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Changes to Spending Habits – Living it Large

After returning from Hong Kong, I’ve found myself in living a different lifestyle. Where as I, prior to the trip, would be leary of spending, I am not finding myself spending on things that I would have otherwise spent a long time considering. Suffice to say, I haven’t won the lottery yet or make mounds of cash investing into stocks (again, YET) – but I am starting to utilize the money I’m earning more often and being less thrifty. The reason is not because I want to “show off” or to overindulge in using my money, but rather, something very important my uncle said to me (which I will translate to English). He said, “I am rich because I spend my money, not because I have lots of it. A rich person, is one who uses his money and enjoys it, regardless of his existing wealth. A poor person, is one who does not use his money and sits it in the bank, regardless of his existing wealth. When one uses money usefully, he (or she) is rich. When one does not use their money, no matter how much is in the bank, he (or she) is poor.

I have a habit of saving – saving for a rainy day and saving for my future family. I save a lot of money suffice to say and I’d wager every year (since I’ve been working), I’ve been storing just over 50% of my take home pay. I invest it, into my RRSP, into my supplementary pension plan, into my cash-able life insurance, into my TFSA and into stocks/funds. On good years, my investment income usually supplies me with 2-3 tickets of airfare to Hong Kong, so the reality is I could go there every year if I wanted to, and I may soon turn that into a reality.

But anyways, back onto my point. I’ve been living it large lately. I want to realize those dreams of “being rich” – not necessarily because I have lots of money, but because life is about enjoyment, making your comfortable and utilizing the resources that you have. Since I’ve returned, in the past 2 weeks I have been spending money more lavishly. This is particularly true with luxury items and with food. I also learned another very important aspect of Hong Kong lifestyle is that they invest majorly into 1 or both of the following: clothing and food. I’m not particularly interested in clothing, so I have adopted the 2nd, food. Another thing my uncle taught me, “You should learn that eating is not about filling your stomach the most for the least money. Food is about quality, not quantity. Therefore, you should aim to eat small portions of good food, rather than be concerned with feeling full by eating lesser foods.” My uncle is truly full of wisdom and he has both a Canadian and Hong Kong lifestyle perspective as he’s lived in both places. He does understand the need of why I save, but also encourages me to utilize money effectively and that does not necessarily equate to saving it all.

In the past 2 weeks, I’d say that I’ve already bought, or consider buying items that I would have taken a long time to justify and rationalize. Just over the weekend, I walked into Future Shop and bought a Wii Fit Plus. I did do some prior bargain hunting, but to no avail. I could’ve waited – but I didn’t… I just went out and bought it. Sure, it cost $20 more than if I waited for the next sale, but I want it NOW – and I got it. The computer and monitor rack that I got for bebe for her birthday, I wanted to give her my old video card so she could play her games and watch HD movies – but instead, I am now buying her a new video card. Why? Because I can and that she deserves it. Also, what kind of terrible boyfriend would I be, one who is a computer guy and giving his girl outdated stuff? 😛 I promised I’d buy myself a new pistol or rifle every year. I put one on order, a nice new revolver for me to play around with 😀 I used to fiddle with my iPhone headset every time I got into the car so I could legally use my phone (as it is outlawed in Ontario to hold a communication device while driving) and got tired of it – so I got myself a Bluetooth headset – and a nice one too, that responds to voice activation/commands AND is also capable of multiple language sets… of course I chose Cantonese 😆

As you can see, I’m spend less time thinking and more time buying! I know that the moral of the story goes both ways here. Some will say, “Hey, great, you’re satisfying your wants.” while others will spit in disgust and say that I’m wasting money needlessly. Also, in the next while, I will be installing a fireplace in my computer room so I’m nice, warm and cozy while I play, chat or do work on my computer! Yes, that’s right, I want to be luxurious and enjoy the money I’m earning. It wasn’t that I’m cheap on others, I tend just to be cheap on myself. I’ve spent more money on bebe than I have on any other girl I’ve dated… perhaps I dare say I’ve spent more on her than I have with all of my ex’s put together, LOL! I’m not quantifying my love for her via how much money I spend on her, but more of the fact she makes me feel and want to spend money on her. I spend money on my family and friends as well, because I don’t mind. We go out for nice meals, do costly activities – but still, I’m only cheap when it comes to myself. I’m turning that around – I want to be the one enjoying the fruition of the seeds which I have sewn myself.

