Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Final Times

Well finals is always a tough time to keep on your goals. Everything seems to get dwarfed by the need to work for school. Feel like spending a couple bucks to buy a burger for lunch? Sure. Why not? You need to get back to studying as fast as possible. No time to waste.

But it's not good. And I was very not good today. Lunch was a burger and a beer. Really not frugal, really unhealthy.

I can justify it because the exam I had this morning went badly. That makes it okay, right?

Spent most of the test feeling like a dog.
That dog, specifically.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Taking the Leap

Watched this really cool Tedx Talk last night when I should have been sleeping. You know, applying my time properly (not really).

There are a good number of videos like this one that say something really important about motivation and taking chances and all that. Trouble is I always have a hard time applying those ideas to the things that I'm interested in/motivated to do. I guess I need to get enough skills in the thing I'm passionate about before I can "take the leap" and try to jump into that career.

I should probably just get back to work. That takes motivation too. I think.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Motivation Monday

What have you done so far today? Have you started off your week properly?

I know I have. Was awake until around 1am helping the lady friend proofread an essay for school. Woke up around 8 and immediately got all of my procrastinating out of the way (essential evil). Started studying for a final I have on Friday. I've already put in a good 4 hours and I'm not stopping until I go to sleep.

If your too tired at the beginning of the day or at the beginning of the week then you're automatically losing 1/3 of your day, or 1/7 of your week. If you too tired in the morning AND on monday than you're losing 9/21 of your potentially productive awake time.

That's too much.

Get the lead out.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What to do...

Are Your Actions Meeting Your Goals?

Really this is what it all comes down to. Everything you do should support your goals in one way or another. That isn't to say that you should be going as hard as you can all the time, just that when you are capable, you are working on something that is important to you.

Sometimes it is necessary to take a break. Like sleeping. It is crazy to say that you should never take a break, but only take a break when it is necessary to recharge yourself so that you'll make more out of the time you spend on working. This is a personal thing that most people haven't spent anytime discovering. It takes time, trial and error and a lot of frustration.

For example, personally, I try to follow the Pomodoro technique (linky. For the most part I am successful, except that I have a lot of trouble taking the 5 minute breaks that it recommends. The result is that after working hard for 4 hour or so I get burned out. Part of this comes from how my "break time" has it's own to do list. Note to self: post my to-do list. I don't know if taking the 5 minute breaks would improve my ability to go longer, and I'm frankly scared to try because I don't like breaking my flow every half an hour.

I guess this post got a little off track.

Look at what you're doing right now. Is it meeting your goals for the day/week/year? Do you actually need a break right now? Get back at 'er and reward yourself after you've accomplished something.

YouTube Videos

So, recently I got an e-mail from Google asking if I wanted to start monetizing my YouTube videos. I used to put some videos up a while back. A vlog thing that was utter emo crap. (This was after high school and before I got my shit together).

Now, my account consists of one video that I put up for a school project.

Should I start making videos and putting them up? Nothing fancy, just videos of frugal recipes and things like that.

Would I even have time to do that? Am I just kidding myself? Hmm.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Making Better Decision

So school has this habit of making me really bad at being Frugal. The main place I see it is buying meals. If I'm stressed and on campus, I usually buy lunch because dammit I'm hungry and that class sucked. But class is over and my last really hard semester is nearly done. Nothing but finals left.

It's time to re-expand my goals. For the past 2 months it has been 1) School 2) Girlfriend 3) Sanity. Now I need to add 4) Health 5) Frugality 6) Skill Expansion 7) Income Expansion

6) is very important to me. As a soon to be graduating engineer I feel that some of my skills are woefully lacking. I need to fix this because I like being honest in interviews. If I can't claim to be good enough to be paid, I will be terrible at the interview.

Today, however, is old me. Priorities 1), 2) and 3) are being addressed. 3) might be cut though.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Additional

Man did I ever forget an important one.

21. Role playing
22. Putting yourself in the other person's shoes

Seriously, I'm trying to use these things everyday. I'm not successful everyday, but it's helping.

I'm also spending a lot of time being more social with my classmates. Apparently talking to the same three people everyday isn't the best strategy. Who knew?

In frugal cooking news, I am getting great mileage out of a roast chicken I was given. First day was chicken for chicken/alfredo pasta. Second day was white meat for a sandwich. Third day was sandwich using a wing and thigh. And today. Today was glorious. I'v made a massive batch of chicken soup. The rest of the chicken carcass, carrots, onions, celery and water.

There's a lot of it.

I hope it tastes good.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Little Victories

Well I probably could have got this without reading the book, but I got free caller ID for the next 6 months.

Woo.

Total Negotiation savings to date: $48.

Getting More

There was a Google talk I ran across a while back (link here) which I found intriguing, in fact I bought the book. And my God is it ever good. tl;dr Do you want to be better at negotiation? From day to day dealings, to utilities, to business deals, to dealing with people in your life? Read this book.

I highly recommend it. It has made my life better already (damn, it sounds like I'm being paid to plug this book). I can't say I've saved money yet, but it's coming. Part of the recommendation is preparation and I'm doing that right now to re-negotiate my phone bill.

So. The author recommends making a list (oh yeah website here). And that's what I'm going to do. As time goes on I'm going to modify the list and breakdown every point with examples of when I've used it/can foresee using it.

The List
  1. Know your goals
  2. Know the other party's goals
  3. Make emotional payments
  4. Expand the negotiation
  5. Trade items of unequal value
  6. Don't exercise power unnecessarily
  7. Be incremental
  8. Acknowledge their power
  9. Point out bad behaviour
  10. Be honest and genuine (unfakable)
  11. Find a common enemy
  12. Talk to the decision maker
  13. Find a common friend
  14. Form a relationship - cite an existing relationship
  15. Appeal to third parties
  16. Always prepare
  17. Keep notes
  18. Figure out what the picture in their head is
  19. Use Framing
  20. Use standards

This is not a complete list. This is just off the top of my head. I'm going to go through this later while skimming the book to round it out.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bulk Frugal Meals

First off, wow, it's been exactly a month since I posted last. I was doing so well at posting every single day while I was working but every since school started, goddam. This is bad.

Anyway, the job I applied for turned into two different jobs. I didn't get the first one but I am in the running still for the second. Will find out in February, and that's the best possible news really. If I had to start working right now there's no way I would be able to handle it. I can't even find 15 minutes to blog everyday, how am I going to work 20+ hours a week?

So today's frugal thang. Bulk meals. They sound so awesome on paper, but the actual implementation is usually pretty messed up. For example, 2 weeks or so ago I made a massive batch of chili. And I mean massive. Trouble was I used the wrong spice and it was way too hot (never add a lot of spice before tasting it). I just wanted chili flavor, not the inferno that I got.

But oh well, a little spice isn't going to make me waste $30 of food. I've been eating it for a while now, and I would say I'm easily below $1 a meal. The problem is that I'm a bit of an idiot. I didn't freeze any of it. So now I've been eating it for 2 weeks, my body is getting sick of it and it's making me feel like death every time I eat it. Has it gone bad? It smells fine and isn't fuzzy, but is that really enough?

Anyway, the moral of the story is: don't be an idiot. Don't add ingredients you've never used before willy-nilly. And freeze your food so none of it goes to waste.

For the record, I'm not planning on wasting any.

And Storage Wars is a very addicting TV show.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Things that have happened

I got the job interview. I mean THE job interview. At a company that has influenced my life more than anything else. I spent days preparing for it and it happened yesterday. I'm not going to say I nailed it, but I think I did quite well. The interview was conducted by 3 people and went for an hour, could easily have gone for longer.

I'm not going to say what I think my chances are or any other details right now. But I can say that it was the most important interview (in my eyes) that I've ever had. And I did what I could to be ready so I'm okay with what happens from here. I don't beat myself up for things that are out of my control. I like doing things to a degree that I feel is sufficient, if I still don't complete my goal then I need to re-evaluate what I consider to be sufficient or just consider it a tough break. I only beat myself up when I could have done more and wanted to do more.

Do the best you can with the information you have. Everything past that is luck.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I don't post much anymore

School is a bit too busy for me.

I'm going to try to keep up posting by doing a very short everyday about one thing I did to make my life better, with a frugal focus.

Today I didn't eat a homemade lunch because I was fairly sure it had turned and would try to kill me. Overall it isn't frugal cause I had to buy lunch, but food poisoning would take too much time.

Hopefully I'm not just being a little wuss.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Great way to save money

Be so busy that you don't have time to do anything except the bare minimum. Hang out with girlfriend? Do it while studying. Eat out? No time. Eat a burrito when you get home. No ingredients? Go to bed hungry and mad.

Good times!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cheap eatin' (with people)

Ate on the cheap today. Woke up super late (around lunch time), ate a bean burrito each. Then went to study all day. Brought a home made salad made from 3/4 a head of lettuce ($.75), 1/4 of a cucumber ($0.33), a tomato ($1.00), 1/6 of an onion ($.20), some cheese ($.50), a chicken breast ($2.00) and some dressing ($.40). Less than $2.50 per person and it was delicious. We didn't even eat all of it, even thought it was so good.

It's hard to write interesting things about being frugal well all you do is sleep, go to school, eat, study and poop.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Trying to do it all

Man, it is hard to keep up on school, health, frugality and an SO all at once. So far I've had to cut most extraneous things in my life. Like posting in this blog (what little momentum I had has surely dissipated). Not the end of the world though, mainly because I started using this more as a journal than a blog. What's the difference? No idea.

I can officially call myself "caught up" on 1 of my 7 courses. Believe it or not that's for better than normally expected for this stage of the semester. By the time this week is over I intend to be up to 4 or even 5 out of 7.

The question now is do I work or go to bed?

Mmmmm sleeeeeep. (that settles it).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Yeah, I'm a Bad Blogger

Yes I'm not posting much. This is mainly because I am shockingly busy and it's my own fault.

