I Don’t Want To Win Your Contest

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 12.54.46 AM

“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.

Advertisements

Moving is Always an Opportunity

17021933_10158425681430691_4502132897383741252_n

“K” was moving out. My roommate and I took him in for a month while he was looking for a new place, and he literally lived in our storage closet for all of February. He never had much furniture, but that was a good thing. It meant he was more mobile. When he found a new place though, certain amenities were lacking, like tables and a couch. Luckily, I knew tons of people looking to declutter and downsize. I always see people moving as an opportunity now. After reading this, you will too.

I embrace minimalism, and I think my constant nagging to my family is paying off. My mom’s finally clearing out my dad’s belongings – he died in 2014 – and my grandmother is moving to a smaller place after my grandfather’s death last year. Long story short, lots of stuff needed to go. Selling our furniture was definitely a possibility, but I stepped in and chose to help a friend instead of capitalizing on the situation. “K” eventually got a couch and a dining set from my grandmother, and a side table from my mom. This made my inner minimalist very happy. Not only was my family regaining their space, but “K” was keeping more money in his pocket and only took what he needed. Nothing was wasted, and no one blew too much on a junk removal company. It was win-win all around. Moving is an endless source of living space recalibration, even when it’s not -US- doing the moving. When a friend moves, maybe it’s time to look around our living space and throw our shit away based on what they need. Regular generosity is pretty kickass already, but generosity that streamlines our lives and improves our living space? Fucking amazing.

I often find I can get stuff from people when they move too. Maybe their old couch won’t fit, or they just got a bigger bedroom and are replacing their queen with a king. A more enterprising mind can make thousands off these transactions. To a family pressed for time, speedy junk removal is a luxury and people really don’t care where their stuff ends up. Take it. Old mattress in good shape? $150 on Craigslist. Old 32” TV? $100. Old home theatre speakers? $200. If you’re willing to put in the time when ANYONE moves, you can either cash in or streamline your living situation. You’ll always look like the good guy too, since you’re either helping get rid of stuff or giving it away. WHY DOES NO ONE DO THIS.

I personally choose NOT to make money on people’s moves though. It’s much more rewarding for me to send people off with great stuff for free. As my mom decluttered, I gave away a mattress last month. I’ve got a free table up for grabs now. Besides, remember you don’t own anything. If you’re not using it regularly, isn’t it just selfish and stupid to store it underutilized in your home? If more people listened, NO ONE WOULD NEED TO BUY FURNITURE AGAIN. Instead, people blow thousands on tables and chairs, then pay hundreds 10 years later for 1-800-GOT-JUNK to haul it all away. Don’t be like them.

Embrace a community where people share Stuff as needed. Give away your Stuff when you’re not using it. If someone is getting rid of Stuff, take it or sell it. It’s not hard, guys. When people move, take it as an opportunity to improve your life. Maybe that way, we’d all be a little happier and minimalism will become the norm. That’s the kind of world I want to live in. Heck, it might even save the environment.

(FYI, that table is still up for grabs. Ping me on Facebook.)

If You Have to Pay for It, You’re Doing It Wrong

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 11.50.35 PM

What’s fun for you? Is it travel? Maybe it’s fine food or wine. What about entertainment? Maybe you love going to concerts. Maybe you want to meet celebrities. Maybe you love playing with the latest gadgets, or driving nice cars. What would you do more of if you had unlimited resources? Got a mental picture? Good. Now, what if I told you you could have all that for free? It might seem like a pipe dream, but it’s entirely possible once you start doing just one thing: choosing your Career not based on pay, but your passions.

If you’re reading this blog, I’m gonna guess you make okay money and aren’t looking to be a wasteful spender for the long haul. Hopefully, that’ll translate to more money saved. Let’s say you sock away $5,000 in disposable income. You’ve already maxed out your RRSP and TFSA, and this is cash you can have some fun with. You’ve been busting ass at work and it’s time to let loose, so you book your trip to Santorini and stay for two weeks. Flight and accommodations eat up $2,500 and $1,000 goes into food at ritzy restaurants. You take a few day trips, ride a few donkeys, and rent an ATV to zip around the island. You find their brewery and drink the best IPA in Greece. You even hit all the clubs along the water. It’s great. Before you know it, you’re $5,000 poorer, but with once-in-a-lifetime memories. I think that’s a fair trade.

Well, I went to Santorini in 2012. It was free.

*****

I’ve been an arts nerd all my life, and never really gave a shit about money. Being a doctor or a lawyer never interested me. Those were office jobs, and I detested office jobs. I wanted to explore the world, go to concerts, and drink expensive wine. I would’ve taken “starving artist” over “fat guy in a red BMW” any day, and since I knew that early on, I started taking steps to build a life I could be proud of.