I guess I’m a bit old fashion and perhaps that alpha-male part of me kicks in when I’m with bebe. By spending money on her and also, showing that I have financial stability is an implicit sign that I’m able to “take care of her”.. I mean this is TOTALLY 1950’s mentality, haha, but still, it’s born into us guys where we feel the need to have to ‘display’ ourselves and ‘prove’ that we’re capable. I’m not trying to bribe bebe with money or throw money at her in hopes of winning her love, but what I’m trying to do is to show that at the very least, I can be a successful boyfriend and future husband who can provide for her if necessary. I know I think “a bit farther ahead” because I’m older than she is and have different paths I want to walk in life, but the reality is that I don’t want to have a huge margin of income with her – which is the reality given both our careers. I have a very important topic I’d like to write on in the near future, the idea of social status and individual prestige, which will make what sense of what I’m trying to express above.

I’m already looking at the posted transactions that are coming through on my credit card already! This is probably the most I’ve spent in a while (not including on my trip) and there will be more to come. I work hard during the day and even after hours, so isn’t it at least right of me to come home and be submersed into comfort and luxury? I don’t earn my money for nothing or to leave it in the bank while they trade my money around to earn money for themselves!

I’m rich, because I’m using my money to generate happiness. I am no longer poor, because my monetary wealth is bringing my lasting wealth through enjoyment and fulfillment of wants! Even when I bring happiness to bebe it makes me smile, so the wealth is not only spent on me, but her as well… us, both our families and hopefully soon, our very own family 😀

I’m in a very loving mood tonight, so even though my bebe is not around with me right now, if she ever asks me how much I love her … then I can answer her with THIS much! 😛

Teresa Teng (鄧麗君) – The Moon Represents My Heart (月亮代表我的心)


And… because UMG are a bunch of cock-sucking retards, you have to go on YouTube directly to watch it.

你 问 我 爱 你 有 多 深
You ask me how deep I love you

我 爱 你 有 几 分?
How much I love you

我的 情 也 真,
My feeling is true

我的 爱 也 真,
My love is true

月亮 代表 我的 心。
Moon represents my heart

你 问 我 爱 你 有 多 深
You ask me how deep I love you

我 爱 你 有 几 分?
How much I love you

我的 情 不 移,
My feeling is steadfast

我的 爱 不 变,
My love is constant

月亮 代表 我的 心。
Moon represents my heart

轻轻 的 一个 吻
A tender kiss

已经 打动 我的 心。
Already touch my heart

深深 的 一段 情
A deep love

教 我 思念 到 如今。
Makes me miss till now

你 问 我 爱 你 有 多 深
You ask me how deep I love you

我 爱 你 有 几 分?
How much I love you

你 去 想 一 想
You go think about it

你 去 看 一 看
You go have a look

月亮代表我的心。
Moon represents my heart

你去想一想
You go think about it

你去看一看
You go have a look

月亮代表我的心。
Moon represents my heart

Does Your In-Game Habits Say Something About You?

I just thought of this really interesting topic and I’m no sure if a lot of other sites have covered it already – but this dawned upon me as I was playing some games a few weeks ago. Of course this isn’t the first time I’ve thought of it, but it is the first time I’m writing about it. For avid gamers, some may always pick particular “races”, “classes” or “alignment” to play because of particular strengths and weaknesses provided to the player. By far, I will say of every RPG game (single/multiplayer) I’ve played, I have always favoured using long-range characters such as ranger, hunter or shooter classes and erring on the side of stealth-based character attributes.

