to political parties give big tax deductions – except if you are donating to municipal campaigns, which don’t give you any tax deduction. But that’s a story for another day. []
  4. Oh man, just typing that makes me want to hurl. []

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How Much A University Sessional Instructor Gets Paid vs. How Much They Work

As you may recall from all my complaining about how busy I was last semester, I was teaching a new (to me) university course. Teaching a course that you’ve never taught before is an *insane* amount of work, because you have to:

  • develop the course itself – what are the learning objectives? what’s the scope of the material you will cover?
  • create the assignments
  • create grading rubrics so you know how you will grade the assignments and can share that with your students1
  • create your lecture notes
  • create the slides to go with your lecture notes
  • create in-class activities to make the learning more active

And that’s all (ideally) before classes even start2! Once classes start you do things like:

  • teach your class (for 3 hours per week in this case)
  • mark all the assignments3
  • tweak lecture material4
  • arrange some guest speakers on a topic of interest to the class5
  • hold office hours to answer students’ questions6

Because I’m a nerd – and also a bit of a glutton for punishment – I decided to see just how much work it was to teach this course that I’d never taught before. I tracked my hours using Time Edition, just like I did for the hours I spent working on my MBA.

Here’s how much time I spent on the course:

Activity Time Spent (in hours)
Teaching in class 36.0
Planning (creating syllabus, developing assignments & rubrics, developing lecture materials, etc.) 116.9
Communicating with Students (email, office hours) 7.9
Marking 33.6
Total 192.4

That work was happened between the end of June 2015, when I was offered the sessional instructor position to teach the class, until early December 2015, when I finished marking the student’s final assignments. Here’s what the break down of hours looked like by month:

Hours spent teaching a new course

However.

As a sessional instructor, I’m not actually paid until the course starts7. And even then I’m only paid, in this case, for 5.5 hours per week8. The semester is 13 weeks long, which means that I was paid for 71.5 hours, when I actually worked 192.4 hours. Put another way, I worked 122.9 unpaid hours or nearly 4x more hours than I was paid for.

Now, I went into the course knowing that I’d end up doing a lot more work than I’d be paid for, but it’s a little bit shocking to see just how much that ended up being.

  1. I made a mistake this past semester where I put the grading rubric on the end of the Word document that contained the assignment instructions, but when I pdf’d the file, it cut off the rubric (it seems that because the rubric were on pages in landscape instead of portrait orientation, the program I was using decided to not include it in the pdf), so the students didn’t actually get to see the rubric before they handed in the first assignment! Lesson learned for me – always check the whole file after you pdf something! []
  2. I say “ideally” because I didn’t have all my lecture materials created before the course started. This meant I was creating some of my lecture material during the semester, while I was teaching. I knew what I was going to cover before classes started, but hadn’t written it all up as lecture notes or made all my slides []
  3. Unless you have a teaching assistant. Which I did not. []
  4. for example, if something exciting happens in the news related to your topic that you want to share with the class, or you happen to read something new related to your topic, or students ask you some really excellent questions one week and you do some research to provide them with answers the next week []
  5. In my case, my students had lots of great questions about being an external evaluator, but since I’ve only ever been an internal evaluator, I decided to bring in a few people I know who work as external evaluators as they could give much better answers to those questions than I could. []
  6. In my case, I arranged to meet some students via Skype like a sort of “virtual” office hour, since I was only ever on campus for class. []
  7. In fact, I had to go through a lot of hoop jumping just to get access to the library in order to do my unpaid preparatory work – when I went to the library they told me that I’m not an instructor until the course starts and looked at me like I was crazy when I suggested that I needed to plan my course before the first day of classes. []
  8. 3 hours of teaching and 2.5 hours of work outside the classroom – preparation, office hours, emailing with students, marking, etc. []

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This and That

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Well, not “beginning”, so much, as I actually put up my tree at the end of November.

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Kitties checking out the pieces of the Christmas tree before I assemble it.

Christmas Tree

I like the way my windows surrounding the tree reflect the lights. Not shown in the picture, but my big TV also reflects the lights, so it kind of looks like I have a forest of Christmas trees in my living room, all from one tree. So efficient!

