This website has decided to retire early, just like me :)
Since blogging is addictive, I'll still be posting at my new site The Youngest Snowbird. Race ya there!
This website has decided to retire early, just like me :)
Since blogging is addictive, I'll still be posting at my new site The Youngest Snowbird. Race ya there!
Me and Home Depot.
Clearly we have a little 'thing' going cause I can't seem to stay away from that place. I had another brainstorm a few days ago to spice up the bare wall in the kitchen of JohnnyDisco.
We covered the wall with back splash paneling that's stamped to look like tin, but it's actually heavy duty plastic. It's very light weight and easy to wipe clean.
The panels are supposed to be attached to the wall with special trim, but after calculating the cost of all the trim we'd need, I decided to buy gold colored screws instead. The screws compliment the color of the panels and the project looks even better than I expected.
The total cost was about $86 for all 4 panels, plus the screws. And it looks so rich we might even do the wall space above the counter too, which is what this paneling was actually made for.
Our little place is really coming together...
Thanks to My Handsome Construction worker, the brawn behind our little operation.
I bribed him to smile by telling him I'd call him handsome in this post :)
We've parked JohnnyDisco just outside Vegas for a week or two.
Our little family is slowly heading north to Canada as the weather continues to warm up and another post about our road trip home is in the works. In the meantime, the RV office reno is almost complete, including the new window covers.
I've used this window privacy film from Home Depot on several former house renos where I wanted both natural light and privacy. Wasn't sure how well it would work on the RV windows and I actually had to put it on a piece of plexiglass for the left window (the slider) but it worked.
We can still use the screen for air circulation ... and the sun shining through the faux stained glass is gorgeous.
The office space is almost done except for a few odds and ends - like the table legs needed for the desk top. Turns out we won't be able to buy those until we get to California.
Everything in the shelf area is stable and ready for travel. The only thing we'll have to move when JohnnyDisco is on the highway is the file box on the center shelf.
Even the rolling chair will be held in place with a bungee cord and two heavy duty anchor plates that My Fella screwed into the shelf.
Stable furniture. Just one of the many things you have to think about when your house has wheels...
First day of our road trip (heading home to Canada) was a long one.
It started at 4:45am when my inner alarm clock went off. Rarely have I ever set an alarm to wake up at a certain time. I'm one of those freaky freaks that can decide what time I'm waking up the next day and then just do it, within about 10 minutes either way. Weird, I know.
We had JohnnyDisco at the RV shop by 7am and Norman was at the vet at 8:00 for his very first rabies shot. He was totally composed on the vets table.
Course at this point, he had no idea he would be getting a needle in his butt. Pretty nasty way to start the day.
Shelbert was just along for the ride this time, so she was cool as a cucumber. Note Exhibit A:
Doesn't she look like Bono?
After the vet appointment, we ran a few other errands and then picked up JohnnyDisco at 11am. By noon, we were heading northbound on the highway and waving goodbye to Tucson.
It took 5 hours to get to our first stop, 3 Dreamers RV Park just outside of Salome, Arizona. A one night stay with water/power/sewer cost $18 bucks with our Passport America discount. The park was pretty average and a little out of the way, but a good spot for an overnight stay: gravel sites, clean/quiet and a strong, fast wifi connection.
We have no RV park pics but here are some shots from the Arizona highway.
Desert cactus and highway construction were the main themes for this drive.
Most of the road work took no time at all to navigate...
But a few spots took forever to get through...
At least we had the convenience of bringing our home (JohnnyDisco) with us ... for important stuff like snacks and potty breaks.
And naps. And bone chewing.
More road trips pics coming tomorrow, but before I forget... If you're ever in southern Arizona and need RV repairs, parts, maintenance, etc. bring your rig into Lance's RV Center just off the I-10 in Tucson. The shop rates are much cheaper than any of the local dealers and Lance's customer service (and work ethic) is top notch. True story.
We're in transit for the next couple days so here's an RV office update.
We only added one more shelf for now since I may install a cabinet with doors at the very bottom.
The desk isn't quite finished cause we can't find individual aluminum table legs in any local stores. It looks like we'll need to order them online from IKEA since we're not passing by any stores during our travels.
In this shot, the desk top is just resting on a rolling cart but when it's finished it will be sitting on 3 round aluminum legs.
We still have to take down the ugly window treatment and I have a brainstorm for covering the window panes. It's still in the planning stages but I'll post some pics when we're done.
And just a reminder of what we started with:
The space has come a long way.
We worked on the RV renos today and there'll be some new pics to share tomorrow.
'Til then, here's what Shelbert and Norman have been up to this weekend.
Walking and running and pooping and playing and barking and sniffing and jumping and fetching and smelling and licking and sneezing and chewing and eating and napping ...
I love our fuzzy rescue mutts.
... I've devised yet another DIY project for us.
When you have two mature (??? :) adults sharing the same living teeny weeny living space, you better have some 'projects' up your sleeve or things could get ugly. Especially if one of the aforementioned adults is only employed for half the year. Trust me... I know of what I speak.
We are a very very lucky couple. Passive dividend income covers our living expenses and retirement savings. I still put in a few hours a day on my stock stuff 'cause I love reading the biz news and researching companies. Plus I have a wee bit of an old man crush on BNN's Howard Green.
My Fella isn't interested in stocks or investing. His passion is sports and he works full-time during the golf season (April to Oct) at a small BC resort course. My guy would like to continue working when we head south for the winter, but legally he can't accept a job in either Mexico or the USA.
So I create new projects to keep him out of my hair us busy and productive. Like motorhome renos.
When we first bought JohnnyDisco I had a funky vision for the office space. But the plan had to be flexible since we didn't know what was hiding under the bunk beds (wires, steel bars, etc).
The first reno (bunk beds into home office) looked like this:
It was a great set-up, except for my desk chair lurking smack dab in the middle of the hallway. Major obstacle course and a HUGE Pain in the Butt (or more likely a bruised knee) for anyone trying to sneak past that chair into the bathroom. My five-legged rolling monster chair also had to be moved for constant rounds of Squeak Fetch with Shelbert.
When I first envisioned the RV office, I wanted it completely in the slide that once-upon-a-time held the bunk beds. The space is large enough for a small desk, bookshelves, a printer and the evil shin busting chair. But My Fella and I were virgin RV-ers and ripping everything out of the slide made us both nervous.
Fast forward one year and we are now experienced full time RV-ers. Not much smarter, but definitely more smug. After all, we've survived a full year without blowing up our propane tank, driving away with the slides out or getting wedged beneath a really low underpass.
We are ready to tackle the Full Office Reno.
First up, the destruction phase. Everything had to be removed from the office: the desk, the lower bunk and drawers and all the extra trim, staples and nails.
The materials were easily recycled. We kept a bunch of the wood for our new office project and the rest was tossed into the RV park's bonfire burn pile after My Fella removed all the staples and nails.
Doesn't My Fella look like McSteamy in this pic?
Is there still a McSteamy? It's just occurred to me that I haven't turned on the tv since last October...
Anyway, after completely emptying the former desk area, we discovered a snaky mess of wires and hoses that lived under the bottom bunk.
My Fella constructed two wooden boxes to hide the wires away from our 5 month old pup, Norman, who has enthusiastically discovered that HE HAS TEETH.
After My Fella built the wire covers it was my turn to crawl around on the floor for a while, measuring, cutting and installing the new office floor. (We work in shifts so we don't get on each others nerves. It's much easier this way ... and even after all these renos, we're still together :)
I have no pictures of me installing the tile (I only have two hands, people). But here are some action shots taken when I removed the heating vent to see what was under the carpet, which we also want to replace soon.
Hopefully all of my tool-esque props convinced you that I do participate in the reno activities. Especially during a full moon. Or when we need a new office floor. "Ta da..."
It's hard to tell in the above pic, but our little office floor is about 2 inches higher than the hallway because it's on a slide. We like the colour and quality of our new tile much better than the original vinyl flooring that came with JohnnyDisco. This project was so easy and inexpensive (box of tile was $30) that we plan on replacing the entire coach with new flooring.
The wire cover boxes (in the above pic) aren't screwed in place yet because I'm hauling them outside tomorrow to toss on a couple coats of wood stain to match the trim. And I need to stain a long skinny piece of trim to cover the far right corner of the floor where the steel slide peeks up.
Also on our To Do list:
In the meantime, we're in the final planning stages of our road trip northwest to Nevada. Our five month stay in sunny, southern Arizona is coming to an end ... hard to believe we head out early next week.
On top of that:
That's why I decided to spring this office reno on My Fella yesterday. He renovates much better on a deadline :)
Since the new year began, I've fallen out of the habit of posting my current stock holdings and monthly portfolio gains on the blog. Not sure why that is.
Have I become paranoid about tossing our personal financial details out into cyberspace?
Or maybe I'm just a fragile, shy little bunny who doesn't want to brag when she has a good month in the markets. Huh?
"Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haha haha haha haha hahahahaha... whew". Okay, clearly that's not it.
Posting my monthly holdings and gains is the best way for me to stay accountable to myself and our investing strategy, which is, in a nutshell:
This strategy is working for us and the proof is in the numbers:
Earlier this month I took profits on my two big trading stocks, so roughly 1/3 of the entire portfolio is now in cash***.
