Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Exploring Yukon!

Well we’ve been back from our vacation for a week or so, and finally got around to working out our expenses for the trip. I was also waiting for RD to finish editing his photos so I could share some of them with you. He’s such a good photographer and often sees the softer, smaller details that I overlook (meanwhile I’m just looking for something to put onto Instagram, haha).

Day 1-3: Vancouver to Cowley Lake, YT

It took three full days to drive from Vancouver to Cowley Lake (just a bit south of Whitehorse), but it was a pretty amazing drive. We encountered some sketchy road conditions (thick ice covered the road for our entire drive on Day 2), but a visit to Liard River Hot Springs, and getting to see a ton of wildlife along the highway was really cool.

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Day 3-5: Cowley Lake, YT

We spent two nights in a cute little yurt on Cowley Lake, and it was so much fun. After 3 days of somewhat stressful driving, we just relaxed by the wood-burning stove in the yurt, went for a paddle around the lake, and eventually ventured into Whitehorse so we could watch the Blue Jays in the Wild Card game. :)

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Day 5-8: Haines Junction, YT

Haines Junction was probably my favourite stop on this trip. It’s not too far west of Whitehorse, but the mountains in Kluane National Park are absolutely incredible. The downside of Haines Junction was that it was so small – there wasn’t a grocery store so we ate at the pub both evenings after our day hikes.

The first hike we did was recommended by our hotel owner (he’s also a guide) – King’s Throne. It was a pretty amazing hike, although we ended up getting just shy of the summit (turned around due to the wind, and also it was freezing!).

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The second hike we did in Kluane was Sheep Mountain. This was our favourite hike of the trip. The trail was completely south-facing up a ridge and we were treated to a beautiful, sunny day. The dall sheep were incredibly cute, and the hike was much harder than King’s Throne (which we were happy about).

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Day 8-11: Dawson City, YT

After playing in the mountains for three days, we headed 9 hours north to Dawson City, which was a massive gold rush town back in the day. Now it’s a bit of tourist town in the summer, and a nice spot to stay if you’re exploring Tombstone Territorial Park. We took it pretty easy while in Dawson – exploring the town, hiking Midnight Dome, and driving on the Dempster Highway into Tombstone Park. We were all set to go hiking, but forgot the bear spray back in Dawson … and we weren’t about to do a hike called ‘Grizzly Lake‘ without it. So we drove the 100km back to Dawson, and vowed to get back up there … some day.

But best of all? I finally got to see the Northern Lights. After a failed trip to Iceland in 2012 to try and see them, I got a nice view of them from our rented house for 3 nights in a row. It was so cold out tho that we enjoyed them from the comfort of the living room, instead of venturing outdoors to try and take photos. Yes, I’m a bit of a cold weather wimp. :)

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Day 11-13: Whitehorse, YT

After Dawson City, we drove south and stayed in the downtown area of Whitehorse. We didn’t spend much time in the city (besides going out to a pub), but we did get to hike Mount Lorne, which you can’t miss as you’re driving south out of Whitehorse. It was an extremely cold hike (-13-15C), but the views were incredible. I can only imagine what it would be like to do that hike in the summer!

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Being in Whitehorse after about 2 weeks into the trip really showed us how much of the stuff we love is available to us up north in Yukon. We both are obsessed with hiking and being outdoors (and away from crowds of people), and I like the feeling I got from being in Yukon. We even started perusing real estate listings and job boards to see what was out there. :) It’s something to think about for the future (and it’s exciting to know that it would be possible), but for now our lives are in Vancouver.

Day 13-15: Dease Lake, Stewart, and Hyder Alaska

After Whitehorse we began our slow journey back to Vancouver. Our first stop was Dease Lake, which was just an overnighter on our way to Stewart. A note if you’re looking to stay in Dease Lake – there are no restaurants. We bought our dinner from the gas station. :)

Stewart was very charming, and I can see why it’s a popular place to go in the summer. The small town and the gorgeous mountains made it pretty special. We took a quick side trip over to Hyder, Alaska which is basically a ghost town. I wanted to drive further up to the glacier, but the gravel road was quite active with trucks and neither of us felt like spending the time being stressed.