But I also added a few extra Christmas decorations to the mix – specifically, I made a wreath (item #83 on my 101 list)1 and I got stockings for the kitties, since the frogs have stockings and I didn’t want Watson & Crick to feel left out.

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Watson checking out all the pieces before I assembled my wreath. He ended up covered in glitter.

My first wreath

My wreath!

Stockings

Stockings! From Left to right: Crick’s, Watson’s, mine, Copernicus the Third’s, Timbit’s, Tyrion Froggister’s, and Raspberry’s stockings.

Speaking of the kitties, for some reason they thought that the tree was delicious, and spent the first week or so that I had it up trying to eat the branches. Watson also decided that most of the ornaments were toys that were to be swatted out of the tree. Happily, he got bored of this after about a week, so my patience at taking ornaments that I found in various locations around my apartment – he liked to carry the ornaments around for a tour of the place before dropping them off in, say, the bathroom – and returning them to their rightful place on the tree eventually won out.

My big goal for 2015

So, I’ve said many times that my goal is to break the 2 hour mark on a half marathon. And then just as many times I’ve half assed my training and not met my goal. So I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t believe me when I said that I’m planning to break the 2 hour mark on the half marathon at BMO Vancouver marathon in May. But this time I’m really, really going stick to it. I’m good at doing the long runs in training so I can go the distance, but this time I’m going to do the hill training and interval training that are required to ramp up my speed to break that elusive 2 hour finish time. I’m emboldened by setting a personal best at the 10 km in November and I’m well past the MBA hangover that still lingered during my training for the 2014 half marathons in April and June.

Groupon-Based Fitness Planning

A long, long time ago I got a Groupon for the West Coast Hot Yoga studio in South Surrey and I loved it. I went virtually every morning before work and I was so alert after starting my day with some deep stretching and core work and so much sweating. Sadly, regular priced hot yoga is too expensive for my blood and, besides, I moved too far away from that South Surrey studio to be practical anyway. Since then, I’ve tried two other yoga studios via Groupon (or one of those other deal sites – I can never remember which one I’ve bought which deal on), both in New West, neither of which I liked. The first one to Bamboo yoga, and I didn’t really love the studio itself (it felt like being in a warehouse) or the instructors, and the second was Bikram New West (which very soon after became Hot Yoga New West) and I hated having to do the exact. same. routine. every. single. time. Plus some of the instructors were really militant, which I understand is intentional with Bikram, but which is totally not my thing. I guess it has been long enough since that experience though, because I’ve gone back to the Groupon well and got a one month of unlimited hot yoga at Oxygen yoga studio in New West. I figured that I could spend a month de-tensifying my muscles and working on core strength and balance and then I’ll be in tip-top shape when I start my half marathon training in January.

Speaking of which, I just bought a Groupon for a half marathon training clinic run by FitFirst in Burnaby, the same place as I did the running study I was in. I really enjoyed the clinics they ran for that study – the group running atmosphere is lots of fun and it basically means that I’ll always have people to do my long runs with. Long runs get very boring when you have to do them by yourself, so despite the fact that this means I won’t get to sleep in on any Sundays (as it runs every Sunday morning) from Jan 18 until BMO race day, I think I’ll be happy on the whole that I signed up for the clinic.

And speaking of good deals…

When I left my old job, one of the things I left behind was unlimited massage therapy in my health benefits plan. Being a hockey player, a runner, and a person who sits hunched over a computer all day at work, I made good use of that particular benefit to deal with my various muscles tightness and such. My new job, while amazing in many ways, has a much more limited amount of massage therapy benefits and since my 2014 limit was all used up2, I’ve needed to seek out a more affordable option to meet my massage therapy needs. Enter: the West Coast College of Massage Therapy. This school, which trains aspiring registered massage therapists, runs a clinic where students get to practice, under supervision of a fully qualified RMT, and where clients can get a therapeutic massage for a fraction of the cost. The cost is $40 for an hour long appointment – though only 40 mins of that is massage, with the rest being taken up by assessment before the massage and teaching you stretches to do at home after the massage – compared to $100 for a 1 hr massage with a fully qualified RMT. And as an added bonus, during December if you donate 4 or mor items to the Food Bank at your visit, your massage only cost $20! Everybody wins!