Current holdings include:
Yup, that's it. Only six companies. Which means if we hold 33% cash, then several of these equities must make up more than 10% of the entire portfolio. That's another big no-no.
The 'experts' (whoever they are) suggest that you should own no more than 5% to 7% of any one company for diversification sake. I fully agree with this unwritten rule. Just like I agree with the 'Don't Chase Yield' rule.
But I don't follow either of them.
Us shy and fragile Ninja Investor Bunnies usually ignore the rules :)
*** The Canadian loonie is at a three year high of $1.02955 against the US dollar. If/when it hits $1.05, some of our free cash will be buying a few American bucks in my US dollar account.
So much for my cocky "we'll never get snow here in southern Arizona" speech yesterday.
The Winter Storm Warning made a fool of me and hurled about an inch of the white stuff at us overnight. And it was cold enough here in Dodge City for the snow to stick around 'til this morning.
Here's our RV neighbour's car, just outside Tucson around 7am:
But the desert hills behind our site looked especially cool, covered in snow:
The chilly weekend weather also hit a few areas that haven't seen snow in years, like the San Francisco Bay area and the desert just outside Vegas.
Our Dodge City snowfall should disappear in a few hours since the forecast high is 18C today. And then it's back to sunny skies and daily highs of 25C (77f) until we leave for Nevada in early March.
In the meantime I might go wrap my toque and mittens around the saguaro behind our site.
It's not used to this kind of weather.
Lots of gorgeous sunsets over the Arizona desert lately but some lousy winter weather has sprung up for the weekend.
Lousy doesn't necessarily mean cold around here - it means windy. Windy enough that we feel the need to give both mutts a little extra weight and padding so their leashes don't turn them into puppy balloons the minute they step outside.
Both a Wind Advisory and a Winter Storm Watch were issued for this weekend:
Wind Advisory Tucson Metro Area including Tucson, Green Valley, Marana, Vail (Arizona)
URGENT - WEATHER MESSAGE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TUCSON AZ 232 AM MST SAT FEB 26 2011 * THE WIND ADVISORY IS IN EFFECT FROM 11 AM TO 7 PM MST SATURDAY. * WINDS...SUSTAINED WIND SPEEDS OF 25 TO 35 MPH * IMPACTS...MOTORISTS IN THE ADVISORY AREA ARE URGED TO EXERCISE CAUTION
Winter Storm Watch Tucson Metro Area including Tucson, Green Valley, Marana, Vail
URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TUCSON AZ 228 AM MST SAT FEB 26 2011 AZZ503-504-506>509-261730- * A STRONG WINTER STORM WILL MOVE ACROSS ARIZONA SAT AND SUNDAY. * SNOWFALL AMOUNTS OF 4 TO 8 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE
We won't see any snow here at Dodge City RV (I hope) but we took other precautions.
My Fella has already taken down our patio area so the table, chairs and Mutt Hut don't end up blowing south to Mexico.
Although if the wind could carry us all to Mexico, we'd be up for it. At least for a weekend of sunshine and pickleball.
As of May 15th, Shanghai dog lovers can only own one fuzzy pal.
According to this article in The Telegraph: "Dog ownership has grown alongside China's fast-expanding middle class with official estimates putting Shanghai's pet dog population at 800,000 -- although only a quarter of that number are registered... The government had said tighter regulation was needed due to rampant barking, unscooped waste, and the growing risk of dog attacks, which affect the city's environment and sanitation."
That law would never fly around these parts.
Every single camper here at Dodge City RV has at least one dog, and more likely two.
We sure love our pups.
Even after they pee on the bedroom carpet and throw up in the car four times in four days. Norman, we're lookin' at you here, kid...
We have a new critter in the house.
He's a 4 month old schnauzer cross - we're still trying to figure out what he's mixed with. Before we took him to the doggie salon he looked like he was part shih tzu or maybe maltese... Any ideas?
We sorta hope he's a schnauzer/shih tzu cross, 'cause schnauzer + shih tzu = shnit zu. Gesundheit.
My Fella and I had been in contact with several dog rescues in Arizona since November 2010. A few weeks ago, Robby, from Arizona Desert Rotti Dog Rescue emailed to say she had the perfect pup for us. We weren't actually looking for a puppy, but Norman is a sweet little guy who has fit easily into our family.
And he's so smart! (gushes the proud dog mama :) We house trained him in less than a week. He's also learned:
My Big Rugged Fella is also a big rugged softie and got attached to Norman very quickly...
Shelbert was a little miffed for the first couple of days and hasn't really warmed up to him yet.
A more appropriate description of what she does is tolerate him. Is it so hard to forge a bond with someone who keeps drooling on your squeak toys and sniffing your butt?
But it's all working out. We've been fostering Norman for the past week and today we took the plunge and adopted him.
AZ Desert Rotti Rescue holds adoption events every weekend at the Tucson Petsmart on the corner of Grant and Swan.
Generous volunteers (Sue, Yvonne, Deb, Robby and many others) lovingly donate their time, energy and money to find new families for homeless pets around southern Arizona. They also do a lot of the fostering to get these little guys ready for adoption.
If you live around Tucson or you're a Canadian snowbird in Arizona for the winter, and you wanna adopt a furry buddy, we can't recommend this organization enough. What an amazing, dedicated group of ladies.
Thank you from the bottom of our fuzzy hearts, for bringing Norman into our lives. He may have started out as a baby stray (from humans too stupid/lazy/cheap to get their pet spayed/neutered) but he's a keeper.
And now that we've adopted an American pup, can we get dual citizenship???
... at RV-ing.
As of this month, JohnnyDisco has been our full-time home for one year and there's still so much we don't know about this lifestyle.
For example, did you know you need to constantly check the sealant on your roof vents and slides to prevent water leaks? You can find this out the hard way or the easy way; the hard way being water damage in your rig after a major rainstorm. Luckily, we found out the easy way - through conversation with more experienced RV-ers.
We were going to use Dicor sealant, a pliable caulking sealant that RV dealers recommend. But then all the old boys here at Dodge City RV told us they use something called Eternabond which is a sealant in tape form. From the pics online it looks like a roll of super thick duct tape.
Eternabond has a ten year warranty and after reading online reviews about the product, the only negative thing My Fella has read is that you need to place it in the exact the spot you want it because it's almost impossible to remove.
My Fella was invited to watch our RV neighbours apply some to their rig next week. One of the other Dodge City guys has already used it on his 5-wheel and loves the stuff. And he agreed that precision is important - it is really hard to remove Eternabond if you stick it on crooked.
We just ordered a role of black Eternabond (4" x 50' long) from this online site and it was much cheaper than anything we've found at RV stores. Total cost with taxes, shipping & handling charges = $62.
If you've had any experience with Eternabond, please comment. My Fella is very open to advice/tips about how to apply it :)
*Silly sidenote: The morning business news has been consumed by the European debt crisis and I've had the word Eurobond stuck in my head for days. And now I can't wrap my brain around the word Eternabond - I keep calling it Eurobond. My Fella knows what I'm trying to say when I talk about putting Eurobond on the roof, but our Dodge City RV neighbours don't quite get it. Whenever I mention Eurobonding our rig, they look at me like I've been drinking since 9am.
My Fella and I don't buy each other many gifts.
But for Valentines Day we did get each other a few fun things.
For My Fella:
The video games were purchased thru eBay (half the price of gaming stores) and the M&M's were on sale at Fry's.
My replacement faux engagement ring was found in a little Tucson store selling southwestern art. It's opal, with a man made emerald in the center and 4 little cz stones, set in white gold. It was on sale for $63... a fraction of the price of my diamond engagement ring but if I lose this one too it will be cheaper and easier to replace.
And while running errands yesterday we stumbled into a Blockbuster movie close-out sale. We picked up these three flicks for $9 - the same price as one adult movie admission in Canada.
We spent just under $130, but we're both happy with what we bought and we'll make good use out of everything.
And no expensive restaurant dinner for us tonight; we'd rather stay home to eat turkey bean chili, watch one of our new movies and hang out with her...
And him too...
More details about this little monster coming up :)
Have you ever heard of Robert Kiyosaki?
He's the man behind the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series of best-selling books that supposedly teach folks to 'Be Rich'.
CBC Marketplace produced an excellent 3 part expose on the Rich Dad, Poor Dad Seminars that have been making their way across North America.
This is an eye-opening look at the scurvy critters who conduct high pressure sales at these seminars. If you're interested in the Rich Dad seminar, or know someone that has signed up for one, check this out first.
Do your due diligence, people. NO ONE cares about your money more than you!
Wild animals have taken over this blog.
This is the final batch of pics from our Reid Park Zoo visit on Wednesday. Hover your mouse over any of the pics to get a quick description of what you're seeing.
Tucson's city zoo houses more than 500 animals, including these elephant buddies, Connie and Shaba:
Some controversy has been brewing over these two mammals for the past couple years since Reid Park Zoo has been added to the Worst Zoos for Elephants list.
But Reid Park Zoo has begun construction on a new elephant exhibit called Expedition Tanzania, opening in 2012, with a total of three acres for Connie and Shaba to roam. The expansion will feature state-of-the-art facilities including pools, mud wallows, sand pits, and all the things that make elephants happy.
These two speedy featherballs would love their own exhibit as well.