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Day 15-20: Smithers!

The last 5 days of our trip was spent exploring RD’s hometown of Smithers. The weather was not cooperating for us while we were there, but it was my first trip to Smithers, so we made the best of it by going on short hikes every day, and we even met up with friends (a high school friend of mine ended up marrying one of RD’s oldest friends – which is very random).

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We saw a ton of wildlife on this trip – cariboo (!), elk, bison, deer, sheep, fox, and tons of birds for my bird nerd boyfriend, but I really, really wanted to see grizzly and moose – and we didn’t get to see either! We were positive we’d see at least one grizzly on the trip, given the areas we were in and the timing, but we didn’t see a single trace of them. :| I was surprised about not seeing any moose either, but we’ll be headed back up to Smithers for Christmas, so I’ll get a second chance. :)

So… how much did this entire trip cost? Glad you asked!

Trip Budget
Yukon Trip Budgeted Actual Difference
Accommodation $1,350 $1,537 ($187)
Car Maintenance $400 $387 $13
Gas $900 $801 $99
Food $700 $522 $178
Entertainment $300 $0 $300
Supplies $200 $98 $102
Miscellaneous $150 $95 $55
 TOTAL $4,000 $3,440 $560

We ended up $560 under budget, which I’m pretty impressed with. Our accommodation ended up being more than expected because we were going to camp at Liard Hot Springs, but that day was so stressful driving in snowy and very icy conditions (and we didn’t know how long it would take to get to our destination) so instead of setting up camp in the snow and cold, we stayed in a very fancy lodge (the only place available for hundreds of kilometers) for $190/night. :|

My gas budget was exactly as predicted, and I’m very happy we came in under budget for good. We did a pretty good job making our own breakfasts and lunches (and I was very happy that groceries were so reasonably priced), and that made up for the fact that restaurants in Yukon were expensive! A normal dinner out at a pub was $60-70, whereas in Vancouver we’d have paid $50. But we made it work by not going out often. I was even able to pick up some special ingredients (as well as a Tofurkey!) so we could make a nice Thanksgiving dinner while in Dawson.

I loved this trip to Yukon. It was different than what most would consider an autumn getaway, and because we were in the shoulder/off-season, we had most places all to ourselves. It also opened our eyes up to how beautiful this country really is, how much hiking and exploring we still have to do up there, and I cannot wait to go back.

As for what 2017 has in store for us for travel? Right now we’ve decided on a trip to Haida Gwaii, as well 2 weeks in Portugal. :)

October 2016 Goals

img_1298I had good intentions of getting my September numbers all sorted out before going on our trip, but I was pressed for time and didn’t get it done. So instead, I’ll post my October 2016 goals and get back to recapping September when I’m home in a few weeks. :)

Right now I’m writing this post from Haines Junction, YT. It’s Day 5 of our trip, and we’ve already seen and done so much! We’ve already had some pretty crazy weather – including pretty intense icy roads from Chetwynd to Fort Nelson. But since Muncho Lake and into Yukon, it’s been partially sunny weather and surprisingly pleasant. I mean, yes it’s still cold, but it’s manageable. Although I notice in the weather reports for the next week that it should get to -10C in Dawson, so that will be interesting for a weather wimp like me. :)

I’ll be interested in seeing if we will hit our travel budget for the month. One thing I’ve really been surprised with is how cheap groceries were in Whitehorse. And by cheap I mean most of the things we bought were either on par or cheaper than prices in Vancouver – and we shop at the cheapest grocery store in our neighbourhood. Granted, the grocery prices in Watson Lake were outrageous, so I suppose that’s the benefit of living in the biggest city in Yukon.

Anyway, since about 3/4 of October will be spent on vacation, you can see that my October budget reflects that in lower food/entertainment/transportation costs.

10-october-budget

October 2016 Goals:

  • Extended health benefits – later this year, I’ll be eligible to change my extended health benefits at work and get onto RD’s plan. So I need to check out exactly what his plan covers to see what combination of cost/coverage would suit us the best.
  • Shared cell phone plan – we’ve talked about getting onto a shared wireless plan for a few months now. My corporate plan is eligible to be shared, and would cut down on RD’s bill significantly. The only issue is that since RD is in remote locations so much during the year, he’s afraid going over to my carrier (Rogers) will limit his cell coverage.
  • Research stocks – I recently sold my shares in the first stock I ever bought, so I have a few thousand dollars to play around with. I have my eye on a few stocks for the long-term, but need to do more research before I commit.

