The Cellphone Option

Besides weather, the one thing that I’ve found can create a very passionate conversation with most people is their cell phone company and the cell phone plan that they have. I have yet to talk to someone who is completely satisfied with their cell phone or the plans offered by our Canadian cell phone companies. Operating as an oligopoly, the companies do not seem to have any redeeming qualities to consumers, with most people (including myself) having the feeling that the companies are out to “get” them personally.

I currently own a Samsung Galaxy S3, purchased about three and a half years ago. At the time, it was Samsung’s “flagship” phone and included all of the leading edge features. I use it mostly to read Reddit and text my wife, as well as using it as a golf GPS system in the summer. It’s a good phone, but is starting to break down – the charging port is kind of hit or miss (I think something is broken in there), and the battery life is kind of laughable, forcing me to go from plug-in to plug-in if I want to have any hope of being able to use the phone away from work or home. I could fix the phone and replace the battery, but that would cost about $100 to keep an aging phone going.

To “upgrade” to a new phone with Bell (my current carrier), I would have to change my contract around. I have a plan that gives me 6 gigabytes of data with unlimited texting for $60 after tax right now, which I can’t find anywhere else. The newest versions of phones are currently around $800 plus taxes, which is a little more than I would like to spend right now, if I would like to keep my current plan.

My solution to combat the terrible Canadian cell phone companies? Buy a phone straight from China. I found a phone I liked – it has 3 times the battery size of my current phone and runs a newer version of Android. Total cost of the phone is $300 Canadian after shipping. The phone (Innos D6000) is currently on-route to me via DHL shipping, and should be delivered at some point either this week or next week.

Buying my own phone outright made sense to me because:

  1. The phone I bought had features available to it that were not available in any phone being sold at comparable prices anywhere (or within $500).
  2. Buying a new phone allowed me to keep my generous data plan at a reasonable price. To get a similar amount of data per month would cost almost $500 more per year to get.

I’m hoping that my semi-sketchy purchase from China works out, but so far it’s been pretty easy – I research things incessantly before I purchase them anyways, so me watching more than a couple “unboxing” videos and demos of phones from China along with comparing various specifications from random websites and YouTubers isn’t a big deal. I’m excited for the extended battery life and interchangeable battery capability that comes with this phone, as well as maintaining my “as good as I think I can get in Canada” cell plan.

Thoughts on the Canadian Election

Over the course of the Canadian election that took place last Monday, our new Prime Minister made 174 different promises to Canadians. These promises were enough to win a majority government – something that according to most polls prior to the October 19th election wasn’t going to be possible. Someone much smarter than I am has started a site (TrudeauMetre.ca) that tracks all 174 of the promises made, as well as the sources of where these items were arrived at, which to me is important, because it provides some level of transparency to the site and would allow readers to know where the site author has pulled the information from.

I am an outlier when it comes to most of key demographics that the government is trying to effect through changes in government policy. I lean closer to Libertarian than any other party, if I were to call myself anything – I would prefer significantly less government involvement in my life and the money I make than I’m currently experiencing. Canada, being a semi-socialist country isn’t the best place to have this kind of political view, so I vote on the party that socially shares similar outlooks and assume that at the fiscal level, (based on previous governments) all of the parties are going to generally end up in the same place.*

I usually don’t get super interested in any kind of government platform, because they’re all the same. With the Liberal government, there were a few things that do interest me.

Tax Break of 1.5% – Anytime someone’s going to give me more money for doing basically the same thing and not really have it effect my life too much, I’m okay with that. I’m skeptical that the money will be made up by the new tax bracket created for income earners of over $200,000, but that’s not big news because I’m usually skeptical over most things that are promised to me by anybody.

The middle income tax bracket is on income from $45,000 to $89,000, so the most that this tax break will provide is around $600 ($150 per $10,000) – not a big deal to most people, but it’s a nice gesture.

End of First-Past-The-Post Voting – I would prefer that this kind of change to be coupled with a some sort of mandatory voting rule, with a token fine that would perhaps provide some incentive for citizens to vote. A change to the method of voting would give people a chance to actually make their vote count to the entire election. I live in an area that has voted in a Liberal government in every election provincially and federally for the past 18 years that I’ve lived here. Due to the makeup of the population, my vote has no impact on the entire population, which is pretty frustrating.