On the plus side I tried making refried beans and it was marginally successful! Since I got the beans for free through some good fortune I think I saved myself a couple of bucks

Hey, if I'm not going to save a couple bucks, how am I going to save a couple hundred?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Price Checking

When is Costco worth it?

Given that it costs $50 a year (just less than 14 cents a day), intuitively, it is worth it. I mean, I can buy beef for $1.50 cheaper than my local grocery store (beat that!), and bread is such a good price! And oh my, look at that gourmet chicken salad, that's cheap too!

The trouble is that Costco makes you want to buy so much crap that you actually shouldn't be buying. It's a hassle to get there (especially without a car) and when you do, you feel almost obligated to spend your money cause your there. But the price differences on the things I'm actually going to buy just aren't worth it. Diced tomatoes? The difference is 33 cents per can. I would need to buy 150 cans to make it worth it. And that's assuming I don't succumb to secondary, unnecessary spending.

Watch out for these traps. They make money on people who buy the membership and don't use it and the people who buy stuff they don't need. If I buy what I need, the membership isn't worth it, so I'm out.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Best news possible

Do you know what the best possible news is when starting a semester with 7 courses? Not a single one of the classes has a textbook. Every single class so far either provides all the notes up front or offhandedly mentioned a reference book which (according to one teacher) "I've never actually opened". Instead of the normal options of buy at bookstore (up to $800) or buy/download online (hours of work + $100) I have the best option possible - just go to class and get the notes.

'tis a good day.

For the sake of getting my courses straight in my head, I'm going to summarize them here. This is mainly for my own use, feel free to ignore.

MATH 400 - hardest undergrad applied math course at UBC, I've had the teacher before and he is quite excellent. All notes are provided. This class is going to take some work.
ENPH 479 - project course, 4 credits. My project partner and I have worked together before, and work together well. We're both determined not to repeat mistakes from the past. This is going to take a lot of work to do right (we already have our project which is good).
PHYS 404 - medical physics. Looks like it's mainly learning about different types of medical physics technology (MRI, XRay, Nuclear Medicine). More understanding than math. Time commitment should be rather low - pre-reading, class attendance, quick review should be more than enough. Concepts should be really easy to understand.
EECE 453 - don't know what to think yet. There's only been one class so far and it didn't seem to arduous. Could ramp up but seems more conceptual than mathy. This could be a good or bad thing.
PHYS 410 - computational physics. All programming will be done in C++, but spent the last semester writing C++ code. With some luck, this course will compliment the project very well. Just need to stay on top of it and do the HW (worth 80%).
EECE 356 - I did not like the pre-req to this course and I'm going to have to re-learn a lot. Shouldn't be too hard, but requires a decent time commitment or I'll get behind fast.
APSC 450 - Engineering ethics. Rumor has it this class is easy. First lecture in 45 minutes. We'll see.

Between the SO, Sailing Club, frugality and health, I don't know if I have the time to work part-time for the month of September, I may have to reduce my commitment early.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Small goals towards Big Goals

Keeping in line with my own advice, I decided to bring my goals down to reality recently. No more of the "I'm going to be a small God by changing everything about me in the next 5 minutes!". No. That is counter-productive.

I have 2 big goals right now. 1. Lose some weight. I want to lose 30 lbs and get below 185. The only way I'll be okay with failing that is if I put on enough muscle to be above 185. 2. Get more frugally amazing.

Today I completed two small goals that work towards those big goals. I did not spend a single cent today and my food consumption was well below average. Now I feel great and it's giving me the energy to complete another, more secondary goals.

Huzzah. And all that.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cost Tracking

The spreadsheet that I mentioned previously is proving extremely helpful. So far I can tell you that I'm on track to spend 20k this year. This is about twice my spending goal. This means I need to put more effort into cutting spending, obviously.

My biggest problem right now is getting my social life in line with my spending goals. If a friend calls me up and wants to go for a beer, I can't think of a non-cheap ass way of saying "It's too expensive for me". I caved yesterday and ended up spending 50 bucks over the course of the night. And I got a bad sleep. And annoyed my SO. And had a hangover.

It just isn't worth it, but I can't seem to learn the lesson well enough.

Anyone know a way of not drinking when almost everyone you know drinks?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Getting Geared Up

Alright, I've got most things in place to jump into this semester. The current plan is not very exciting at all. I'm going to wake up and cook breakfast and lunch - egg white omelets + bean burritos. Then go to school, do my best to not eat at any of the cafeterias or stuff. Once I get incurably hungry, I'll bus home and heat up chili that is going to be made in massive massive batches.

The only thing not quite ready is the chili. I'm going to do a full cost analysis on buying the ingredients from Costco or from No Frills near my place. By the end of the month I all but guarantee that I'll have found the cheapest way to support this diet.

On another front I'm working on a website that will hopefully bring in a little income during the semester. It would be pretty sweet if I could come out of the month of September even on cash between this website and working part time.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

School be starting soon

And there's too much to do, so I'm going to keep this short.

I found the best place near my house to buy cheap dry beans. A greek supermarket - some beans are as low as $2.60 per kg.

That is all.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Two Days off from work

So what's the best way to spend two days off from work. Clearly the best first step is to sleep in until 11:30 am (I knocked that one out of the park).

Now I need to use this time to actually get things done, there's a decent list of things that I've been procrastinating for the past couple months. Guess I should spend today finally getting all these things done.

The main list:
  • Fix bike
  • Finish Sailing Club Stuff
  • Get through all starred e-mails
  • Re-do resume
  • Get some appointments made

Plus I have friends coming over in 5 hours.

Don't think I'm going to get it all done. (Not with that attitude). Shut up voice in my head, you don't even have hands.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How successful was yesterday?

Well it's a matter of perspective. I'm going to say I failed because I bought coffee because my brain started feeling super fuzzy while I was at work. But that's just an excuse - my self control was beaten by my urge to buy and drink coffee. I guess that month and half made it easy not to drink coffee because I had made the decision to not do it. After I no longer had that, my self control wasn't nearly what it was before.

And then I spent $140 paying off bills. Since I was dealing with all the papers built up on my desk, it would have been silly to procrastinate paying my bills. All that would have done is possibly make me procrastinate more.

So overall with the zero dollar goal, I failed by one coffee.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Spending Zero Dollars

Always a good goal when you're trying to be frugal. In some respects it's an exercise in futility because you are always consuming your resources in some manner. For example my rent costs me $17 a day, my clothes are slowly degrading and the food I made cost something to buy. But still, not buying anything NEW is a solid goal to have.

Part of the reason for wanting to do this is a spreadsheet (using Google Docs) that I've started using. I got the idea from here and I gotta say I'm liking it.

Right now my predicted annual expenses is way way higher than I would like. This is partly due to a big weekend a week or two ago and a lack of discipline. I'm trying to get the number down to where I want it, and to do that I need a lot more 0 dollar days.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Nuts

So you`ve slept in and you need to leave for work pretty much instantly. No time to make lunch and you know you`re going to get hungry. You`re hooped right? You pretty much need to spend at least 5 bucks for lunch.

Wrong! Thanks to making some granola over 2 months ago, I have a backup pseudo-lunch. It won't be the most delicious lunch, but it will get me by.

School is starting up again soon (my last year). Need to get back in the habit of powering through hunger and getting my stuff done anyway.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Additional Savings

There are always more places to save money. Doing so is pretty much guaranteed to take more work so you have to pick your battles. If it's a re-occurring expense chances are good that it will be worth it to save the money.

For me, the most obvious re-occurring expense is the annoying need to eat. Reducing this expense has a couple of levels to it. Level 1 is to stop eating out and cook at home. Level 2 is to start buying cheap groceries. Level 3 is to change the recipes so that you are buying the highest value groceries (like beans and other goodies).

For a while I was pretty solidly in Level 2, but some change of circumstances and lack of planing put me up to Level 1 again. Now, with the schopl year starting again I want to get all the way to Level 3. To do thins I'm going to start planning out my whole week of meals. I will keep some stuff on hand in the freezer to make a reasonably cheap/healthy/delicious meal if the SO is over, but for the most part I want my fridge stocked with a very utilitarian set menu.

So. What's this menu going to be?

Breakfast - Eggs of some form, Bread (whole grains), In season veggy, A hint of cheese. Depending on which veggies are in season I will either have an omelet or eat the eggs hard-boiled/sunny side up.

Lunch - Bean wraps. Side veggy/fruit.

Dinner - Chili on brown rice with some cheese.

Snacks - if any, all veg/fruit.

Drinks - water or black coffee brewed at home. Starbucks may have enough caffeine to give me a cardiac arrest, but I won't give in to their high cost coffee demands.

I will post exacting recipes in the coming days, including estimate cost breakdowns.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shaving off some expenses

You know what is surprisingly expense? Razor blades. Now I could go with the "just don't do it route", but that really re-enforces some stereotypes about engineers that I'm trying to move away from.

Another big factor in this is that my girlfriend got me a straight razor for our 1 year. I am so excited to use it. I've got the soap, a brush, some aftershave and some fresh blades. From what I've been reading it makes shaving much more enjoyable and gives you a much higher quality shave.

And it's cheaper overall apparently. Win-win.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coffee

How much do you like coffee? I like coffee a lot. I thought for a while that I liked the idea of frugality more than coffee, but I'm not so sure anymore.

Basically I broke my 1.5 month caffeine ban this week, and I bought the coffee at Starbucks. It's mildly forgivable to buy coffee beans and brew at home, but coffee shop coffee is a horrible thing to spend money on.

Now I feel bad.