A couple months ago, when bebe and I were playing The Sims together, I found out she’s different with her approaches to gaming. Rather than it being a manifest of her, she likes to show her “creative” side when it comes to gaming. She prefers not to build her Sims and lifestyle as a replica of her and we debated whether we would actually use her name as her sim-name. Me on the other hand, when I play games like The Sims, I like to replicate my existing or future lifestyle/housing and although I let my creativity soar when it comes to furniture, house size and stuff, I play the characters very-much like my own mentality, attributes, likes/dislikes, occupation, etc.

Something like this made me wonder, do games bring out a subconscious part of us or is it simply what it is… a game?I must admit personally, my in-game gaming habits tend to be a pretty good representation of myself. I enjoy game series like Hitman and Splinter Cell, because they cater to us gamers who prefer stealth and tact over direct confrontation. I like the idea of popping down behind someone and slitting their throat versus running in a full room of baddies, guns a-blazing. Whether it be in game or in person, this “hidden” personality of mine shows through. I remember playing “tag” as a child, I’d much prefer hiding and sneaking around and tagging a person than running a-muck trying to catch whoever I could. I also avoid confrontation when the situation presents itself or use conversation as a method to my advantage (even if it results in violence in the end).

You may call stealth cowardice... I call it SMART. You're the one losing your neck, not ME.

You may call stealth cowardice... I call it SMART. You're the one losing your neck, not ME.

The very first fight I got in in my life was something I could not avoid. The other kid was hostile and aggressive towards me and escaping it using words was futile. However, what I could do was to incite him casually (because you don’t want to provoke someone directly) to throw the first punch. Suffice to say, I do not condone violence nor enjoy using it as a method of problem-resolution, but for some types of people, that is their preferred method. As he threw the first punch, I intercepted his arm and twisted it and hit him in the chest as retaliation. In a fight for legality reasons, it’s always good to allow someone to “throw the first punch” because then you become the victim to rightful defense. Of course the laws run deeper than that as I’ve spent time sitting in Coles reading the Canadian Criminal Code on Self Defense. Let’s just say I took him down… it was a nasty scene and essentially, because I was “defending” myself from danger, I did not get into major trouble by the teachers. The trick is also to “pretend you’re scared” and that “you’re attempting to leave the situation” and have witnesses (other kids) to prove it. I acted as if I didn’t want to be involved, that I was afraid, that way as the kid attacked me, I had the complete right to strike him back. Of course you’re only supposed to “use sufficient force to disable the assailant from doing further harm” … but I think I used a bit more power than that, LOL. So the moral of this story is that my in-game personality fits that of how I would play a game. Choose stealth and conversation over direct confrontation. 

Many games now, particularly RPG’s or ones that “require you to choose a path” often involves a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ choice… or perhaps in some games like Alpha Protocol, there is no “right” or “wrong” decisions… only a decision. Each choice you make will affect gameplay immediately or later on, but may be to your advantage at some point and disadvantage at others. These types of games in general do simulate “real life” unless it’s a very poorly chosen decision which leads to your death. Every day as humans we make countless decisions and these decisions may lead to immediate or future consequences – good or bad. When playing games, I often choose to walk a “good” or “positive” alignment. I will choose paths or a character-based on ‘good’ rather than ‘evil’. Playing games like Neverwinter Nights where your alignment affects how NPC (Non-Player Characters) view you and interact with you, I much prefer taking a “lawful” and “good” approach. In general, this is also how I prefer to lead my life, following a lawful and good approach – obviously that is not the case all the time, but I prefer to “play by the rules” and be a good person when I can.

The path of good and evil... which do YOU choose?

The path of good and evil... which do YOU choose?