And they'd be even happier if I stopped taking their picture. Ostriches can run up to 45 miles per hour, easily catching me and stomping my camera to bits... maybe I'll just focus on a different, kinder, gentler animal...
Like the zebra...
A zebra's stripes are like camouflage, helping them hide in tall grass.
This sounds silly since grass is green and and zebras are black and white. BUT it is supposedly very effective against the zebra's main predator, the lion, who is color blind.
Lions are color blind? Who knew?
"Hey, Rhino Butt!"
The Reid Park Zoo rhino is a tad camera shy.
On to the warthogs, bears and tigers...
And I saved the best for last.
Giraffes are, without a doubt, my fave wild animal; tall and graceful, but so cartoon-like they could easily fit into a Dr Seuss dreamland.
Reid Park Zoo houses four gorgeous giraffes: Denver, Elinor, Texas and Watoto.
Interesting giraffe tidbits:
I love giraffes.
Tucson's Reid Park Zoo was three hours well spent, and a total bargain at only $7 per adult. It was educational too, especially the bathroom walls where these signs were posted.
Nothing to be ashamed of actually. I drink so much water that even I wake up two or three times in the middle of the night to go. Although I usually get out of bed first.
Us vultures have to stick together.
Too much info again, huh??
More pics in this post from Wednesday's visit to the Tucson Zoo.
It's been two days since our zoo trip and we're still talking about how much fun we had. Reid Park Zoo houses more than 500 animals on roughly 17 hectares of land, right in the middle of the city. It's a sweet little zoo, with admission costing only $7 per adult.
Just like the first zoo post, if you hover your mouse over the pic, a caption will pop up describing the scene. These shots are from the Africa and Adaptation zones... starting with the lions:
The final photo today is of a zoo polar bear, the first animal to hit the endangered species list because of global warming.
Our Friday night wifi is moving slower than the above giant tortoises, so no more pics tonight. My next post will wrap up the Reid Park Zoo tour with zebras, elephants ... and a very strange moment where this giraffe slapped down a staredown challenge at My Fella.
Check back tomorrow :)
My Fella and I spent Wednesday morning at the Tucson zoo.
Another gorgeous winter day here in southern Arizona (sunny and +22C) so we decided today would be Reid Park Zoo day. We read mostly positive zoo reviews here at tripadvisor and we were able to use the 2-for-1 admission coupon from our Tucson Attractions Passport book. With our discount, zoo admission cost only $7 for both of us, but after touring the grounds we agreed we would have paid full price.
You can easily see all the animals at Reid Park Zoo in less than 3 hours and the grounds are very well maintained.
The Zoo website gives you a great idea of what to expect so this post will only be pics of what we saw today, starting with the animals from South America.
If you hover your mouse over each picture, you'll see a short caption explaining what the animal is:
After I finally coaxed My Fella (pictured above) to climb down off that wire enclosure, we wandered over to the next section of Reid Park Zoo - the Africa Zone.
It's taking for flippin' ever to load all these pics, so the Africa Zone will have to wait 'til tomorrow. Time to go feed My Fella a banana and call it a night :)
That's what it would say on my business card if I still had one. Since I don't have a job, a business card seems kinda silly.
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you probably know a bit about us:
And it all started with spending less than I earn. Just like the ING Direct guy says: "Save your money!"
Unfortunately, the above story takes far too long to explain to all the RV-ers we've run into who constantly ask "How can you guys do this at your age?" We get that question at least once every couple days. Maybe I'll just print off this blog post and have it laminated so we can carry it around and whip it out when necessary.
I'm always interested to hear how other people live/spend their cash, especially people in our age range (33 to 40 years old). FYI: I'm 40, My Fella is 33.
A few days ago I was doing some research on how average folks spend their hard earned cash and I stumbled across this survey. It's from the US Department of Labor - or Labour, since I'm Canadian, eh? :)
you have to click on the picture to see the whole thing
The stats are from April 2009.
Even though it's an American survey, it was interesting to compare this to how My Fella and I budget/spend.
One of the reasons we can winter in the south and still save so much money is that we only fork out 9.7% of our annual budget on housing. That's the beauty of full-timing in an RV. There was the initial cost of a new motorhome, but that was paid for in cash, not financed. And our pad rental and utilities are super cheap. Most other folks spend at least one third of their annual family income on Housing - which (in the above survey) covers: mortgage or rent, utilities, home cleaning supplies, household furnishings and equipment.
As I got deeper into the survey, I noticed there were a lot of missing expenditures. For example, there is no specific category for internet, telephone or cable, but perhaps that's covered under the subcategory Household Operations, which is 2% of annual expenditures. Not sure what else household operations could mean. Security system, maybe?
There is no category for charity/donations. Yet I'm sure that many Americans are quite charitable.
And what about family vacations? Or holiday spending (Christmas, Valentines Day, Halloween, birthdays, etc.) There is no specific category for that.
The above US survey also neglects to mention pets, yet other studies show that 1/3 to 1/2 of all US households have a dog or cat. We budget $800/year for our pup, but that doesn't include major medical emergencies. We have a big stash of emergency cash to cover The Unknowns like pet emergencies, major dental work, a new vehicle, or a stretching machine if I ever want to make myself taller. I'm 5'7', but I'd like to be 5'9" without shoes.
And there is no category for property taxes or debt repayment. So the average American doesn't pay property taxes or credit card debt? How about a line of credit or student loans? Can't see those listed anywhere but I'm sure the majority of adults in the States have one or the other.
Enough nitpicking - back to the survey...
There is a category in the above study called Cash Contributions. I have no idea what this one covers. Pocket money?
There is no visible category for house insurance, tenant insurance or vehicle insurance. There was a subcategory for personal life insurance - which was 0.6% of annual income. But no auto or home insurance???
Another category where we personally save a ton of money is Transportation. We own one fully paid for nine year old car. Repairs have been minimal so far and our insurance in $650/year. This accounts for 2.7% of our overall budget. Yet the above survey suggest most folks spend closer to 17.6% per year on transportation. Holy Moly. And again, that doesn't include car insurance.
The Entertainment Category for this survey suggests that Americans spend 5.4% of their income on fun stuff. My Fella and I must be super lame since entertainment is only 0.7% of our annual budget. That 0.7% includes a new tennis racket or pickleball paddle, whacking a bucket of balls at the driving range or $1.50 movie on cheap Tuesday at the theatre. We would rather play crib or yahtzee at home, and have people over for snacks instead of going to a bar/expensive sporting event. And we play a lot of free sports: basketball, tennis, hiking, gold-panning, etc.
My Fella gets treat cigars occasionally, but we don't have an actual Tobacco Category in our household budget. Although our Alcohol Budget is double what the above survey suggests ... And that's all me folks, cause My Fella doesn't drink. On closer inspection, the above survey is misleading when it comes to alcohol since drinks are probably also included in both the Entertainment and Eating Out categories.
On the topic of eating out, I'm amazed that 5.4% of the average American's annual income is spent at restaurants - one of the quickest ways to suck cash out of your pocket. Wasn't there a time when going out to eat was a big deal, almost a treat for the family? Now it seems that folks eat out a few times a week, without blinking an eyeball.
My Fella and I spend only 0.2% of our annual budget on restaurant food. We can eat much healthier and cheaper at home.
And because of all those fruits/veggies, whole grains and low fat foods we eat at home, we don't need much in the way of medical care. The survey above shows that most American families spend 5.7% (or $2853) of their household income on healthcare - that's for two adults and one child.
I find this amount very puzzling, because we always hear how terribly expensive US healthcare is and how we have it so much better in Canada, but in our little family (2 adults) we easily spend a minimum of $2000 per year on very basic healthcare and prescriptions. Neither of us are covered under a company plan and we pay extra for our dental.
Or have you fallen asleep after this marathon post? Sorry 'bout that. But remember what I said at the beginning? I am Numbers Geek.
I Live for stuff like this :)
It's been really chilly here in southern Arizona since Tuesday.
It was sunny today, but the high was only +4C (39f). My Fella was doing some research online and discovered that last night was the coldest it's been here since the 1930's. And the local forecast is predicting we'll drop down to -8C (17f) tonight.
JohnnyDisco hates this weather as much as I do, so My Fella disconnected and drained the main water hose and made some adjustments to stop our main pipes from freezing. (There's not much else he can do, but if you have any good cold weather RV tips, please share - after only one year full-timing we're still new at this...)
To keep warm inside, we:
If you were loitering outside our bathroom door, here's what you'd see.
Yes, I look like a complete tool when I play Squeak Fetch. But look how sweet The Bert is ...
Here's what we'd look like if we played blindfolded.
Shelbert has excellent doggie sense so even blindfolded, she would avoid all obstacles.
Unfortunately, my aim wouldn't be as accurate. The cameraman (hi honey :) would probably get accidentally conked in the head with the Squeak toy.
Perhaps we should test this theory. We have nothing else to do in these frigid temperatures :)
FYI: we refilled JohnnyDisco's (24 gallon) propane tank yesterday. There was just under a quarter tank of propane left and the fill up cost us $46 (USD). It's hard to say how much propane we use since it completely depends on the weather, but the last time we filled the tank was May of 2010.
That's usually an oxymoron, but this is kinda neat.