Marijuana Legalization – I am not a pot smoker / consumer, but the Liberal party’s stance that the current “war on drugs” that has been held for 30+ years is not effective in controlling drugs. The demand for pot has not really changed in the past few decades, but the only people making money off of this are drug dealers, who don’t pay taxes or offer legitimate taxable jobs. Creating a “cleaner” industry from a current illegal industry makes sense to me. It seems to have worked for Colorado and Washington, money rolling in and few problems created.

Other than these, I think I’m with the other approximately 45% of people who voted Liberal – I’m just hoping for some sort of change. I’m cynical, but to me, I really don’t think our previous federal government even tried to identify with the population – they had their own agenda of Canadian “Right Wing” politics and ran with that, no matter what the polls showed citizens wanted. If our new government fulfills even half of the 174 promises they ran on, I’ll be happy – to me, it at least acknowledges what people are interested in for their country.

 

 

*At both the provincial and federal levels, we work in this weird cyclical churn of parties where we vote one party into office, they do what they do for a few years and then we get mad at them about something they’ve done. The opposition parties provide new promises that will make our world better and we eagerly vote them in, only to have the cycle repeated. No Canadian political party is going to come in and slash income taxes (and the services associated with those taxes) more than a few dollars a year.

A Different Kind of Anniversary

This past weekend, my wife and I had a few friends over for a barbecue. I cooked a bunch of meat and baked a couple of pies, and other than having to watch the Blue Jays go down 2-0 in the American League Championship series (I was one of those people who launched themselves onto the baseball bandwagon in August, after having given up on the team for the past decade or so) it was a really fun evening.

Besides celebrating a nice weekend in October that we were home for (as opposed to traveling somewhere in the province), we were celebrating a full year from my vasectomy surgery I had last year. I figured the opposite to the day of anxiety, pain, and mostly sitting around playing video games I had last year would be to have some friends over to enjoy a few drinks, some board games and have some fun – a “Vasectiversary” celebration is what my wife and I came up with for the occasion.

My decision to have this surgery a year ago was not made quickly – I did an excessive amount of research on the possible negative outcomes that could come from it, to the point that I pestered the urologist enough with questions that he ended up saying “Look, there are risks that will come from any surgery – I’ve done thousands of these, and have had almost zero complications reported from my patients. You’re aware of the risks and what the procedure entails, and have to decide whether the outcome is worth the minimal risk.” Besides the research, I gave myself 4 months between the consultation and the surgery, both to move the date until after golf season (VERY important to me). The four month break gave some more contemplation time after the surgery was booked and “real” – time to back out.

We made our decision to be “Childfree” after quite a bit of thought as well as looking at what our priorities in life would be. The decision for surgery was mine to make alone, although my wife was willing to go through the female version of the surgery as well – it just seemed easier and a less invasive procedure for me, rather than my wife to go through with it. A year later, both my wife and I are very comfortable with my surgery decision. The things we like to do with our life didn’t seem that it would be overly enhanced by adding dependents to – to the point that we don’t even own a cat as it would be abandoned while we left for weeks of vacation or weekends away from our house to visit friends or families around Ontario.

Financially, not having dependents to look after is a boon. While I understand children can be raised as economically as a parent wants, at the same time, not having the expense at all is significantly cheaper. One of the main reasons we can even contemplate Early Retirement is due to us being able to focus all of our “financial might” (of a moderate middle class dweller in Canada) towards this goal, instead of being dragged all over the place by conflicting priorities. The additional benefit of not having dependents is that we can be overtly selfish in our lifestyle and career. As long as we can support ourselves, there really isn’t any further obligation. If I felt like quitting my semi-stressful job tomorrow, in order to reduce the hours I work or restart a career in some other vocation, I could with no real effect to my household – this by itself is freeing.

Better to Start Now

I meant to post this yesterday, but had to re-work some of my calculations in the examples below that didn’t make sense.  I’m definitely not advocating this type of investment for anyone, but wrote this post as part of my own investigation into possibly doing it for myself.

I am far from an innovative investor. I lean heavily on stealing other people’s ideas as my own, picking and choosing the best stuff that seems to fit into my own risk profile and investing strategy, as well as for the time I’m able to use to research the investments going into my portfolio. I continue to read books and blogs of people who are smarter (and probably more interested) at investing than I am.

Ever since I initially read “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, I had a dream of being a real estate mogul – of building a business that was outlined in his book from a couple of small houses to eventually a full portfolio of buildings that would make me a multimillionaire. I read that book over 10 years ago, during my initial rush of inhaling every personal finance book that I could. While I think that in general, most of what was talked about in the book doesn’t really apply to me, the picture of being a real estate “player” as a means to wealth never really left my mind.

