Month: August 2015

Bicycle Lessons III

I just came back from a ride – practicing what my bike builder, Grant Petersen has been preaching for years – “Just Ride” (he actually wrote a book with the same title). He states that biking is more about enjoying the bicycle ride rather than emulating professional bicycle racers. These days, there are more lycra clad riders (includes me) than riders in regular clothes virtually everywhere.

Up means Down later

For this post, I have to remind myself again that I was trying to compare and contrast bike riding to daily life. So here’s a quick lesson:  If you must ride uphill, then there will be a downhill.

Riding uphill is hard for me because I weigh 30-40 lbs. more than the average bicycle racer. Despite that, I like riding hills because it’s really a challenge. After the hill, I could feel a sense of accomplishment.

In life we have many “uphills” that we face, almost daily. I look at it as if it’s just a bump in the road. After a challenge, we get better facing the same challenge, and then some – and we end up successful in our next endeavor. Life without challenge is not life yet some people try to shelter their loved ones from any challenge.

Material Conundrum

I don’t know if you guys noticed but in the past 20 or so years  the bicycle have changed so much. Today, we have bikes made of steel, aluminum, titanium, bamboo, wood and carbon fiber. What used to be called 10-speed have now evolved to a maximum of 33 speed and it’s not done developing yet. Disc brakes are now the latest and shifting gears are now done electronically (in some expensive bikes).

So what does it do for the average bicycle rider? They are faced with a cornucopia of overwhelming choices. So what’s an average rider to do?

First: we figure out what kind of riding are we going to do. Second: which type of bike is the most suited to the type of riding we plan to do (is it offroad? mostly pavement? commuting, etc.?) Third: How much budget are we willing to spend? Fourth – what color? Picking the right color (as trivial as it is) is very important to the enjoyment of the bike later.

So how does that translate to life in general? When planning a major purchase or (setting up a project), we should do the same thing. First: What do we want the equipment to do (or the project to accomplish). Second: Which type of equipment is the most suited to what we intend to do (what are the resources we need for the project?) goals. Third, how do we finance the purchase or the project. If it’s a project we do a budget and a cash flow projection. Fourth: Pick the right color for the equipment (Find ways to maintain our passion for the project).

And my final suggestion, ride slower to enjoy; you don’t want to miss the scenery.

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Is Grass Greener Over There?

I heard a unique true story before – and I didn’t think much of it except the other day I was reading an article in the web and it was telling the same story I heard a few years ago. May I tell you the story?

Here it goes:  There was a man in Africa that decided to sell his farm to find diamonds. I don’t know what prompted him to look for diamonds (instead of gold, or a better farm) but that’s the way the story goes. He looked far and wide all the way to his death but didn’t find any diamonds.

The buyer of his farm happened to stumble on a big rock by the stream in the farm one day years later. The rock turned out to be a raw diamond. He found more later on – and the farm turned it to be the biggest diamond mine in Africa. Can you imagine the odds? Most regrettable decision ever? You bet ya!

In our lives, we always think that grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Is that a true statement? Not really. We forget that if we nurtured our own farm, it could be greener than the neighboring farms. But there’s hard work involved.

Let’s turn this story now to our workplace (for most of us, it is the “farm” where our money come from). More specifically, my workplace. For years, I have had this intense desire to leave my current job and find a less stressful line of work. Moving means a lot less paycheck and it also mean that I have to find a job that’s not worse than what I have now.

A few months passed, a few things improved. A year passed by and one of the people I don’t like working with found another job. Another year and another person I didn’t like left also. Don’t get me wrong – these aren’t bad people. It’s just that I prefer to work with organized or structured people (I was in the navy for over 20 years and if you are not organized, the navy will organize your life for you).

Another year passed and the job gets easier due to familiarity. Late last year, my department was moved to a new office which takes twice as much in travel time but we had room to breath and it is more conducive to working. For years, I have been praying about a new job – but it seems God has a separate plan for me. So He’s slowly adapting to what I wanted. Slow but steady.

I sat down and pondered on what’s great about my job. There’s some good things which I know is not available in most jobs – flexible hours, for one. Friday offs – a big plus!

There’s a few more perks that I won’t enumerate here just in case one of my bosses start reading this and figure out that it’s me writing it, then I get fired  

At this point, should I consider another job? Negatory!  Are there greener ones out there? Not much but there’s a few, especially in federal government. But I’ve learned to be content with my lot much of my life and I’m content right now.

Maybe in a few years?

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How Do We Save Money?

A friend asked my wife just a few days ago: So you guys save some money – but how do you do it? My wife could only think that our biggest expense is the house rent and it’s way below market rate because we’ve been here for almost four years and the landlord only raised it twice in very small amounts.

So that got me thinking (which is dangerous in itself!  ), how do we consciously save money? Or even subconsciously? This post will enumerate what we do to increase savings and hopefully, we can inspire someone somewhere to save.

* Renting instead of buying – we missed buying a house during the Great Recession because we were thinking that real estate prices are still way up compared to 1999. This may not apply where you live but in California, renting makes more sense than buying. We save on property taxes, maintenance, homeowner association fees, local taxes, water bill, trash disposal, upgrades and other things.

What other things? If our washer and dryer conks out (happened a few months ago), we didn’t have to spend over $1,000 to get new ones. We just called our landlord and complained that his 14 year old washer and dryer combo is not working. He opted to buy us a new one instead of fixing it.

  • Grocery bills – we subsist on $40-60 per week on grocery bills since we started eating more vegetables and fruits over meatloaf, steaks and stews.

*Clothes, Shoes, etc. – we make a list or mental note on what we need (dress shirts, skirts, etc.) then wait for sales. As soon as there’s a sale in our frequented stores, we purchase the things that’s in our list.

*Automobiles – We pick vehicles that are reliable, durable (with average maintenance cost) and low fuel consumption. We try to keep vehicles for at least 10 years or more.

*Boring Life – we live what half of the population would say is a boring life. We don’t go to casinos, watch sports in stadiums, party like its 1999, play poker all night or watch movies more than once a month. Boring? No, we love it. I’m even worse because I can’t stand listening to music over 30 minutes – so no expenses on music downloads, CDs, concerts, etc.

*Nitpicking it – I have two bicycles which I feel guilty because all I need is one. But when one of them is broken, I smile because I can still go on my workout ride. To save money, I get reliable and durable parts and do 50% of the maintenance.

*Nitpicking it II – I turn off all unnecessary lights and run the clothes washer full load. My wife and I hang dry half of the clothes making it last longer while saving on energy bills. I also plan our trips so we go on a direct route from point A to B to C loop instead of going to unnecessary routes. We eat leftovers sometimes over two days.  We have a limit of $30 per person in our family gift-giving.

I got a few more but that would be really nitpicking!

Since I was young, God has been giving me wisdom on how to properly manage my finances. But did I listen? Nope! I got distracted by the world and all its enticements. However, as I got older, I got more divine guidance maybe because I asked for more. Without this guidance, our family’s finances would still be in the red like it was before.

Sometimes I wonder how we were able to save. It really takes attention to detail and focus to put our financial lives in order (and listening to divine wisdom). We are faced with choices everyday – and making the right choices add up.

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