Gift What You’ve Got

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I’m not buying a single Christmas present this year, yet I’m gifting more generously than ever before. How, you ask? Well, this year, instead of spending the entire holiday season fighting through shoppers and maxing out every credit card I own, I’m only gifting stuff I already have. Does that make me cheap? Probably, but here’s what that looks like. You might find yourself doing the same.

In previous years, my first instinct would’ve been to hit the mall and get everyone PlayStations and Fitbits. Even this year, I was tempted. I saw a Fitbit Flex for $60 and thought my friend would like one. When I considered all the stuff I already had at home though, I decided buying more crap wasn’t the answer. I knew reckless generosity did more harm than good, shiny stuff was stupid, and minimalism was key to a happy life. I went cheap this year, and it was easy. I started with the gently-used stuff I didn’t need anymore…

I dealt myself out of the wine world earlier this year, so I now had an excellent 8-bottle microcellar I wasn’t using. At the moment, it’s just plugged in, sucking up power while cellaring absolutely nothing. That was first on my gift list. Next was a deep fryer I’d only used once. I’d bought it for my ex, but she didn’t take it when she moved out. That went on the list too. My next decision was a tougher one. As I was cleaning my bedroom, I noticed the display of film cameras I hadn’t touched in over a year. As much as I loved them, I saw them gathering dust and immediately resolved to find them a better home. It made no sense to hoard them when they could be out in the wild making art, so I packed them up and started giving them away. One went to a film producer friend. One went to a photography colleague. One is going to a school. One is going to a fellow arts nerd. I literally felt lighter after I made my decision. I was putting value back into the world, and I was reclaiming my space. What an easy win. A copy of “Rework” I have is going to the owner of the liquor store I work at. An old CD player I don’t use is getting gifted to a mom who likes to put audiobooks on for her 4-year-old son. Every PS3 game I’m done with is getting redistributed to people who will actually play them. And so on, and so on. It’s not like I’m giving away garbage either. Even used, the microcellar would’ve been $100 on Craigslist, the CD player would’ve been $30, the cameras would’ve been $50 each, the book would’ve been $20, the deep fryer is at least $75, and the PS3 games would’ve been $10 each! Gifting stuff you don’t use anymore is just the smart thing to do!

Even stuff you consider trash can be repurposed as gifts. At my place, we have WAY more glassware than any person could logically need. Oversized wine glasses, awkward pint glasses, novelty shot glasses, etc. A friend suggested filling them with cheap candy and tying on a bow. Instant stocking stuffers. You can even make stuff! My coworker is painting rocks for her Christmas gifts. One of my friends is knitting something for me. There’s no end to what you can do once you decide to NOT spend money for the holidays. You might even end up gifting something more meaningful!

If you still have people on your shopping list, lock up your wallet and take a hard look around your home. You may find the perfect gift without setting foot outside. Besides, it’s cold out there. Maybe you can even do some snowflaking with the money you save!

Merry Christmas, everyone! I’m off to Seattle for the holidays. See you in 2017.

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Save The Earth, Don’t Give Birth

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As I write this, there are 7.4 billion people on the planet. That’s 7,400,000,000+ weird, fleshy things tearing up nature to make more asphalt roads, concrete buildings, and McDonald’s restaurants while simultaneously increasing their number to 10 billion by 2060. Do I think the world is going to end soon though? Not really. Stephen Hawking reckons we’ve got about 1,000 years left, so I’m not gonna preach climate change at you. I will, however, try to convince you creating a new human being is just about the worst thing you can do environmentally and financially. Financially speaking, I’m sure you knew this already, but what fun would this be if I didn’t give you hard numbers? Here’s some hard evidence why being a parent is objectively terrible.

Let’s start with the financial burden. I’m going to assume you have a kid at 30 because Statistics Canada says “the modern time frame for childbearing has become increasingly concentrated around age 30”. Raising a child to age 18 in Canada costs $253,946.97, so let’s just assume you did the smart thing, DIDN’T have a kid, and decided to bank the full amount at age 48. Using the ol’ Compound Interest Calculator I love so much, let’s see what happens in the 17 years between 48-65 at 7% interest with one kid vs. none… A DIFFERENCE OF $769,676.91!!! That’s PER KID by the way, so if you were planning on having two, do the math accordingly. Children really fuck up retirement plans, eh? So much for your plans of travelling the world. That’s diaper money now! But wait, there’s more.

