Month: January 2014

100% Discount

A few weeks ago, I was discussing with my daughter why I think money spent on jewelry (in general) is not an investment. We discussed that even jewelry that’s inherited is still a waste of money because their value is probably at 20% of the original cost if sold to a pawn shop and maybe 40% of the original cost if sold to another individual or a jewelry store. It can’t be considered an investment, but rather as some expensive trinket with very little real function. That’s when she remarked that “it should not have been bought in the first place”. Now, isn’t that statement brilliant? It took me a few seconds to fully understand the simplicity of that statement.

Just a two  months ago, online and department stores were all excited about the holiday season which started with Thanksgiving, then the Christmas season. It wasn’t because of the chance to reunite with family members, some of which are living thousands of miles away. There was excitement because they expected the customers to come in droves and beat last year’s sales record which was considered one of the lowest in recent years.

The Holidays themselves were considered second-rate only to the selling of their wares.  In fact, the term “Black Thursday” was substituted to “Thanksgiving Day”. I reckon that it is their way of saying – the most important things in your life should be the material things you will buy this coming holiday season.

Isn’t that a sad state of affairs?

There are so many ways to brainwash a person to buy something from a big store. One of the ways is the “discount sale”; 10% off, 50% today only sale, 70% off on selected merchandise (which are normally the ugliest, unfitting, unsold things on display).

To this kind of propaganda and brainwashing I offer the same tact to improve our finances: the 100% discount. To participate, one must stay with the family and engage in other activities other than shopping (Sitting in the living room while everyone is checking their cell phones don’t count as an activity). The credit card balance stays the same, wallet stays bulged with all the cash, and no need to stress about paying when the bill arrives because the balance is still zero.

Additional benefits: not spending money on fuel to drive to the store, No stress from the holiday crowds, no waiting in line for anything.

There is a mass tendency to copy or to acquire what is popular. This normally results in bad financial decisions based on temporary error in judgment. After buying something,things end up in garbage bins a few months later due to the low quality and low price of the bought items. Other items sit in cabinets unused for years.

There is a growing movement on avoiding buying things just for the sake of buying. The goal is to stop spending for a week, a month or during the Holidays season on non-essential items. I hope this spreads like a wildfire.

On a personal level, I still have a few items that I would like to still sell, give away or recycle. Last year, I got rid of many of the items I have sitting in various nooks and crannies around the house.

It should not have been bought in the first place.

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Is College Necessary?

Do all of us need a college education? Hmmmmm! That’s a good question. The quick answer would be yes, but there are other avenues to getting educated without going through college.

So why go to college and spend all that money and use up at least four years? In one of our weekly discussions, my daughter mentioned that one of the main benefits of getting a college education is that it prepares a person to work within schedule and accomplish set goals within a timeline. College also sets an environment wherein an individual can practice goal setting and plan execution to arrive at the desired academic results.

But can it be done any other way? Here are the alternatives (note: I am not implying that you should take this path to learning, but rather an alternative in case it fits your education plans better).

Online Colleges – Most if not all of the academic learning are done within the confines of your laptop desk or anywhere you are as long as you have your laptop with you. The obvious disadvantages of course is the lack of interaction with other people. Having to deal with people is a good way to improve one’s communications and negotiation skills which are invaluable to personal, professional, or entrepreneurial endeavors.

Vocational Schools or City Colleges – are great in the sense that they train specifically on where you want to specialize. There are no classes in Humanities or Anthropology which is not necessary when learning how to weld, or do plumbing work. It can be a time and money saver.

OJT – Some people swear by “On the Job Training. Working with an expert for months (or years) can be an invaluable learning experience. Training given by an expert cuts off a lot of the learning curve. OJT together with vocational training is even better.

Travel overseas – Yes, other people learn by traveling to other countries and soaking in the culture. Living in Argentina or Chile for 18 months beats studying “South American studies”, don’t you think?

Learning on your own – by buying books, CDs, DVDs. This is doable. It takes a lot of discipline and many people have done it. It is limited to learning a specific skill. Again, you lose interaction with people but you can focus more.

Is College still necessary? The final answer is still a YES. It prepares us for a lot of other challenges in this life. It is a convenient (and expensive) way of going through an organized systems of instructions, while working for a certificate of completion that gives  a better chance of employment. It is a must for the fields of Accounting, Architecture, Engineering, Medical doctor or nurse or any other specialized knowledge that require formal classroom instructions and lab/field work

Just one reminder. It is possible to go through college with very little or no loan at all. These days I read about thousands of college students who graduate with over 100,000 in loans and couldn’t find employment. It looks like a bad investment, but it’s not. Education is one of the best investments one can make.

Maybe I should discuss how to avoid College loans in a future post? Cool

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Turning Vegan

Are you a meat lover just like me? I was a meat lover up until a few years ago. No, wait – only a few months ago actually (but on super small servings). I loved meat more than any other type of food except maybe for dessert.  Meat lovers pizza? Prime rib? Fried chicken? Juicy burgers with the works? I ate it all, and then some.

Today, my diet is very slowly turning to vegetarian, with the intent on becoming a vegan in the near future. To make this all easy to read, I summarized it into the steps taken to become one.

