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There’s more to life than just money

Note: Sorry in advance, this is a long and rambling post. :)

Balancing actGMBMFB was one of the first personal finance blogs in Canada. Back in 2007, you could count the number of PF bloggers on one hand. I had a lot to work on financially, and this tiny community helped me out enormously. My life has changed a lot in the last 9 years, but this blog has remained constant. I love that I’ve been able to make friends with other bloggers and readers, as well as create a freelance career that I never thought was possible.

About a year ago I couldn’t help but realize that my life had become easy – I was making a comfortable salary, I was on track to retire early, and I was able to travel a lot. This was what I had been working on for years – ever since I started this blog. So I didn’t feel like I needed more. And because I didn’t need more, I had a hard time writing about all of the things I used to write about – like increasing my networth or finding new ways to earn and save money. Life was on autopilot and my finances didn’t motivate me like they used to. So I took a step back from this blog and stopped writing – promising myself that once I figured out what I wanted to write about, I’d come back. But one month turned into six months, and before I knew it, I had stopped writing consistently for more than a year.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking about personal finance and blogging again, but from a different perspective. Even though I don’t make a lot of money compared to others, I feel really good about where I am and I know my financial situation is solid. My income is enough to keep me on track to achieve all of the goals that I’ve set out for myself. There are still so many paths that my life could take me, so I’m trying to be flexible and open to everything. Maybe one day I’ll be married. Maybe one day I’ll have kids. Maybe one day I’ll own a home again. Or maybe none of that will happen, and 20 years from now I’ll be happily renting a tiny home and living my life just as it is. Whatever happens, I feel like my current salary could support it.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have it all figured out yet, but that’s what makes life fun. I’ve stopped comparing my life to others, and have learned to enjoy what I have. Earning more money isn’t a priority anymore… which is a weird feeling. And the thought has definitely crossed my mind that perhaps I’ve become lazy, or I’m just not ambitious enough anymore, or I’m not acknowledging my full potential by not pursuing the highest possible income every year. But there’s more to life than just money, and it’s taken me a long time to get here financially as well as emotionally.

Almost all of us have heard about that study by Princeton University researchers where they found the salary sweet spot was $75,000. I’ve been earning around $75,000 since 2011, but I’m a lot happier now than I was back then. In 2011, I had to really fight for that money. I often found myself working 70+ hour weeks, and was constantly stressed out with deadlines on top of my full-time job. Life was messy. Sure, I had the income sweet spot, but where was my quality of life?

After I came back from Germany, I told myself I was never going back to working crazy hours, even if it meant taking a pay cut. And I’ve stayed true to that goal. As I enter into 2016, I find myself working 45 hours/week at the very most, and I predict my salary will be around $80-90k for the year. This is a significant change in the quality of my life, and it’s what I’ve been working towards for years – an income level that is comfortable and sustainable.

There are still a lot of financial goals I’d like to achieve (like becoming a more savvy investor). I’ll still write my monthly budgets for this blog, and I’m still going to make financial goals for myself every year. I aspire to do well at my full-time job, and I’ll pursue freelance opportunities (with a work smarter/not harder attitude). The difference now is that my motivation isn’t driven by making more money anymore. As long as I’m achieving all of my financial goals, my only other goals are to be comfortable and happy.

TL;DR – My new financial goals don’t involve increasing my income anymore. :)

Kicking off Financial Literacy Month with Tangerine Bank

Last week I was invited to Toronto to speak on a panel at the Tangerine Bank “Bubbles and Budgets” event to kick off Financial Literacy Month.

This was one of my favourite personal finance events of the year because it was so engaging and interesting. The event started out with a panel discussion (hosted by Winston Sih of Breakfast Television), with Preet Banerjee, Cait Flanders, Silvio Stroescu, Joe Snyder, and me. We were able to open up and discuss personal finance topics ranging from getting out of debt, to Cait’s shopping ban, to saving money and where to invest.

The Tangerine Café was packed for the event, and that was really thrilling to see because it wasn’t just media and bloggers attending. There were so many people from ACCES Employment, a United Way agency that Tangerine works with as part of their Bright Way Forward program, and when we were talking I was able to look out into the crowd and see people really into what we were talking about. Or maybe they were just staring at Preet’s awesome pocket square.

(side note: I think in the above photo I was distracted by the doughnut wall.)

After the panel, we were able to sit down and have one-on-one discussions with people in the crowd who had additional questions. This was set up “speed dating” style, where you only had 4-5 minutes to talk with someone. It was incredibly inspiring to hear stories from people who had fought their way out of debt, come to Canada to start a new life, or saved enough working multiple jobs to create Emergency Funds.

The next day Tangerine hosted a Twitter party. Me, Cait, and Preet headed over to the Café so that we could have ourselves a mini real life Twitter party. J The hour flew by so fast, and everyone was into the chat that we were a little disappointed when it ended. I love Twitter events like this because the engagement level is through the roof. Check out the hashtag #ForwardBanking if you want to check out some of the topics that were discussed!

Anyway I really wanted to share this event with you guys because it was a good reminder for me about how important money is. Our relationship with money is so important, and it will last a lifetime. Often times I can get so wrapped up in my own little personal finance world – where I feel like everyone I know is so into their finances that I start to think everyone is like that. But that’s just not true – and it’s why I started this blog in the first place.

From vegetarian to vegan: a one month experiment

Most of you know I’m vegetarian. I started off as pescetarian when I came back from Germany in 2013. After a few months, I turned vegetarian – and have been for almost two years now.

It’s been an interesting two years. I still get asked by my good friends if I’m “still not eating meat,” as if it’s a fad I’ll eventually get sick of. :) I’ve been put in more than a couple uncomfortable situations, and I have traveled to places where getting a vegetarian meal can be tricky (I ate a lot of eggs). But overall, it has been such a positive change to my lifestyle that I can’t imagine ever eating meat again.

Taking the next step to vegan has always scared me. That’s why I’ve never done it, or even attempted to try. It’s new territory that I’ve always wanted to explore, I just didn’t (and still don’t) know how to go about doing it. Cooking seems daunting – especially cooking for others. Going out to restaurants and traveling will become harder than it already is. But here’s the thing: I’ve always known that eventually, I would want to make this lifestyle change. And now is the time to test it out.

Maybe this will work, and maybe it won’t. But today marked Day 1 of a 30-day vegan challenge for me. I’ve actually already failed, but that’s okay… I ate a piece of pumpkin loaf that I realized afterwards was clearly made with egg, and then I almost put milk into my coffee this morning.

Over the next month, I anticipate higher than normal grocery bills and a lot of “whoops” moments. It will be tough to change my habits, but that’s what’s fun about these 30-day challenges. :) And with any luck, one month will turn into two months, and a new lifestyle will come from it.

So, if any of you are vegan, I’d love links to your favourite vegan recipes or restaurants!

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