Month: July 2012

Resources: Time

Our lives are enhanced by the following resources that I will be discussing in the next few posts: Time, Talent, Money (Health and Beauty comes to mind also so I may discuss them too).

I hope to share with you what I have learned based on my life experiences and observations. Life experiences include mistakes I made that if I knew what to do beforehand – could have resulted in a more positive result. Observation of people is one way to learn things without actually paying the price for the errors done.  Their bad decision turned into something good for the observer.

For this post, we will start with TIME.

Time is probably the most scarce resource we have. Once spent, you can never get it back. That makes it the most important resource that is available to us.  In a 70 year lifetime – I estimate around 408,800 hours at our disposal (excluding sleep time).  If you sleep less, you may get more time – but your health may suffer – so you won’t reach the 70 year mark

Yet, in this decade we seem to be always short of time.  Even with all the electronic gadgets (which supposedly will make our lives more productive) we seem to run out of time.  What went wrong?

One of the possible explanations is how we manage our time.

First – let us discuss possible TIME WASTERS – and then after – we will discuss what we can do with time saved by eliminating some of the time wasters (or at least spending a lot less time in them).

TV – 90% of TV shows except the ones that teaches skills.

Olympics (it’s OK if you missed many of the previous Olympics like I did :))

Sports – all of professional sports.

Web browsing – most that don’t teach anything worthwhile.

Hollywood celebrities – their lives are proof that there’s nothing to emulate.

Drinking and Smoking – need I say more?

Gambling – designed to fleece you of your hard earned money.

Idle conversation – this is when we talk bad about other people.

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I left two blank lines so  you can fill out other activities that waste time.

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So we saved some time by not checking facebook constantly Oh I forgot I did not mention facebook – but where I worked, facebook browsing got so bad that the company blocked it on Internet Explorer. So some people downloaded Google Chrome and Firefox. Then it’s back to facebook.

Back to the topic: What do we do with the time saved?

-Share your skills:  help people with their problems, write a book, open a blog, tutor someone, volunteer to a charity organization.

-Learn something new: a musical instrument, making furnitures, simple plumbing, basic electrical repairs, quantum physics

-Improve your skills: speed reading, new language, occupational skills.

-Share time: with the elderly, orphans, the homeless, your destitute friend.

-Start a project: a hobby you have been putting off, replace the sink, bicycle repair, baking.

-Travel: meeting different people in varied cultures is great for you!

I have so many other things in mind, but I’ll let you think your own so I can save you TIME from reading more of this.  Have a nice TIME!

 

 

 

 

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Lessen your Liabilities

If you are an average household in the U.S., you had experienced credit card and other kinds of debts. If you haven’t – you are already ahead of most households.

At one point in our lives, we had more than $30,000 in credit card debts. The biggest deceptive phrase used by lending companies is “how much can you afford monthly?”  The real answer to that question is: if you don’t have the money now to pay cash for it, then you really can’t afford it.  But we didn’t know it back then.

One pair of shoes here, one t-shirt there, a vacation here (remember how we don’t skimp too much on vacations on my last blog ?), and 10 years later, we were deep in debt.

One day we got shocked by the fact that my wife contracted an ailment which affected her ability to work. All of a sudden we were down to one income for the family. That’s when we realized we really had to take charge of our finances and not let financial institutions dictate it for us.

So how did we instantly get rid of that debt? Well, two miracles happened. First, she found a job willing to wait for her to get well. So our second income was stopped for only about a month. She had to leave that job in a few days because it was about 40 miles away which could take an hour commute in light traffic. Her next job was much closer. In a few months after starting work there, the owners sold the company – and generously gave each employee a bonus. We used that bonus to pay most of our credit card debts.

We didn’t forget the lesson learned from that experience. We decided we’ll get rid of all of our debts and start going from a negative balance to a positive balance. Here’s how we did it:

-Banks offered zero percent financing that was offered back then by credit card companies. The zero rate was good for 6 to 12 months – then automatically becomes 10% up to 24%. We transferred our high interest credit card balances to those cards.  Just before expiration of the offer, we moved the balances to another zero rate financing company.

-We switched to a Honda Civic from a Sports Utility Vehicle saving us in fuel, maintenance and insurance expenses.

-We kept driving that Civic for 11 years. Another car for 9 years.

-We used any small pay raises to pay the liabilities.