I guess the best I can do is be better tomorrow. It's a little hard - I live in Vancouver and walk past 4 coffee shops every other minute. And they all call to me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Finally made lunch again

It's been a hectic couple weeks. But I'm finally partially back on my frugal track - I made lunch for work today. Normally I make it the night before because I am horrid at waking up in the mornings, but I was so tired last night I went to sleep with my sheets still in the dryer. On another note I definitely need to replace my pillow soon.

Basically I realized as I left my place this morning that I'd rather spend 20 minutes and make lunch (+ breakfast) than be hungry for 4 hours, waste 10 bucks and feel like I ate something super unhealthy.

Granted, an egg, cheese, bacon, tomato and mayo sandwich isn't healthy, but it beats a Quizno's sandwich (with chips).

The mouse has not been caught yet.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mice

This is the second mouse that I've had in my place. The first one I saw only once, and then it met a swift demist by mouse trap. I'm not vegetarian so I didn't have much of a problem with it biting the dust.

Now there's a second one. I couldn't get to sleep last night listening to it run around in circles. So I laid a trap - a very stiff trap - that refused to go off even when I could hear the little guy eating the peanut butter off of it.

Anyway. I've got another one set tonight and I fully intend on buying more if I am not awoken by a loud *SNAP*.

I'm not a bad person, I just don't like the idea of vermin pooping on me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Frugal Birth Control

You know what? Condoms are pretty expensive. So are quite a few different brands of the pill ($50 a month). Pulling out isn't really an option. Pretty much everything else is less than 90% effective (hell condoms are pretty bad if you look at the stats). Abortions are really expensive (and only slightly traumatizing).

So what's the solution?

No, not an empty doritos bag and an elastic band.

IUD/IUS. You get it inserted and it lasts 5 or 10 years (Mirena vs. Copper). The initial procedure is quite painful (or so I've heard), but after than you're pretty much peachy for at least 5 years. And the cost is (depending on insurance and country) $50. For 5 years.

It just makes sense. (And it has fewer risks than Yaz).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Budget Holes

A great way to blow a massive hole in your budget and not care about it all? Have a 1 year anniversary (of going out, not marriage). It's coming up this weekend and although we've set a decent price cap on how much we're spending on each other in terms of gifts, there's still weekend activities and dinner. I'm expecting the whole thing to be well over $200.

But I don't mind at all. I kinda love her.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Repairing a Bike

Last weekend my bike met an untimely injury when the left crank fell off mid-ride. Ruined a perfectly good date (altough I am told that it did not ruin it at all). As long as there are no hard feelings and good memories, it didn't ruin anything, right?

Now I need to figure out how to fix the damn thing. There are a couple of options for this, I could pay someone to fix it, I could try and figure it out myself, or I could go to a bike kitchen place where they have all the necessary tools, expertise and I just have to pay a very reasonable fee to use their equipment.

Might be a while before I find the time to go though, it's definitely going to be a hectic week ahead.

Eventually!
Man, that was a great week biking to work though.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ethics and Frugality

Since being frugal can be quite restrictive in what you buy and how you spend your cash, you will inevitably start looking for deals and ways to save money. This is a good thing. But there's also the point you can reach where you start considering slightly unethical things boost your income or reduce your expenses.

For example, I've read up on various things like bitcoin where you can make money by just leaving your computer on idle. For most people/computers, it costs more to run the computer for that amount of time than they would get from the bit mining or whatever it's called. But I split my utility bill with my roommate - does that make it unethical to do this and split the cost with him while he recieves none of the benefit? In my eyes, yes this is unethical, so I don't do it.

What about taking more ketchup at a fast food place than you are going to use right away?

What about picking fruit from the yard of a foreclosed home?

Where is your line?

Personally, my ehtical bar is pretty high. I try not to download music or movies (but I don't delete the ones I downloaded previously). That's about as much as I can stomach ethics-wise.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Collecting Cans

As a previously borderline alcoholic (aka student), I used to have a lot of empties. For the longest time I would just put them in the alley behind my place because they would quickly and efficiently be picked up by passing hobos. It occured to me that I lost a reasonable chunk of money by doing this.

Since mid-May I have been collecting cans. Most of them came in a burst during the end of the NHL playoffs (the vast majority of them were not mine - I don't drink very much anymore). For the record, yes I did clean all of the cans.

I took them in to the bottle return depot a couple weeks ago and came home with $20. Not bad at all. Much better than a kick in the teeth, I know that.

As long as I don't think too hard about all the money I wasted by putting the cans out back, I think I'll be okay.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Potatoes

So I bought 10lbs of potatoes about a month ago to use in "frugal cooking". Trouble is I hadn't given any thought whatsoever to what cooking I wanted to do with the potatoes. I finally used most of them this weekend by making a massive portion of Shepard's Pie (SO's suggestion).

It's not the world's most frugal recipe, but depending on how many meals I get out of it, it could work out to less than $2 per meal. Per meal is much better than per serving for the record. Per serving means that you need to add stuff to it, like peas or carrots or bread.

Anyway. Not much happening frugally or anything this weekend, just trying to relax before life kicks into high gear again. Next week I'm going to break down my budget and where there's still room for improvement.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The little victories

The little victories keep you going.

Today is payday and half of it went directly to paying off the rest of my credit card. So much interest over the past 8 months, cash advance interest and balance protector uselessness. A waste.

Note to self. Get rid of that balance protector.

On the plus side, I PAID OFF MY CREDIT CARD.

Now, if I can get through the rest of my degree on my student loans...it's all gonna be okay. I don't have my fingers crossed because this has nothing to do with luck. It's self discipline and planning, 100%.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I need an End Goal

I've been struggling with the whole frugal thing lately and I think I know why. I don't have a really well defined goal that I can concretely say that frugal living is a necessary part of. Some people have early retirement, others want to start businesses and others just want as much money as possible so that they can finally buy that island in the Bahamas.

And when I find a goal, should I restrict to a goal that requires being frugal? I like being frugal. I want a goal that inclues frugal because the journey is more important than the destination. But I'm not going to do very well taking that journey if I don't have any idea where I'm even going.

I guess my goal has always been to start my own biotech company, or at least get on the ground floor of a startup, so that my broad skills can be applied in a useful manner. The problem with that goal is that frugality seems like a secondary thing on the path, with developing my professional skills being a much higher priority.

All this might change considering I finally finished reading the ERE blog in it's entirety. It only took 2 months. With that time sink dealt with maybe I can balance my time 60/40 on skill development and frugality. There's no rule that says I can only work on one thing at a time, heck I could probably work on 5 things if I kept myself organize.

Good talk. Glad we could sort this one out.

tl;dr: Goal: Start own biotech company or get involved on the ground floor of one. Steps that must be taken: develop my skills (calling them EE skills is too narrow really), build a massive nest egg, learn negotiation and how to be liked, learn economics.

I can live with that.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Step to Learning New Skills

As mentioned in a previous post, I had put a good deal of thought into how to improve your skills.
  1. Learn proper technique
  2. Learn to self evaluate
  3. Maintain a learning mentality
  4. Judge yourself against the ideal
  5. Constantly look at feedback
  6. Engage all actions scientifically
It would be easy to write a whole essay on each of those points (not by me mind you, but by someone who is good at writing essays).

Learn Proper Technique. Easier said than done. It is a very common trap to try and learn everything you can about a subject before engaging. It just makes sense because the last thing that anyone wants is to learn how to do something new and realize you learned all the basics wrong. But, we live in the internet age where all the information you could ever want is at your fingertips, literally. You could read forever about damn near every topic. First you'll find the popular experts and read everything they say, then you'll find their "unofficial" work, then you'll find people who disagree, until your reading the comment thread on a blog post from 2005.

It feels like the right thing to do, but it's not. You have to set your goals in a manageable way, make reasonable expectations and occasionally take a leap of faith. For example, the goal to "get fit" is not manageable in and of itself, it's just to large and there are nearly infinite ways to achieve that goal. You could run, lift, hike, walk, swim, row, dance, work, climb, dig... the list does not end. But, a manageable method would be to say that "I am going to take a leap of faith that running is the best way for me to get fit, I want to be able to run 5 miles continuously in the next month (reasonable expectations), and run at least once every 2 days (manageable way)."

Remember, it doesn't matter how much you read on a topic, you will only become and expert by DOING IT.

Learn to self-evaluate. This is absolutely critical. It is easy to do if you're doing it right, but it is very easy to go off track (isn't that the way with everything?) The idea is you have to learn WHAT to look for when doing something. In the example of running, yes, distance and time or good metrics, but you have to pay attention to your technique. Does it sound like you're stomping with every footfall? That's not good. Self-evaluate that. Look at how it is supposed to be done and model yourself after that. Video yourself. Watch yourself. Observe yourself as objectively as possible. If you can't find something wrong, ask someone who knows more about it than you and get their opinion. You need to are you're going to become very good at doing something very wrong.

Maintain a learning mentality. Never get complacent. Never think that you're as good as you're going to get because that's never true. Always keep yourself on your toes, looking at what could be done better. If you're running a mile in 6 minutes like a boss, don't get comfy (mentally). Look at how people run the same in 4 minutes. Keep it fresh, take every piece of information in like it's new to you.

Once you hit that plateau of complacency you are going to stop improving. If you aren't getting better at your skill what is the point? That's right, there is none. You're just some guy running in circles.

It is very important at this stage to maintain an eye on your goal and how you plan on achieving it. If you're trying to get fit you may want to look at different thing than if you're training to win a 400m dash. It's all up to you and the research that you did earlier.

Judge yourself against the ideal. Look at someone or everyone out there who is better than you at the skill you're trying to improve. Get in their head, figure out how they did what they did and why they did it. This a way of keeping yourself learning. Granted you might be kicking ass on your level, but if you put your head in the level above or far above your own, you will be able to move up to those levels much much faster. Learn from the greats like they are your personal tutors. Study them like a textbook because they were great for a reason.

