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What’s the definition of a good life?

What’s the definition of a good life?

A thrift store haul from last year

My Dad loves to shop sales. He gets up at the crack of dawn on the days of the week the various grocery sales flyers come out. He is also generally the first person at the store when they open the doors. My Dad brings coffee for cashiers, knows about their lives and will remember if they need something picked up when he is on his weekly bargain-hunting trips.
He has done this all of my life. I remember being 7-years-old and him handing me cash to buy cases of sale pop because there was a per person limit. I hated that as a kid but I did love pop so I dutifully went through the cash knowing I wouldn’t even get pop if I didn’t help buy it on sale.

I suspect that he got it from his mother who was fastidious and organized but by all measures, she was a hoarder. She grew up super poor during the depression and was absolutely terrified that we would go through another one, so she had shelves full of soaps, canned food and other household goods. She also had multiple freezers full of butter, milk and meat that could probably have carried all of her 3 kids, their spouses and the 9 grandchildren through another depression. She wasn’t cheap though, the gifts flowed. One of my favourite times of year was when her and my grandfather would come back in the spring from their condo in Florida bearing gifts for all the grandkids. People express their relationship with money in the wildest of ways. For my grandmother it was to hoard the necessities of life and THEN spend lavishly on those she loved.

After my parents divorced, my father didn’t have a lot of stable places to live. He lived with my grandparents for a bit, a couple of girlfriends on-and-off, a trailer with another couple, a house full of bachelors at one point and then when I was 17 got remarried (and divorced, and remarried…and divorced*). He is now retired, in a stable relationship for over 17 years and just living his life meeting up with other retired colleagues for coffee, playing pool and grabbing beers with friends or visiting us. When he visits he ALWAYS brings food and treats for the kids because he is “just trying to help” us out. This is his idea of a good life.

It used to perplex me for a long time that a man who had a good pension and didn’t owe a dime was so obsessed with saving money via grocery sales. My Dad could probably eat out every night of the week and never ever run out of money. Instead, he rarely eats a meal out and he won’t pay full price for anything! It also makes no logical sense to drive to 8 different stores on 2-3 days of the week only to save the same amount in food dollars. It took me a long time to figure it out, but I did figure it out:

He enjoys it.

He enjoys shopping for sales.


Sure, when I was a kid it was probably a necessity but eventually he managed to build a career, get promoted and save a bunch of money. So even when he didn’t need to shop for sales, at that point it was so ingrained in his character and such a big part of his weekly routine (especially when he retired) that he kept at it. He brings the woman at Tim Hortons her favourite meats when they go on sale because he loves to share his finds. He brings us food because it makes him feel good to bring his grandkids cases of pop, some chips and cookies because he knows that we never buy it (although, in recent years I’ve pushed him into searching for avocadoes and peppers, too!). Every week, and I mean EVERY WEEK the day before the flyers come out he calls me and asks, “Is there anything you need?” (spoiler: there is never anything we need)

Figuring out my Dad’s motivation got me to thinking. Why have we associated a good life with spending money? There is this unspoken rule that you have to enjoy travel, eating out at fancy restaurants, the occasional luxury good – and god forbid you don’t think a $7 coffee is worth the money! Why, you are just depriving yourself! I would call it a problem if my Dad was so cheap that it was making himself and others miserable but it isn’t. My Dad is a very generous person. He just enjoys living his simple life and hanging out with friends and family and his hobby just happens to be shopping for sale food. Sure, it’s not an exotic life of adventure but he’s happy, and really isn’t that what it is all about? In telling people what is generally considered a “good life” are we inadvertently pushing our values on them?

I try to think of it like this: I love thrifting. The idea of sifting through shelves and shelves of housewares, reading the titles of books that are in no order whatsoever, and trying to find the diamond in the rough in a pile of florescent 80s stirrup pants fills me with absolute joy. I will happily spend a day hitting bunch of thrift stores (in my neighbourhood there are 3 within spitting distance) trying to find buried treasure, and to me, that is a banger of a day! Sure, I love the environmental and financial aspects of thrifting but the real pleasure is in the hunt. I pop a Claritin, charge my scooter, grab a bottle of water and off I go on the search for deals. Heck, I have friends who will also thrift with me** and The Americans*** and I often share our best thrift finds in the group chat to the OOOOHs and AHHHHs of the others. If there was competitive thrifting, my friends and I would all medal in the sport.