  1. Where by “made” I mean I bought the green wreath and then attached sparkly things I bought at the craft store to said wreath. Notice the drum at the top – I picked that one because it made me think of The Little Drummer Boy, which was my Dad’s favourite Christmas song. []
  2. Since the benefits plans of my old and new employer, despite being different plans, are somehow linked up in Pacific Blue Cross’ system, so they actually counted the massages I claimed under my old plan in 2014 under my new plan, which meant that my small massage allotment in my new plan was all used before I even started my new job! []

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Real Estate Mogul

FOR SALEHey, remember that time I bought a condo? That was pretty awesome and also stressful but mostly awesome. I’ve never done a real estate deal before, as I spent my twenties giving all my money (and a bunch of money that wasn’t mine) to various universities in exchange for letters after my name and the first half of my thirties paying off that crushing level of student loan debt. Couple that with the fact that I live in an insanely expensive city when it comes to real estate and, well, it means that I didn’t really think I’d be buying a place anytime soon. But I’ve really taken a liking to New Westminster and to my neighbourhood in particular. And when a place – almost identical to my current place1 but on a different floor – came up for sale in my building at a price that I was comfortable with, well, the rest is history.

The whole buying process was an interesting experience. I’m sure those of you who’ve done it before think it’s NBD2, but for a newbie, it sure can be overwhelming. I used a realtor and a mortgage broker, referred to me by a friend, who walked me through the process3. Once I’d looked at the place a couple of times, talked to a friend of a friend who happens to be on the strata council in my building and had my realtor look into the building, I was reasonably convinced that the building was solid4. After that, there’s a process of making offers and counter offers and once there was an accepted offer, I had 10 days to “remove the subjects”. I’d made the contract subject to some pretty standard conditions: for example, that I’d be able to get satisfactory financing, that I’d be able to read the strata by-laws and the last two years worth of strata meeting minutes and would be satisfied with those5 and that I’d have a condo inspector check it out and I’d be satisfied with the their report.

The latter one proved extra stressful because the week that I was removing subjects just happened to be the week of the BC Home Inspectors’ conference being held inHouse/Home Inspection Kelowna, so the first few inspectors that I called were going to be out of town until the day that I needed to remove subjects! Happily, I was able to find one guy who got good reviews on the HomeStars.com (basically the Yelp of home-related things) that was not going to the conference and he was able to inspect my place. He gave the building a good review – said it was in great shape and the strata council was doing an excellent job of maintaining the building to keep it in good shape. His only suggestion was that I should replace the rubber hoses, which can breakdown, on the washing machine with braided metal
hoses6.

Money makes the world go 'round.During this time, I was also arranging for a mortgage. Obviously, I wanted the lowest interest rate that I could get and I wanted to pay accelerated biweekly (which automatically saves you money and time on your mortgage), but I knew that I also wanted to have the flexibility to make lump sum payments7. As well, I needed to work with my financial guy  to take money from my Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) under the first time home buyers plan8 and other money out of my Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) for my down payment. Along with other savings that I had, I was able to make a 25% downpayment, which allowed me to avoid paying Canadian Mortgage & Housing Commission (CMHC) insurance9.

So, once all the subjects were removed, I had a deal! And I have to say, I experienced a great deal of relief once it was all settled – I Sold Sign Boardfound it very stressful to be doing all this negotiating, investigating, deliberating, and deciding! After that though, I had to deal with all the usual stresses of moving – hiring movers, arranging cleaning/
steam cleaning of the carpet in my old place, changing over utilities, etc.10. Since I plan to stay in this place for a while (unlike when I was renting), I wanted to do a really good job of purging stuff that I don’t need11, so I was more deliberate in my packing – taking time to consider if I really needed this item or that item, and putting stuff in boxes for donation/recycling/garbage12. The move itself was the easiest one I’ve ever done – I just needed to move up four floors, so I booked the elevator and some movers to move my stuff – didn’t even need a truck! Since the apartment layout is identical, I told the movers to put every piece of furniture in exactly the same place in the new apartment as it had been in the old apartment!