There's a great article in The Wall Street Journal about the US economy and the tax situation - authored by Scott Adams, the creator of 'Dilbert'. And right underneath that piece is this list of some of the strangest taxed items in history:
One thing My Fella and I were happy to pay sales tax on was our pickleball equipment, which UPS dropped off this afternoon.
My Fella pulled out his Crazy Pickleball Eyes and tried to intimidate me with some trash talking.
Save it for the court, Mister. And gimme my paddle! Mine's the one on the left with the orange kokopelli on it. My Fella chose the stripey psychedelic purple paddle.
Too bad we don't have kids, 'cause then we could play a round of pickleball in the RV and just blame the tykes if something was broken. Just kidding :)
Hope this fierce southern Arizona wind dies down tomorrow so we can try out our new paddles on the local outdoor court. And in case you're a wannabe pickleballer, these two paddles and a bag of one dozen Dura outdoor balls cost us about $96, including delivery.
Once upon a time there was a little family we'll call Dick, Jane and Spot.
Dick and Jane had adopted Spot from a doggie rescue and loved Spot to pieces. They realized that they were ready to adopt one more fuzzy friend so they scoured the internet day and night until they found little three legged Timbit.
Dick and Jane read Timbits write-up on Petfinder and he sounded like a great pup. That very day they emailed the dog rescue agency where Timbit lived and were given contact information for Timbits foster mom, the place Timbit lived while he was waiting for his new home.
Dick, Jane and Spot were sooo excited they could hardly sleep the night before the big meeting. They all hopped in the car early the next morning and drove two hours to meet Timbit, the pup who could become the newest addition to their family.
Three legged Timbit was a bit hesitant at first but warmed up to Dick and Jane after a few treats and walks. The adoption went through and Jane paid the rescue agency adoption fee of $250 and then threw in another $100 on top of that to help the other rescue dogs a bit.
Great story so far, but definitely NOT a fairytale ending. Or in this case - Fairytail.
During the adoption process, Dick and Jane learned that the foster mom (for clarity's sake we'll call her Cruella) was actually a puppy breeder. Three legged Timbit was one of Cruella's purebred dogs, but with only three legs he wasn't exactly the 'pick of the litter'. So she attempted to adopt him out through the very reputable website Petfinder - an online database of adoptable pets in the care of about 10,000 animal welfare organizations in the USA and Canada. I will also mention that Petfinder EXPLICITLY BANS BREEDERS FROM SELLING THEIR DISCARD DOGS on the site.
In the end, Dick and Jane returned Timbit to Cruella. They saved all the email communication regarding Timbit and they are contacting the Petfinder head honchos to report this abuse of a very credible and worthwhile adoption website. Jane is so ticked off she may also contact the local Small Business Owners Association and the BBB to report what happened.
It may not be illegal, but it was completely unethical.
Most dog rescue agencies do very thorough checks on potential adopters, to be sure their dog buddies are going to stable, loving homes. Jane offered (via email) to fill out a complete dog application and email it back, but the foster mom said it wasn't necessary. Dick and Jane also made it clear they lived in another country and would be taking Timbit with them, yet the only info the foster mom had was their email address and cell phone number. If you've ever adopted a pet from a rescue agency you know the process is much more complex and complete than that. As it should be.
And nowhere in the Petfinder ad for little Timbit did it mention that his foster mom also happened to be his original PUPPY BREEDER.
Dick and Jane are completely against puppy breeders. If you don't understand why, you need to read this:
Below is a letter from a shelter manager. It is intended to be read by anyone who breeds dogs, buys dogs from a breeder or is considering taking their dog to a shelter. It is very difficult to read but this is the reality of continuing to breed dogs when shelters are full to overflowing. Please pass this along to anyone and everyone you know who is considering buying a puppy from a breeder or taking their pet to a shelter.
I think our society needs a huge Wake-up call. As a shelter manager, I am going to share a little insight with you all: a view from the inside if you will.
First off, all of you breeders/sellers should be made to work in the back of an animal shelter for just one day. Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would change your mind about breeding and selling to people you don't even know.
That puppy you just sold will most likely end up in my shelter when it's not a cute little puppy anymore. So how would you feel if you knew that there's about a 90% chance that dog will never walk out of the shelter it is going to be dumped at? Purebred or not! About 50% of all of the dogs that are owner surrenders or strays, that come into my shelter are purebred dogs.
The most common excuses I hear are; "We are moving and we can't take our dog (or cat)." Really? Where are you moving too that doesn't allow pets? Or they say "The dog got bigger than we thought it would". How big did you think a German Shepherd would get? "We don't have time for her." Really? I work a 10-12 hour day and still have time for my 6 dogs! "She's tearing up our yard." How about making her a part of your family? They always tell me "We just don't want to have to stress about finding a place for her we know she'll get adopted, she's a good dog."
Odds are your pet won't get adopted & how stressful do you think being in a shelter is? Well, let me tell you, your pet has 72 hours to find a new family from the moment you drop it off. Sometimes a little longer if the shelter isn't full and your dog manages to stay completely healthy. If it sniffles, it dies. Your pet will be confined to a small run/kennel in a room with about 25 other barking or crying animals. It will have to relieve itself where it eats and sleeps. It will be depressed and it will cry constantly for the family that abandoned it. If your pet is lucky, I will have enough volunteers in that day to take him/her for a walk. If I don't, your pet won't get any attention besides having a bowl of food slid under the kennel door and the waste sprayed out of its pen with a high-powered hose. If your dog is big, black or any of the Bully breeds (pit bull, rottie, mastiff, etc) it was pretty much dead when you walked it through the front door.
Those dogs just don't get adopted. It doesn't matter how sweet or well behaved they are.
If your dog doesn't get adopted within its 72 hours and the shelter is full, it will be destroyed. If the shelter isn't full and your dog is good enough, and of a desirable enough breed it may get a stay of execution, but not for long . Most dogs get very kennel protective after about a week and are destroyed for showing aggression. Even the sweetest dogs will turn in this environment. If your pet makes it over all of those hurdles chances are it will get kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection and will be destroyed because shelters just don't have the funds to pay for even a $100 treatment.
Here's a little euthanasia 101 for those of you that have never witnessed a perfectly healthy, scared animal being put-down. First, your pet will be taken from its kennel on a leash. They always look like they think they are going for a walk happy, wagging their tails. Until they get to The Room, every one of them freaks out and puts on the brakes when we get to the door. It must smell like death or they can feel the sad souls that are left in there, it's strange, but it happens with every one of them. Your dog or cat will be restrained, held down by 1 or 2 vet techs depending on the size and how freaked out they are. Then a euthanasia tech or a vet will start the process. They will find a vein in the front leg and inject a lethal dose of the pink stuff. Hopefully your pet doesn't panic from being restrained and jerk. I've seen the needles tear out of a leg and been covered with the resulting blood and been deafened by the yelps and screams. They all don't just go to sleep, sometimes they spasm for a while, gasp for air and defecate on themselves.
When it all ends, your pets corpse will be stacked like firewood in a large freezer in the back with all of the other animals that were killed waiting to be picked up like garbage. What happens next? Cremated? Taken to the dump? Rendered into pet food? You'll never know and it probably won't even cross your mind. It was just an animal and you can always buy another one, right?
I hope that those of you that have read this are bawling your eyes out and can't get the pictures out of your head I deal with everyday on the way home from work. I hate my job, I hate that it exists and I hate that it will always be there unless you people make some changes and realize that the lives you are affecting go much farther than the pets you dump at a shelter. Between 9 and 11 MILLION animals die every year in shelters and only you can stop it. I do my best to save every life I can but rescues are always full, and there are more animals coming in everyday than there are homes. My point to all of this DON'T BREED OR BUY WHILE SHELTER PETS DIE!
Hate me if you want to. The truth hurts and reality is what it is. I just hope I maybe changed one persons mind about breeding their dog, taking their loving pet to a shelter, or buying a dog. I hope that someone will walk into my shelter and say "I saw this and it made me want to adopt." THAT WOULD MAKE IT WORTH IT.
For those of you that care, please repost this letter and email it to your family and friends.
Not ingesting it... just marking my territory :)
Since My Fella and I discovered pickleball, we've been playing every day. And recently the local pickleball court has been resurfaced but the lines haven't been repainted.
We picked up the supplies from a Tucson Home Depot yesterday. The paint, a 2 pack of painters tape and mini roller/tray/brush set cost the same as one gallon of traffic paint in Canada.
A pickleball court is about a quarter the size of a tennis court and the owner just wanted the outline of the court and the center line painted so that saved a lot of work.
The whole project took about 4 hours and I'm pretty pumped to try out PBE (pickleball extreme) on the newly resurfaced court.
As of this week, we've been full-timing in JohnnyDisco for eleven months.
We've made a few significant changes to our lifestyle since the dream of full-time RV-ing began:
Making JohnnyDisco our home is still a work in progress, but I'm a fickle gal so things change pretty quickly around here. For such a small space you'd be surprised at the number of times My Fella has been told sweetly asked to move the couch.
We've made quite a few more changes since we've been back from Mexico and I'll post pics in the next few weeks. One thing that won't be changing any time soon is the huge fluffy blanket on the couch.
Or the spooky blanket monster that lives there.