But I would be hard pressed to argue that thrifting actually saves me a ton money and it definitely doesn’t save time. But I enjoy it much more than popping into a store and buying whatever I need off the rack. Don’t get me wrong – there is a time and a place for shopping for new goods – but it’s not something I actually enjoy. I look forward to it like I look forward to blood work: sure, I recognize that it needs to get done but I won’t be happy about it. Don’t think that I also am rejecting branded goods, either: I have a fairly decent collection of Fluevogs that I love dearly. I just dread the concept of hitting the mall and trying on a bunch of clothes at stores all day long – the kind of day, I should add, that my kids find RIVETING.

But often thrifting and sale shopping for groceries gets categorized as something people associate with a poverty mindset. When we talk about saving money these are some of the more popular things that get thrown into the ring as examples of ways to save and it’s become du rigeur to tell people they don’t have to be shamed into doing those things (that they may not enjoy) just to save money. I get it – unlike the 90s and 00s, shame doesn’t sell as well as it used to. A kinder, gentler approach works better. So, it’s one of the things that “money experts” looooooove to shit all over. “I am not saying you have to use coupons and save $2 on a case of pop,” they sputter. But let’s discuss the elephant in the room: when I was a kid that $2 meant getting pop vs. not getting pop. If you don’t have to make those kinds of decisions and have never had to – congratulations! But there is a reason that most of these gurus focus on upper/middle-class individuals – those are the people who will buy books and courses on how to fix their money problems, which is how these money experts make their money. But even if people could probably benefit from some of these frugal skills they don’t want to, because it would challenge their identity as upper/middle-class individuals; it would make them feel poor. They want to buy a book or a course that tells them that they can have everything without deprivation. But for the most indebted, that is rarely the case. Conversely, truly poor people are too busy deciding whether or not to pay the electricity or the phone bill than to even consider taking a $300 course on how to live a “good life.” For them, every single dollar needs to be accounted for. In all fairness to these money experts as well, they probably feel unqualified to tackle the realities of the super poor – you can reduce your costs but you can’t eliminate them. You can’t budget if you have no money left to budget with.

As for me, I don’t like waste, and considering we have enough clothes to clothe the planet for the next 100 years, so every time I buy something from the thrift store I get giddy about how it’s one less thing going to the landfill. Is it making a HUGE difference? Probably not. But I enjoy it. I suspect my Dad gets the same excitement when he finds a 50% off roast to share with one of his friends – less food waste & people get to enjoy a hearty meal. While I will spend lavishly on the most incredible vacation imaginable (I never count my pennies when I travel – I do whatever the heck I want to!) I still can’t bring myself to pay full price for an LL Bean sweater knowing full well there will be piles of them filling the thrift stores once spring hits.

Entertainment, savings and saving things from the landfill? Sign me up for those hobbies. There are worse ones to have.

*His most expensive hobby, tbqh
**The best kind of friends
***These are my Americans, get your own

Link dump

Link dump

Hello! I have been busy reading a GIANT pile of books I have taken out from the library as well as tackling some video games. I have been mostly pleased with my divestment from social media (do blogs still count? They used to). I have kept a few links that I’ve enjoyed lately so today’s post is just sharing those. Hopefully, something longer will be written soon.

Canadian personal finance
The best free retirement calculators in Canada.

Parents lack an RESP financial plan. “I crunched some numbers to find out the cost of going to university in Ontario…Taking an average of … four, I calculated that students need about $125,000 for a four-year undergraduate arts degree, if they live away from home.”

Why kids are quitting sports.

Millennials say that they need $525000 a year to be happy.