However, then there are also less-than-glamorous scenarios like recently when I was playing The Saboteur, a game similar to Grand Theft Auto. You are given a large world to wander doing side-quests and fulfilling main-quests to advance the storyline. I can get just as frustrated in real-life as I can in a game, lol, if not more because you have to replay a scenario over-and-over again until you “pass” it. This had already been my 3rd attempt at having to escape the Nazis. I was almost out of their detection range, speeding away in a car with them tailing me when suddenly a civilian vehicle came out of no where, cut me off and I ended up slamming into them. I was so annoyed because now it means I needed to spend even more time getting the Nazis off my tail. However, that’s when my anger took over (and this scenario as scary as it may be, is a fairly good representation of me).  

I got out of my vehicle, which was obviously half blown-up after being machine-gunned by the Nazi chasers and hitting corners of the streets and NOW slamming into the civilian car. I walked over to the passenger side of the vehicle where I proceed to pull out a terror-machine gun (massive ass weapon) and shot the passenger through the window. I then walked over to the driver side, pulled the driver out on the ground and let him run away… momentarily that is, until I followed him slowly and planted 3 shots to the back of his head with a pistol. I was slightly satisified given these two idiots dented my car and while the Nazis had then caught up and started shooting at me, I got back in and made my escape. As evil as this may sound, it is rather indicative of my personality. When I get frustrated, I get even. There have been times my parents did not have the joy of sitting in my car when I was angry with another driver. I literally try to drive people off the road when they piss me off on the road. Call it road-rage or whatever you will, but hell, this scene in the game really shows the type of person I am!

When someone gets in the way of my goals...

When someone gets in the way of my goals...

 Do most players tend to game similar to their personalities? Do most choose a particular way of playing or particular characters as a result of their own “style” and personal habits? I’m not going to say that I never play something out-of-character, but most of the time I stick to my own classes, race, alignment and method-of-approach. When I beat a game using a certain combination, if the storyline or gameplay is different enough, I explore other ways of playing, but I will always “play myself” on the first run of the game. In fact, I often find it hard for me to “walk the path of evil” when making choices or decisions or rather, ones that contradict with who I am. I cannot recall the game, but there was one where I had to make the decision to drag another character to safety or leave them there to die. I would most certainly help, but given that this was a second run of the game, I decided to take the “bad” approach and resisting the temptation to ‘help’ the character was amazingly hard. Because it’s contrary to the person I am, watching the other character die (knowingly too) was tough. Yes, it is just a game – but even acting outside of myself within a game is something that makes the gears in my head turn. 

 If you’re a gamer or not, do you think that the actions you perform within a game reflect upon your own personality and real-life choices if that were you?

Can YOU Live on $18,000 a Year? I Sure as Hell Can’t.

This entry is definitely not “on-topic” of my blog theme, but after reading it, I really thought it was worthy of being posted. Please note that everything between the quotes have been dumped directly from the news article and I take no credit for the contents. A lot of the times, I consider my financial situation. I ask myself, am I making enough? Am I saving enough? Am I reducing my quality-of-life by being too frugal? If I spend more, does that equate to my happiness? Am I spending on the right things? Do I think too much before I spend? Do I have money for a rainy day? Am I truly keeping reliable spending records? Am I overestimating how much I really have available to use?

I’m sure I’m not the only person who thinks of these things on a regular basis. Suffice too say, I am not in a situation where I must watch every penny that goes out, but certainly, it is a wise thing to be wary of where a person spends their money. Unlike one point in my life, I know that earning money is quite difficult. Maybe for some, you can sit on your ass and money is being earned every second, but that is not the case for me. Every dollar I earn is from sweat, blood and tears (metaphorically).

Feel free to check out the original entry on MSN.CA by clicking on the link which I embedded into the title of the article below. This is amazing… I really wish I could live a comfortable lifestyle and only spend that much! Imagine how much money I could put away every year – sheesh. Right now, I’m pretty content with living within my means, but I always want to strive and become more efficient. After all, there’s always space for improvement!