In 2008, shortly after I became a photographer, I got into shooting conferences. The jobs were small at first, but they were always out-of-town. I was 20 when I visited Victoria, BC and shot ICCA 2008 with my colleague, Jon. A year later, I was in San Francisco for WCLC 2009. I stayed in the Westin St. Francis on Union Square, a $350/night hotel. I even had a per diem for meals. Eventually, more travel opportunities came up. I got into weddings. I saw Toronto. I saw China. In 2012, I was in Santorini for a week to shoot my friend’s wedding. I saw it all, free.

Back home, I started a music blog. I would go to shows and write reviews. I’d give them the best damn concert photography they’d seen in Vancouver. Soon, I was given access to the artists. I met Bat For Lashes and Lykke Li. I interviewed Alexisonfire. I photographed R.E.M. and The Pretenders. I even made money selling my shots.

Meanwhile, I also got geeky about beer, wine and whisky. My side jobs in liquor stores gave me access again. Whisky festivals, brewery invites, wine courses; all paid for by someone else.

I’d done it. I turned everything that would’ve cost me money into something Free. Work was no longer a grind to get to the thing I wanted to do, it WAS the thing I wanted to do. All it took was reframing Work as something other than “work”. It was just another awesome part of my awesome life because I chose to have a non-shitty job!

You can do it too.

*****

Follow your passion.

You’ll probably be a little poorer if you take my advice, and I know that. I know most of you can’t just abandon your $75,000 annual salaries and become Hollywood screenwriters, but wearing a pair of golden handcuffs is still wearing handcuffs. Do you want to count down the days until your next vacation, or do you want to be on vacation all the time? Do you want to spend $5,000 for a fleeting moment of happiness, or do you want to make $5,000 every time you leave the country on some exotic job? Do you want to be the fat guy in the red BMW, or do you want to be the starving artist who got so good at his job, he eats like a king for free?

Money can buy experiences. How you live your life can render money irrelevant though, and the moment you don’t need to worry about money anymore is the moment you become truly Free. That’s what we all want, right? Give me a call when your life and experiences are FREE.

In the meantime, I’m gonna get packing. I’ve got another trip to San Francisco lined up.

It’s honestly too bad I’m paying for this one like a sucker.

Here’s $210 of Free Groceries!

IMG_1922

Yep, just free goddamn groceries. There’s a catch, of course. You need to collect Air Miles and shop at Safeway, and you need to hack the American Express Air Miles Platinum credit card first. More details below.

Before we get started, you should know Air Miles has never been a great rewards program. It’s free, I guess, but it’s still shit. Using Safeway as an example, you only get 1 reward mile for every $20 you spend. The only way people accumulate a meaningful miles total at all is by hunting for items that give you “bonus miles”, which I don’t recommend you do. To make matters worse, it takes 7,500 miles just to fly to Europe. Earning miles the usual way means you’d have to spend $150,000 just for that flight. Air Miles are dumb, and you should know that going in. Don’t even get me started on how miles are gonna start expiring soon. Seriously.

The Air Miles program’s only saving grace is you can now log in and change your miles type from Dream Miles to Cash Miles. Instead of earning towards a flight you’ll likely never take, you can now trade 95 Cash Miles for $10 off your Safeway grocery bill. This is where it gets juicy.

First off, you CANNOT turn existing Dream Miles into Cash Miles. This is super sneaky, especially when Dream Miles is the default setting. What you need to do is log into the Air Miles website, click on “Get Miles”, then click “Set your preference”. Slide the bar over until it reads “100% AIR MILES Cash”, then click “Set my preference”. It’ll take a day or two to switch your account over, but you’re done now. You’re now earning Cash Miles.

Still want that $210 in free groceries? You’ll need to sign up for that American Express. Here’s the link again. As you can see, there’s no annual fee for the first year and it’s $65/year after that. That’s okay, we won’t be paying. You’ll also notice you get 2,000 reward miles as long as you charge $500 to the card within the first three months of membership. See where I’m going with this? Sign up, link your Air Miles account to it after you’ve switched over to Cash Miles, collect your 2,000 Cash Miles which equals $210 of Safeway groceries, and cancel the card before you have to pay an annual fee. Easy peasy. (A word of caution: This may slightly impact your credit score.)

The crazy thing is there’s actually loads of free shit out there just like this. Here’s an even better article about credit card hacking from MMM. I juggle credit card rewards all the time and just saved up enough Avion points for a flight to Spain. Cost: $170 in annual fees.

Credit cards can be great if you know how to use them. As long as you keep up with your bills, you’re golden. And apparently, if you know how to hack them, they can be a nonstop fountain of free shit.

One final note: In researching for this article, this is only how I think this deal works. I spent an hour on the phone with them checking my facts, but there’s always the element of human error. Read the fine print before signing anything, and please don’t sue me if something goes wrong. Let us know how it goes in the comments.

Editor’s note: Ben did not receive any payment for recommending these products.