Social media is not your couples’ therapist. I have noticed similar advice for diagnosis’ as well. Accounts need to keep people engaged & constantly sharing to remain relevant and to curry favour with the algorithm. I have seen weirdly normal behaviours pathologized as being indicative of a problem. People repost these things because they’re relatable but I think a lot of them are relatable because they are things most of us do. There is a lot of self-diagnosis happening and it’s worrisome.

I just finished the book The Good Life and I highly recommend it. Here is a good primer on how to craft enduring happiness.

Further to that, I do appreciate the friendships I have with both older and younger folks.

How men can build better friendships

A jot a day: Wednesday, October 18, 2023

A jot a day: Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Some links

• I loved this article on creativity so much that I have kept a window open on my phone to post about it. The one thing I read over and over from creatives is: just do it and the inspiration will come. I am trying to do that by writing here every day this week.
Tech doesn’t make our lives easier, it makes it faster “We don’t just live in any economy. We live in a mega-scale corporate capitalist economy, and in such a setting technology is never used to save time. It’s used to speed up production and consumption in order to expand the system. The basic rule is this: technology doesn’t make our lives easier. It makes them faster and more crammed with stuff.” (via: Apex Money) I saw a quote recently on AI that said something like, “If you won’t bother to write it yourself, I’m not going to bother to read it myself.”
• I also had a link to Unbound books open. It’s a publisher that publishes crowdsourced books. I love the idea.
Shrinkflation continues to be an issue. Honestly, it would be interesting to see if standardization of what constitutes a “family size” or “club pack” would help here. But you just have to look at the Sisyphean task of trying to compare toilet paper packages to know what a fool’s errand it all is.
How to Avoid Tax on Severance Pay in Canada
• Today is the Canadian Financial Summit. It’s got a nice selection of interesting speakers (and some I don’t like at all) and topics. You can get a “free” ticket right from the website.


I’m old enough to remember when the Internet wasn’t a group of five websites, each consisting of screenshots of text from the other four.
– Tom Eastman

This one hurt: I remember seeing a tweet where someone was saying that they don’t watch videos on TikTok but wait until they appear on Instagram…like an adult! It’s so meta that I saw that tweet discussing a TikTok video…on Instagram. Recently, I have been served up a ton of Reddit posts on Instagram as well, which is why this quote shook me to my core. I am constantly battling with myself over my (even) meagre presence on social media.


I finished The Art of the Good Life and I can’t say I recommend it. Sometimes when I read a book I feel discomforted because the content doesn’t line up with what I believe so I take the time to process it so that I can either change my mind and add the perspective to my thoughts on the issue. Other times when I read a book I feel discomforted but continue to read because I feel like the book is a weak attempt at pushing someone’s beliefs and/or politics on me.

With a book like this which is a series of observations it had both levels of discomfort in it which makes it hard to review as a whole. While I want to review it more in-depth at some point my overall conclusion is that this is just another piece of #FinBro hot takes that really only seem to apply to rich white capitalists.

What I liked about it is that he starts the chapters with storytelling, which makes it highly readable and interesting. Humans are designed for storytelling, afterall. He has some interesting observations and enjoys quoting famous people (I am a sucker for quotes). He also has some good actionable advice, such as in the “Managing Expectations” chapter, and I do love the idea of subtraction being the key to appreciating what you have.

What gets confusing is his hero worship on the one hand (Munger, Gates and Buffet make multiple appearances) and then on the other he states that we shouldn’t put people on a pedestal because their innovations would happen regardless of their existence. He also seems to think that he is singlehandedly bringing back Stoicism into the modern world when in fact it’s been the dominant philosophical thinking of the 2010s in the blogosphere. It’s very odd that he thinks that it’s fallen out of fashion when clearly it has been very much in fashion.

I wish his editors had done a better job because this book is rife with contradictions such as we should definitely study marginalized people and their history but that we shouldn’t make it our focus. When I finally got 48 – The Secretary Problem, I basically just disengaged. Here is how the chapter starts:

Let’s say you want to hire a secretary (sorry: PAs). A hundred women have applied for the role, and you are interviewing them one by one in random order…

He then goes on to use gender-neutral language for the rest of this story about how to hire candidates efficiently using math. I just found that lede so antagonizing: the only reason to say that the candidates were women and to make a snarky comment about PAs wanting to be respected. It was just such an odd thing to do when their gender had absolutely nothing to do with the problem at hand.

