The Tiny Glass Movement

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Clearly, something wasn’t working. A recent look at my monthly drinking expenditures still had me blowing $530.55 on Alcohol. Sure, telling myself “just one less” and “you buy some things twice” worked to bring my spending down from a staggering $1,120.27, but I’m not calling this a victory until I average only $300-$350/month on booze. That’s why we’re embracing The Tiny Glass Movement.

The University of Cambridge conducted a rather duh study and “found that larger wine glasses encouraged you to drink more”. That’s why, for all of July, I’ll only consume beer out of 230ml glasses. (We’re using IKEA MUSTIG glasses.) Accounting for foam, each glass should only be 200ml, so each 2L growler we buy will make up 10 drinks. This also does double duty because it means I can’t buy drinks in a pub this month. I have to use my tiny glass. I expect this will give me the added boost I need to stop being such an alky. I hope to snowflake whatever I save directly into my debt.

To stay up to date on this experiment, follow along on our Facebook. I won’t be posting a follow-up article here, but our Facebook page will have all our numbers from June (our control month) and July (our experiment month). In fact, you should probably give that page a Like now. The site you’re on now is more for ideas, but our Facebook is for our results and discussion. I hope to see you there.

I Don’t Want To Win Your Contest

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“Tune into Jonny, Holly & Nira from June 19th- 23rd for your chance win $200 from Bacardi plus qualify for A Bacardi Way Home Music Festival VIP Flyaway for you and 3 friends to see artists like Flume, Frank Ocean, Solange, Vance Joy, Marshmellow and more!!! Your trip includes roundtrip airfare, VIP accommodations, car rental and VIP wristbands plus we’re hooking you up with $1,000 spending cash!”

Oh my God, shut up. I don’t care.

The only reason I still listen to the radio is because it’s my only source of music in the old Corolla. If I could use Spotify in my car, I would. It’d spare me the inane ads.

I’ve become a huge homebody since I started my frugality journey, but before that, I used to go to every event I could for the sake of Fun. I even started a music blog so I could go to concerts and events for free and somehow, over the years, I’ve come to realize big events kinda suck. After going to more concerts than I can remember, I realized I hated most concerts. When that contest ad came on on the radio, my initial reaction wasn’t “HOLY SHIT, I HOPE I WIN THAT!” It was “Jesus Christ, that sounds like an ordeal.” Let’s break it down.

The $200 cash is the only thing I’d want from this promo, but even then, I’m not jumping through hoops for it. The show that promo is a part of airs from 5:30-9:00 AM. Nope! I’m not getting up for that shit! I’m not suffering through hours of Bieber for the chance at $200. And even if I get through and win $200, there’s a chance I might have to accept that concert prize? No! I’ve been to enough concerts and festivals, and I always feel like I’m being held hostage at them. Between acts I might actually want to see (which tend to be ruined by the fact I’m fighting a massive crowd of sweaty hipsters and can’t hear shit half the time) are numerous acts I don’t care about, but I feel obligated to stick around. I don’t really have the freedom to do what I want! Also, this is in Barrie, Ontario so winning this would ALSO mean being on a plane for four hours just to get there. And really? VIP wristbands? I assume that means we’d be able to get near the front where the performers are… and where the sound quality is most appalling. I guarantee you no sound mixer is adjusting their levels for the front row. Enjoy your hearing loss!

The more I thought about this, the luckier I felt. By doing nothing and NOT calling in, I’d spared myself a multiday ordeal. Instead, I could stay at home, a space I’d optimized to be my most comfortable place in the world. I had complete freedom here. Why would I change that? Why would I go out of my way for DAYS for someone else’s interpretation of Fun?

Maybe it’s just me getting older, but most of what I once thought of as Fun actually isn’t. I don’t want to line up to get into a club. I don’t want to be a “VIP” when the only reason I am is because I paid through the nose for a wristband. I don’t want to be a part of the concert ritual, where a band leaves the stage before playing their #1 single and everyone chants “ONE MORE SONG!” like an idiot to get them to return, even though we all know they will. That’s not for me anymore, and knowing that was actually insanely liberating. I DON’T WANT THIS, EVEN IF IT’S FREE. And that also means I DEFINITELY WOULDN’T PAY FOR IT.

Some people chase Fun all the time because it’s an escape. I don’t want to escape. I’ve made my day-to-day life as enjoyable as I can. If you haven’t already, figure out what’s actually Fun for you. There’s a very good chance it’s something free or close to it, like reading a book or going on a hike. If you need Money to have Fun, you’re in for a difficult life. Winning a contest won’t save you.

