My Best Investment

Back to school

I always get nostalgic this time of year.

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, I was a fretting teenager about to finish high school. While all the other girls were obsessing over prom and what college they were going to, my own world was crashing around me. My boyfriend dumped me two weeks before prom, leaving me dateless. That was also the year my father became chronically ill and was ordered to go on medical leave. There would be no college fund to support me. I was admitted to the university I had set my sights on, but I had no idea how I was going to afford it.

Humiliated and defeated, I opted to lowball my expectations on everything. I wouldn’t go to prom and I wouldn’t go to university. I had some great excuses to stop caring, so I leaned into them. My friends became my fairy godmothers. One took it upon herself to find me a date. Through her grad date, she managed to set me up with a model/actor (or actor/model?). My other friend made me copy and study her year’s worth of notes for my Biology 12 exam, the most demanding subject I had to study for that year. Because of my friends’ clutch support, I was motivated to keep going.

With Starbucks’ chocolate covered coffee beans to keep me jacked, I crammed like a champ. I aced everything that counted and I finished with honours. My grad date, whom everyone ogled that night, turned out to be a seasoned partier. Instead of binge-drinking at a house party with the other grads after prom, my friends and I followed our dates to a rave in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside where we danced until four in the morning. I took a cab home with my bestie as the sun was rising. I finished high school feeling like a rock star.

My next problem was going to be going to university. I got a job, but I couldn’t qualify for a student loan because the tax year prior to my dad’s medical leave stated he made a lot. The financial issue was moot as I didn’t even know what I was going to study even if I could afford school. With no money and no clear ambition, it made no sense for me to go to study at all.

I continued to work. Without any goals to anchor me, I spent my money faster than it came in. I was living the Gen X dream buying beer, candy, and cigarettes, watching movies all day, wondering about the future. I’ve told this story many times before and it’s because it was critical to everything I’ve ever done thereafter. My boss saw how much money I was quickly wasting after each payday. She gave me a talking to and told me how to start saving and investing. Her persuasive sisterly coercion got me going to the bank and getting started. Then after saving for a while, things changed. With money in the bank, I saw school as a possibility. Determined to go to law school, I reapplied to university.

I finished my bachelor’s in record time (thanks, Starbucks coffee beans!). By the end of it, though, I decided not to go to law school. With good financial habits and the benefit of going to university when it was still affordable, I graduated with no student debts. I traveled a lot and lived overseas for a few years but came back to Canada. Even though my studies in humanities was never directly applicable to any line of work I sought, having a degree gave me better job options.

After ten years of drifting, I was still by definition a slacker, but at least I had savings. I brainstormed many possibilities on where I was headed next. I found I was most curious about opening a business. This led to my part-time studies in business school and eventually, further studies and pursuits in investing and the stock market.

Today, I am once again a student. I am deeply curious about how the stock market works on the inside. I know what it is to be a trader/investor, but what happens behind the curtain is what I really want to know next. I am currently enrolled with the Canadian Securities Institute, working towards my Certificate in Equity Trading & Sales. I don’t know exactly where studying this will take me; whether I trade for others or still just myself, I will always be a trader, only a more educated one.

Whether you achieve your career peak and hit your financial goals, learning should never stop. You can take courses or just read books that will help you develop in parts of your life that you feel need focus. In the long run, being dedicated to your personal and professional development really is the best investment.

Food & Finance


How Much We Spend on Groceries

Our total grocery costs over the last three months amounted to:

  • September: $246.68
  • October: $206.35
  • November: $196.90

This doesn’t count eating out. We eat out once a month and we’ll spend anywhere from $60 to $90. We also work part-time in a fancy seniors home where we get to eat supper on the days we’re working, which is about three to five days a week. Before working there, our monthly grocery bill averaged out to be $360 to $420 a month and we went out for dinner twice a month. 

It took us a few years before we were able to get our average monthly grocery bill down to what it is. JP and I have been living in Southern Ontario for five years now; it was a matter of trial and error, buying from the different grocery stores before we found where we can generally get the best prices for what we eat on a regular basis.

Our food costs are low for the following reasons:

  • We shop at two to four different places for the cheapest prices;
  • We’re vegetarians (don’t be hatin’!);
  • We make most of our meals at home, quick ‘n’ easy style;
  • We hardly eat packaged food;
  • We always look at the cost per unit;
  • JP is uncannily a savant with prices. He’s like a human app. I don’t know if this talent stemmed from watching stock prices so much, but he just knows when something – in or out of season – costs more than it should;
  • We add up our costs each month and compare our monthly spending.