While there is a notes section I find a lot of his arguments aren’t really arguments at all. I wish he had more references to back up his points but if we look at it as a purely opinion piece, sure, it works.

When I first picked it up I thought that it may be a book to add to my collection permanently because it had some salient points. But it starts to go off the rails and becomes a bit hypocritical part way through. In the end, what reading this book has taught me is that I really need to take notes about where I get my book recommendations from! I can’t remember what blog recommended it but I wish I did because that would tell me more about how to see their recommendations going forward.


I slept horribly last night which means that today will probably will find me sitting in my living room watching episodes of Golden Girls. I am on my second cup of coffee and I am still super sleepy so I don’t see myself doing much today.


We ended up watching Death Becomes Her which has a hugely star-studded cast for this type of movie, which is probably due to the director.

The Youngest: 10/10 Literally perfect. Funny, goofy and I love how it was done.

The Eldest: 9/10 It was hilarious and very fun. I thought it was pretty creative.

Mr. Tucker: 7/10 Pretty sure I saw it when it came out but I can’t remember. Anyway, it was thoroughly enjoyable in that early 90s fun, yet thin plot and primitive CGI kind of way.

As for me? I enjoyed it although as I mentioned it was strange to see so many A-listers in what is a campy horror/comedy. It really brought me back to the days where the newspaper had two full pages of movie listings – remember they would say things like, “40 WEEKS IN THE THEATRE!” because the amount of time it ran was determined to be a measure of how great the fil was? I really miss the days of studios taking chances on weird and novel scripts. It feels like everything that hits the theatres now are remakes or superhero movies with the odd art house film breaking through. I get why they do it: why take a loss on something new when we can just do another Star Wars spinoff? But I feel like we have lost something culturally because of it.

Also, I am old: get off of my lawn!

Happy Wednesday, I hope you are having a great day!

The different stages of a good life

The different stages of a good life

When I was in my teens and 20s my idea of travel were of traipsing around Europe staying in hostels and meeting new people. I was raised by someone who loved travel to exotic locales and who had traveled extensively so it was a natural fit. I did do some of that when I was younger and it was lovely.

Conversely, my paternal grandparents owned a condo in Florida and drove down in the winters where they stayed for 4-6 months a year. When I was younger the idea absolutely repulsed me: why bother going anywhere that you wouldn’t experience history, culture and art? I wanted new landscapes and new food and to meet new people! It confounded me that they had never left the continent and I couldn’t see the value in going to the same place year-after-year. I also never understood the concept of sitting on a beach all day. ZZZZZ…boring! Cruising? Well that was for the newly wed and the nearly dead!

Mr. Tucker and I ended up getting married in the Caribbean because my parents paid for it and one of them was very keen to plan it in a certain place on a certain beach. I was neutral on the place but we did end up having an amazing week. When we arrived Mr. Tucker and I sat on a beach for the first time with a drink and he turned to me and said, “NOW I get why people enjoy this so much!”

When I was in my 20s I also had dreamed of owning a country house with acreage where we would be self-sufficient so that we wouldn’t need to have as much of an income. I had been inspired by The Tightwad Gazette and books that Helen and Scott Nearing wrote. While Mr. Tucker and I sat in our 530sq ft condo downtown, we often would look at farms for sale. At one point we were even starting to look at properties that would fit the bill.

In the end, when I got pregnant with the eldest we ended up in a mid-century suburb having traded homes with a relative who also owned half of the condo. Mr. Tucker was not happy but this relative always wanted to retire in the condo so we sucked it up and moved into the house. It remains to this day the biggest fight we have ever had. Not all was lost though: we met some really great friends in that neighbourhood, people who we continue to be close with to this day. Unfortunately, the relative had told us that they would sell us the house at one price and then reneged on the deal because condo life hadn’t turned out the way they wanted it & they wanted their house back. They signed the condo over to me (we had invested a lot in the house) and we all know how that is going.