One thing that has kept me out of the physical real estate market is that I really don’t like people. I know what I was like as a fairly responsible tenant during my renting days, and I wasn’t ideal – I can only imagine the problems that I could come across with some of the “horror story” tenants that I read and hear about from landlords. My wife and I can barely manage our own house, let alone look after several properties at a time. While I know I could hire a property management company to look after the houses I’ve bought, that would mean I’d have to hire and fire those “employees”, something I wouldn’t look forward to doing.

A couple of weeks ago, Nelson from Financial Uproar wrote about an alternative method of having a leveraged real estate portfolio.  Most of my adult life, I have been against most forms of debt, I don’t like to have it hanging over my head and have avoided most forms of borrowing as much as I can. I am generally a risk averse individual when it comes to investments, but this kind of leveraged investment has me intrigued. I am currently invested in a couple of REITs in my RRSP portfolio (RioCan and Dream Office), but these items make up a fairly small portion of my current overall investments. A much larger exposure to real estate wouldn’t really shift the diversification of my portfolio.

Example

As an example of how this investment would work, let’s say my wife and I were to start a “mini” real estate portfolio. Like most real estate starts, our intention is to use 20% of our own money (similar to how we would have started with buying a small house to rent to a small family or students) and borrow 80% of the amount from our bank using a home equity loan. I have made the following assumptions (taken from Nelson’s blog post, as well as September 15, 2015’s return for the REIT TSE:ZRE) :

Interest Rate Charge – 2.70%
Annual Charge = $2,160
Monthly Charge = $180

Return on the REIT investment – 5.71%
Annual Return = $5,710
Monthly Return = $476

I’m going to assume there is no change in distributions or interest rates for the period of testing.

Basic calculation:
On a monthly basis, we could, on a 20,000 investment earn $295.83 (distributions less interest charges) as long as interest rates never increase, or cash distributions aren’t adjusted in the for the index fund. Annualized, this investment would provide an additional $3,550 in income for our household – not a huge amount of money, but a pretty good return of 17.75%. If our goal at retirement is to have passive income of $25,000, we would be 14% of the way there, with minimal effort.

Paying down the debt:
If, over the next 9 and a half years (114 months) if we didn’t spend any of the income received from the investment and use the total net amount to pay down the principle on the loan, we would be making $382.22 per month ($4,586 per year). At the end of this period, we would owe $21,604 on the loan we took out

“Letting it Ride”
A more aggressive method of utilizing this kind of investment, would be to pay interest only, and utilize the money earned to purchase more shares. This kind of strategy would be similar to a “small-time” real estate investor starting with a single house, and using the equity created by the investment, to extend the investment to the maximum. At our projected retirement date, we would be generating annual income of $6,100 with our investment, an increase of $2,550 over the year 1 investment returns, or about an 8% increase on return (hopefully greater than inflation).

A Mix
The investment could be paid down like a mortgage, increasing the investment and paying down the debt at the same time. In month 1, the net return of the investment is the calculated $295.83. The $295.83 could be split in two, with half of the distribution used to pay down the debt and the rest used to purchase more of the security, more of a “blended” payment. This method of debt payment would reduce the debt outstanding, which might insulate any future impact of an increase in interest rates, while increasing income associated with the investment.

Tax Implications:
If I were to utilize this kind of investment, I would do it through a taxable account. With a taxable account, there are implications that need to be taken into consideration over holding a REIT in a tax-sheltered account.

On the taxable income side, REITs are much more complex than normal securities, due to the methods used to create income. The Globe and Mail wrote an article about tax filing for RioCan in previous years, which included the following items in income:

31.24% – Other income – taxable at the marginal rate.
1.72% – Capital Gains – 50% taxable at marginal rate
4.57% – Foreign non-business income – taxable at the marginal rate
62.47% – Reduction in adjusted cost base (return on capital or ROC) – A bit of a complex calculation – the Globe and Mail writer explained it as:

When you receive ROC, you are not taxed immediately on the amount. Rather, you subtract the ROC from the adjusted cost base of your units. This gives rise to a larger capital gain, or smaller capital loss, when you ultimately sell your units. Because of the tax deferral, ROC is considered tax-efficient income.