The scary white, fluffy, one-eyed monster.
Okay. Two-eyed monster. And really not so scary. More fuzzy than scary. Perhaps even a little irritated at the constant camera flash.
MY Fella gives me this exact same annoyed look when I sneak pics of him napping on the couch.
While going through blog entries from the past month I noticed I haven't posted year end portfolio numbers or an update of current equities.
For a little perspective, here are some benchmark returns for 2010:
Our overall return was +19.24% ... five different portfolios composed completely of Canadian equities and a teeny bit of cash.
Current equities, in order of weighting:
Looking forward to crunching my January numbers at the end of the month.
Hard to believe there's only one week left in this first month of the new year. And only three months 'til we head back to beautiful BC for another golf season.
Hangin' out with all our new senior buddies, this was bound to happen.
My Fella and I have fallen hard for Pickleball.
Pickleball is the fastest growing sport you've never heard of - a cross between tennis and ping pong. It's played on a surface the size of a badminton court, over a net 34" at the center and 36" high at each end - a few inches lower than a regulation tennis net.
And apparently Pickleball was named after the founders' dog Pickles who chased around the balls, which to me is reason enough to love it :)
Tennis has been my sport of choice since my teens and My Fella and I have been playing regularly, five times a week...
Until I recently got tennis elbow - from ten pin bowling, of all things. My tennis game has really gone downhill, and my lack of strength when trying to grip a tennis racket is just frustrating.
Several of our neighbours here at Dodge City RV (including Uncle Jerry and Auntie Iko next door) all rave about pickleball, so we fell victim to peer pressure and gave it a try. Turns out we love it.
We're still learning the rules, but it's more exciting and a much better work-out playing our own style: No Rules Extreme Pickleball. Yup, we made that up, but it works for us.
The pickleball addiction has hit so hard that we're springing for our own pickleball paddles and balls. And we have to buy everything online since we can't find them in any local sports stores. The rackets cost $30 to $60 bucks each and a bag of a dozen balls is $20.
It's an easy sport to learn and extremely fun to play. And if you go all out with Extreme Pickleball, you'll get an excellent cardio workout.
My Fella and I will definitely be bringing our new balls and paddles home to play Extreme Pickleball at our local outdoor tennis court in the BC backwoods. After reading how little exercise most Canadians get I'm hoping the sport eventually catches on in Canada as well.
*Another quick entertainment note: We recently caught The Social Network at a matinee at the cheap theatre in Tucson - $1.50 each. Haven't paid that price for a movie ticket since junior high. The Social Network is loosely based on the creation of Facebook, by Mark Zuckerberg and pals. The flick is excellent, especially since Facebook just raised $1.5 billion in investor cash from Goldman Sachs. Two paws up for The Social Network.
Our drive in to Mexico was posted here last week so this post will be mostly pics.
Whether you are crossing from Nogales, Mex to Nogales, Arizona by car or RV, the lanes are well marked and there is new signage up everywhere in both Spanish and English. It's very clear that cars, small trucks and RV's stay left and cargo trucks or semis cross in the right hand lanes.
The word 'estacionamiento' means parking in Spanish, which explains the big letter E with a red line through it - NO PARKING!
There were four border lanes open for cars/RV's but there were quite a few folks ahead of us so it took almost an hour to inch our car up to the US immigration officers. The guy was nice and asked us 5 or 6 questions and then we were on our way. Don't know about your experiences with immigration officers but the American ones have always been more polite to me than Canadian ones.
After crossing back into Arizona, there was another check point within a half hours drive.
This one was set up by US Border Patrol guards and it was a lot quicker. Not sure if they were checking for drugs or illegals but they took one look at our Canadian license plate and basically waved us through.
Although we did slow down long enough to point out this sign to Shelbert.
Yes, my little four legged friend, some dogs really do have to earn their kibble.
Quick money stats about the round trip to San Carlos:
*One more thing to mention: Before we crossed the border, we did stop at the Mexican immigration building where you get your tourist card and we returned ours. Not sure if this was necessary and I've never returned my tourist visa during past trips, but since the process has changed this year we decided to stop and return them. The building is right across the highway from where you need to return your car permit, so it's not a big deal to return your tourist card as well.
We really like all of our neighbours here at Dodge City RV.
Right next door are Uncle Jerry and Auntie Eko, as we call them. They call us The Kids. (Actually everyone here refers to us as The Kids.) Anyway, Jerry and Eko went on a desert hike a few days ago and came back with a snack for us to try: barrel cactus fruit.
No doubt you already know this, but this is a barrel cactus, or more specifically a fish hook barrel cactus:
The top of the cactus produces really pretty flowers and these little fruits, that look like mini pineapples. If you're wearing steel mittens (or you're a stunt double from Ironman) you could probably pick them right off the cactus, but us mere mortals use a walking stick to safely knock a few off the top.
Barrel cactus fruit have a tough exterior, but they can be bitten into. You don't need to see my vampire teethmarks, so I just cut this one open for your viewing pleasure.
The fruit is a mix of tart and citrus, but leaning more towards tart. Kind of like a bitter vitamin c, but with crunchy little black seeds.
As far as I'm concerned the seed crunching was the best part of this desert snack. It tasted very healthy, if you know what I'm sayin'.
Clearly I love barrel cactus fruit.
Okay, I'm exaggerating. It wasn't that bad.
And if you're ever lost in the Arizona desert, barrel cactus fruit is a refreshing and thirst quenching little snack. ???
*Details of our return trip home from Mexico coming up in the next few days, but I couldn't wait to show you these adorable pictures of my sexy double chin :)
Actually we returned to Arizona late Thursday afternoon.
The return trip from Mexico was as easy, if not easier, than our drive south last week. First off, some shots of beautiful San Carlos in Sonora, Mexico.
Isn't this part of Mexico gorgeous? And it's an easy 6 hour drive from Tucson, including a stop for the border crossing and customs/immigration.
Another plus for San Carlos: it's in the Hassle Free Driving Zone, so a Mexican car permit isn't necessary for foreigners. And if that's not enough, the world famous blogger, Brenda lives right next door in Guaymas and she's a wealth of information about the area :)
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, our round trip to Mexico was incredibly simple this year. Not to mention safe.
Except for one strange incident that occurred about ninety minutes from the border, when we were heading back to the States. My Fella and I were northbound on the highway when traffic in front of us suddenly came to a complete stop. We had no idea what was going on because big semi trucks were blocking both lanes ahead of our little car.
Out of nowhere, this camo-military vehicle zoomed up beside us with one of the soldiers training his automatic rifle directly at highway traffic. After hovering and staring in our general direction just long enough to spook us, they rolled up to the trucker that had stopped in front of us.
Our view was partially blocked but there were several angry words and pointed gestures (with guns) being tossed around for a few minutes. Then as quickly as they appeared, the guys with guns hopped back into their military vehicle and zoomed off.
Long story short, we were coming up to a military drug/weapons check stop and the big trucks in front of us were traveling in the wrong lane. They should have been in the right lane so they didn't block auto traffic, but these clowns thought they could shoot past all the other truckers and just cut in again at the front of the line. The military guys gave the truckers hell for slowing down the check stop, which was still 2 miles in front of us. And now vehicles were backed up for several miles behind us too.
Finally the truckers in front of us were dealt with and we were free to pass all the semis and head up to the check point.
The soldier at the front of the check point had about 7 or 8 cars line up in a row, then we all got out and watched a big black x-ray truck circle our vehicles, looking for weapons.
After the x-ray inspection, a couple of cars were pulled out of the line-up and physically searched. We just happened to be one of those vehicles, but the military fella that went through our car was really sweet and made the search a quick one. Within minutes we were back in the car, heading north to the USA border.
The rest of the story will be posted in the next few days, including our total cost for gas and tolls. And I applaud you if ya stuck around to the end... this was a looooooong one. Even I fell asleep a few times while downloading the many pics.
Course I'm usually snoring waaay before most of the seniors here at Dodge City Snowbird park. Since it's Saturday night, the folks are probably all out carousing at the clubhouse, smokin' cigars, drinking wine and blasting the Rat Pack classics 'til all hours.
I love Dean Martin, but My Fella and I just can't compete. Give us fifteen minutes and the only sound you'll hear coming from JohnnyDisco will be "zzzz zzzzzz zzzzzzzz zzz ZZZZ..."
Buenas noches... nitey nite.
We've been settling into our Mex rental with little time to blog.
But tonight when I finally fired up my computer, I was hit with the news about a fatal shooting outside a Tucson Safeway, an area we just left on Thursday. A gunman shot and killed 6 people with an automatic weapon in broad daylight, outside the grocery store.
Tragic senseless violence. And it can happen anywhere.
My Fella and I were a little apprehensive about driving south to Mexico this year. Although we've driven these roads many times before, we were worried about crossing the border and navigating the Mexican highways. And quite a few folks who knew we were heading south, voiced their concerns.
But the most descriptive word I can think of to explain our drive south this year would be: boring.
No danger. No crazies. No gun battles or drug fights. No cartels or federales at war, at least not in our path. Just long stretches of straight, flat highway. And there were a few areas of the drive where we didn't even see another vehicle for at least twenty minutes.