We ended up buying a new house also in a mid-century suburb because by the time we were forced to move, the shine on the country life had worn off. Our kids were 7 and 9 at the time and were used to the amenities of the city, I had a career, was investigating ongoing medical issues at the time, and we wanted the kids to stay in the same school system. Oh, and I did want a puddle.

We don’t regret the decision now that we are middle-aged and in retrospect a farm would have taken our lives in a completely different direction. We probably would have ended up back in the city anyway with my medical needs.

So what gives?

Age gives.
Mobility gives.
Finances give.
…and life changes.

You change.

It happens slowly over time but your ideas about the future change when it actually becomes the future. If we had pursued our dream of owning a farm and being self-sufficient it would have been disastrous when I became disabled. I probably wouldn’t had my career and with it the disability benefits that pay 70% of my pre-disability salary (indexed to inflation). It would have left us scrambling for money and resources. I am grateful that the dreams I had in my 20s didn’t come to fruition, it would have ruined my middle age.

We have also had multiple cruise vacations (you can’t hostel through the Panama Canal) and have a beach resort vacation planned for this winter. We have changed so substantially in the 21 years that we have been together.

Now, at 47, I even see why my grandparents bought a place in Florida: as you get older, the winters feel harsher, walking in the ice and snow becomes more dangerous and the lack of sun really affects you. Last year I read an article about Margaritaville in the New Yorker and I didn’t feel revulsion, it made complete sense! This isn’t to say that I am rushing out to buy a house there but it occurred to me that for a certain group of people living there is an absolute dream.

Mr. Tucker and I have been discussing our ideas of what a good life really is. We used to dream of him retiring early and us being able to take off and travel the world. But going to Puerto Rico in 2022 for two weeks was an absolute nightmare. Travel post-pandemic was a nightmare (4 hours to get through security in Toronto), when we got there it was a comedy of errors (bald tires on the rental, getting lost in the mountains, roaches in the hotel room, no restaurants open in the town we stayed in etc.) and it has since really turned Mr. Tucker off of travel. While we still laugh at the stories we have from that trip the sour taste still hasn’t been completely eliminated from his mouth.

The only reason I got Mr. Tucker to agree to a trip this winter is that it is a> a direct flight; b> an all-inclusive resort; c> he will theoretically be retired so he won’t have to leap back into work if it is a horrible experience. Our trip in 2022 felt to him like work and then he had to jump right back into work when he got back.

Life is a series of experiences and those experiences lead to change about what you consider a good life. 14-year-old me loved go to the mall and shop for name brand clothes I could show off to my friends. I couldn’t have imagined ever NOT wanting to go shopping when I was that age. 47-year-old me avoids the mall like the plague. I also hate the idea of more stuff to clean, maintain and store. Impressing other people also holds no interest for me. Age is also why driving down to Florida for a month in the winter becomes more appealing over time as flying has become more hostile, post-pandemic. Getting to the airport early and dealing with delayed or canceled flights seems like more of a nightmare than just driving and taking our time. 24-year-old adventurous travel me is not 47-year-old mobility-impaired me. We are completely different people with different needs, goals and desires.

This isn’t to say that we wont fly places and travel more when good deals come up, I am just saying that I finally understand why people enjoy different types of travel. For our future travel, it may just look more tempered and less adventurous. When Mr. Tucker retires we will still have 5 years until the last kid turns 18 so a lot of that time will be spent staying home. Next year the eldest will be in grade 11 (here the biggest years to get into university rely on your grades for 11&12) so we won’t be able to pull her out of school to take advantage of a good travel deal. Also, the kids will be working in the summer so travel will be out during summer holidays as well.

Recently, Mr. Tucker and I were discussing how excited we both were to build new gaming computers this November. He got pensive for a minute and then said, “you know what? Even if we never traveled again, I would be ok with that. I like that we have our little house that has everything we need and we have a really good life right here.” To be honest, I have to agree. We have SEEN a lot and DONE a lot and if we never get to travel again we will have still done more travel than most people. Having a cozy little life with a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, time to work on our hobbies and see our friends IS a good life. A very good life, indeed. And that is enough.