Why a Robo Advisor might be right for you

Note: this post is sponsored by ModernAdvisor.ca, but all views and opinions are my own.

02A couple weeks ago, I sold the first stock I ever bought. I bought it back in 2013, it peaked in 2015, and then plummeted shortly afterwards. It was a good lesson in staying patient, because it began to slowly rise again until I was able to sell it for a 61% profit.

I have a small investment portfolio with Questrade – most of my money is in ETFs for long-term (retirement), but I have about $4,000 to $5,000 set aside to play around with individual stocks. I haven’t decided what my next stock purchase is going to be, but I’ve definitely got my eye on a few. :)

Investing is fun for me. I love tracking stocks, rebalancing my portfolio, cheering whenever I get dividends, and seeing my portfolio slowly grow over time. But you know what? Not everyone shares the same passion for investing as me. And that’s where I think a robo advisor like ModernAdvisor.ca can fit in.

Why would you use a robo advisor?
What a robo advisor does is provide you with an easy way to create a solid investing portfolio. And I think this is super important because I have met so many people who are intimidated by investing, or they just don’t have the time and energy to devote to learning about investing, and then managing and growing their own portfolio. So they give their money to a bank and their money gets put into mutual funds instead (the average mutual fund fee in Canada as of 2014 was 2.41%!).

ModernAdvisor.ca uses Exchange Trade Funds (ETFs) which charge much lower fees than mutual funds – most of their portfolios cost less than 0.20%! And after adding in ModernAdvisor’s fee, the cost would be between 0.55% to 0.70%. That could save you 1.71 to 1.86% per year – which may not sound like much, but compounded over 20 or 30 years, and that adds up to some serious cash.

Who would use a robo advisor?

Admittedly, I’m still a DIY advisor (and I think I always will be). Robo advisors are not for me because I’m very comfortable setting up and managing my own portfolio, and since I invest in index funds and ETFs, my portfolio would end up looking quite similar to anything recommended to me through robo advising anyway.

My boyfriend and sister, however, would be the perfect fit for ModernAdvisor’s services. It’s the right balance between DIY investing (which not many people are that interested in), and having to pay the high fees of traditional banking advisors.

They’re both comfortable with online banking, but neither of them know much about investing. They’re not interested in spending hours learning about index funds (and how awesome Dan Bortolotti is) or balancing portfolios, and neither have time to have face-to-face talks with a bank advisor. But they still want their money to go as far as it can. Robo advisors can offer exactly what they’re looking for – a simple portfolio that will grow with the market, with no commissions or sneaky hidden fees.

Why ModernAdvisor?

There are quite a few Canadian robo advisors, so what sets ModernAdvisor apart from the rest of them? There are a few different reasons that come to my mind right away – user friendly website, loads of transparency, and they also have one of the lowest overall fee structures out of all the Canadian robo advisors.

Another big plus about ModernAdvisor is that maintaining their client portfolios goes beyond just rebalancing once or twice a year. They are constantly monitoring their portfolios to make sure they’re investing in the best ETFs for their clients. That means if there’s a better ETF that comes along, they’ll swap their clients into the new fund if it’s appropriate for them. And if you have any questions? You’ll be able to talk to a real human through online chat, phone, or e-mail.

But what I love best is the ability to create a trial account with ModernAdvisor without actually needing to deposit money, or give them your banking information. They’ll even go one step further and will invest $1,000 of their own money on your behalf for 30 days.

If the $1,000 earns money in those 30 days, you will get to keep all of the gains if you decide to open up an account and invest your money. Pretty sweet deal, eh?

AND as a special bonus to GMBMFB readers, ModernAdvisor has agreed to provide everyone with a $50 bonus for opening up a new account in addition to the free 30-day trial and the gains on the $1,000 they’ll invest for you.

Use Promo Code GMBMFB to earn your $50 bonus now!

Does anyone currently use a robo advisor?

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