I hope you find what you’re looking for.

Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish

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If you’ve been following Unconbentional for a while now, you know I love introducing minor changes to your spending so you have money to invest. I’ve talked about saving amounts as small as $2/day cycling or 26¢/coffee just so you can keep adding to your bottom line. What I haven’t told you up ‘til now is that most of this is useless if you’re still an idiot about large “one-time” expenditures. Obviously, that’s common sense for a lot of you, but maybe it’s not because if I’m reading this right, the average Canadian is still blowing $40,100 on their new vehicles! As if that wasn’t enough, the current trend is fuel-guzzling SUVs over a regular “fuel-efficient” car! Don’t even get me started on rent. Some people I currently know spend as much as $1,500/month on living expenses when a little thinking-outside-the-box could turn that into $300! Here’s some quick math, if only to make you reconsider your next major purchase. I firmly believe that ANY purchase over $100 should be: a) something that SAVES you money, b) something that EARNS you money, or c) an EXTREMELY special occasion. (“Friday night” doesn’t count.) I know you know this already, but it’s hard to argue with numbers. Here we go.

A $40,100 vehicle represents the money you’d save on gas alone from about 55 years of cycling 15 KM a day instead of driving, or 301,125 KM. The circumference of Earth at the equator is 40,030 KM, so that $40,100 SUV you just bought is equivalent to what you’d save by circumnavigating the globe 7.5 times by bike. If we’re talking about saving 26¢/coffee by buying one size down every time, we’re talking about 154,230 cups of coffee you’d need to do that with, or 422.5 years of one cup a day. By a single dumb decision – buying a new vehicle LIKE SO MANY CANADIANS ARE DOING – you’ve potentially nuked 154,230 tiny good decisions, OR just shat all over the savings from multiple lifetimes of cycling. Remember, shiny things are stupid. Beware the one-time expenditure.

This is only one example, but my point is you can’t pat yourself on the back for tiny good decisions anymore. You need to do the math on big purchases, and really think about how long it took you to get there based on your frugal decisions. The other day, I was hosting a dinner party and spent $101.46 on two lobsters. I’d have to choose a Subway 6” sandwich over a much tastier sushi lunch 20 times to make up for that, and it kinda hurt to fork over that money. Sure, I’d mentally congratulated myself every time I bought a cheap sandwich, but I destroyed the benefit of ordering 20 of those in one night! You just don’t win as long as you keep making major purchases. If you’re frugal six days out of the week and go hog wild every Friday, YOU’RE NOT ACTUALLY FRUGAL! That puts you in the same boat as everybody else!

Don’t be penny-wise, pound-foolish. Saving nickels and dimes really don’t add up to much. Don’t let one or two big-ticket items set you back years of penny pinching. If you’re not careful, it takes only a day or some asshole car salesman to ruin your financial future. Watch out.

This is Trikey McTrikeface, or How Cycling Changed My Life

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I can’t ride a bike.

No, I’m serious. I really can’t ride a bike. I grew up in hilly New Westminster, BC with overprotective parents who used to drive me to school even though it was literally a block away. My repeated attempts to learn have failed. I don’t know if it’s a balance thing or a confidence thing, but if you put me on two wheels, I’ll go face first into a blackberry bush. It’s embarrassing, but I’ve made my peace with it.

That’s why, when I read this, it really bummed me out. I was missing out on so much. I was missing out on exercise, the money savings, the social aspect of riding with friends, and the thrill of the open road. I remember once, in Bruges, my girlfriend at the time wanted to bike around the city and I couldn’t go with her. It fucking sucked. I resolved to find a solution. After all, I live in Richmond, BC now – a city with no hills and quiet suburbs everywhere. That’s when I decided to man up and buy a trike. I knew I’d look like the village idiot, but it was hard to argue with the positives. Now, I ride all the time and I love it. I even crash into the occasional blackberry bush.

I found one for $280 on Craigslist, and it’s the Kent Alameda 26” Adult Trike. It’s got a huge basket in the back, and when I go cycling with friends, I usually bring four growlers of beer to make the ride more interesting. I ride it to our local brewery a lot, and it’s a 15-kilometre round trip. I save about $2 in gas each time. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s entirely feasible that I’d ride this trike 2,100 kilometres (15 KM x 140) in a year, meaning this trike WILL PAY FOR ITSELF in a year! I’m already driving less. When I get to know Richmond’s side streets, I’ll be making most of my in-city trips using this trike! It’ll be great!