Constantly look at feedback. Never stop observing yourself. Even if it feels right doesn't mean that it is right. Look at what has been done before you and how you are doing things now. If there is no reason that your way is better, chances are that you've fallen into a bad habit along the way. Keep an idea of what is being accomplished. Don't come home and say "I ran and now I'm tired, good enough." You have to come home and know that you ran 3.5 miles in half an hour and that's 5 minutes slower than two days ago and you should not continue doing things slower.

Engage all actions scientifically. Employ the scientific method. Change 1 variable at a time. Keep meticulous notes of what you're doing. Most importantly, keep track of why you're doing things. I have had my ass bitten so many times by logbooks saying things like "Started the new procedure" with no indication of why the old one was bad, why the new one was better or what the expected benefit outcome will be. If you don't look at this like an experiment where you are your own Guinea Pig, you are going to waste your time.

This post turned out a lot longer than I expected. But I hope someone finds it helpful. Every skill can be improved. Except possibly walking. I got that one down.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Student Loans

The most common advice on the path to frugal livin' is to avoid spending money you don't have. Saving = Money in - money out. Some people make exceptions for education and some don't. Since I discovered this whole frugal thing on my way into my 5th year of my undergrad, I think I'm going to finish what I started.

Right now I'm applying for more student loans, if I get them my total student loan debt will be around $20k give or take. Since by the time this summer is over I plan on having my credit card paid off (took more work than I expected honestly), my student loans will be my highest priority post graduation.

I've already started courting companies that I'm interested in working for and ideally the money will be enough for me to pay off my student loans within 2 years.

In a perfect world I won't spend the entirety of my student loans and can pay them off with themselves. That would be the dream.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Do Things Better

Surfing reddit last night I ran across this video: Here. It's a really interesting talk and I feel that he brings up a lot of very important and useful points.

I actually wrote down what I was thinking as I went to bed on a whiteboard I keep next to me, but since I'm at work right now, I can't for the life of me remember what I wrote in what order. So that will have to be a follow up post to this one.

A key factor in what he said, (or at least what I think he said - maybe he just got me thinking about this) was the idea of constantly self evaulating. You cannot improve unless you're looking for faults and trying to actively eliminate them. This relates quite well to this blog post about not doing stupid shit.

A big factor in all this is KNOWING what the right thing to do is. Therefore it's quite important to take the time to research the field as you progress through it. For example with biking, I know the absolute basics - go forwards. Once I am able to do that without breaking my front teeth, it's time to look into proper technique, posture and all of that. Then everytime I ride I can observe those subtleties and concentrate on fixing any mistakes.

In an unrelated note, my bike's left crank fell off over the weekend. Need to get that fixed quick!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

EE Related Things To Do

Electrical Engineering is a big ass field. It makes it kind of hard to specialize your knowledge or to even significantly improve your overall knowledge at all. For example, right now I'm reading up on Objective C programming for a project I've entered into with a friend. Is it going to help my EE skills? I don't know. I mean programming is usually a pretty big part of EE, but is this going to help. Probably won't be of much use, but I hope I'm wrong.

Other things that are on the to-do list that may improve my relevant skills.
I'm planning on rigging up a light alarm clock that will shine shit in my eyes rather than make noise.
Estimated time to complete: 8 hours.
Also planning on changing an old microscope I have to use an electric light rather than a mirror (which is horribly inefficient).
Estimated time to complete: 30 hours.
Also, I'm planning on using an Arduino to make a simple VU meter that will be just used as a cool piece of decor.
Estimated time to complete: 100 hours (done right).

There is so much to do. How could anyone get bored?

P.S. Doing these things frugally probably won't be that hard.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Grocery Trip Follow-Up

Earlier this week I planned on going to the grocery store and only spending $14. By the end of that day I had spent $19.93.

Here's how:
  • Canned Kidney Beans: $1.19
  • Canned Black Beans: $1.19
  • Crispy Minis - Sour Cream and Onion flavor: $1.25
  • Refried Beans: $1.98
  • Eggs: $2.39
  • Salsa: $2.39
  • Chips - Dill flavour: $1.99
  • Cheese Buns: $4.99
  • 1 Tomato: $0.65
  • 1 Red Pepper: $1.52

Right away there are several places to cut down already.
All the bean products can be bought as dry and then cooked. Easily a 2x reduction in price (although in the comments Kevin has said it can be as much as 5x, I hope so!)
Crispy minis and other chips, probably should be able to cut at least one. Although it is bad form to show up at the beach with no goodies.
Eggs - could be bought in bulk at Costco I believe, also eggs take ages to go bad - which is really good for me.
Salsa - would it be cheaper to make from scratch from ingredients? I don't know. I can tell you it would be cheaper if I grew tomatoes, jalapenos, onions and cilantro in a garden.
The buns are the big one. For less than half that price I could buy day olds from other grocery stores. Made a mistake on that one.
And last but not least, sweet peppers are expensive! Only buy when on sale.

All in all, not that bad. The most valuable part of it was looking back and seeing where I could have squeezed out some more savings. Five bucks doesn't seem like much, but when it's 0.5% of my paycheck, you have to take it seriously.

I would highly recommend looking at your bills at the end of the day and really thinking about why you spent that money. Next time you're out, you will think of those reasons and probably (hopefully, possibly!) resist temptation.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Constructive vs Glass Ceiling Thinking

There are multiple ways of looking at your goals and the limits you set yourself. From my experience, there are basically two ways of thinking about it.

First, everything you do adds to your goal. Think of your goal as a container that needs to be filled. Everytime you do something towards your goal, you fill the container a little more. Presumably your goal is to have the container filled by a certain date (within a month or so). This is a constructive way of looking at your goals. Everything you do adds to the pile and brings you closer to the goal.

The second method is a bit more...depressing. Say you have a goal: to have a pile of a specific size by the end of the month. You can see the pile, but you can't get it until your timeframe is up. But everytime you don't work towards your goal, some of the pile gets removed. You're never working towards something, you are always working to prevent it from getting smaller. I call this the glass ceiling approach. Everytime you don't do what your goals say you should, your total available output goes down.

This is how I think about school. If I get 90% on a quiz worth 10% I don't say "Wow, I'm now getting 90% in this course." I think that my max mark just went from 100% to 99%.

This way of looking at things has pros and cons. Pros - you aren't looking at small additions, your focused on the big picture result. Cons - it can be extremely demoralizing and cause burnout quite quickly.

Granted, things are little less defined when you're talking about fitness. Just because I didn't bike to work today doesn't mean I can't work harder and make up for it. On the other hand if I did bike to work AND worked harder this weekend I would be better off.

Did you hear that? My fitness glass ceiling just dropped another inch.

Which way do you think about things? Which way do you think is healthier?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Goals without Plans

Goals without plans are great way to make yourself miserable (especially if you take the goals too seriously). For example, I had the goal to spend less that $20 this week. I didn't think about how it was going to be accomplished at all. Did I have enough food for 7 days? Would I be doing any activites? Would I need to buy anything to fix my bike? I didn't think any of it through.

Because of that I quicky went over my $20 goal, buying groceries to last most of the week. And it's nobody's fault but mine.

Other goals that are going to fail without a plan "wake up at 6am", "finish all treasurer duties", "get 8 hours of sleep". All of those things need a proper plan.

I'm not talking about planning your day down to the last 15 minutes, but at least have a ballpark so that you know what went wrong and you can work on it later.

I've been guilty of this on my budgeting front. The goal for the past 2 months has been to spend $200 on food or less in a month. Until yesterday I hadn't given any thought to what that translates to in terms of cost per meal and cost per day. I was mad at myself for not hitting my goals, but there was no chance to because there was no plan.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bean Burrito Success

The bean burrito recipe I linked to yesterday? This one. Great success. I whipped it together in 20 minutes, ate two of them and then one of my friends came over and I made him 2 too. Thumbs up across the board. Given the cost of ingredients works out to $5.50 (I'll go into greater depth with this number tomorrow) and I'm going to get at least 4 good meals out of it. It's a pretty frugal meal.

One thing that has occurred to me, however. Is that my goal is to get my monthly food bill down to $50. How am I going to do this if 1 "Frugal" meal costs $1.50 (give or take), I eat 3 meals a day, 30 days a week. That works out to $135. If I am very very good.

I guess I can cut the price of beans (the beans I used were in a can) by buying dry. I could use less cheese...but really the price of theses burritos is not going to drop very much.

The only solution I can think of is to actually eat less. Also, that 3 meals a day estimation might be a bit off, breakfast could be a couple of eggs and a touch of veggy. That doesn't cost more than $0.50. So if I can change things so that my breakfasts cost $0.50, lunches $1.00 and dinners $1.50 my projected food cost will be : $90.

That's a pretty good goal, right? It's under half of my current food budget. Now...onto actually making it happen.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Planning ahead - to save money

This morning kinda sucked due to the lack of breafast-able food in my place. Of course, this was due to some lack of planning on my part. Since the next couple days might end up being a bit hectic in terms of foods and all that, I decided to take my lunch break at work today to figure out my meals for the next little bit.

Tuesday - Dinner: This little experiment, if I follow the recipe there will definitely be leftovers.
Wednesday - Breakfast: Eggs + Sausage + Hot Sauce + Wrap = mmmm
Wednesday - Lunch: Same as dinner tuesday
Wednesday - Dinner: Since there is a fireworks show happening nearby that me and the SO are planning on going to I have 2 options (well not really). Option 1 is to buy street vendor food, $5 for a smokie, and deals like that. Option 2 is to bring dinner and make sure it's healthy and delicious. Currently I'm leaning towards option 2 and this recipe.
Thursday - Breakfast: Probably an omlette - I'll have to buy some peppers to make this less pointless
Thursday - Lunch: More of the bean burrito recipe if it's still kicking? Possibly will have to make more. Alternative - finishing the lentil soup I made.
Thursday - Dinner: Will be before ultimate, so it'll have to be hearty. Possibly tuna burgers again, or bean burrito, or lentil soup.
Friday - Breakfast: More omlette.
Friday - Lunch: Whatever is left over.
Friday - Dinner: Cook something new

As it stands - my shopping list looks like this:
  • Eggs - $2.50
  • Red Pepper - $1.00
  • Black Beans - $1.50
  • Kidney Beans - $1.50
  • Celery - $1.50
  • Hamburger Buns - $4.00
  • Snackable - $2.00
  • Total: $14.00
If I didn't plan ahead, chances are I'd end up buying dinner Wednesday and Thursday night (for 2 people on Wednesday night). This would cost significantly more than $14, I guarantee.