Interest on investments is an allowable expense, provided the investment is used to try to earn investment income (can’t be used for capital gains investments). This allowable expense will reduce the taxable liability on the interest earned, provided I would fill out a schedule 4 tax form.

Risks:

The two main risks with this type of investment would be a decrease in the distribution paid out, or an interest rate increase. Both of these risks are a little scary when it comes to the investment as a whole, but there is (currently) a 3% spread currently between the interest charge and investment return to “play” with.

Verdict:

I’m still not sure if I’ll do this or not. If I do make a leveraged investment, the earlier it’s made the better, as it would give more time to get either interest paid down or to increase the investment earnings by reinvesting into the security.

Basic Universal Income

I love science fiction stories, and read probably fifteen or twenty of these kind of novels per year. Some of stories told in the books are similar, but most paint an amazing picture of the future – interstellar spaceships, extended life treatments, peaceful worlds and exotic alien lifeforms. Reading these books is  a form of escapism – the worlds painted by the authors get me thinking about what the future could be like.

I keep an eye on current technology trends happening in the world, which, compared to previous human history is somewhat alarming.  There are protests taking place all over the world around the legalities of Uber driving services. Technology has allowed individuals (whether illegally or not) to provide a service that taxis have carried out as long as cities existed. The next step to this technology is to remove human drivers altogether – have self-driving cars dispatched to people who “hail” them via their phone and cut costs and increase convenience further.  Transport truck companies are testing self-driving trucks to run on the highways – jobs which have existed forever could possibly be gone in the next decade.

More and more automation is happening in the workforce, whether it’s robots in factories or new self-serve systems at McDonald’s restaurants. In previous eras, there were always protests around the negative impacts of technologies on employees. There may be an evolution of jobs similar to the past, moving more towards service industries or other “value-added” trades, but there is the possibility of a significant volume of people’s positions just disappearing in our near future sci-fi world.

Couple the significant erosion of traditional middle-class work with the vast income inequality currently being experienced all over the world, where the top 1% of households will own more than the 99% by 2016 and there’s going to be some significant financial problems when it comes to people’s personal finances in the future.

One possible solution to the coming world where most manufacturing, transportation, as well as healthcare and financial services jobs will probably be mostly automated is a Universal Basic Income. Universal Basic Income is what it sounds like – a cheque comes to everyone which ensures nobody lives in poverty. According to this article, it is an idea that is picking up steam world-wide, and is popular among both Liberal and Conservative parties as a solution to poverty. In a world where jobs may slowly be disappearing, never to be replaced, this type of wealth-split may provide a solution.

In its essence, Universal Basic Income is what I’m shooting for in order to fund my Early Retirement in a decade. I want to be financially independent of a job, and need a certain amount of money to do this. Currently Switzerland is campaigning to implement this idea, providing all citizens with approximately $35,000 per year CAD, for which a referendum will possibly be held in the next year or so. $35,000 would easily allow my wife and I to maintain our current lifestyle and probably leave the workforce.  With the possibility of a steadily decreasing pool of jobs available, it may be one solution for most people.

I think the next couple of decades should be very interesting. I’m hoping there are no significant changes in my ability to find work, but in the event of an “employment recession” caused by an infusion of automation in all forms of work, I am very curious to see what the policy response from both citizens and governments will be.

Low Interest Exposure

Last week my wife and I received notification of our condominium corporation’s annual meeting, along with a copy of the corporation’s financial statements. For now, my wife and I have no plans to move, so I take an interest in reviewing the audited numbers provided. If our house was a short-term investment, we would care only what the next 3 to 5 year’s fees were looking like, not how closely our condominium board has followed the projected 20-year maintenance schedule. While I read the financial statements, I have only been to one out of the 6 annual meetings since we moved into our place. Our one appearance turned into some moderately passive aggressive attacks between neighbours, and questions that really couldn’t be answered by the board of directors (mostly centred around placement of garbage cans).

One thing that I’ve noticed over the past few years is the slow reduction in interest rates that the corporation has had to endure. As of December 31, 2014 our condo corporation had around $200,000 invested, in 4 separate longer-term GICs. The average rate of return on these GICs was under 3%. When we first moved into our house, the average yield was above 6%. As these higher yielding investments expired, our company has been forced to invest cash in much lower yields, which is having the effect of increasing our condo fees gradually.