The cats reaction to the whole moving process was exactly what I predicted – they LOVED the packing, as it meant everyday I was bringing cardboard boxes into the apartment and they had tonnes of fun climbing on packed boxes, jumping into and out of empty boxes13, looking inside of boxes that I was in the middle of packing. But the day of the move was a bit stressful for them, especially Watson. I had to lock them in the bathroom while the movers were moving stuff so that they wouldn’t get underfoot or escape into the hallway or onto the balcony and they didn’t like that at all. I went in to visit them, giving them pets and treats, throughout the duration, but Watson was unhappy – he alternated  between sulking and crying/meowing pretty much anytime I wasn’t in the middle of giving him a treat. After everything was moved to the new apartment, I brought them up to the new place and they sniffed everything and checked out the new place, but Watson remained a bit stressed for a while – I can tell because he was panting and following me around the apartment, meowing for attention. Lots of pets and playing and some treats helped to make him feel more secure and eventually he took a nap with his sister on the tallest pile of boxes. Crick remained a lot more chill throughout the whole situation.

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Now that I’m all moved in and have returned from my San Francisco trip, I have begun unpacking in earnest. I made some good headway with the unpacking this weekend and though I still have much do14, I feel like I’ve transformed the place from “giants piles of boxes everywhere” to “somewhat livable.” Perhaps I’ll post some photos once it’s all done!

Image Credits:

  1. The slight differences include that the new place has nicer appliances and fixtures (compared to the crappy appliances and basic faucets one puts into a rental apartment), dark wood laminate floors (instead of crappy carpet that you put in a rental suite), no cheesy wood panelling in the kitchen, a sliding glass door on the tub (compared to a shower curtain rod that often fell down in my old apartment), but no gas fireplace. []
  2. No Big Deal. []
  3. Not to mention talking to other people who’ve been through the process recently and reading tonnes of stuff about the process. []
  4. When I first approached the realtor, she was a bit hesitant about the building due to its age. But once we’d done the due diligence, she was convinced that it was a good building. []
  5. Oddly, I actually enjoyed reading the strata minutes – at least in part because my recent MBA makes me now able to understand financial statements and governance and other such things. I think I’d like to run for strata council next year. Yes, I know that this means there’s probably something wrong with me! []
  6. And since the last thing I want is a flood, I did that the day I moved in! []
  7. a.k.a. “balloon payments”, a.k.a., “prepayments”) and/or to increase the amount of my regular mortgage payments in order to pay off my mortgage faster. This is how I managed to pay off my student loans so fast – every time I got a raise, I figured out the after-tax difference and increased my student loan payment by that amount and when I did any contract work, I’d take the after-tax amount and make a lump sum. By making these types of lump sum extra payments, you pay off your principal quicker, resulting in significant savings on the amount of interest you end up paying. I have a spreadsheet to track all this ((Of course I do. []
  8. For the uninitiated, in Canada one can take up to $25K out of one’s RRSP for the purposes of buying your first home without having to pay tax on it, so long as you pay that money back into your RRSP within 15 years. []
  9. Don’t get me started on CMHC insurance. Basically, if you don’t make at least a 20% downpayment on your property, you are considered a risk to not be able to pay off your mortgage. Thus, in order to be allowed to have a mortgage, you have to pay the CMHC to insure the bank (or mortgage company – basically, whoever lent you the money) in case you default. Let me repeat that – the CMHC insurance protects the *bank* – it doesn’t protect you. And *you* are paying the cost of the insurance. I’ve talked to many people who don’t realize this – they think they are paying for insurance that protects them in some way, but it doesn’t. The thought of paying money for insurance that doesn’t benefit me in any way really irks me, though one of my friends pointed out that it’s basically like a tax for living in the Greater Vancouver area, where costs are so high that few people can save enough for 20%. At any rate, I’m very glad that I got a good deal on my place and have been good enough with my money to have saved enough to have a 25% downpayment. []
  10. Most annoyingly, I paid Canada Post to forward my mail – even though it’s going to the same building! But there’s no other way to get the mail from the old apartment to the new apartment – even if I knew who was moving into my old apartment, I couldn’t ask them to slide my mail under my door, as my building has a security system where your fob only gets you onto your own floor of the building, so they would have no way to get on my floor! []
  11. As stuff I don’t purge now is much less likely to get purged at any other time than during a move. []
  12. Of course, the level of deliberateness with which I packed decreased the closer I got to moving date. I started labeling everything by the room in which the contents belong, along with a description of content (e.g., “Kitchen – Wineglasses” or “Office – Textbooks”), but by the time I was a couple of days ’til the move, every box’s contents was described as “Misc.” []
  13. I swear Watson is spring-loaded – the height he gets when jumping out of a box is incredible! []
  14. Yes, I realize that I could have been unpacking more instead of blogging, but (a) I wrote most of this posting on the plane to/from San Francisco and just hadn’t gotten around to posting it. []