Planning for children tends to interfere with other life goals. Where a parent might decide to spend their entire working life financing a family home they can pass down to their children, other options like 99-year leaseholds might pass them by, leaving their lifetime workload high and life satisfaction low. Also, there’s “very little difference” between parents and non-parents when it comes to life satisfaction, so don’t act like having kids is a type of joy only parents can understand. I, for instance, love that I can fuck off to Mexico whenever I want, and maybe that’s a joy only the childless can understand. It’s apples and oranges. I choose Mexico.

But what about the planet? Just how damaging is creating a brand new human by mashing together our naughty bits? The average Canadian creates 15.7 tonnes of carbon emissions in just a year, and over the average Canadian lifespan of 81.24 years, that’s 1,275 tonnes of carbon emissions we’ve got to worry about PER PERSON. That’s like 3,000,000+ miles driven by an average passenger vehicle, ENOUGH TO DRIVE THE MOTHERFUCKING EQUATOR 120 TIMES. It’s also kinda like converting 8.7 beef-loving omnivores to full-blown vegans. On a tree planting level, if you still think you can somehow make your kid carbon-neutral, she’d have to plant 33,000+ trees just to break even, AND THEY’D HAVE TO STAND FOR AT LEAST 10 YEARS. I don’t know about you, but I’ve planted literally one goddamn tree. It’s dead now, just like any notion I might’ve had about having a kid. Making a child is fucking insane.

Now, if you took the stance of saving the world instead of destroying it, it can be as cheap as $0.10 to plant a tree. With the $253,946.97 you saved from NOT having a kid, you’re looking at planting about 2.5 million trees if you put it all into environmental forestry, enough to offset about 75 Canadian children. THAT’S NOT EVEN A LOT. Remember how I said world population is gonna grow by 2.6 BILLION BY 2060? If they were all as wasteful as Canadians, we’d need 85,800,000,000,000 trees to offset that – 85.8 TRILLION, OVER 25 TIMES THE NUMBER WE ALREADY HAVE ON EARTH.

WE. ARE. FUCKED.

Ask yourself just one thing before you decide to have a kid: “Why the fuck am I doing this?”

Seriously! Do it! You’ll often find the answer is something objectively silly like “all my friends are having kids”, “it was my mother’s dying wish” or “I think a child will finally make me happy”. (News flash: It won’t.)

With the knowledge I’ve just given you, you can’t afford to play biological poker with your junk anymore. Your happiness, your financial security, and the fate of the entire human race rests solely in your pants.

Give a fuck. Wrap it up.

Wanna poke holes in my math? Do it on our Facebook.

Thrifty Vegan vs. Spendy Omnivore

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This wasn’t even close. Obviously, I couldn’t have expected anything different seeing as how I was going up against our favourite artist “A”, but I didn’t realize how much work I needed to do until I saw her numbers. She can cover her three daily meals for the cost of my typical lunch! She doesn’t drink much either. Where I spent $1,340.83 this November on comestibles – $902.33 on food, $438.50 on alcohol – “A” averages $10/day if we don’t count eating out, and $12/day if we do. I guess this is normal spending? I have no idea because I have such a warped view of money. The rare occasions I make thousands in a day have largely destroyed any intelligent relationship I had with money. I need a fucking intervention.

“A” broke down her meals in way more detail than I expected. The following breakdowns are lifted directly from her email. Remember, she’s vegan, so she’s using things like almond milk instead of regular milk. Veggie burgers and beefless ground make appearances too. Here’s a typical breakfast:

Pancakes
     PancakeMix    $2.50/box  0.42
     Almond Milk 0.67
     Vegetable Oil  0.20
     Maple Syrup   $10?/1L 0.70
      Meal cost: $1.99

In case you’re wondering, I picked the most expensive of the three breakfasts she sent me. Cereal runs her $1.33/meal and oatmeal is $1.20/meal.

A typical lunch might be a veggie stirfry and rice:

Veggie StirFry and Rice
     Various veggies $0.75 (if you’re keen on saving money you can try to get the cheapest in-season ones and/or work in frozen veggies)
     Gardein Beefless Ground   $4.60bag/4   $1.15
     Garlic 0.20
     Olive or Vegetable Oil 0.10
     Soy Sauce 0.10
     Sriracha 0.10
     Rice   $20 for a big bag  (individual serving – 0.10??)
     Meal cost: $2.50

Dinner could be something like pasta:

Pasta
     Spaghetti   $10 / 4.2kg   49 suggested servings. probably 25 real servings     0.40
     Gardein Beefless Ground (1/3 pack) – $1.55
     Vegetable Oil  0.20
     Pasta Sauce 7.99 for 1.75Lx2   0.79
     Frozen veggies $10 for 2kg   0.75
     Garlic .10
     Meal cost: $3.79

Miscellaneous snack and drink costs bring the daily average from ~$8.28 to about $10/day. Also, as “A” wrote in her email to me:

I usually only eat out maybe twice a month, usually for a social event or date night so that tends to come out of my fun money budget not my grocery budget. A meal out might be $15-$30.