So. Plan ahead.

Keep it tidy, keep it manageable

A couple weeks ago I posted a tip about checking your fridge every single day to ensure that nothing goes bad. Well, I paid the price for not following my own advice. A week ago I bought some broccoli, planning to cook it for dinner at some point. Mistake #1 - I did not have a meal planned to eat the broccoli with, I was just like "mmm that's gonna taste good" and didn't think about it any more. Note: Yes I like broccoli, always have and hopefully always will.

So I took it home, but it in my produce drawer and forgot about it. Then, I went away for a couple days. Mistake #2 - not eating it in the meantime. Mistake #3 - not checking it before I left. By the time I got back, it had partially turned into a brown sludge. Not delicious anymore.

Long story short, I wasted about $2. Not the end of the world, but it's still something I'd really like to try and avoid. Step in the wrong direction and all that.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A New Month - A great place to start

Every month is a great opportunity to re-evaluate what you're doing and tweak it a little to make it easier/better. Or simply reaffirm your commitment to a goal. This month I am reaffirming my commitment to the $1000 dollar budget.

For clarification, every cent I spend gets counted against this budget. This does mean that I could delay payment of certain things and make this month look better and make next month look much worse. I will avoid doing this because it is scummy and pointless. It would make me feel all dirty like a member of a hypothetical board of directors. Make this quarter look good and to hell with the future is not how I want to operate.

Anyway. There are only two things that won't be counted towards the $1000 budget. 1) Paying off my credit card (I just put $800 towards it this morning and that would make this next month very difficult if I counted it) and my 1 year anniversary. There will still be frugal considerations for the anniversary, but sometimes sacrifices need to be made.

Additionally, all revenue will not increase my monthly budget (doing odd jobs and making $20 will not make me feel entitled to spend $1020 this month). With some luck I will avoid the mentality that if on August 31 I have only spent $925.21, I am not privileged to spend the rest of the budget on pizza.

There are many more goals for this month, but this is the biggest one. I will concentrate and plan ahead, and make this goal attainable.

Treating Goals with Respect

Goals aren't just something you say and then move on. I mean for most people they are, but if you actually want to do things right, you have to treat your goals with enough respect to make sure that they will actually get completed one day. Additionally, it's not enough to just do the action, you have to be able to do it in a sustainable manner.

For example, on Thursday I biked for 35km. But I didn't allot enough time for my body to recover, that night I only slept for 6 hours and I didn't pay enough attention to nutrition. The direct result is that even though I didn't really have any muscle soreness, I was very weak and felt like ass. I know that if I'd had enough sleep and eaten better, I wouldn't have such a hard crash from the bike ride.

This applies to most of the goals I have in my life. Be Frugal? Won't have as much money or time for everything else. Be healthy? Will have to exercise self-control with self and SO. Spend time learning a new programming language? Brain fried.

The process of finding a balance is really hard, and I definitely have not mastered it yet. As it stands, I'm adding things to my to-do list faster than I can keep up or cross them off. Not good!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Frugal Recipe

Super easy to do after a trip to Costco:

2 Chicken breasts
2 Cups of Frozen Veg
1 White Onion
1 Cup brown rice (uncooked)

Cook everything, mix it all together. Eat in a wrap.

If you bought all the ingredients cheap (like chicken from Costco), then you've got a really healthy/filling/frugal meal.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Which Direction do you Choose?

I got linked to this blog post and it got me thinking. Am I trying to do too much all at once? Cause right now my priority list in no particular order is:

  • My SO
  • Doing good work at work
  • Getting in shape
  • Becoming really frugal
  • Developing more income streams
  • Learning how to program in C++ and Objective C
  • Learn Economics
  • Upgrade EE skills - theoretically and practically
  • Read books/magazines
  • Read technical biotech books

I think this might be too much to take on all at once. At the very least it is far too much to do everything well. Take any weekday. 8 hours of sleep. 8 hours of work. That leaves 8 hours to commute, eat, cook, clean AND work on my 9 other goals.

My normal approach in situations like this is to cut sleep down to 4-5 hours. But you can't get healthy sleeping like that, and you can't get happy.

This is going to take some introspection and hard decisions.

My advice, look long and hard at what you want to accomplish. Then look at what you can accomplish. Make those two line up somehow or else you're going to be stressed and unhappy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Money in - Money out

When most people think about frugal, they think about spending as little money as possible, or alternatively, getting as much value for your money as possible. Personally I'm on the value side of things. For example I'd rather buy a $100 pair of shoes that will last over 1 year than a Walmart brand of $30 shoes that will be toast in less than 4 months. Recognizing value and quality is a skill I'm learning, and it's very important if you want to improve your financial position in the long term.

But this is getting me off my point. To me frugal is more than just getting proper value for your money, it's about increasing your revenue stream wherever possible. There are many ways to do this: get another job, freelance your skills, deliver papers, look for gigs on craigslist. For my current situation, I'm going to try and develop a passive revenue stream. That is, a revenue stream that will keep on giving me money even though I've stopped putting effort into it.

I'm going to try and write an iPhone app. I have no previous experience in Objective-C. But I have a partner and an idea and my brain. I'll post updates as time goes on.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Entertaining

Eventually you'll have to have people over to your house to entertain. It's a very adult thing to do and made me feel dirty inside. On the other hand we were playing a board game, so it's not THAT adult is it?

Still, the whole dinner for friends thing will probably happen to everyone and it's generally bad form to serve leftovers/uber frugal food. But it's not the end of the world if you buy some decently nice food (chicken breasts), cook with a recipe that your SO came up with ;) and serve with a low cost side dish (like couscous and zucchini).

And don't feel bad if you don't buy a nice bottle of wine or lay out the Hors d'oeuvres. If you're friends are classy they'll bring something. If they aren't then nobody gets snacks, and you don't get fat.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Doing Good and Doing Bad

Yesterday I forgot to pack a lunch to work. The direct result of this was that I ended up eating at Quiznos. Man, Quiznos is delicious. (I'm not sponsored by Quiznos.)

BUT!

Quiznos - regular sandwich with chips and drink costs $10.51, which is more than I have budgeted to spend on food though the whole day. Ideally I'll get down to a $50 a month budget where my daily spending cap will be $1.60. That...will be an intense day. For now, my goal is <$200 a month, so my daily limit is <$8.

tl;dr Quiznos is exceedingly bad for my budget.

But after work I went to the No Frills next to my work; it's much bigger than the one near my house. They have what I've been looking for: dried beans. I spent about $11.50 and I got enough food for my dinner (and 4 similar dinners), as well as ingredients to make another dish that will probably last 6 meals (at a total cost of $4.50).

Plan ahead, bring lunch so you don't waste money on things that taste good (and make you fat).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Maximize Time

You need to maximize your time in small ways. Watch TV while you cook and eat, but turn it off as soon as your done (for those people who really need to watch TV). Read a magazine while going to the bathroom (if it's mostly fluff and not really informative). Try to wake up in time (that's an important one).

We only have so long on this earth and you gotta squeeze the life you want out of it.

Biking

Making your life more efficient is always a good thing to strive for. For example, I need to get to work and I also need to get into better shape (I'm 25 lbs off my target weight at this point). Solution: bike to work.

You might say that this is a waste of time or inefficient because it takes longer. It actually doens't (which is a pleasant surprise). Between walking to the bus, waiting and then walking from the bus stop, it's faster to bike.

Today was my first day, so I think I can reasonably expect to get faster as well.

For the record, I don't think this counts as a frugal choice because it cost me money to fix my bike up and I get a university bus pass for free. But, this is definitely more rounded thing to do, and outside my comfort zone a little.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Volunteering in your Hobbies

It is fair to say that most hobbies are a pretty big money sink. If you're going to stay frugal, you'll want to minimize these expenses while still maintaining your hobbies. I am operating on the crazy assumption that you want to continue living your life as you build up savings.

So if your hobby has an associated club, volunteer at the club. Chances are you'll make some good friends with shared interests. As you get more associated and make more friends you'll get more opportunities in that field. If you join the exec or spend a significant amount of time helping the club, it's safe to say you'll get that time back in some way. Maybe it's using some equipment that normally wouldn't be available to you or it's getting to go on a trip as a club representative.

No matter what, pick a hobby you are passionate about and get involved with other people who share that passion. It will come back to you 10 fold. And you won't have to buy all your own equipment.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Meals for <$2

Ironically, as I had a conversation about frugality and how significant but not massive steps are sufficient for changing my life, I made a meal that was quite honestly a massive step in that it cost less than 2 dollars per person. The conversation (as we made the food) was about how I shouldn't be concentrating on buying the cheapest food possible, I should be concentrating on simply making food rather than eating out. The logic being that the step from eating out a lot to eating at home a lot is as large as going from eating at home to eating cheaply at home.

Goes to show, you can say one thing all you want, but you might be just wasting air cause you're doing something else.