For those of you who cycle, I know I don’t need to break down the benefits. I’m just glad I was finally able to join in. For those of you who don’t, here’s some quick math: In a 2012 Forbes article, they found the “average annual operating cost of a bicycle is $308, compared to $8,220 for the average car”, meaning a bike (or trike) could save you $7,912/year! Using the ol’ compound interest calculator, investing that over 10 years at 7% interest results in $116,967.84! Can you imagine if someone did this from the time they were 25-35? A $116,967.84 boost at 35 would be insane! Can my derpy little trike actually save me that much money? It can’t hurt to try! Cycling can also increase your life expectancy anywhere from six months to eight years. Given my old life expectancy and a little luck, that could put me up to 90!

Do you cycle? If not, why? I can’t even ride a bike, but I found a way to tap into the goldmine. What’s stopping YOU? Tell us on Facebook.

Roommate #2.5, or Why “K” Plans to Live in His Van

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If you’re willing to look at renting from a weirder angle, you could save about $1,200/month like “K”. This is how.

FYI: This is about more than van-living. Read on.

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First, my situation: My place has housed three people before, but since we’re now back down to two, we’ve readopted a revolving door policy for friends to come and go as they please. When we do this, we generally have one- or two-month arrangements and put people up in our storage closet for about $300/month. Since our guests only sleep in there and are free to use the rest of our apartment anytime, this is actually a lot nicer than it sounds. We have multiple TVs, a fully stocked kitchen, 1.5 bathrooms, and even an office! As proof of concept, we actually have a guest with us next month – “J”. She’s looking for a more permanent space with her boyfriend, but until she finds the perfect place, she doesn’t want to sign another lease. We make a little bit of rent money, and she has the flexibility to keep looking. Everybody wins!

Our friend “K” is gonna win hard in a few months too. Unfortunately, his current situation is a real money pit. In his own words: im paying 1375 plus hydro and internet which bring it to 1500. my plan is to sell my jeep for 14000 and get a 2007 Mercedes sprinter for the same amount roughly. i figure it will cost about 1000 to convert it into a living space, since it will just be a bed, side table and closet cause i dont need to have a kitchen or toilet. [More on this in a second.] ive lived in a honda crv(which was fucking terrible) then a jeep cherokee which was a bit better. then [“R”] and i lived in a mini van that we built a bed frame in and put a double matress with curtains and a battery system to power fans and our laptops without using the vans battery. also we had a solar panel on the roof to charge the electric system”.

Yup, he’s planning on living in a van. But wait! It’s actually WAY better than it sounds! Why? HE GETS TO USE OUR PLACE AS A HOMEBASE TOO! And he’s not sleeping in our storage closet, meaning I can still have short-term guests! WTF, RIGHT?!?

I should probably back up and explain. When “K’s” lease is up at his $1,375/month apartment (that costs him $1,500 after bills), we have an arrangement set up. He will, essentially, become our Roommate #2.5. His plan involves sleeping in his van, but he’ll also be living with us, using our kitchen, bathroom, and office space during the day. He’ll be paying ~$300/month, and in return, he’ll have access to all our amenities, like Internet, running water, and an actual goddamn mailing address. He won’t have any real bills! On paper, he lives here. In reality, the van is home, and because of that, he has the flexibility to take his home wherever he might need to go, whether it’s a job site or a vacation destination! Also, THIS FREES UP ~$1,200/MONTH OF HIS MONEY! Over just one year, HE SAVES ~$14,400 AND I MAKE ~$3,600! Again, everybody wins! It’s like a sort of “friend economy”. Instead of paying strangers for their services or housing, pay FRIENDS for what THEY can provide. Money and favours keep circulating amongst the people you care about, and everyone becomes richer because of it! Friend Economy 101!

Obviously, this really only works for young, single people like “K”. You can’t raise a family in a van. It’s hard to argue with the savings for people who can make this work though! In Vancouver, where a 1-bedroom goes for $1,900, having access to an apartment’s amenities while sleeping in your own space for ~$300 is a steal! Of course, finding opportunities like this isn’t gonna be a walk in the park. This is just one isolated example of a millennial living unconventionally, and saving shitloads because of it.

When possible, use and rely on your friends. “K” found cheap housing. “J” found a temporary place to stay until she lines up the perfect home. I found extra rent money. It’s actually ridiculous things like this don’t happen more often. If we all functioned better as a real community, maybe we’d all be a few thousand richer.