-We used a little bit of budgeting by envelopes for several months – money was put in envelopes labeled “groceries” “allowances” “fuel” and other categories. When the envelopes ran out of funds, we wait for the next paycheck. We really had to watch the funds available so we don’t run out of money.

-We switched our automobile insurance to a high deductible and less coverage, saving us hundreds of $$$ per month.

-Our daughter received academic scholarship in college and she worked and paid her way through college – while studying with a full load, thereby saving tens of thousands more.  (In comparison, some college graduates have over $100,000 in education loans.)

If I can share one thought about our experiences above is this: Think long and hard about your financial situation now – and find ways to improve it if it still needs improving. Be honest to yourself. The reason people get in financial trouble is because they don’t take time to study how to manage personal finance. Remember, the financial giants attracts you with offers every waking hour – trying to take away your hard earned cash.

More minor tips to keep your wallet fat:

-Cook more at home, eat out less. You can probably outcook any 4 star restaurant.

-Buy quality clothes from Discount stores instead of name brand stores.

-Go to stores with a full stomach. If you are hungry, you will tend to buy more.

-Go to grocery shopping with a list of things to buy and don’t deviate a lot from the list.

-Buy summer clothes during fall, winter clothes during spring.

-Plan your driving to different locations so you efficiently use your time, fuel and cash.

-Give personalized gifts made with your own hands. It will be much more appreciated.

Save on!

 

 

 

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Lessons Learned from my Wife

Do you have a few people that have been mentors to you all in your lifetime? These are the people that influenced you to make sound decisions, improve your character and avoid “big mistakes”?

I have, and the more I think about it, it could number up to several dozens, maybe even a couple hundred. But to be true to my choice to be a minimalist, I’ll narrow it down to a very few people. It doesn’t mean I am less thankful to everyone that helped me get a better life by the lessons I learned from them. I also wanted to make sure that you don’t get bored by a posting titled “Lesson Learned #250”

I will start with my wife because I spent most of my years with her. It’s also a tribute to her character, and my way of thanking her for helping me become a better me. I also narrowed the list from a few dozen to just a very few.  Maybe I’ll do a part II just in case there is a great demand….

Here they are, in equal order of significance:

Give it all you’ve Got!  When she starts on a project, it’s all out. Everything is focused on completing the task at hand. No matter what the obstacles are, she will go for it with a “no surrender” attitude. I don’t think there was any project she started that wasn’t finished. Her numerous accomplishments proved it worked, but she will get embarrassed if I write it down here. But you said you want a sample?  A long time ago, she applied for a job in accounting. She was very anxious because she didn’t know how computer based accounting works, but that job would ease our money concerns a little bit. So that Friday, we borrowed five accounting books from the library. She spent all weekend reading through the five books. By Monday, she was ready to tackle the job.

Excellence in everything we tackle –  “Good enough” wasn’t only good enough for her.  When a task is completed, it was completed with excellent results, not a half-assed product.  Even how a document is stapled together is not considered minor. But then, most investors or auditors look at how a document is presented to them, and the way they are stapled could impress them, resulting in more income or tax forgiveness.

Relationships over money –  I don’t know if it’s because she is habitually generous or because she realized early that this is the only way to go. When we go on vacation, she always remind us not to be pinching pennies because we need the vacation to be memorable. Someday we will be looking back at these memories and she doesn’t want us to miss the best parts of the vacation. What good is a vacation anyway if all you can remember is how much you saved on dinner?  On side note: we were watching yesterday the latest iteration of the famous TV show “Dallas”,which was very popular back in the 80s. In the show, people lie, cheat, blackmail, trick, swindle, scam and fake each other. With all the money around (they own land with 2 Billion barrels of oil), everybody’s life was very miserable.  Gazillions of money, yet not an ounce of genuine happiness for any of the characters.

Acquire only the Best – I get constantly reminded of this because I tend to always go for the cheapest. Let’s take clothes for example. If you buy Burberry dress shirt, they are “shockingly expensive” (at least to me $200 is) But they last a long time, they fit well, and they make you feel good and confident about yourself. Yes, wearing great clothes will improve your self-image and gains you respect (and maybe admiration) from other people. On the other hand, you may be able to buy $30 dress shirts which would probably last a few washings and fit horribly.  Go for quality, not quantity.

Was this helpful to you? I hope I was able to share something that would be beneficial to your well being. Were you wondering if I got a lot of brownie points for this article?

Cheers to your success!

 

 

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