For the record the meal was:

  • 1/4 bag of perogies ($0.88)
  • 1/4 ring of sausage ($1.00)
  • 1/2 bag of bok choy ($0.75)
  • 2 onions ($0.50)
  • 1/8 container of sour cream ($0.60)

And it tasted really good. Filled us both up something fierce.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fridges are Sneaky

Spoiled food is a huge waste of money. But it is very common for things to go bad or simply go unused and be thrown out. This means that if you are spending $200 a month on groceries, you're throwing away about $50. A month. That money could have been used so much better and you know it ($600 a year).

This is what I do. Every day - every single day - I open my fridge and I go through what's in there. I open every drawer and look behind everything. This is not an overly arduous task because there is rarely very much in my fridge. But it has frequently saved me from having to throw out lettuce, tomatoes or leftovers. It is also handy to always be aware of what's in there so that you can plan around it when grocery shopping.

For things that aren't in your fridge but still perishable, follow the same procedure. It will save you money.

For example, right now I know I have way too many potatoes in my cupboard. So I'm brainstorming potatoey recipes. I hope it works out.

Maintaining Goals

This week I am doing a terrible job of staying up on my goals. I've drank twice this week, ate out twice, haven't gone running, hung out with people instead of working on personal goals and slept late for work. Hell, I'm not even keeping track of my goals this week - normally I keep track of them on a board on my wall.

If I wanted to make excuses I'd say I've been sick since Saturday. But screw that, personal accountability isn't about making excuses, it's about accepting that you did the wrong thing and all you can do is fix it in the future.

So that's what I'm going to do.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Biking

Biking is about as well rounded as an activity can get. You save money by not bussing or driving. You work out by pushing yourself. You are instantly slightly more social (ohmygod heeeey, you ride a bike too? What kind is it?). You learn to plan ahead a little better (I don't think I can carry that TV home on my bike...) Basically, I'm really happy to be riding again.

My bike isn't anything special. It's an extra large (I'm quite tall) 10-speed Apollo from the 70s I believe. Got it of craigslist for $140 and so far I've put about $30 of parts into it (2 new chains and a pair of pedals).

But I want to get it in tip-top condition. The following is what needs to be fixed for the bike project to be "done":

  • Replace the rear gears (I'm sure there's a fancy name for that)
  • Get handelbar tape - the current stuff feels weird
  • Get fenders so I can bike in the rain
  • Try to deal with any rust I can find
  • Adjust the deraillers
  • Adjust the seat - feels a little low
  • Buy lights - night driving is approaching fast

I better got on it.

In other news that spaghetti sauce I made a while back is still around. Gonna get 10 meals out $15 of ingredients. That's a success.

Spending Perspective

I assume everyone's goal here is to become financially comfortable. There are 3 main ways of trying to make this happen.

1. Get a fantastically high-paying job so that your expenses can't home to keep up. This method is pretty much impossible because in our consumerist culture, it is ALWAYS possible for your spending to outstrip your expenses until you change your attitude towards buying things. This change in attitude is whole different discussion entirely.

2. Get enough savings that you can just withdraw from them for the rest of your life and not have to work again. This method is only possible if you change your perspective on spending money while you are making money. Only then will you be able to develop a nest egg large enough to live off of. This way is all well and good but it ignores the massive potential of having a significant sum of money which is:

3. Invest enough money, well enough, to live off the interest. This sort of investment could be many things, personal loans, stock market or own a business. If you do this correctly you can live without having to lift another finger.

Which brings me to my main point, if you own a business you are trying to make a profit off of money that other people are spending (usually). Everytime someone spends money, it makes you happy because you get a cut of it.

But right now you (probably) don't own a business, so you're on the other side of this fence. Everytime you spend money, any money at all, someone else is making a profit. So stop making their lives easier and stop spending money. Right now you're on the outside looking in - this paradise of people just giving you money.

Change your perspective, don't give yourself a pat on the back everytime you don't spend, chastize yourself everytime you give someone some profit - because there are ways around it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Betting on a Brighter Future

It's easy to make a bad decision in the short term because things "will be better later". Why is this so widely accepted? Isn't this exactly what got the US into their massive issues (sub-prime mortages etc.)

The way I see it, right now I have a job, it doesn't pay super well. Once I graduate the odds of me getting a higher paying job or better, but are by no means guaranteed. So when I make plans for the future I assume my current situation or worse. If I looked at it any other way, I'd make the wrong decisions. Fancy dinner out? Sure thing - I'll be able to afford it with the money I haven't made yet.

I guess it realtes quite closely to the whole "don't spend what you don't have" thing. But in a world with so much credit it's now "don't spend like you earn something you don't".

Assume the worst. If it works out better than that - happy day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Frugal Success and Failure

This weekend I made some more progress on the ol' frugal front.

  1. Fixed my bike so that it's ridable again. It's amazing how much information the internet has on everything. Maybe that makes me sound like a luddite, but it's true!
  2. Phoned up Telus and got my plan changed from $57 a month to $30. If there was any way to get the $20 plan with unlimited texting I would, but alas they say it is not in the cards. I'm going to keep trying though. Apparently the Telus policy is if the customer complains enough, give them what they want - but I kinda don't wanna be that guy.
  3. I bought lunch at work on Tuesday. I know. Terrible form.

I've also found quite a few recipes that use beans. When I was in the US there was a ridiculously large bag of pinto beans for less than $20. But I suspect that if I head to some of the ethnic shops near my place I'll be able to find well priced dry beans there as well. Once that happens I'm debating making a massive batch of food and freezing it so I'm not constantly cooking.

I like being frugal, but man, cooking all the time gets annoying.

What kind of Blog is this?

Since this is one of thousands of blogs created in the last month, it is essential to further pin down what kind of blog it is.

For the most part, right now, it's a get out of debt blog. The vast majority of what I'm posting will be about how to minimize expenses. This is not to say this blog is about living like a borderline hobo. I tend to agree with the perception that today's society is consumerism-crazy, too much is bought for absolutely no reason. Maybe minimizing expenses isn't the correct way to think about it, maybe it's about minimizing waste.

Wasted money happens everytime you throw something away or you pay someone to do something you could do yourself. In the basic case this means buying lunch, in the extreme case this means buying tomatoes.

At my current stage, I'm getting adept at the basic case. I am a far cry from mastering the basic case of waste minimization, but I'm not terrible either. Everytime I find something that will save some money and improve your life, I'll post it here. Everyime I find something that will save money and keep your life neutral, I'll post it here. Things that have a negative impact on your life may be posted with caveat of how much worse it made things.

Anyway, as I get past my first hurdle of eliminating my credit card debt (over halfway!), I will probably concentrate more on well rounded life skills (and some technical electrical engineer skills). But for the most part, this is about reducing life expenses while keeping the quality of life high.

An Ode to Eggs

Man, eggs are just straight awesome.

They have protein, nutrients and vitamins. They are cheap ($2.39 for a dozen large where I am) and extremely easy to cook into something decent.

Feeling lazy? Hard boiled egg
Less lazy? Scrambled
Have bread? Fried egg on toast
Have veggies? Omelette/Scrambled eggs with veggies
Have some meat + wrap? Breakfast wrap
Want dinner? Egg drop soup

The point is I feel like death today (missed work yesterday) and I don't have the energy to write a post that I would call "decent".

Monday, July 18, 2011

Spending $0 a day

Trying spending $0 a day as often as possible. It's a satisfying feeling to look back at the day before and know that you exercised self control all day. Surprisingly, since I started to be more frugally-conscious I have had very few $0 days. This is mainly due to needing to buy one or two items from the grocery store, or being obligated socially to bring stuff (to a BBQ, a birthday and a housewarming so far this month - ugh).

I can not recommend the practice of recording your expenses as they happen highly enough. It has been invaluable in me determining where the fat in my budget is and where the things I can't prevent are happening. This makes it much easier to make a good budget that you'll actually be able to stick to.

For example, my current budget is unrealistic over the summer because I'm paying $100 a month towards my student loan as well as $30 in interest every month. On one hand I feel bad that I couldn't keep to my budget, on the other hand I can tell you exactly why and try to change those reasons.

Goal for the day: Get my phone bill down from $59 to $20. Wish me luck.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Social Obligations

So far, the most persistent expense that I am unable to escape from is social expenses. I'm fine not going to the bar and not eating out (I've been rather good at it so far this month), but when I'm invited to someone's place, it's socially implied to bring something.

It occurs to me, literally as I'm writing this, that I shouldn't have bought some pre-made crap from the grocery store, I should've bought the ingredients and made something myself. It would be guaranteed to be cheaper and I would have supplies left over. It wouldn't be nearly as cheap but it would be cheaper than buying 7 Layer Dip and a bag of chips.

Live and learn I guess. This is all about noticing what is going wrong and fixing it, right?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Success with Telus

So the $15 of overage charges on my data that I mentioned in a previous post have been dealt with. The first time I talked to their customer service, I was told that the best they could do was halve the charges. I politely declined (mainly because I didn't feel like pressing the issue since I was currently at work).

This afternoon I called back and calmly explained my position. After they talked to tech support and left me on hold for 10 minutes (which I really didn't mind that much), they told me to take my phone to a Telus store to get it checked and that the charges + taxes had been taken off my account.

The phone call was exactly 30 minutes and 19 seconds. Since I effectively saved $15 that works out to $30/hour. This was most definitely worth my time :)

I'm going to wait until tomorrow to change my plan to a bare-bones talk and text w/o data.

Save Money or Make Money

Since we are all aware that time is the limiting factor in life (once you run out a funeral home gets to profit off your rotting ass), the question becomes do you try to save money or make money? There are two ways of looking at this. First, if you are better at saving money, you will need far less money to retire. Second, if you make more money, your savings will be able to grow faster.

So what's the most value-added activity for me right now? Should I study some textbooks to become a better electrical engineer (potentially increasing my future primary income stream), try and make money other ways online (filling out surveys, online poker) or cut my expenses in every way that I can (cutting my cell phone plan, cancelling expensive social obligations).