Where We Shop
No Frills

This is generally the best place for most of our produce (bananas, oranges, onions, broccoli, kale, beets, sweet potatoes, potatoes, parsnips, avocados, tomatoes, cauliflower, squashes, carrots, etc). Here, we also get our spices, rice, pasta, beans, legumes, tofu, and canned tuna for our cats. JP eats salmon once in a while, so he’ll get the frozen packaged salmon when it goes on special. Every week, I bake our bread, so we get our baking needs here too.

We accumulate PC Points whenever we shop which gets us $20 off every three to four months or so. On your membership account, you can designate your preferred food choices. When you do this, they’ll notify you when your faves go on special each week and if you buy them, you get extra points. When we started doing this weekly points special thing, we started accumulating enough points to get money off on a regular basis. What’s also nice is that in case you miss the points specials one week, you can save them for the following week if you need to.

Although No Frills is connected to Independent and Superstore, the prices aren’t always the same from store to store, so we try to be mindful of that. We get our garlic, sauces, and vinegars from Superstore. I also like the prices and selection of personal care products at Superstore. Sometimes the food prices are cheaper at these places than they are at No Frills. 

Comparable places for the cheapest produce are Walmart and FreshCo too. We’ll go there if it’s more convenient for us. 

Costco

They tend to have the best prices for apples, mushrooms, spinach, lettuce, cheese, and eggs. We get most of our other staples here. We calculated that the amount we save on tea and coffee alone pays for the annual membership! Here, we get our oatmeal, coffee, tea, olive oil, canola oil, sriracha, mustard, hot chocolate, soy milk, milk, maple syrup, veggie burgers, edamame, tissue, detergent, toothpaste, and vitamins. I’m now off the local ice cream, but we were getting it here at such a good price. 

This summer, I bought from here an inexpensive set of little tomato plants which I planted and grew in my backyard. From late-August to now (late November) we’ve enjoyed the reddest and tastiest tomatoes. 

At Costco, we bought a 5L tub of Pink Solution, this extremely effective, non-toxic natural cleaner. About twice a year, they’ll have a vendor selling it. We’re going onto year 3 of using it and we still have 2/3rds of a container remaining. We use it to clean everything in our house. It cost us about $50 and it also came with this incredible grease remover and awesome stain-removing laundry bar. We just LOVE this stuff!

Bulk Barn

We get peanuts and xylitol sweetener here. Sometimes we’ll splurge and get raw pumpkin seeds, which aren’t cheap at all. But when you heat those seeds for 4-5 minutes over a frying pan on medium heat and add a bit of soy sauce at the end, BOOM! You now have the tastiest food to go with drinks!

Other Places

We live among farmers. So in the spring and summer, we’ll sometimes get our eggs, syrup, and veggies from the family-run farmer stand down the road. We also buy a massive bucket of honey one to two times a year from a guy down the road who sells honey for a local beekeeper.


How We Eat

We’re healthy eaters, however, we also can be pretty lazy when it comes to cooking. We’re huge fans of low-fuss cooking. We found that the only way to enjoy healthy eating is to make really tasty food using good seasoning and sauces. 

I usually just stir-fry onions and veggies to eat with rice, pasta, legumes, tofu, and even oatmeal. JP likes to bake everything: veggies, squash, and even his salmon. It is our habit to press garlic and marinate it in olive oil and vinegar (apple cider and balsamic) with some seasoning. We always have a bottle of this garlic concoction to pour on top of whatever we’re eating. It’s a great way to keep your weight down and stay healthy when it gets cold. Once in a while, I’ll make a killer onion potato omelette to manage my carb cravings and to nurse hangovers. To manage chip cravings (at heart, I’m a chip addict), I make kale chips.

For meals that take longer to prepare, I’ll just throw on some Netflix and watch while I cook or bake. When we have people over, I’ll just use recipes from my Women’s Health magazines to change things up and try new food and ingredients.

We cook in larger amounts to last us two to three days. When we’re not at our part-time jobs, we’re working from home, writing, or doing stock stuff. Having delicious, nourishing food at the ready kills the need to nosh on junk food. Additionally, when you’re well-nourished, you don’t need to eat as much. I used to be a junk food junkie, but I know that proactively eating healthy will lead to a longer, healthier life. I still eat sweets and junk food once in a while, but it’s no longer a staple in my shopping bags.

If the life-extending, artery de-clogging way I eat grosses you out, I apologize! As much as I want to pursue wealth, I want to be healthy and youthful enough to enjoy my money for years to come. Many people find that the healthier the food choices they make, the more of their money they end up saving. How great is that?

Health IS wealth!