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The Most First World of First World Problems

So I realized that this is the most first world of first world problems, so if you don’t enjoy people whining about how they are being given money, but not in the way that they want to be given money, you should probably stop reading right now. I’ve been meaning to blog it for a while, but was recently reminded about it when I took my giant pile of papers to my accountant to file my taxes. Why did I have a giant pile of papers, you ask? Well, a big chunk of these papers were from my scholarship, and they were completely unnecessary. As you may recall, I have a scholarship that pays for the lion’s share of my tuition fees. The scholarship is sent from the funding agency to my university. I would like for the university to just keep the money for my tuition and then I can just pay the part of my tuition fee isn’t covered by said scholarship. Basically, what I want to happen is this:

What I Want To Happen

What I want to happen

But apparently the department that receives the cheque from the funding agency cannot, does not, or will not talk to the department that takes money for tuition, so instead they think the best idea is to send me a cheque every month, along with a tax form for that instalment (as opposed to, you know, a single tax form at the end of the year). They will do this every month for two years, and then I have to take each of those monthly cheques to the bank to cash, and then I used that pay my tuition fees, which have been split into 7 installments over the two years. So what happens is this:

What Actually Happens

What is actually happening. You don’t need to be an MBA student to see that this is much less efficient.

That’s 24 cheques, 24 tax forms, 24 envelopes, 24 postage stamps, and 24 trips to the bank – all completely unnecessary, because I’m just giving all the money (and then some) back to the university anyway. Now, I realize that Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable are separate departments and I’m very well acquainted with different departments having computer systems that don’t talk to each other, but really? Surely the people there could do transfers between the departments. And at the very least, I could get one tax form per year instead of 12.

This reminds me of the time in grad school that I had a departmental scholarship and then, partway through the year, I was informed that I had won a university-level scholarship worth $0.00. Upon further investigation, it turned out that they had more university-level scholarship money than originally anticipated, and I was next in line to get some, but they saw that I had a department scholarship, so they weren’t going to give me the university-level money, but wanted me to be aware that I had earned a higher level scholarship. Of course, my department wanted me to get the university money so that the money they had given me could go to someone else from our department, and the university’s reply was that I should give back the department scholarship and then they would give me the university-level scholarship. Midway through the year. Like as if I hadn’t already spent my scholarship money on tuition fees and rent! I’m not sure exactly what the university thinks people do with scholarship money, but I think it’s safe to say that most of us spend it on going to school and living expenses! In the end, my department secretary was able to convince the university to just transfer money to the department, since obviously I didn’t have that money any more, and it made no sense for me to give them money so that they could then send me a cheque for the amount I would have just given them. I haven’t had as much luck in getting the different departments to talk to each other with my current scholarship, so it looks like the monthly trips to the bank will continue through 2013 for me!

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Debt Free

Yesterday, I paid off my car loan. Which makes me 100% debt free!

While not quite as thrilling as the time I paid off my student loans, as my car loan was less than a quarter of my student loans, it still feel pretty good to have that monkey off my back.

Look how pretty this is:

Car Loan Paid Off!

And now I own my shiny Smart car outright. Huzzah!

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Goals for 2013

Goal SettingIt’s 2013 in just over 24 hours, so I figured why not set up 13 goals for the new year?