After all the warnings and all that worry about driving into Mexico this year, this was likely our easiest crossing ever. It took less than fifteen minutes to:
The immigrations officer gave me a hard time, but all in good fun. He started the conversation by speaking in Spanish so I replied in Spanish, which I should never, never, NEVER do when I first arrive in Mexico. I'm always rusty for the first few days, waiting for the words and phrases to come back to me.
Anyway, he had a great sense of humour and insisted we continue speaking in Spanish. We brought Shelbert in with us and with a straight face, he asked if she needed a visa card too. He was quite the comedian, but maybe you had to be there.
There are two border crossings at Nogales - one that goes through the center of town, and the other is a big truck route (Mariposa road) that skirts city. We opted for the truck route - it's well marked and much easier to navigate.
Every other year we've been pulled over and had the trunk checked and a quick conversation with the customs guards. This year we were waved through both checkpoints, no problem.
And within 3 hours we were pulling into San Carlos.
More pics and stories to come about our week in Mexico, but we arrived safe and sound.
And if CNN is to be believed, now we should probably be more nervous about our trip back into Tucson than our stay here in Mexico.
Shelbert has an ear infection.
She doesn't seem bothered by it and we didn't actually even know until we took her to the groomer yesterday for a trim and nail clip. Lydia, the groomer (who clearly doubles as a pet detective) spotted it after she cleaned and trimmed The Berts right ear.
Shelbert has special ear cleaner now, and really good meds which means she'll sleep in the car the entire way to Guaymas, Mexico tomorrow. Our little family is crossing the Nogales border after we drop off JohnnyDisco at the RV dealer for annual maintenance.
A lot of folks have been warning My Fella and I about driving into Mexico this year, and to be honest, the drug violence in the border cities does seem worse than past years.
I've been exploring Mexico (cruising around in a rental car alone) on and off for the past 15 years and My Fella and I have been driving across the Mexican border together every winter since 2007.
We have never witnessed any drug related activity or experienced problems of any kind.
We didn't want to bring JohnnyDisco into Mexico this year because he's new. And he's our full-time home.
But I was pretty disappointed that we wouldn't be going further south as this would be the first winter since 1995 that I wouldn't touch Mexican sand; and My Fella was bummed out about missing out on his fave homemade churro snacks.
So we decided to pack up and take a mini road-trip while JohnnyDisco is getting some RV lovin'.
My Fella and I will stay very alert on the highways, follow our intuition and keep our eyeballs peeled. Neither of us is showy or loud, nor do we wear expensive clothes or jewelery. We speak enough Spanish to be comfortable in most situations and we're both respectful towards everyone, although My fella is much better at shutting up than I am. Blame it on my birth sign ... I'm a Gemini :)
In the next couple of days I'll post about our border crossing at Nogales and let you know if it's any different from past years.
In the meantime, say 'hola' to my feathered little pelican friends who may, or may not be using this photo op to laugh at my Spanish.
Temps dropped to -5C (23f) in Tucson last night, close to a record low.
We definitely hit an all-time low temperature in JohnnyDisco last night when the interior of the rig hit 4C (39f). No wonder we wear touques to bed.
We're not too cheap turn on the heat, by the way.
Turns out the furnace wires are crossed in our motorhome, and while the a/c and fans work (although they cool the opposite end of the RV that they are programmed for) the bedroom/bathroom heater doesn't work at all. We didn't need the heater last February when we first bought our unit so we had no idea it didn't function properly until we got back to Canada. The entire rig is still under warranty and the furnace wires are the first thing on the list to be repaired when we bring JohnnyDisco in for maintenance this week.
In the meantime, space heaters work just fine for our teeny 360 square foot home. Except in the middle of the night when it's freezing and we're too lazy get out of bed and turn them on.
The last couple days have been chilly and rainy here in southern Arizona so we've all been stuck inside. My Fella was definitely stir crazy today so he ran out to the grocery store to grab veggies for lunch.
Yay - alone time! Gives me a chance to revise and finalize our budget for 2011. My inner nerd is rejoicing ... I love all this numbers stuff :)
2011 Annual Budget, based on Gail Vaz-Oxlade's most excellent budgeting guide:
Home expenses - suggested to be 35% of budget, ours is only 9.7% or $8100
Transportation - suggested to be 15% of budget, ours is 2.7% or $2290
Debt Repayment - suggested to be 15%, ours is 14% or $12,000 (the interest is written off against my taxes so I'm NOT paying this off aggressively)
Savings/Investments - should be 15% of budget, ours is 36% or $30,000
Life (includes everything else from groceries to insurance to donations) - should be roughly 25% of budget, we are right on target at 25% or $21,000
Outside our annual budget is a separate fund for any bigger emergencies (new car, major RV repairs, lobotomy, etc).
The reason we can save 36% of our annual income is because we live full-time in JohnnyDisco. Our housing costs are teeny weeny compared to most folks.
Transportation costs are super low too. My Fella has a 2 minute commute to his golf course job during the summer season.
And my vehicle commute is non-existent, since:
This budget will be adjusted as the year goes on. Not necessarily 'cause it needs changes, I just like playing with the numbers.
Hope you had a wonderful holiday season ... Feliz Ano Nuevo from our little family to yours.
"A chicken liver rawhide is a great way to ring in the new year."
Our sunny Arizona weather has hit a rough patch.
The past two days have been overcast and soggy, and the wind howled so loud last night it shook JohnnyDisco to the frame. We felt like we were traveling down a bumpy highway, instead of parked at a resort :)
Forecast (temps in fahrenheit) from Wunderground.com:
hard freeze warning in effect tonight and Friday night
Tonight. Breezy, 10% chance of rain and snow showers in the evening. Lows 24 to 29. West wind 15 to 25 mph.
Friday. Partly cloudy. Highs 43 to 48.
Friday Night. Mostly clear. Lows 21 to 26.
New Years Day. Partly cloudy. Highs 45 to 50. North wind around 5 mph.
Saturday Night. Partly cloudy. Lows 24 to 29. East wind 5 to 10 mph.
Sunday. Partly cloudy. Highs 54 to 59.
Sunday Night. Partly cloudy. Lows 28 to 33.
Monday thru Thursday. Partly cloudy. Highs 59 to 65.
Shelbert has been getting all decked out in her protective rain gear before heading out for walks. She stays warm and dry in this snazzy raincoat she got from her dog rescue foster mom, Tara.
Shelbert loves her rain gear, but doesn't get too excited about walking in the rain.
Since I'm showing off The Berts wardrobe, here's a pic of her stylish 'Britney' hoodie, another cute doggie present from Tara.
Like a college kid after an all-nighter...
Or like a pup recovering from a holiday Snausage hangover :)
JohnnyDisco is going in for her maintenance check-up in January.
That means we'll be homeless for about a week :) so My Fella and I are heading south to Mexico.
Here's a few pics of what we did and saw on our last trip there:
No fishing in the marina so we hooked up with a couple Mexican fishermen and went out to the Sea of Cortez where the water was about 300 feet deep.
One of the first fish caught was full of surprises...
He had a live crab in his mouth. I guess everyone likes fresh crab :)
Here's the first fishie My Fella snagged. As our morning Fishfest continued he caught at least two dozen more.
We probably won't be deep sea fishing this time around since it's not in the budget. Plus we don't know how Shelbert would react to being on a small fishing boat - those waves get a little crazy.
But we can still enjoy the gorgeous scenery...
the cheap veggies...
...and the sweet people we meet.
Hasta pronto, Mexico!
My Fella suggested we explore Mount Lemmon yesterday.
The weather was perfect for a drive (sunny and +22C / 72f) and some hiking seemed like an awesome way to spend Christmas day.
Mount Lemmon is in the Santa Catalina Mountains located in the Coronado National Forest north of Tucson, Arizona. It is 9,157 feet above sea-level, and receives approximately 180 inches of snow annually. Mount Lemmon was named in honor of botanist Sarah Lemmon, who trekked to the top of the mountain with Native American guides by mule and foot in 1881.
I wasn't really excited by that whole 'receives 180 inches of snow' thing, but we all hopped in the car anyway for the quick drive north of Tucson.
And she was the first one out of the car and ready to hit the trails, when we got there.
The desert cactus quickly changed to massive rocks and then foresty mountain scenery. Happily there was a lots of sunshine, a light breeze - and NO SNOW.
It's hard to convey how monstrously huge some of these rocks are, until you see them beside the highway and the passing cars.
And finally, the trek down the mountain ....as seen in the side view mirror.
Rocks in the rear view.
My Fella thinks this one looks like an angel praying...
And this one kinda looks like - well, never mind...
See ya later, Mount Lemmon.
- in our investment accounts, that is.
Very strange for me as I am rarely ever fully invested, just in case a good company hits a bump and drops enough to fill one of my stink bids.
It's a strategy I've used for the last couple years and it seems to pay off.
Here's what we currently own, in order of weighting:
And I did some quick back-of-the-envelope math on our returns for the year. Hopefully it won't all fall apart in the next week, but here's where we stand for 2010:
All yearly returns are calculated after commissions and are a combination of dividend income (75%) and capital gains (25%). And the cap gains are mainly in registered accounts and our TFSA's, which will delay or totally void the tax impact.
A portion of the portfolio was bought on margin, but it's less than 10% of our entire holdings. And most of the positions were initiated during the lows of 2008 and topped up over the past couple years.