Factoring in everything above and even assuming she spends on the high end of her restaurant budget, “A” spends only $360/month on edibles. I’M FUCKING EMBARRASSED. I SPEND MORE THAN THAT PER MONTH ON ALCOHOL ALONE.

My food costs are insane too. Even my “most frugal” meals tend to be things like ham sandwiches from Subway for $7, or phở for $10. Then, there’s my cooking habit where I make ambitious meals once a week. Take a look at the shit I’ve been doing lately:

WEEK 6 – Roast rack of lamb persillade, garlic asparagus and buttered orzo
WEEK 7 – Ratatouille, lemon basil orzo and bok choy
WEEK 8 – Rotisserie-style roast chicken and quinoa tabbouleh
WEEK 9 – Cantonese lobster, dongpo pork, bok choy and rice
WEEK 10 – Lobster linguine and arugula salad

I BOUGHT THREE FUCKING LOBSTERS LAST MONTH. No wonder I’m in so much debt

In November, I spent $30.08/day on food alone. Including alcohol, that’s $44.69/day. I sincerely hope you’re nowhere near that. I’m definitely backsliding into full-blown idiocy.

In the end, as embarrassing as this exercise was, I’m glad I put in the work to add it all up. If I adopted all the same eating habits as “A” and ate for $32.69 less per day, I could save $980.70/month, or $11,768.40/year! Wanna see something truly scary? If I invested that every year from now until I turn 65 and got 7% annually like I usually do, I’D HAVE $2,018,998.71 IN MY BANK ACCOUNT. I’m literally fucking lightheaded right now. Less lobster, more millions. I’m eating myself out of a decent retirement.

The absolutely crazy thing is a lot of you reading this are eating for less per day than even “A”. $12/day is pretty luxurious, and here I am eating like a goddamn emperor. I can’t even justify what I’ve been doing lately. I’m floored right now because I hadn’t even added this up until I started researching this article.

I’m seriously fucking embarrassed, guys. Learn from my mistakes. Make me feel even worse by telling us YOUR food costs on Facebook.

You’re Closer To The 1% Than You Think

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You know it’s true. The vast majority of you reading this are fortunate as fuck. Before you all jump down my throat, I’m not directing this post at people living below the poverty line. I’m aware people are struggling in Canada and the US. This isn’t about them. I’m directing this at people making an average salary in Canada and still think of “The 1%” as some sort of financial demon keeping them from their goals. What if I told you, on a global scale, you ARE The 1%? Before you read any further, see how you stack up on GlobalRichList.com.

The average Canadian income is about $49,000/year. By salary, this puts the average Canadian in THE WORLD’S WEALTHIEST 0.65%! FYI, it only takes $42,000/year to be in the Top 1%. Why the fuck is everyone complaining? You might be envious of your neighbour pulling in $70,000/year, but don’t act like you’re a victim of a broken system. The truth is You Are Rich. You ARE the broken system. You don’t really want more money. You just want to be richer than your peers.

If we’re measuring Net Worth and not Annual Income, that gets trickier. It takes $770,000 USD to be in the Top 1%. Are we really angry at these people though? These people are just your home-owning neighbours who’ve worked hard to pay off their mortgage. This is Normal Wealth in North America!

When I first put forth the idea of writing this post, people got mad at me. “You’re ignoring people who live in Real Poverty,” they said. “Not everyone is as fortunate as you!” You know what? They’re right! I’m talking out of my ass. Richsplaining, if you will. Here’s what I’m going to do about that.

If YOU are in The 1% on a global scale – that’s everyone who makes over $42,000/year in Canada – go donate 0.1% of your Income to a charity of your choice. This should run you less than $100/year, and I recommend donating to a charity that supports the LEAST wealthy countries of the world. Africa’s not doing so great, for instance. Put some money there. Maybe you’d rather support a local cause that you and your friends can see some benefit from. Fund a community garden or donate actual money to a food bank instead of schlepping off your cans of 8-year-old Chef Boyardee. Just do SOMETHING. Whatever you demanded of “The 1%” before, YOU DO NOW. Us middle-income earners are juuuuust wealthy enough to make the world a better place at minimal loss to our own goals, and we’re juuuuust socially conscious and numerous enough to have some connection to the people we’re helping. Don’t call on “The 1%” to fix the world. They’re already doing that. If you want social change, it starts with YOU.

On a global scale, you’re incredibly wealthy. Start acting like it.

Tell us who you’re donating to in the comments.