Fall Finance Cleanup

I recently spent one week on vacation, away from the demands of the daily grind. I slept in and unabashedly ordered room service breakfasts dangerously close to noon. I spent mornings in bed reading books or giggling at the Florida news headlines. I stayed up late reading books about finding my calling in life whilst shunning my ego. I went to the gym for hour-long elliptical or treadmill sessions hoping I’d feel slightly less guilty about indulging in a dessert or three at dinner. On port days, we trekked the hills of downtown Halifax and endured hurricane winds to see the Bay of Fundy and stumbled upon boho chic storefronts in Portland, Maine. I figured the week of relaxation would rejuvenate me and prepare me for another long slog at work.

That’s not how things unfolded, though. I was slow and unmotivated returning to work on a Sunday. I dragged myself through, hoping I’d ease back into work mode and be raring to go by Monday. On Monday I woke up with a pounding headache, body aches, and sinus pain and pressure. As a strong believer in the mind-body connection, this was a clear sign that things weren’t right. When the idea of returning to work precipitates a full blown influenza episode, I am clearly in the wrong place. So I decided to take the next week off to eat healthy foods and take long walks and read books to nourish my soul. At that point, I will decide if I can over-medicate myself enough to endure my horrible workplace any longer.

In the interim, I am utilizing my time off to clean up my finances.  Since I’m unsure of my ability to return to work, I’ll need to prepare for a potential drop in income. Thus, I decided to go through my bank account / credit card transactions line by line and scrutinize each expenditure. It’s amazing how our little expenditures can make major dents in our budgets. By doing this, I realized just how many of my costs are unnecessary and don’t affect my overall happiness. Having already applied the Pareto Principle to cut my spending on major expenditures like housing (mooching off parents) and transport (driving an older car bought second hand) this was the next logical step.

Here’s the breakdown of the savings I’ll realize:
-removed US roaming from my mobile plan: $15/month
-cancelled Audible subscription: $20/month
-cut bank fee charges: $12/month
-switched gyms for parents and I: $100/month
-cancelled auto charity withdrawal: $30/month
-made lump sum payment then refinanced mortgage: $600/month

My total savings from about a day’s worth of work: $777 per month and $9,324 per year!!! As someone who considered herself frugal, I was appalled at the amount I was spending on useless shit. I’d need an additional $233k in my retirement nestegg to fund an additional $9,324 in annual spending (based on a 4% withdrawal). Ugh, I’m nauseated just thinking of the additional years I’d spend chained to the pharmacy counter just to pay for THINGS THAT DON’T MATTER. Over the next week, I plan to actually calculate my monthly passive income and monthly expenses and determine if I can officially declare myself officially FI.

Labour Day Musing

With today being Labour Day, a day celebrating the rights of workers, I thought I’d reflect on a few tidbits I personally found interesting.  It seems that in Bangladesh, there’s a movement to declare the anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, April 24th, Labour Safety Day.  For those unfamiliar with the disaster, over a thousand garment workers were killed when their structurally faulty building collapsed.  Loblaw, which ordered Rana Plaza workers to make their Joe Fresh line of clothing for some 20 cents per hour, hired self described “retail genius” and cosplay enthusiast, Joe Jackman to help market the brand. In a 2015 op-ad, the Globe outlined the brilliance Jackman displayed in marketing the Joe Fresh line of clothes, ensuring soccer moms across Canada needn’t leave the grocery store to purchase bland and frumpy outfits.
BeFunky Collage

“They displayed a lot of the clothing like produce: on tables, rather than racks or shelves.  They trumpeted the affordable prices with round orange signs that said food more than fashion. And on the day of the launch, the team placed a naval orange with a Joe Fresh sticker on every staff desk across the country.”  Pure genius. 

I mention this, since my employer also sought Jackman to revitalize the face of their brand, while simultaneously implementing a couple of programs designed to ensure their own cheap and abundant slave labour.  Currently, our store is in the process of initiating a program plainly named “Best Way” which makes clear, in unequivocal terms, the BEST way to do your job.  In the pharmacy, our project goes so far as to provide tape markings on the pharmacy floor outlining the borders of your work station.  These initiatives make explicit the company’s desire to not have anyone think, or in this case, even step outside of the box.

The procedural changes happen to coincide with the latest round of buyout offers being offered to full-time, unionized workers. By dictating the “best way” for workers to do their jobs (with threats of random firings hanging over their heads like the Sword of Damocles), management can keep us all cheap & replaceable.  Providing each worker a script to recite ensures that your workers can be new and dumb, monotonously asking when you’d like to pick up your prescription the way fast food workers ask if you’d like fries with your order. It also ensures that no one has the education or seniority required to be paid a living wage or demand benefits.

This American-based, metric-focused, assembly-line form of pharmacy was to be expected as many of our company executives have been passed, hot potato style, from large US pharmacy chains.  Regardless, it represents an all new low in Canadian pharmacy practice, providing a little slice of Bangladeshi work culture closer to home.  Now I know I’m breaking any new ground by stating the obvious: retail sucks. Nor am I obtuse enough to directly compare my 6-figure, professional job to a Bangladeshi garment worker.
However, as someone who was recently made to take a pay cut, has worked many overtime hours without any pay, worked virtually every weekend this summer (including all 4 long weekends), and developed excruciating neck / back pain from being hunched over a counter for 12 hours at a time, I feel the need to stand up for my rights these days.  I’ll be capping off this lackluster summer with 7 AM training session this Wednesday to implement the new initiatives.  All of this is pushing me dangerously close to wanting to hang up the lab coat once and for all.  After spending the summer cursing my godforsaken job, I am questioning whether I actually need a job (godforsaken or otherwise).