My Passive Income Goal (PIG :) has been steady around $50,000/year, tax free. My goal is to double that over the next five years.
But enough about our plans...
This Mexican pelican has big plans too.
Finish his nap, then complete his holiday shopping before Christmas Eve so he doesn't get stuck buying his wife that last can of tuna from the corner mercado.
Only four more sleeps 'til Christmas...
***Portfolio update: Traded completely out of Superior Plus again this morning. I pocketed enough profit to cover the Dec dividend so I'll sit this one out until the new year. The proceeds went right back into cfx.un.
Yup, things change pretty quickly around here :)
My Fella is excited to get up at 1:17am to see the lunar eclipse tonight.
Of course I usually wake up at 5:45am every weekday to get caught up on the business news. And I don't even have a job.
Hmmm. Apparently us wierdos stick together :)
"RV-ers are a great bunch."
My Fella and I heard that phrase uttered a squillion times even before we joined this special group of folks. And now we witness it every day whether we're cruisin' down the highway or pulling into a new campsite.
The first couple we met here at our RV resort in southern Arizona are The Sheriff and his wife, Mrs Sheriff. To be clear, he's not really a sheriff. I just call him that 'cause he always carries a pistol in a holster on his belt.
A real one.
As Canadians, we only see weapons up close during prime time tv (CSI Miami, Law & Order, etc.) so The Sheriff and his pistol definitely made a lasting first impression.
Turns out The Sheriffs are a super nice couple. In their late 50's or early 60's, they live at this RV resort full-time, and their kids are spread out across the USA. Mrs Sheriff is a nurse at a local hospital and The Sheriff acts as the unofficial manager of the park.
We've gotten to know them a lot better after several crazy events took place here in the past few days and I like them more all the time. And they like us too cuz they keep bringing us treats.
The Sheriff swung by with a tray of xmas sweets last week and then Mrs Sheriff offered up a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies yesterday.
Rumor has it she saw the awe-inspiring damage My Fella did at a recent all you can eat pizza party here at the resort and she figures he's not eating enough at home. (I pray that she keeps bringing him food cuz that will totally cut down on our grocery bill :)
Anyway, we wanted to get them something to say thanks for their kindness so we bought Mrs Sheriff a gift card to Bed Bath and Beyond.
As a special surprise for The Sheriff, we picked up a completely hideous camouflage patterned fleece Snuggie.
The Snuggie is kind of a gag gift ... but not really.
Our Sheriff here at Dodge City RV is a huntin' and fishin' outdoorsy type who sports a lot of camo inspired outfits - khaki pants with camouflage patches, stormtrooper camo vests, etc. The guy really belongs on a movie set. And a few days ago he mentioned how cool its been getting at night. It's really not that cold but remember he's from Arizona.
Now The Sheriff can snuggle up in his new camo Snuggie with sleeves. And if need be, he can strap on his holster and pistol on top.
The Camo Snuggie as seen on tv and only $14.99 at Walgreens. It's the perfect holiday gift for the weapon yielding fellow (or lady) in your life.
We had some strange (in a bad way) excitement here recently.
I'm not ready to post about it yet - maybe in a few days. But don't worry, we haven't been burgled or anything. After all, we're staying at Dodge City RV - the park where "all your neighbors have a gun and are happy to protect you as well".
In the meantime, here's another Santa Approved desert sunset sky, courtesy of the gorgeous Arizona desert.
In totally unrelated news, Shelbert ate half a twist tie today.
It was strange because she doesn't eat wierd things like most other dogs and she's definitely not a random chewer.
We're wondering if she's lacking iron or something else in her diet. Or maybe it just smelled like snausage.
Are you going to jump par OR NOT?
Good grief. Quit flirting with par and pass it already. And why are you spelled loonie and not looney? Just curious.
To keep track of the CAD/USD exchange, I like this site.
Not much else to say this morning so here's a few pics of our Arizona RV resort.
Note to potential robbers: DO NOT try burgle us. I've nicknamed this place Camp Dodge since almost all the American campers here carry guns - including our neighbours on both sides. And they are not afraid to use them.
Here's our backyard:
And quick reminder... Only 9 more sleeps 'til Christmas Eve.
*FYI: When referring to the Canadian loonie, I'm not talking about myself :)
The windows in JohnnyDisco look great.
Last night My Fella took down the rest of the ugly window treatments in the main living area and put all the black sunshades back up on the windows.
Then it took a little head scratching and problem solving to get all the curtain rods up because some of the spaces were too tight to use the drill.
My fella looks a little irritated here.
Is it because:
We now return you to our regularly scheduled post...
It's amazing what a difference the curtains make. The main living area now feels more like a small living room than a generic hotel room.
And they offer as much privacy as the blackout shades.
The project was pretty easy and took about 5 hours, including shopping for curtains and rods. Cost for 4 windows:
Total cost = $76 plus tax, already accounted for in the RV Purchases budget.
We just can't seem to leave JohnnyDisco alone.
You'd think after reno-ing 8 houses over 15 years I'd be totally sick of it by now. But noooooo. Once a reno-er, always a reno-er. And that's not the worst of it.
I've passed this special sickness on to My Fella.
But he's turning into quite the handyman. Since graduating from the The Radio Girl School of Renovation, my guy can frequently be seen pacing our teeny 340 square foot living space - cordless drill in one hand, orange hammer in the other, looking for stuff to switch/change/violate/modify/fix.
So together we reno.
Our latest RV project involves replacing the hideous window treatments, standard in most new motorhomes and trailers. JohnnyDisco has a lot of windows and every single one of them is covered by an upholstered boxy thing that is supposed to hide the rolling blinds, but would really be more at home on the headboard of a bed. A super ugly bed.
Today My Fella took down the first padded window thingy and removed both the white blackout shade and the black sunshade from underneath.
We're keeping the sunshades so after measuring the window area, he drilled new holes and replaced it on the wall.
Over the next few days we'll scour the city for a lightweight curtain rod and some swanky curtains to match the rest of our decor. And turn JohnnyDisco into more of a home.
Removing the heavy padded window treatments will also give us another 8 inches of width in JohnnyDisco.
And apparently every inch helps.
Note to all you recyling freaks out there: we're a very green, eco-friendly couple. While we had to toss out the padded window thingys (seriously, who the heck would want them!!) we will offer the basically brand new blackout shades to My Fellas folks, or anyone else who may be able to use them in their motorhome.
But it was sunny and +25C (77f) today in southern Arizona.
And with that toasty weather came another beautiful desert sky. This one actually gets my Xmas Seal of Approval.
Being able to take these pictures at sunset (wearing shorts and flip flops in December) is the best way to sum up why we budget, save and invest the way we do.
This life beats the hell out of the consumer lifestyle (big house, new car, lotsa toys, maxed out credit) hands down.
Please note: NO cacti were harmed in the merriment of this holiday photo.
JohnnyDisco is ready for Christmas.
Feliz Navidad from sunny southern Arizona.
The Santa hats on our side mirrors look cute, but what I really wanted to do was crawl up to the top of that huge prickly saguaro behind JohnnyDisco and stick a Santa hat on it.
Course if I attempted that little trick, my next post would be coming to you from a round room with padded walls. And I'm pretty sure our medical travel insurance does not cover 'climbing a saguaro cactus'.
It's hard to believe that Christmas is just over 2 weeks away. When you're out hiking the dusty desert, or playing tennis in +25C weather every day, you tend to lose track of cold weather holidays. The only reason I know tomorrows date (Dec 9th) is because Superior Plus (SPB.T) will be announcing their December dividend and I'm expecting a cut, so I've been keeping my eyeballs on the calender.
Most mornings before My Fella and I play tennis, I usually warm up with a 3 to 5 km walk around the neighborhood. We're in a rural area - lots of ranches, dogs and horses. And a couple days ago a really loud chicken jumped me from behind and scared the ever-lovin' beans out of me.
Arizona locals have been putting up their holiday lights and decorations, which are cool to see in this desert landscape. People really like to light up their cacti :)
One of these days I'll bring my camera on my morning stroll so you can see all the Arizona style Santa Clauses draped over the prickly pears and barrel cactus. In the meantime, check out tonights pinkish purpley desert sky.
My Fella and I have been in southern Arizona for about six weeks now.
The only local attractions we've seen are Kitt Peak National Observatory (home of the cool monstersize telescopes) ...
... and of course we've checked out the national desert parks.
Over the next few months we also wanna visit the local zoo, the Pima Air and Space Museum and the little mining town of Bisbee, Arizona. We have 2 for 1 coupons for both the zoo and air museum so the total cost will be $22.50. And touring Bisbee will only cost us the gas to get there.
We've spent most of our days doing free things: hiking the desert, walking Shelbert, touring local streets and neighbourhoods and playing tennis at the public court, which is free and always empty.
It's not all fun and games of course. We still have our daily chores, plus I wake up early for the biz news and to watch the markets and try make some money. Speaking of cash, we've certainly been good for the local economy.
In six weeks we've spent:
We go grocery shopping a few times a week and are still amazed at the cheap prices compared to Canada. We buy lots of fresh fruits and veggies (similar prices in Canada) but other stuff we eat is super cheap in the USA - beans, rice, tortilla shells, salad dressing, cheese, bolillo buns, canned corn, burritos are all half the price they are in Canada. Beer, pop and wine is half or a third the price. We don't eat a lot of snacks but nuts and sunflowers seeds are cheap and a super-size can of reduced fat Pringles (my fave snack) only cost 99 cents at Fry's.