Similar to the condominium, my company defined-benefit pension plan is very tied to the bond market. Due to the risk associated with the stocks, no pension fund management company would leave themselves over-exposed to the market, and instead put a large amount of their portfolios into investments in debt. This lower return on a large portion of the pension portfolio due to steadily decreasing bond coupon prices over the past half decade or so is costing me money. My employer only has so much money to pay, and if they’re forced to fund the pension due to sub-par returns, I don’t get much of a raise anymore.

Most of my exposure to the marketplace right now is through these two investments outlined, as my own portfolio is small in relation since I really just started investing into stocks and bonds last fall. I am much more risk tolerant right now than these two other investments I am involved in and invest accordingly. I am willing to take the risk in order to have a chance at not having to work anymore. To a certain extent, this higher risk investment attitude is being balanced by the strict investments being made in my name through my pension and condominium corporation.

Take ALL of My Money (Just Not Right Now)

I have made it abundantly clear to both of my parents that I would prefer that they end their lives with as close to a zero balance as they can possibly manage. I haven’t depended on my parents financially since I was 18 years old, and I certainly hope I won’t need their money from now into the future.

Estate laws in Canada are set up to allow assets left to spouses or financially dependent children or grandchildren to be transferred tax free. In the event someone dies without any of these individuals in their lives, or assets have been left to other individuals through a will, the item is deemed to have been sold, and subject to all applicable taxes. These tax laws don’t really affect most people that much – someone dies and their moderate estate is left to a spouse or goes to a relative or is bequeathed to someone else according to instructions left in a will.

I’d like there to be a 100% estate tax (outside of the current rules on spouses and dependents, along with registered charities). I don’t understand why someone who is now dead, and no longer needs any money can control what happens to their money. I would prefer to see estate taxes force individuals to pay their own way through life, and make it as good as it can possibly be. Our current system is very skewed towards the above-average level of wealth person, who has the ability to leave substantial fortunes to create an heir, something which our society seems to disagree with significantly.

Higher estate taxes would have the same effect on most people as my company’s vacation policy, which is a “use it or lose it approach”. People would have less incentive to squirrel money away in their retirement – they could (for example) buy a bigger annuity, which would ensure that all funds are used up at death, rather than setting something aside for their adult children. Higher estate taxes could also lessen the income and sales tax burden on individuals, allowing for greater spending power now, in return for being taxed 100% more when you don’t need money anymore.

My argument for having a system like this is that I really don’t think dead people need money anymore. Why not set up a system that stops estates from making people wealthy for doing nothing, and reduce the tax burden on the people who are living now?

Already “Wind-Down” Time

I like to learn. I was continuously in school until 2 years ago, I had been in taking formal courses for almost 30 years straight. While almost always tedious, I did enjoy the part at the end of the course, looking back and realizing that I’ve actually learned more than I knew a few months before – even though there were a couple of instances I didn’t actually learn enough to pass the course. Taking courses did get better once I decided that it wasn’t a good idea to stay up until 1 a.m. on a work night to finish an assignment that was due the next day (time management would have been a huge help during my University years).

Even though I enjoy learning, I think I’m mostly done with formal education. I read quite a bit of non-fiction on all sorts of subjects (right now I’m reading a book on curing autoimmune diseases) and prefer to learn at a much more relaxed pace, which, based on previous experience is much better than trying to cram in most of the Canadian Tax Code over 10 weeks. Taking tests and being graded is stressful, and will bring very little enjoyment to my life because of that. After taking part in “higher education” by distance education to get an accounting designation, I’m not interested in trading off the 10 to 30 hours a week it takes to get through more courses.

I don’t really have any major career aspirations that require more education. In fact, I don’t really have many career aspirations at all. I like the job I’ve been doing over the past three years, and don’t really see a reason to change that at this point. The job I have has (for now) the correct mix of enough responsibility, without a significant risk of me losing my job in making a mistake. I get along well with my coworkers, and because I’ve worked in the same place for over a decade, I know most of the people in my 400 person company.

One of my friends asked me why I didn’t take part in any team sports, as I’m fairly athletic and it would seem like something I’d be into doing. In the past, I’ve played beach volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and slow pitch. I wasn’t terrible at any of those things, but after the initial couple of weeks of having fun, I started to really dislike having to go somewhere once or twice a week. This type of obligation is the reason why I think I’m done with formal education – I’ll keep learning, just more on my own.

The marginal return on any money I would spent and time I would invest just doesn’t make sense to “waste” on more school. Even though I still have approximately nine and a half years to go before my projected retirement age, I’m already in “wind-down” time – taking 2 or 3 years for more school (such as a Masters or other higher education), to use for 6 years doesn’t really make sense to me.

