You’re Nuts To Buy a Vacation Home

For many Canadians, the dream goes a little something like this.Youre Nuts To Buy a Vacation Home

On Friday afternoon, after dealing with Carl from accounting for approximately the 400th time, it’s finally quittin’ time. You elbow past everyone else to the lobby, desperate to get the stink of work off you. After exchanging pleasantries with your fellow wage slaves, you’re in the car and off to the races.

First stop, home. Just enough time to pick up the wife and kids before you’re back on the road again. Destination? Cottage country. Sure, it’s a couple of hours away, but you just can’t wait to get away from the bumper-to-bumper traffic, the urban sprawl, and everything else that annoys you about day-to-day life.

Finally, you’ve arrived to your home away from home. Everything is still set up after last week, all you need to do is hit the store for a gallon of milk and maybe some hot dog buns. The rest of the weekend is spent sitting around the fireplace, roasting marshmallows and probably drinking too much wine.

Ah, now that’s the life.

I won’t knock the experience of going up to the lake for the weekend. I’m not much of a nature guy (“man conquered nature, why would you willingly go back” is my slogan), but I have to admit sitting by a serene lake is pretty great, assuming the mosquitoes are kept at bay.

But there’s a huge difference between wanting to go hang out at the lake and buying property up there. Buying a cabin just isn’t a good idea.

There are a couple of reasons. First of all, cabins cost a lot of money for something that just gets used a few months of the year. Look at it this way. If you buy a cabin worth $250,000 and it takes 20 years to pay back at a 4% interest rate, you’ve spent more than $362,500 just to buy the thing, and that’s not even including property taxes, insurance, and general upkeep.

Besides, most people are just too busy to properly enjoy a cabin. For each family that actually spends each summer weekend at the cabin, there are probably five more that wistfully yearn for more time away, but just can’t seem to find the time. For that family, renting a cabin for the few weekends a year they can get away is a much better choice.

Let’s assume it costs $1000 to rent a cabin for a weekend during the summer months. Our busy family makes it out for three weekends per year. The amount they pay in rent won’t even cover the property taxes and upkeep, leaving them to save thousands in interest over the life of a mortgage. It seems like renting is a much better choice.

But wait, you say, the analysis is missing a very important point. Over the last 20 years, most cabins have been a terrific investment, tracking the price of Canadian real estate in general, which has practically been on an uninterrupted path skyward. Surely cottage owners have made more than enough in capital appreciation to make up for the interest paid.

And you’d be right. On average, Canadian real estate has increased approximately 5% annually over the past two decades. But will that growth continue? And how does it look compared to the alternatives?

Let’s assume two folks took radically different paths. The first one bought a cottage in 1994 for $250,000, paying 4% interest for 20 years. This investment has gone up 5% a year. Today, it would be worth $663,000, less $112,500 in interest. Let’s call it $550,000 for easy figuring, for a profit of $300,000.

Mortgage payments on the cabin would have set back our first investor a cool $1510 per month, or $18,100 per year, give or take a few bucks. Instead of investing in a cabin, the other guy stuck his $18,100 per year into the S&P 500, just buying the index. How much would his investment be worth today?

The answer is $1.2 million, give or take a few thousand.

The reasoning is simple. Even after a crazy bull market in housing, the stock market still crushed the performance of the real estate market. Even after the gift of leverage, which we didn’t give to the stock market investor. And that’s after the greatest bull market in history for Canadian real estate.

Bottom line? Rent the cottage and stick the savings into the stock market. You’ll end up much further ahead.

One Simple Step To Save Money On Nearly Everything

One Simple Step To Save Money On Nearly EverythingWe all like saving money, right?

I know I do. Love it, in fact. You know how people like to debate whether things are frugal or cheap? I don’t even bother. I know I’m cheap. I embrace it with all the enthusiasm of Eminem and swear words. Or…something like that.

How cheap am I? A job gave me a bunch of logo’d polo shirts as sort of a uniform starting four years back. By the time I quit about a year ago, I accumulated about 10 of them.

Guess what I still wear? Guess what I’m wearing right now?

I can come up with a million other examples, but I won’t bother. The important thing to know is that I’m not above looking a little bit silly in order to save enough money for a handful of polo shirts that retail for about $25 each. And that’s assuming I’d be forced to buy the same polo shirts. There are plenty of other options out there, but none as exciting as free.

While writing something else the other day, I got to thinking. What is one actionable tip that folks can use to save themselves money on practically everything? I thought that might be something this cheap guy might be qualified to answer.

I’m not talking about the basics, like don’t buy stuff you don’t need, or cut out buying coffee at the Starbucks. We all know that stuff, but we do it anyway. And I’m not talking about making a budget either, since it’s really easy to just rob from savings when things go wrong.

So I thought about my own life, and what I’ve done in the past to save money. And then it hit me. The perfect idea.

About five years ago, I wanted to replace the terrible dimmer switch in my living room, because I had zero desire to further stereotypes that I’m some sort of creepy 80s guy. I thought about calling my electrician friend and attempting to pay him in beer and pizza, but that might take days, and I wanted dimmer-less light now.

So I Googled ‘how to change light switch.’

The first result was from a website that broke it down into twelve individual steps. I believe one was “get a screwdriver” and another was “turn off the power to the light.”

I don’t think it took me 10 minutes to change it. It was a really easy job.

I’m not a very handy guy, as evidenced by having to Google having to swap out a light switch. But I had a screwdriver and the patience to try to figure it out, and did so pretty easily. And by doing so, I saved myself a few bucks by not calling my friend, or more than a few bucks by not having to call a professional.

Now? I do a quick internet search before tackling most anything.

There are so many examples of this working out. A few months ago, my car’s back window wouldn’t stay up. This happened once before, in about 2009, and it cost me approximately $350 to fix. I wasn’t too excited about spending another $400 to make sure thieves don’t steal my iPod from 2007.

So I Googled it.

Within the first five search results was a great idea. Use suction cups to hold the window up. 20 minutes (and $4 later), I was in the Wal-Mart parking lot with a window no longer falling down into the door. A few days later I finished the job, using industrial adhesive to seal the window shut for all of eternity.

Total cost: about $8. That’s a savings of…carry the one…a lot.

This doesn’t just work for home repairs. Buying something online? Take 2 minutes and look for a coupon code, or see if a competitor has it at a cheaper price. Getting groceries? Plan your trip, and see what competitors have on sale. There are a million other examples. You’ll be amazed at the collective wisdom of everyone online.

Since I started doing this, I’ve had the confidence to attempt all sorts of home repairs, do some basic car stuff, and easily saved hundreds of dollars buying stuff online. It takes all of a minute to try it. In terms of pure efficiency, this might be the best way to save money. It’s fast, easy, and really effective. So just start doing it already.

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