Ask yourself this question everyday and make sure that you stay on a path your okay with. Personally I'm going to continue reading up on ways to save money so that I can implement them as the opportunities present themselves. After that I'm going to look into these sites where you can make money by filling out surveys.

What can I say? I don't think I can digest EE stuff at 1am.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Month Halfway mark

This month I've been tracking every single expense, and honestly, it's not looking so good on the frugal front.

I'll break down the total into Bad Expenses(things I should have avoided buying), Good Expenses (things I need to/should have bought) and Iffy Expenses (debatable purchases).

  • Rent ~ $500
  • Camping Food ~ $15
  • Groceries ~ $9, $4, $4, $9, $9
  • Hydro Bill ~ $140 (paid once every two months, split with roommate)

  • Student Loan Debt Payment ~ $100 (I'm still in school why am I paying this?)
  • Went to the bar ~ $20
  • Pizza ~ $6
  • Beer ~ $10
  • Food out ~ $14
  • Lunch and dinner out ~ $50
  • Beer ~ $22
  • Cab ~ $10
  • McDonalds ~ $10

  • Camping Supplies ~ $44
  • New Vaccum Cleaner ~ $40
  • Beer(for a housewarming) ~ $15
  • Beer + Snacks (for a birthday) ~ $24
  • Bike Chain ~ $50 (returning it today for a cheaper one)

Definitely a far from successful month so far. Hopefully the student loan payment thing stops soon (applied for a new one and they should figure it out at that point).

I guess the takeaway from looking at things this way is: always write down your expenses so you can keep track and spend less money on beer and eating out. If I cut all the beer and eating out I'm still in budget, factor in returning my bike chain and I even might even have some breathing room.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Where's the Line?

Over the past month, since I started this whole frugal/healthy kick to round out my life I've been seeing inefficiences in my life clearer and clearer. Here is a list of the things I've noticed (bolded means fixed).

  • Laptop charger always plugged in - now I turn off powerbar when not in use
  • Cell-phone bill is way too high for what I use it for
  • Eating lunch out a lot - now I cook at home and bring it in
  • Eat out dinner more than I should with the girlfriend
  • Buy too many superfulous items
  • Using too much cheese on food (cheese is expensive)
  • Throwing out ziploc bags after one use
  • Running a dishwasher instead of washing by hand (which is worse?)
  • Leaving the TV on when I'm not in the room
  • Having long showers
  • Bring things to social events I'm invited to
  • I still watch TV

Obviously I need to fix my habits better and faster. I know there are more things on that list, I just can't think of them right now. Ugh, maybe I just had a really crappy sleep.

The point is, which of these measures are too far, which are inefficient. I use ziploc bags for my lunch so I don't have to wash a container. But which is most cost efficient? Bring a bag and throwing it out, bring a bag and wash it or bring a container and wash it? To get a solid answer I guess I would have to time myself washing each one and then give myself a reasonable hourly wage.

I dunno, is it crazy to wash those tiny little sandwich bags so you can use them again?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Plan Ahead or Self Discipline

If you want to stick to a frugal/healthy plan you need to be able to plan ahead or have a large amount of self discipline. A huge part of this is the lunch at work problem. If you are working a standard 9-5 you probably don't have lunch provided, so you need to get it on your own.

The worst possible thing you could do is buy lunch. There are literally no options that are both healthy and frugal. Actually, scratch that, there are no frugal options. You can make lunch at home for as little as a dollar and I guarantee that 1 item of the dollar menu and McDonalds will not satisfy you.

So plan ahead. If you're hanging out with friends right after work on Monday and you have a terrible track record for waking up in time to make lunch, make two lunches Sunday night. And don't be tempted to eat one of the lunches as a "snack". Self discipline.

But if you don't plan ahead and you find yourself at work on Tuesday without lunch, well that's your own damn fault. Exercise your self-discipline and don't buy lunch. Get extremely hungry and eat a big dinner. I'm not even practicing what I preach here, in the past 3 weeks I've missed bringing a lunch twice. Both times I bought lunch and I feel bad about it. Just another step farther away from being frugal enough to start having savings.

Unfortunately self-discipline and planning ahead are not the most common skills, and they are hard to develop. Practice both at the same time, use your self-discipline to make a plan :).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dinner on the Cheap

Okay, back to living frugal (and healthy as a happy side effect).

Tonight for dinner I had to cook for two. The fridge/cupboard had enough for a meal but it was mainly lunch stuff (beans, wraps, fruit and veggies). And since my daily wraps at lunch are starting to feel a bit bland as it is, I thought I'd avoid it for dinner as well.

But, I was stocked up on canned spaghetti sauce (bought for .66 or a dollar a can). After a quick walk to the local discount grocery store I had all the ingredients for a large batch of spaghetti sauce.

Whole Recipe:

  • Whole Wheat Spaghetti (on sale) - $1.99
  • White Mushrooms - $0.80
  • Ground Beef - $5.72
  • 2 Cans Sauce - $2.00
  • 1 White Onion - $0.60
  • 3 Cloves Garlic - $0.20
  • Cheese - $0.50
  • Total Cost - $11.81
  • Expected number of meals - 10
  • Cost per meal (predicted) - $1.18

Which isn't bad at all. I could have still made it cheaper by buying the ground beef and the pasta in bulk from Costco or similar place.

I will definitely update on how many meals I actually get out this batch, for the sake of completeness.

Additionally, having this around will give lunches some variety. Open faced sandwich anyone? :D

Fueled by Fire

Becoming an Engineer is hard. I can only assume being an Engineer is hard. Being well rounded is probably even harder. Most of the time I will refer to being well rounded in two ways. The first way is the idea of being a well rounded human, you have your professional skills, your hobby skills, a social life, a decent financial plan for the future and good healthy. The second way is the idea of being a well rounded Engineer, with your directly applicable professional skills (skills you use at work) in addition to skills that aren't used at your job, but are interesting enough to pursue in your own time and could be classified as "Engineer-ish" skills. An example would be a Mechanical Engineer who is also developing team leadership skills or learning a programming language.

Basically, accomplishing things is hard and most people lack the motivation to get anything of note done. If you're one of these people, you need to change it about yourself, and soon. It's hard to make someone motivated and there is a ton of advice out there involving setting goals and yadda, yadda, yadda. Personally I've found that setting goals to be secondary to being truly motivated. True motivation is like having a fire inside you that is driving you forwards. I actually visualize the fire as a furnace, the sort that puts out an amazing amount of heat, but is also capable of smoldering gently when you aren't throwing fuel at it.

The fire gets stoked everytime I look at where I am in life and tell myself that if I just put in the time and effort there is nothing out of my reach. For the most part this is true of a lot of people. If you want to run a marathon, you have the ability inside you, if you want to learn how to be a master programmer, you have an internet connection therefore the resources are available to you. Anything your crazy little heart desires. All you have to do is throw everything on the fire and go for it.

But if you throw everything on the fire won't you burn out really quick? Nope! You have no idea what you're capable of. What you think is your all isn't even close to what you're actually capable of. This kinda works out because everything (EVERYTHING) is much harder than it looks (but don't let that discourage you).

So burn it all. Throw yourself into something and find out what you're capable of. Personally a great fuel for my internal fire is negative emotion (and it lets me think that I'm powered by demons - I'm a crazy person). Take something negative and turn yourself into something better than you are. Or take something positive (like a vision of what you could be) and become that.

Now go. Start your fire and find out what you're capable of.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Evil Data Plans

Having a smartphone is cool, there's no denying that. I mean who wants to live in a world where you can't pit zombies vs plants. Or play unlimited games of sudoku. Or use Google Maps to get your ass out of being lost pretty much anywhere.

The trouble is, having a smartphone with data makes you stupid and costs money. Everything about a smartphone is designed to distract you and make you less prepared. I'm as guilty of this as anyone, before leaving the house I should always check a map and write down where I'm going. But no matter what, I never do that and I end up relying on google maps to get there. Even worse is the times I've forgotten where I'm going and I have to open up my e-mail just to find out.

At the end of the day, I can't actually tell you if having a smartphone has added any value to my life. My gut feeling says that it hasn't. It's made a lot of things easier, but it has also made me reliant on it and I don't want that.

There's good news right now though. Or kinda. Well silver lining kind of good news. My phone recently went a little wonky and started screaming through data (500 MB in 24 hrs). I've phoned my provider and told them to cut off my data. So for this week I'm doing a little preview of life without data.

If all goes well I'll be able to cut my phone bill by a decent chunk. Let's hope I can get out of the $15 in overage charges that are my account now :P

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Value Added Activities

Since this blog is called "The Well Rounded" engineer, there should be something about developing well rounded technical skills. It is obvious that finding time to do things is an issue. Without independently developing professional skills any given day is quite busy.
For example:

  • Activity - Benefit
  • Getting enough sleep - healthy mind, healthy body
  • Commuting to work - practice dealing with annoying things
  • Working - presumably developing some professional skill (and being paid to do so)
  • Cooking - the better your food at home tastes, the less you'll eat out (frugal)
  • Hanging out with friends/significant others - social skills are important no matter what anyone else tells you
  • Working out - people like sexy people. True fact.
  • Relaxing - you can't run on full steam all the time

So what can you do to develop technical skills without burning yourself out? My advice is to substitute an activity that is purely useless (like watching TV or surfing reddit) with one that is still reasonably relaxing but actually useful. Instead of watching that episode of House (spoiler alert: he figures it out in the end), read a book about something your mildly curious about and is related to a skill you currently possess or trying to develop.

If you are getting into running and know the basics (left foot, right foot, repeat) then you could read a book about running. This will possibly give you further tips on diet or technique that you otherwise wouldn't have figured out on your own. The point is to keep the activity low stress, but still rewarding.