By Liz Pulliam Weston, June 16, 2010

Living on $18,000 a year — by choice

Meet three people who live on that amount (or much less) while following their dreams. They’re thrifty, sure, but also content.

The term “low-income” is usually a synonym for “poor.” But I just interviewed three people who wouldn’t use that word to describe themselves, even though they live on $18,000 a year or less — in two of the cases, much less — without going into debt.

Their ages are 25, 44 and 60. They’re all college-educated and have chosen to live frugally so they can pursue their own interests.

Their stories are relevant for a couple of reasons. First, they show what’s possible when you let go of consumerism and the hamster wheel of spending too much and then having to work to pay off your debts.

Second, their thrifty habits offer lessons on how you may wind up having to live if you don’t get cracking on building up your retirement savings. That figure, $18,000, is about what you’d get over a year if one were to draw average U.S. Social Security benefits (now about $1,200 a month) and tapped 4% of a $100,000 nest egg.

(Four percent is usually considered a “sustainable” withdrawal rate, meaning you’re unlikely to run out of money before you die. The $100,000 nest egg at retirement age may be a stretch for some; Employee Benefit Research Institute surveys indicate half of all U.S. workers have less than $25,000 saved (.pdf file).)

Here’s who these three frugal folks are:

Tyler Tervooren, 25. Until recently, Tervooren earned $56,000 a year as a construction manager. But he lives so thriftily in Portland, Ore. — his expenses are about $14,000 a year — that he was able to save the bulk of his salary. He’s now enrolled in a state program that allows people to collect unemployment benefits while they launch their own businesses — in Tervooren’s case, a blog called Advanced Riskology that encourages people to take more risks in their lives.

“Since I earned so much but spent so little, the amount of unemployment insurance I get covers all of my living expenses and actually allows me to still save a little bit,” Tervooren explained. “My savings cushion can support me for almost four years — (even) until I’m 30, if I need it to — before I have to start earning money again.”

Nancy Tudor, 44. Tudor earns about $10,000 a year from two part-time jobs, and she says it’s enough to meet her needs. She’s earned more in the past — she recently returned from a job teaching Renaissance history in London that paid about $30,000 a year — but prefers her simpler life in Albuquerque, N.M.

“I had the apartment overlooking the Thames and the flat-screen TV. It just felt really empty,” Tudor said. “I decided to come home to the desert and be a lot simpler.”

Carol Holst, 60. Once upon a time, Holst was married to a corporate executive and raising two daughters in Beverly Hills, Calif. When the marriage ended two decades ago, she turned down the court-ordered alimony, figuring she didn’t need the money but that he did.

“It would have reduced his lifestyle and wouldn’t have changed mine,” Holst said. “I’d still be living in a one-bedroom apartment in Glendale, and he’d be cursing me.”

Holst said she’s figured out how much is “enough” and lives happily on the $18,000 she nets from her part-time job as an office administrator. She enjoys the work but really likes the time it allows for her true passion, which is sharing what she’s learned about voluntarily simplicity. From the bedroom of her apartment, Holst runs the website Postconsumers.com, which promotes the idea that you don’t have to buy to be happy.

All three credit their parents for helping to instil the ideals of thrift and careful money management. Tudor also remembers grandparents who talked about the Great Depression and a prevailing ethic “that if you wanted something, you saved up for it.”

That includes education. Tervooren attended an in-state university with inexpensive tuition for residents, and he worked several jobs to pay for it. Tudor got a master’s degree on a scholarship that included student housing and a $1,000-a-month stipend, which was enough to cover her expenses and those of her now-grown daughter.

Tudor asked the girl, who was 6 at the time, to identify what was most important to her, explaining that they didn’t have money to buy everything they wanted.

“She wanted money to buy books . . . and to take dance lessons,” Tudor remembers. So Tudor carefully budgeted money to cover those expenses. Tudor believes that explaining their financial situation and soliciting her daughter’s input staved off demands for more stuff.

“She understood,” Tudor says. “It wasn’t ‘I want, I want, I want’ all the time.”