Fast food is pretty cheap here too but we haven't eaten out at all - the smell of most drive thru places makes me gag. Next week we may join the owners of this RV park and hit up the cheap casino buffet where two people can eat for $8.30. I have no problem eating MY WEIGHT in salad and boiled shrimp :)
There were a couple weeks of cool daytime weather but it's back to sunshine and +25C (77f) so we're spending lots of time outside.
My Fella on his patio chair and The Bert on her ... Box?
Our RV site backs right onto the desert and our neighbours include bunnies, coyotes, roadrunners and snakes. Luckily the bunnies and coyotes don't visit at the same time.
Here's the daytime view from our patio chairs.
And at night...
Interesting tidbit: the RV resort we chose isn't fancy shmancy, but it's clean, quiet and the lots are much bigger than any we've seen so far. About 2/3 of campers here are American and 1/3 are Canadian. And at least half the American campers have guns.
One fella we've gotten to know quite well carries his pistol on a holster in plain sight. Like he's on the set of Gunsmoke. It's kind of strange to see.
Yesterday I asked him why everyone had a gun. His reply?
"Because of the bad guys."
Here's what it's been like weather wise in southern Arizona:
Daytime highs were 20C to 30C our first two weeks here, but the latest trend seems to be sunshine and a high of 18C every day ... except for the past two cloudy, windy days :(
Overnight lows have been bouncing around 0C to +8C. Which is why Shelbert has been stepping into her hoody before heading out for her early morning pee.
And then snuggling up in it for more nap time afterwards.
FYI: we did not buy The Bert this hoodie - her foster mom from the dog rescue organization gave it to us when we adopted her. We're not really into doggie clothes, although she does look pretty damn cute!
December 1st is exactly one week away and we're not sure what to expect weather wise, but we are getting ready for Christmas here in JohnnyDisco. No room for a tree in the RV, but...
We did sneak in a huge holiday poinsettia...
The 8" pot, with a 24" plant cost us $15 at a Tucson Home Depot yesterday.
We'll probably also put up a few Christmas lights on the cactus outside our door. Although nothing can compete with Mother Nature - especially out here in the Arizona desert.
Looks like bowling was a one time thing for us.
My Fella and I are both pretty active and have been doing tons of different outdoor activities since we've been in southern Arizona - tennis, baseball, hiking, etc. And last Sunday we went bowling.
It turns out that two quick games of ten pin bowling is equal to lifting a ten pound weight repeatedly with the same arm for an hour. My right forearm has been throbbing all week.
We've played tennis three times since we went bowling last weekend and while we did manage to knock the ball around, my arm was sore every time. My forehand is almost back to normal but my backhand shot is totally lame due to lack of strength. Frustrating.
This nasty case of bowling-itus is really messing up my everyday life. Last week I attempted to map out our 2011 budget and my right arm was too sore to write. Even more tragic, it's become a huge challenge hauling my heavy box of white wine out of our teeny little RV fridge :)
Tennis is my fave sport (been playing since I was a tyke) so if it comes down to bowling or tennis, I gotta say 'bye bye bowling'. But it was fun while it lasted.
crazy bowling eyes
Haven't talked about money or budgets for awhile, but even as we're parked out here in the Arizona desert, we're staying on top of financial things. Perhaps more so since our fall/winter expenses are different from summer life in BC.
Soothed by the white wine in the fridge, I was able to complete a rough draft of our 2011 Annual Budget - from most expensive to least expensive items:
No categories listed for: Shelbys medical needs, emergency dental work, RV content insurance or major car maintenance. These things are covered (as needed) with cash from savings so we don't include them in the regular budget.
And if the poop hit the fan, we could certainly cut out a few categories including: satellite radio, entertainment, misc., cell phone, new clothes/shoes and misc. RV purchases.
Even though I just retired from the rat race in my late 30's, I still have major $$$$ investing goals. And the biggest difference between our annual budget and most others I've seen is that we categorize investment savings/retirement savings as a 'necessary' expense, not a 'want'.
New shoes* are a want. Investment savings are a need.
But we also plan to enjoy life along the way.
*Although in a ironic twist of budgeting fate, I have actually bought not one, but THREE new pairs of shoes since we've been in the USA. 3 pairs of shoes + HUGE shoe sale = $40 including taxes.
Wants, not needs. And comfy as bowling shoes, but way cuter :)
We took a drive around Tucson today.
This is one of my favourite cities in the USA:
Some of the streets feel like old school Hollywood or Palm Springs in the 60's.
Maybe that's what inspired us to head to the bowling alley today.
I haven't been bowling in years and have never tried 10 pin bowling, but it was a hoot.
The total cost was $10.97 for 2 people, 2 games each, including shoe rental - well worth it. This could become a regular Sunday thing for us.
Just a coupla wacky cats living on the edge.
$$$ - Quick budget note: other than buying the Tucson 2-for-1 Passport book (for local attractions), the cash we paid for bowling today was the first money we've spent on entertainment. Everything else we've been doing daily is free (tennis, baseball, hiking, exploring) and all of our meals have been eaten at home in the RV.
Yet we're having a great time... and we have both lost weight from all the activity and healthy food. I'd be losing even more if the beer weren't so damn cheap here :)
Sometimes you just have to change it up a bit.
Most motorhomes/trailers offer a pretty standard layout, unless you buy a custom built rig. Since the words 'custom built' don't fit our budget, My Fella and I just bought the RV model and floorplan that best suited our lifestyle, knowing we could do some simple interior renos on our own.
In the nine months we've owned JohnnyDisco, we've ripped out the built-in kitchen table and bench seats, replaced the bunk beds with an office desk and added some extra counter space in the kitchen.
And in the past few days we've added a couple new things to make it more 'homey'. No big additions in the office or bedroom area but our mutt Shelbert got something to make her life a little easier: senior stairs.
She can't hop up on the bed herself and has to wait til we're in the room to help her. But now with her new 'senior stairs' she has complete doggie freedom.
The stairs cost $35 on sale at Petsmart. Ordinarily I would say that specific doggie stairs are a waste of money and I would either make them myself or make do with something else. BUT living full-time in the RV, I've become very concious of both the weight and size of new things we bring into our home.
These doggie stairs are:
That is definitely worth $35 to me.
No changes to the kitchen counter, but we did switch some furniture around in the main living area.
Now it feels like we each have a room to go to and our own personal space - very important in a living area this small.
Nine months in JohnnyDisco and we love it more every day.
Yesterdays post was about Kitt Peak National Observatory outside Tucson.
If you've never heard of it, here's the very basic description from our Tucson 2for1 Passport Book:
This a better explanation of Kitt Peak from the onsite signs:
Before starting this post I looked back over yesterdays pictures and was actually kinda disappointed. I'm usually happy with my photos but those ones really didn't reflect what we saw on the drive to the mountain peak, especially after how much I was raving about the scenery.
Hopefully todays shots give you a better idea of how cool this place is.
Closer to the peak of the mountain we started seeing the bright white spaceship-like buildings that house all the different telescopes.
They look teeny weeny from the base of the mountain so their size catches you off guard.
In this shot My Fella looks pretty close in height to the monsterscopes, maybe half the size.
And he stands right beside it.
We found out later that the monsterscope stands 187 feet.
Here's my perspective shot, standing in front of the worlds largest solar telescope, which is 100 feet high.
Since we just did our own thing and didn't take an actual tour, we couldn't get past the plexiglass so it was hard to take clear interior shots, but here's a pic of one of the smaller telescopes.
Still pretty huge, with a mirror diameter of 2.1 metres.
Finally some random shots of Kitt Peak and the grounds.
FYI: Southern Arizona weather has been wonderful so far, sunny and 30C every single day. Kitt Peak is always 10 to 15 degrees cooler and can get very chilly at night but we had a gorgeous day to take it in. And our only cost was gas since the self-guided walking tour is free.
If we return next year, we'll pay for the night-time tour which includes supper and an evening with an astronomy guide.
Saturday we took a day trip up to Kitt Peak National Observatory.
Kitt Peak is 56 miles southwest of Tucson on the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation. The observatory is a working research station with a bunch of monster sized telescopes and the largest solar telescope in the world.
Since My Fella is half alien is into astronomy, this was a big treat for him.
Stars and planets and nebulas don't do much for me, but the drive up to Kitt Peak was spectacular and I would go again just for the scenery. And the hours of exercise we got cruising from one telescope to another.
If you're interested in the observatory, here are the tripadvisor reviews describing Kitt Peak much better than I ever could.
And if you're interested in what we saw, take a look:
After the checkstop we continued down highway 86 on our way to Kitt Peak.
...we finally see the sign we're looking for. The Kitt Peak National Observatory.
More Kitt Peak pics coming but it's taken so long to load these ones via wifi that it's already 10 pm and waaay past my bedtime. The rest of the photo tour will have to wait 'til later.
But just to show you how monstrous these telescope really are - here's where one of them lives.
And that teeny little speck of black in the bottom left hand corner is My Fella who stands 6'4" in his socks.