The best analogy for this that I can think of is that watching TV is empty calories. Avoid empty calories and have an apple instead. It is good for you in the long run and tastes good right now.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Goal Setting Prep

Obviously everyone wants to stick to their goals. I mean, why else would you declare them? Trouble is, it's quite rare for people to actually make a plan. From here, there is the further problem that plans are usually unrealistic and suck. Yes, of course you'll wake up at 6am, go for a run, eat breakfast and walk the dog. The fact that you can barely move before 8am every work day for the past month doesn't matter.

So here's what I've been doing and it's working reasonably well. I mean, I'm human and things go wrong (like flip cup tournaments). Get a notebook of some sort or a google doc and start keeping track of your day. I like to record things like when I woke up, when I got to work, what I accomplished at work (truthfully), when I got home and how I spent my time.

Doing this consistently for a couple weeks will give you a really good picture of your time. And then you're ready to set some realistic goals by looking at your day and finding places that have room for more productivity.

If you don't know which part of your life needs to be changed, it's unlikely that you'll change the right part.

For example, let's say my goal is to wake up 2 hours earlier than I do now. But my schedule shows I clearly stay up until midnight every night watching re-runs of Scrubs. Now I can work on going to bed earlier by watching less Scrubs, which will hopefully lead to being able to wake up earlier.

Every goal should have an attached action and your schedule needs time for that action.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Productivity Tip #1

I've always found that I work quite while when listening to music - I'm sure many people feel this way too (don't worry, this isn't the tip).

The thing I've noticed in the past couple weeks is that I listen to music on the computer (which I may or may not currently be working at) I have the irrestistable urge to find a song I like even if I'm listening to a solid playlist.

So my advice is to seperate your music from your workstation. Ideally, keep it out of arms reach. At the very least make it difficult or inconvenient to change the music. That way you'll just listen to the song rather than go all the way over there to change it. Unless Poison by Alice Cooper comes on.

Then it's time to crank it.

How Valuable is Your Time?

When you're trying to improve you lot in life, either by actively working on a skill or trying to change habit that is ingrained in you, it's going to take some time. Not as in you need to do it for 6 weeks or whatever until it's second nature (although that is probably true), but in the sense that you need to take time out of everyday to self-evaluate and be sure that what your doing is in line with your goals.

This means that your time is suddenly more valuable. Instead of doing what you've always done (TV, sleeping in, computer games, porn) which is presumably at a happy equilibrium of time available vs time wasted, there are new things to be working on. If you're trying to be frugal, instead of taking that time to watch TV, take that time to look into getting a cheaper phone bill, or research where to buy the cheap foods that you want to eat. Nothing that is going to improve your life is easy to do, and you will be used to not doing it.

So look at your time in the day and what you want to accomplish. Chances are you're going to have to cut down on something you really don't want to cut down on. Sacrifices have to be made if you want to improve your life. Set a plan down and do what's necessary to make sure it happens. Wake up earlier. Make sure the people in your life understand you don't have as much time as before. Only watch TV while making dinner. Stop caring what House does this week. Slow down the drinking.

There is actually a lot of time in the day, you just need to find the places where it's disappearing without adding anything to your life.

Just keep on pushing yourself and stop getting complacent. Don't let other people tell you how you're going to spend your free time. Most importantly, if you decide to take some time to relax, relax fully. If you make the call to relax while of sound (and aware) mind, you can reward yourself and spend some of that valuable time on you.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Beer.

I don't know how many people are aware of this, but engineers like beer. At least in university they do. Or maybe all university students like beer?

Anyway. I used to be a bit of a drinker. I would not describe myself as an alcoholic, but that is really a matter of definition. The point is that beer used to be a rather integral thing in my life. It's a great social lubricant, a fun thing to do with friends and usually a pretty good time. And since my tolerance was so high, hangovers were only a concern if things got out of control.

But beer does not fit with being frugal and it does not fit with being healthy. In the past 11 months, my drinking has dropped substantially for various reasons. Now that I am truly concentrating on being frugal in all aspects of my life, drinking has dropped off even more.

This makes it that much worse when I do drink, the lowered inhibitions and the memory of how I used to drink can quickly result in too much consumption. And this quickly results in a wasted evening and a hangover.

To make my point absolutely clear. If you're trying to be healthy and if you're trying to be frugal, alcohol is about as destructive as you can get. It costs a lot, it wastes your time as you are doing it, it wastes your time the next day and it is bad for you. Alcohol is technically a poison, just diluted.

Resisting the temptation is hard and getting out of the social obligation is hard. But if it's absolutely unavoidable, drink just one beer, keep your tolerance low and try and enjoy yourself as much as possible.

Even if you are in a career with a drinking culture, you don't need to get wasted to be a part of the culture or one of the guys. As long as you don't give the impression that you think you're better than other people because you aren't drinking. Just make it clear that it's a choice you make and you respect everyones individual choice.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Budget

Everyone says that to get out of debt, you need a budget. Well, I am shooting for a budget at or below $1000.
Here's how it's broken down:

  • $520 - Rent
  • $250 - Food
  • $67 - Cell Phone
  • $20 - Internet
  • $20 - Heat
  • $40 - Electricity
  • $80 - Luxury/Other
  • Total: $997


The rent is surprisingly decent for my area (trust me on this one).

Food can probably get cut back massively. For example, last time I went to US Costco I got 10 lbs of boneless skinless chicken for 20 bucks. That is...pretty damn amazing by Canada price standards. Additionally there are recipes I still need to try out that are low cost and high nutrition. For example, I would love to start incorporating more things from here. And so you don't have to click through, it's a list of 10 healthiest cheapest foods: Brown Rice, Beans, Eggs, Sweet Potatoes, Canned Tuna, Bananas, Whole Wheat Pasta, Frozen Vegetables, Canned Tomatoes and Flank Steak. So far my diet includes only 2 of these things. Not good.

Another concern with food is that I have no problem eating blandly all the time, but that's not quite so ideal for the gf (this may not actually be how she feels, but I feel bad if I ask her to eat blandly all the time).

Cell phone can get reduced by $9 easily, I just need to cut callerID and paper billing.

Internet - $20. Not bad.

The heat in my apartment (basement suite) is shared with the people living above us. There's a switch in the middle of my living room that can shut off the furnace. Maybe I should do that for the rest of the summer?

Electricity is something that I really need to fix. I'm sure there's a lot of money being lost to things being plugged in that don't need to be. For example, my laptop at home is plugged in right now. Balls.

Luxury/Other is for gifts/dinners out and non-essential expenses. This is the category most likely to be violated in any given month. For the record I tried to follow this budget last month and it went...okay. I'd say I ended up $100-$200 over, which isn't too bad by my standards.

I'm going to keep a running tab of what I'm spending money on (hopefully this doesn't make it too easy to steal my identity).

So far (approx):
$15 Food for Hike
$45 Supplies for Hike
$6 Pizza for lunch (mmm healthy)
$9 Groceries for dinner
This puts me at $220 left for food and $35 left for luxury items.
I'm looking decent for my food target, but not so good on the luxury target.

Oh well, better keep working on that self-discipline thing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

OpenCV 2.3 for VS 2008 from source

I've spent the last 5 hours at work trying to get OpenCV 2.3 (which was officially released within the past week) to mesh correctly with Visual Studios 2008. I had to do it from the source files because I wanted to include IPP.

First, check you're using the right architecure for everthing. Yes it's basic stuff but I had to re-do the whole thing because I forgot that this machine has Visual Studios setup all 32-bit like.

  1. Download the OpenCV source files here (the one that has "src" in the name).
  2. Download CMake from the CMake website.
  3. Install CMake
  4. Extract the OpenCV files from the .zip
  5. Open CMake and set the source code to the folder you just unzipped and the build location to be where you want the files to end up. I used C:\OpenCV\OpenCV2.3 because I'm original like that.
  6. Hit Configure. Choose the compiler you're going to be using, in this case VS 2008 or VS 2008 x64. Look at all the pretty options and choose what you want. I included IPP and excluded CUDA, EIGEN and NEW_PYTHON_SUPPORT.
  7. Hit Configure, make sure no lines are red.
  8. Hit Generate. Now you have most of the libraries where you want them to be (that build folder you chose earlier in CMake).
  9. In the build folder, open the "OpenCV" solution. Build in Debug mode and build in Release mode. When I did this, it skipped 3 projects each time. For the record, I'm not sure you actually need to build in both modes.
  10. Go back to your build folder and open the "include" folder. If things went the same for you, there is almost nothing in there. Open the "INSTALL" project, and build it (I built in Debug and Release).
  11. Do the same for the "INSTALL" project in the "modules" folder. There should now be folder in your build folder called "install" containing "lib", "include" and "bin".
  12. Add the "C:\OpenCV\OpenCV2.3\install\bin" and "C:\OpenCV\OpenCV2.3\install\bin\lib" folders to the PATH system variable (Computer->Properties->Advanced System Settings->Environmental Variables->PATH, seperated by a semicolon).
  13. Make a new VS 2008 project. Tools->Options->Projects and Solutions->VC++ Directories, add:
    C:\OpenCV\OpenCV2.3\install\bin under Executable files
    C:\OpenCV\OpenCV2.3\install\include
    C:\OpenCV\OpenCV2.3\install\include\opencv
    C:\OpenCV\OpenCV2.3\install\include\opencv2 under Include files
    C:\OpenCV\OpenCV2.3\install\lib under Library files.
  14. Edit the Project Properties, under Linker->Input->Additional Dependencies include:
    opencv_core230d.lib
    opencv_highgui230d.lib
    opencv_video230d.lib
    opencv_ml230d.lib
    opencv_legacy230d.lib
    opencv_imgproc230d.lib
  15. Now find an example program (I used this one) and give it a shot.

Yes, I'm aware there are probably parts of this that are massively redundant. Hope this helped save someone the frustration that I went through.