  1. Lose the 15 lbs that I gained since starting my MBA. Seriously. I have clothes that I can’t fit into and it’s not good for my health to be carrying around this extra weight, so it’s time to get serious about losing these extra pounds. I’ve been saying this for some time now without it happening, so I realize that it’s time I make an actual plan rather than just vague thoughts about “eating better”. A real focus on diet, exercise, and getting more sleep are all on the list for making this happen.
  • First up – diet – I’m declaring 2013 The Year of The Vegetable. I declared Dec 2012 The Month of the Vegetable and that had some moderate success, as I definitely upped my fruit & veg intake over what I’d previously been eating – and over the holidays to boot! Continuing with this momentum, I’m going to continue the concerted effort to eat more fruits and veg – and re-instituting my Sunday night weekly meal planning and keeping a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table will be my first concrete steps.
  • Second – exercise –  Item #26 on my 101 list is “do some kind of exercise (anything really, even if it is just a set of pushups, as long as it is beyond just incidental stuff like taking the stairs or walking to a store) every day for a year!” Tackling that item starts TODAY! I played hockey today, so now I only need to do some kind of exercise for the next 364 days and I’m golden! To help with this one – I’m redoubling my efforts to Schedule It! – which will go well with my Sunday night planning (see above). As well, see goals #3-7 below for more exercise-related goodness.
  • Third – sleep – I think it’s time to reinstitute my plan.
  • Also, I’m reading The Power of Habit, which has got me thinking about my habits – and how to change the problematic ones to better ones, so that’s something I’ll be working on as well1 2.
  1. Pay off my car. I’m pretty close to this one, and once I do that I will be debt-free! Go me!
  2. Run a sub-2 hour half marathon. This just so happens to be #50 on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days. And I know that in order to do this, I have to up the intensity of my half marathon training – more speed work and hills, to be specific. Which is just the kind of thing that’s going to help me get goal #1 accomplished.
  3. I’m aiming to do 2 half marathons this year – tentatively the Edge-to-Edge in Tofino in June and the Victoria half marathon in October3.
  4. Run 400 km 600 km4. I figure that since I managed nearly 300 km of running training for 1 half marathon, I can easily do 400 km 600 km training for two.
  5. Bike 500 km. Biking isn’t my main exercise, but I do quite enjoy it and since there is a recumbent stationary bike in the exercise room in my building, which is just perfect for exercise while I read textbooks, I think this one is doable5
  6. Do 1,300 pushups. This year’s pushup total was 485, so I’ve got a lot of work to do to reach this goal, but I did get slack at sticking to my must-do-pushups-whenever-I-take-a-break-from-homework rule after a few months, so if I bring that back in full force and maybe give the old 100 pushups program another go, I think I can do this one. And given that goals #3-6 are all leg-related, I had to do something for my arms!
  7. Go on a fabulous vacation! There are already some vague plans in the works for this one, but I’ll need to get going on some actually planning to make this a reality.
  8. Make 10 meals that I’ve never made before. I think it’s time to expand the repertoire, and I have in my freezer a cornish hen – something I’ve never cooked before – that I bought at the farmer’s market to get me started.
  9. Redesign my blog. I’m getting bored with my current theme – I think it’s time for a new one!
  10. Knock 13 items off my 101 list of things to do in 1001 days. Since it’s 2013, why not go for 13 of them? That’s just one per month, plus one. As part of my newly re-instituted Sunday night weekly planning, I will use the last Sunday of each month to pick an item on my 101 list on which to work for the upcoming month, so that I don’t get to Dec 28, 2013 and say “oh crap, I haven’t done anything from my 101 list!”
  11. Make $113,000. Ambitious and I have no idea how I’ll accomplish it, but since I finally succeeded after 3 years of trying to break the $100K mark, why the hell not give it a go?
  12. Publish 213 blog postings. Since I did 201 blog postings in 20126, I figure 213 is a reasonable goal for this year. Moreover, if I do that, I will be within 2 postings of my goal of 501 postings in 1001 days as per my 101 list, and I’ll still have 6 months left ’til the 1001 days are up!

Image Credit: Posted by Angie Torres on Flickr.

