May 312011

Here are some ways we can save money if we happen to live close to the US border like here in Vancouver. Groceries and gasoline is still fairly cheap in the States than in Canada so we can time our groceries and gas trips together. That way we can get cheap milk and eggs, plus a discount to fill up our vehicle. Cross border shopping is fun (but some restrictions apply.)

Another way to make good use of the near parity dollar is to buy goods through online merchants like Amazon, Ebay, Newegg, e-hobby businesses, and many others online stores. Online retailers who ship worldwide will often price their goods in USD, and because we are pretty much at parity right now, this is the perfect time to buy toys, gadgets, clothes, dvds, or anything else we’ve had our eyes on. We can even buy collectibles which won’t lose their value over time and just sell it one day when the USD is worth more.

Buying US equity is another strategy. We can take some CAD today, turn it into the equivalent USD, buy some shares of Google for example, and just wait. After some time when the exchange rates move closer to their historical mean, we can sell those shares, convert the cash back into CAD and walk away with a profit, even if the share price didn’t go up. I’d recommend doing this in a TFSA to keep things simple (no need to worry about foreign taxes or capital gains.)

May 182011
A voice synthesizing program lets you type in words and make the program say it back to you. Vocaloids are programs that does this but also allows users to map the words to musical notes, and manipulate phonemes, add bravadoes, etc so the voice played back sounds like singing. Combined with instrumental tracks any artist can essentially compose any song they want and get the computer to sing it without the help of a vocalist.
Some people think the computer generated voices sound so real they made albums with it, and for promotional purposes went on to personify these voices as fictional characters, creating conceptual designs, character backgrounds, etc. Then companies like SEGA created 3D renditions of these artificial singers, and animated them. When these animations are projected on a special piece of glass in a dark room, it creates the illusion of the character in real space, without 3D glasses.
For concert organizers this is more efficient than hiring real singers and dancers on stage, and dealing with human error. Since all the animation is previously generated, and the singer will never lose her voice or get tired, you have a lot more control over the concert. But we also have to consider the extra cost of animating, rendering and R&D.; Unlike Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber, vocaloid celebrities only exist in the imaginations of their creators and fans because they are artificial in every way, even their voices, but the crowd’s reaction would have you think otherwise. The gap between fantasy and reality is growing thinner. 
May 062011

Another study making the rich feel average and the middle class feel poor. Found an article on the Financial Post about a study done by Deloitte, one of the Big 4 auditing firms, that says there are currently about 1.75 millionaire households in Canada. Millionaire in this case is defined by the total net worth, including home equity, of a household being more than $1M. There are about 13.2 million households in Canada according to my research.

Image from

Which means….

About 13% of all Canadians are millionaires!
In other words, roughly 1 out of every 8 people you see on the street lives in a home where the household’s net assets is worth a million dollars or more. I can see 1/8 of all married couples with millionaire wealth but there are lots other types of households such as unattached individuals, like myself, living alone in small apartments, so I find it really surprising that there are so many millionaire households of all types. If this study is accurate then even I should be able to become a millionaire some day.

May 022011
  • Discount Brokerage = $300
Discretionary Spending:
  • Eating Out = $185
  • Others = $5
*Net Worth:
  • Assets:
  • Cash = $7,600 ( +$2,100 MoM)
  • Stocks = $44,000 ( -$100 MoM)
  • Home  = $243,000 
  • Liabilities:
  • Mortgage = $211,000 (-300 MoM)
  • LOC Balance = $0

Total Net Worth = $83,600 ( +2.83% MoM)

Great dividends for April. Unfortunately however, the financial markets dropped a bit this month. Spent a lot more money than I usually do on eating out because there were some rare occasions, like going drinking on my friend’s bday, and taking some relatives out to White Spot. One way I managed to save a few dollars on food is by ordering water instead of a soft drink or alcohol. Also, taking people out to lunch is usually cheaper than dinner. The VIX index ,  which is like a fear index of how worried investor’s are, jumped up more than 6% today. This is a good sign if you are thinking about getting into the market now. I have a couple grand sitting in a savings account now. But I would wait until this index reaches 20 before adding to my portfolio again. 

* Numbers are rounded to the nearest $100.