The three have other things in common that allow them to live, and save, on tiny incomes:

Cheap housing. Holst has a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Glendale, Calif., that costs her $780 a month. Tervooren shares a four-bedroom home with his girlfriend and four friends, splitting the $1,200 rent six ways. Tudor rents a room in a retired couple’s home, sharing the upstairs bathroom with another tenant, for $400 a month including WiFi and utilities.

By contrast, the typical single person spends $1,074 a month on housing, while couples spend an average $1,521 and families with kids spend $1,947, according to the latest Consumer Expenditure Survey of the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Renting is often a lot cheaper than owing, and sharing a home with other people can lower your costs still further. Homeownership is tough to pull off on a low income unless your mortgage is equally tiny or paid off. You also would need to be protected from big property-tax increases, either because home values don’t grow much in your area or because such taxes are capped, as they are in California. Even then, you have to find a way to pay for repairs and maintenance, which can total thousands of dollars a year.

Cheap transportation. Holst owns an 8-year-old, paid-for Prius that costs her about $1,500 a year, including insurance, maintenance and fuel. Tervooren has a 20-year-old pickup that he’s learned to maintain and repair himself, but he says he usually walks or bikes wherever he needs to go, spending less than $1,200 a year on transportation. Tudor doesn’t own a car and instead uses Albuquerque’s bus system.

By comparison, the typical American household spends $8,604 a year to finance, fuel, repair, maintain and insure a car or cars, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey.

Cheap thrills. The three keep a handle on the other costs that tend to bust the budget, including clothing, technology and food. Clothes come from thrift stores, and all three cut their own hair. Holst has broadband Internet access and cable TV but no cell phone. Tervooren does without television.

“I make a hobby out of finding hobbies that I can do for free,” Tervooren said. That keeps him “from having any need for the distraction of a TV and its expensive cable service.”

Eating out is not a big part of the budget for the two women. Holst budgets $30 a week for food. Tudor spends even less — $99 a month — deducting the costs of dinners out from the total so she knows how much she has left to spend.

Tervooren’s spending on food — about $350 a month — is closer to the U.S. average spent by single people. He and his girlfriend take advantage of local theatre pubs that offer drinks, dinner and a movie for a reasonable price.

“I don’t try to cut a lot of costs on food,” Tervooren said. “I like it too much.”

The trio diverge in how they handle another budget buster for many U.S. households: health care.

Holst has health insurance through her part-time job but doesn’t have dental insurance; she budgets $1,000 a year for dental care. Tudor is lucky enough to live next to a teaching university, which offers dramatically discounted health care to low-income residents.

“A visit to the doctor costs $5. A visit to the emergency room costs $25,” Tudor said.

Tervooren had health insurance at his job, but now goes bare and hopes he doesn’t get sick. It’s a risky choice, because one accident or illness could result in crippling bills.

You may not want to live like these folks, but you could still learn a few things from them. Such as:

* You’ve got to know where the money is going. All three know exactly how much they spend on housing, utilities, transportation, food — you name it. Their money doesn’t slip through their fingers but instead is carefully and consciously deployed. Tracking what you spend is a great way to become conscious about your money and whether your spending reflects what you really want most from life.

* A lot of the costs we think of as “fixed” really aren’t. If you want to improve your finances in the long run and save more for retirement, then consider reducing big expenses like housing and transportation.

* Debt can be a trap. A moderate amount of home or student loan debt can help you get ahead, but those who want to live on less tout the importance of being debt-free so they’re not shackled to payments. At the very least, you should be getting rid of your toxic debt, such as credit card balances, because they erode your financial well-being.

* A lot depends on your attitude. I emerged from these interviews with a big smile on my face. These three people were so delighted with their lives — and excited about the future — that it was positively contagious. I don’t think I’ll ever live on as little as they do, but knowing how happily they do so makes the prospect of living on a shoestring a lot less scary.

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