  1. E.g., this book talks a lot about the cues that trigger our habits, and since one habit that I want to reinstitute is regularly eating breakfast, which I used to be good at but seemed to fall out of the habit of when I moved, as all my old cues were gone. So I’m going to set out a bowl and spoon before I go to bed, which will be a cue in the morning to remind me to have breakfast! []
  2. I didn’t anticipate when I started writing my list of goals that I’d end up writing such a detailed plan for achieving this particular goal, but now that I have, I feel much better about my chances of accomplishing it! []
  3. Which Dr. Dan is also planning to run – but he’ll be running twice the distance! []
  4. I originally put 400 km, but then when I created my spreadsheet with my monthly goals and factored in that I intended to train for 2 half marathons, I decided that 400 km was too easy. []
  5. For the record, I cycled 111 km this year – though that’s from my RunKeeper.com account and I’m not sure if I included all of my stationary bike cycling there. []
  6. Or, I will have once tomorrow’s blog posting – which I’ve already half written – goes up. []

By

Do You Have A Financial Guy?

Money

So, remember that time I paid off my student loans? I do, because it was the best day ever in the history of ever. Well, that was back in early April and it means that now, at the end of every month, I am finding myself the proud owner of $1,800 that used to just tragically disappear from my bank account. I actually have my paycheque set up so that a (very large) portion of it goes to a completely separate account (instead of my main chequing account) and from which automatic payments were drawn every month to pay my student loans. It made me feel better to not have to see that money go into my chequing account and then disappear – I was able to pretend that I just made a lot less money than I do. But now that money goes into that separate account, but it doesn’t get taken out!

So now I’m faced with the very First World Problem of what to do with that money. Well, actually, not *now* as I’m also faced with the very, very First World Problem that my scholarship is being doled out to me at a slower rate than my tuition fees are coming due1, so I’m having to front the money to pay tuition (and thus it’s very fortuitous that this money has been liberated right now). But shortly my scholarship income should catch up to my tuition fee output and *then* I’ll really need to figure out something to do with this cash.

Calculator and MoneyWith all this in mind, I decided that it was time to talk to a financial planner. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’m a total delinquent with my money. I’m contributing to pensions and RRSP and TFSA and saving for my 40th birthday trip extravaganza 2. But I think I need to sit down with someone to look at my whole financial picture and do some long-term planning.

My friend Martha recommended her financial guy and I went and met with him this week. He seemed pretty good, but he suggested that I should probably meet with a few financial planners to see who would be the best fit for me3. So I’m wondering if anyone has any recommendations for financial planners?

Image Credit: All the images in this posting were posted on Flickr by 401K with a Creative Commons license. I kind of love this person’s photos!

  1. Which is a subject for a whole other blog posting. []
  2. For which you only have 1,694 days left to save if you are planning to come with me, by the way! []
  3. Which, funnily enough, gives me more confidence in him! []

By

And Then There Was One

A long, long time ago1, an intrepid young graduate (i.e., me) was buried under a mountain of student debt. More than $71,000 of student debt, in fact. Said debt was originally in the form of no fewer than 15 separate loan accounts, which were then consolidated into 3. And for the last 5 years I have been pouring insane amounts of money into paying off those mofos.

My strategy has been to set a fairly high monthly amount that I pay, focusing on the highest interest loans first. Every time I got a raise, I upped my monthly payment by the after-tax amount of that raise; the idea here is that since I’m not used to having that money, I won’t even notice it missing. Similarly, any extra money I managed to make (e.g., from freelance work and teaching) was made as lump sum payments onto my loans2.

My first taste of victory came in June 2011.

student loan 1 of 3 - done!The first of my 3 loans was done! Huzzah!

And then, just days ago, this happened:

zero balance

Student loan #2 down. And then there was one. Just one student loan left to go.

At this very moment, that student loan sits at about $5,400. At my current rate of $1,800 per month, that would take me three more months.

However. I happened to come into some money recently. By which I mean my mom generously gave me some. And as soon as the cheque clears3, my student loans will. be. done. Just a few days past the 5 year mark from when I started paying them off, I will have paid off more than $71,000 plus interest. In case you haven’t noticed, that is ABSOLUTELY INSANE.

Guess I’m going to have to figure out what to do with the money previously allotted to “student loan payments” in my monthly budget.

  1. i.e., 5 years ago []
  2. With a few bucks of that extra money being used for things like laser eye surgery and braces. Because you have to have some balance in your life, right? []
  3. Because apparently it takes a week for Vancity to talk to the Royal Bank. I believe they communicate by the Pony Express. Or maybe messenger pigeon. []