  1. My wife and I were referred by a chiropractor to another chiropractor/nutritionist about 5 years ago. Our nutritionist (who was a world champion weightlifter and a vegan) recommended a three week detox. What it means is drinking nothing but water, and eating nothing except select vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts, specifically walnuts and almonds.
  2. The detox was very hard. I was having headaches on the third day for lack of coffee and feeling dizzy from calorie deprivation every day. We had to make exception on our diet on the weekends otherwise we would totally go bonkers. We survived the detox and found out that we could handle that kind of diet.
  3. We slowly switched our diets to the way we ate during the detox. Here’s a sample:     breakfast – one avocado with honey.  Lunch salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Dinner – soup with toast.
  4. We missed eating all the yummy food so whenever we eat out with our family, we of course ordered delicious food regardless of its nutrients or lack thereof. Slowly we backslid back to fatty, junky, artery-busting meals. I bet it was part of the reason why I had to have a heart surgery.
  5. We watched a DVD titled “Forks over Knives” and realized that the older we get, the better our diet should be otherwise we may spend the rest of our lives incapacitated or suffering from one ailment to the other, while slowly depleting our savings.
  6. We made a decision to turn vegetarian (still eating eggs, cheese, chicken and fish – is that termed as ovo lacto pesce chicken tarian? Smile) to make the transition easier. We can work on being vegan later on.
  7. We are now on that journey. We hope to be like a lioness called Little Tyke from the book “A World of Wonders” by Doug Batchelor:

Little Tyke, a female African lion born and raised by Georges and Margaret Westbeau here in America, lived her entire lifetime without ever eating meat. Her owners went to great lengths to coax her to like meat products but she refused to eat meat. She continued to grow well on a diet of cooked grain, raw eggs, and milk. To condition her teeth and gums – as she refused to gnaw on bones – she was given old rubber boots to gnaw on.  On the 100-acre ranch where she was raised, there were also cattle and sheep. Her favorite friends were Pinky the kitten, Becky the lamb and Baby the fawn. The lamb especially liked the lioness and preferred her over the other animals in the ranch. Little Tyke was gentle to all the animals including newly hatched chicks, despite the fact that she weighed 352 pounds when fully grown.

We don’t need meat, do we?

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First World Problems

Did you know that here in the First World (primarily the US of A), we have problems that six billion people of the world would not even consider as problems? That’s why someone coined the term “first world problems” because it’s peculiar to the majority of the residents of one of the most blessed places on earth. It’s the kind of problem that six billion people would rather have instead of the daily survival matters they have to attend to everyday.

Before I start, I would like to let you know that this is just for the purpose of having a lighthearted post. The irony is that the developing world might not find it amusing at all but rather a reflection of excessive materialism. No offense is intended to anyone. I added a contrasting story of life of the less prosperous six billion people.

So here’s the situation, statement or event:

“Should I buy a Mercedes or a BMW?” – this is from a college teen.

Somewhere in southern Asia, a young woman gathers firewood, puts it in a basket, and carries the 50 pound basket on her back supported by a thick cloth strapped to her forehead for two kilometers. For a few nights, they will have fuel for cooking and to heat their abode in cold nights in the mountains.

“I need a $10,000 triathlon bicycle so I can start training for a triathlon.”-in any snobby bike shop

Again in Southern Asia, a vendor puts several about a two hundred hats on top of his old heavy bicycle. He will pedal his hundred pound bicycle a few kilometers to the public market to sell them. He may be able to buy a new bike after ten years of selling hats.

“I must have this signature ladies bag because I saw my favorite Hollywood personality using one in the awards ceremony.” – from a star struck fan.

Somewhere in a cramped factory in the East, a man worked very long hours for days on end earning very little money so he can produce bags like the one that the Hollywood personality was using. 

“I was afraid that a disaster might come and I prepared for it by buying $20,000 worth of food that I put into airtight storage containers. Gotta be prepared, you know” – from a doomsday prepper.

In one of the Pacific islands, a fisherman lost his house, his fishing boat and most of the things he owned after the strongest typhoon on record. He was losing hope when a group of charitable people pooled their money together to buy boats for the hundreds of fishermen like him who can get up on their feet again once they can start fishing. He said he doesn’t even need shelter, just a boat.  

In the busyness of our lives, we sometimes take for granted that for every “problem” we have, there are several billion people who wish they are in our position.

Gratitude makes our lives very satisfying and feels like we have overachieved.

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A Great New Beginning!

Here we are at the point A of the the new year. Another year to look forward to which could be a great one. Depends on how we treat it. Don’t we reap what we sow? Of course, we do. So should we sow to the max? Absolutely!

Let’s just say that after my heart surgery, every day seem like an extra gift. I still remember the experience like a 3D movie played in the latest Ultra HD TV screen. Then the healing turned into weeks, months, and now it’s another year further from it.

It’s time to set some goals, and have a great life this year!

So what’s up with this new year? Well, this could be year that we could break through in whatever projects we have. I actually have a few: two more blogs, and an ebook. I could easily make them all in a few months, with the help of outsourced talents and skills (and a lot of money). However, I am a little bit of a perfectionist (and frugal) and I wanted interesting blog and ebook topics that will be to the target readers.

What do you have scheduled for this year? I recommend write down a list of projects up to a hundred. More than a hundred, and you may be still writing comes February. It could be as easy as “take a refresher on Excel” or “draw a really nice cartoon character and have it printed as a birthday card”. Things like that. Or it could be something like “Walk across Oregon with only a backpack”, or “Study how to code HTML”. Make your goals reasonable (to you) but still challenging.

From that 100 possibilities, whittle it down to 20. Now we can concentrate our efforts to a few so some goals will actually get done. Rank them, and work on the top 5 first. The objective is to make this year a more productive year.

Whatever we are planning, let’s get it down on paper. With all the electronic gadgets we have, we can write them down there too. But it’s always look solid when you look at things on paper. That’s why the title of our vehicles or houses is in printed paper, not in a Word document stored in our computers. Then we can revisit our goals several times, by looking at a nice piece of paper.

I read somewhere about “plan your action, and act your plan” or something to that effect. The first step is the hardest. But take it, then put one foot in front of the other and repeat (this of course applies literally if you plan to walk across Oregon).  Smile

That’s all for now so you’ll have time with your goal setting for 2014.

 

Have a Wonderful 2014!

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