That’s the kind of world I want to live in. I’d sleep in a van too if it meant being able to invest an extra $1,200/month. Would you?

If You “Can’t Adult”, Stop Spending Like One

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Way back in 2000, I had an allowance of $5/day in early high school. I was supposed to buy lunch with it, but most of the time, I’d blow it all on a cup of overpriced coffee. Still, having no real savings to speak of and having no way to go into debt, I just kind of floated along in financial limbo. I only saw as far as my next cup of coffee, and The Bank of Mom & Dad ensured that would happen. My needs were looked after, and it’s not like I needed TWO cups of coffee in a day, so everything was good. For those few sweet years in high school, I didn’t need to worry about money. And you know what? I might want to return to that system as soon as next month.

No, I’m not going back to making daily withdrawals from The Bank of Mom & Dad. That’d be crazy talk. I’m frickin’ 28. No, what I’m doing is a sort of mental budgeting. Roommate “D” hit upon the idea recently when he withdrew a stack of $20s and made sure to only use one a day. Over a month, that’s only $600. If he wanted something that was $40, he’d have to go a day without spending anything. What he didn’t use could be carried over to the next day, and so on and so on. It was kinda brilliant. Going back to that allowance system made it so he never overstretched his budget, and when he ran out of money, he’d just stop. I NEEDED TO DO THAT TOO.

Obviously, this is nothing revolutionary. I was just happy to add one more tool to the financial toolkit. “D” reckons if he sticks to his allowance for June, his expenses should only be about $1,200 total, rent and all! Since I’m still having trouble getting below $1,500, this tool might be a godsend! I’m actually kind of excited for it because this restriction will force me to find low-cost, high-fun activities for entertainment, and that’ll help me for the rest of my life!

Can’t adult? Try going back to having an allowance. I know a lot of you are financially responsible enough that you don’t need this advice, but I also know some of you needed to hear this. Start with $20s for now, one a day, or adjust to your personal situation as needed. Maybe managing your money like a kid again is what you need to become a successful adult.

You Buy Some Things Twice

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A few days ago, we talked about how I cut my drinking down by half, and one idea that helped with that is so goddamn simple, I’m sure it’ll help you as much as it helped me. Speaking in basic terms, all I had to do was imagine that everything I used up needed to be bought a second time. That’s it!

I can hear the collective “uhhh…” already, so let me explain. Let’s use beer for this example because it’s both a consumable, and not something super perishable (like, say, a sandwich). Cool? Okay, let’s talk about beer. For non-drinkers, follow along anyway. I’m trying to make a larger point.

Before you have a 6-pack of beer available to drink, you’ve presumably paid for it at your local beer store. Let’s say it was $12. You take it home, it sits in your fridge for a while, and because it’s so readily accessible, you guzzle beer whenever you feel like until you run out. The old me would’ve crushed that 6-pack in a night, one $2 can after another, without a second thought. I would basically destroy $12 worth of value in an evening because I already had it in my home. Is this sounding familiar yet? FOR MOST OF US, AS SOON AS WE’VE BOUGHT SOMETHING AND HAVE IT IN OUR POSSESSION, WE FORGET ABOUT ITS MONETARY VALUE. For most of us, we’ve “already paid”! I’m here to tell you there are some things you buy twice: You buy it once when you pay for it, and you “#rebuy” it when you use it up because you’re using up its value. Just flip that mental switch, and it’ll help you become more frugal overnight. I like to think it’s already saved me hundreds.

When I took that $12 6-pack home, it was still worth $12. Every time I thought to myself, “I want a beer,” I rephrased that to, “Do I want a $2 beer right NOW?” Most of the time, when I reconsidered the VALUE of that beer and that I was mentally rebuying it, it gave me that little extra bit of willpower to put it back. This doesn’t work with everything – sandwiches are still super perishable – but I’ve had success with it when I’ve considered beer, snacks, and even entertainment. “Do I want to watch this $5 movie NOW, or can I get more VALUE out of it if I watch it with friends?” That kind of thing.

Beer was where it was most effective for me. I knew every $2 can I drank would just need to be replaced with another $2 can later, ad infinitum. Every can in my fridge I could say “no” or “later” to would SAVE me $2 in the future. See what I mean?

There are some things you #rebuy. Just because it’s already in your home doesn’t mean it’s automatically free for consumption. A $2 can of beer is a $2 can of beer. Remember that, and you’ll save a shitload.