A Different Kind of Exit Plan

My wife and I had a death happen in the family recently. These occurrences are never overly pleasant for anyone, but this one in particular ended on a very sour note. The person’s spouse found out after death that there really wasn’t anything in the way of a financial plan. The spouse who died had been in charge of taking care of all of the household’s money stuff, and hadn’t really left any indication of how to carry on doing it. Besides this, there was no link to things like life insurance, a will, or anything like that.

My wife and I feel terrible for the surviving spouse – in an already stressful situation, dealing with the death of a spouse, they now have to deal with added financial battles. The entire situation really poked some holes in our current situation – we don’t really have anything set up for if one of us dies. Although this is not a nice thing to think of, after seeing what this relative is going through, this sort of thing has moved to the top of our list of things to do with our finances in the short-term. I’ve made a short list of items we are going to do in the next few months, a pretty morbid list:

Our bills are split up between the two of us – some of them have both of our names on them, like property tax and gas, while others are in one spouse or the other’s names. This really isn’t good for a “backup” situation at all, and should be changed.

We need to add each other as beneficiaries to our RRSPs. This will just make accessing the assets a little bit easier if anything were to happen.

My wife needs a full listing of where all my money is, and how to get at it. I have several accounts that she may or may not have noted when I have told her about them in the past. I find segregating money between accounts to be the easiest way for me to maintain whatever savings plans I am involved with, and therefore have 3 different banks with accounts that I have accumulated over the years.

We need a Will – we do not have one, and probably should have something written down in the event that one or both of us die.

Most of the problems that we have is that our finances are very split up, and have been since we moved in together. We each look after our piece for money stuff, and don’t have to think about the other person’s. For us, this system works, we don’t have to think about half the bills that come into the house every month.

The other reason that we haven’t done any of this stuff, is that we never really think about any of this stuff. Instead of spending the hour or two it would take to get a really organized binder together that would look after all of this stuff, we’d rather watch an episode of “Friends” on Netflix and not think about this kind of thing.

If you or your spouse died, would the survivor be able to easily keep up the “house stuff”?

Controlling My Impulses

I have a lack of impulse control when it comes to food. I eat (for the most part) 95% healthy food, with the rest of the stuff I put into my face being a menagerie of horrifically delicious and unhealthy food that if I looked at it all together would probably make me sick. I consider myself to be at a normal weight now, but it wasn’t always that way. When I got out of school, I went on a mission to lose all of the 60 pounds that I had put on while I was sitting around, drinking, and playing video games for the 4 and a half years while I got my degree.

I lost all of the weight I wanted to by eating less and exercising – the “super boring and works everytime” system that sucks quite a bit. Eating less food goes against most of what my body wants, and as I’ve gotten older, and gotten better at cooking, it’s gotten harder to eat reasonable quantities of food everyday. Besides being a pretty good cook, I am also excellent at talking myself into eating too much, especially too much bad food, especially when I’m not even hungry.

A couple of years ago, I got into fasting, after reading a book called “Eat Stop Eat”. Once or twice a week, I just wouldn’t eat for 24 hours. I would eat dinner on a Monday, and not eat until Tuesday at dinner. What I found, was that I can survive 24 hours without eating, and don’t really feel like I’m going to die. What I also found out was that I understood what it actually felt like to be hungry, something that most people that live in developed nations really don’t understand.

Healthwise, from reading various books and people who know more about this kind of thing than I do, fasting is pretty healthy to do once in a while, as long as the fast doesn’t extend past 30 hours and you eat a healthy “normal” quantity of food on days you’re abstaining from eating. “Forcing” a caloric deficiency on my system jars my thinking from “Lets continuously put food in my face all the time, even though I don’t need it”, to being conscious when I actually need to eat.

I’ve been successful with my finances over the years by taking all choice away from myself – shifting money to ING/Tangerine accounts so that I couldn’t spend it, or paying tons of money down on my mortgage every paycheque before I went out to buy a bunch of books or video games that I really don’t have time to read. I leave myself a relatively small percentage of my paycheque to spend, in order to stop myself from binging, setting a base of money available to me for the couple of weeks I have between paycheques. Much like just deciding not to eat for a period of time, having a more binary “yes or no” option to spending makes decisions on frivolous purchases (which realistically, are the totals of most of my spending).

Are you disciplined, or do you have a system of stopping your impulses?