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Credit Card Shock

Ok… so really, I’m not that shocked about my current credit card balance (and only ONE of them too, LOL), because I’m quite aware of my spending. If you have been paying attention to the blog, you’ll also know I’ve been trying to actually “utilize” my money and actually spend more of it to entertain and/or generate some monetary happiness, so it wasn’t like I “wasn’t expecting” to see these numbers. It is shocking only because I rarely see it this high 😆 .. and plus, I needed a catchy topic title, harhar.

I was going through my list of like 20 some-odd transactions, trying to figure out how much of it was pleasure-related and trying to separate it from business-related payments, since I also run purchases for my own company through this particular card. Looks like this month, I’ve spent quite a bit for ‘personal’ use and the numbers are starting to rack up. Just this weekend alone I spent quite a bit of money, particularly on food, haha! You know those weekends that you just go out and spend money like crazy? This was one of them. You’ll feel the pain a month down the road when the bills come flying in, lol.

And if you think these numbers actually included my plane ticket or spending in
Hong Kong, I’ll have you know those amounts were cleared a long time ago and all this spending contributing to the following picture is all from the past month since I’ve returned to Canada. I suppose I should really bend over now, lube up my ass and just wait until the next credit card statement lands on my desk.

Current owing amount and the billing period isn’t even over yet…

My ass hurts... $$$

My ass hurts... $$$

And so I proceeded to read an article which made me laugh because I realized why I spent more this year (other than my changes in spending habits) than any other during this-time-of-the-year…

Valentine’s can be considered an economic stimulus that helps to boost sales in between Christmas and Easter. According to Reuters News Agency, for Valentine’s Day 2011, the average American couple will spend $189, which is three times more than what singles generally spend on an average date ($67).

Man.. people go on expensive dates, LOL.. actually, I never calculated how much I spend taking bebe out. Come to think of it, I might actually spend more than that in a day with her 😐 Eep! There’s a good reason why bebe and I don’t go out every night, I’d be poor afterward XD

According to estimates from the National Retail Foundation, the average person will spend $116.21 on Valentine’s Day merchandise this year, this figure is up almost 13% percent over last year’s $103.00. Overall, this will bring total Valentine’s Day spending to about $15.7 billion.

 

Some people barely have money to eat, and here we are spending over $100 on gifts… ick.

The survey also found that overall spending is expected to be up this year. Consumers will fork over $3.5 billion on jewelry this Valentine’s Day, up from 2010’s estimated $3 billion.

Woooo, I’m part of the statistic this year! LOL.. I’m contributing to that 3.5 billion, haha.

No changes are expected on who will spend more; men will spend the most on Valentine’s Day gifts. The average man is anticipated to spend $158.71, more than double what the average woman will spend.

 

That’s bullshit 😛 Why do us guys have to pay more? 😆 I thought men and women were supposed to be equal in societal standards now, haha.

According to Reuters, young professionals plan to spend $255 for Valentine’s with their significant other.

Hrm… how to define young professionals?

I was just talking to one of the girls at work today and she pretty much said as well Valentine’s Day is really a waste of money – or rather – if you’re going to buy gifts or do sweet things for your partner, that can be done any time, rather than on a “specific day”… and yes, while I agree with that, it’s also nice to mark a special occasion like this. However, give it a few more years and when bebe and I get married, v-day may not really be all that special 😀 HAHA!

I think it’ll be very quick that the next time I check my credit card tally that it’s going to be pushed over the 3,000 mark.. ooohh boy. Looks like I’ll be eating Mr. Noodles for a while 😛

Learning About My Own Body Through Acupuncture

Waking up this morning was dreadful in a way, knowing I had to go to acupuncture agian, lol. Yes yes, why bitch about something I chose to do, but the reality is sometimes you need to do things you ought to do even if it’s not exactly what you want. My acupuncture treatment and body-cleaner has been going well and results are no-less-than astonishing. The TCM doctor told me that after 3 days of taking her herbs, my hair strands will have had time to strength and already have a noticeably less fall-out rate. By the morning of day 4 of my treatment, looking at my pillow I already noticed! Isn’t that crazy? I suppose although acupuncture wasn’t an “experience of a lifetime” for me, it sure as hell shows results when paired with herbal concoctions.

I have been accusomted to TCM practices since I was young, so the smell and bitterness does not bother me at all. If there are things that I see results, I’m immediately given the motivation to follow-through. That’s my problem, I’m one of those people who make and expect quick decisions/results. Why do many of my work-out plans fail over? Because I don’t see results. Yes, this is foolish indeed, but sometimes by seeing results, that is where the motivation comes from. Likewise, this week, other than shitting myself crazy, I feel great, so I have the willpower to continue enduring the smelly drinks and needles jabbed in me.

Through recommendation of my TCM Doctor (henceforth denoted as TCMDR) I had my hair cut short so that way she could visibly see where I have less hair to figure out where the problem lies. Speaking of haircut, I woke up 2 hours early just to get out to Mississauga in time to go to this new stylist I’ve never been to. It’s in a small mall and we’ve often passed it when I go buy computer parts, but have never got my hair done there. For the past 6 years I have gone to a single stylist but unfortunately, she has gone to China for this month. I had to wake-up early so I could “beat the rush” since that place is apparently very popular. When we got there, it was 10:10AM and the place opens at 10:00AM. There were already 6 people in front of us – holy! Also, I live a considerable distance, about a 35-minute drive to Mississauga, so I had to get up and leave my house early.

This is one of those places most people would consider a “high-class stylist shop” – more so than the $6 cuts in Chinatown Toronto and $10 in Koreatown. When I walked in, my first look was obviously the price-list. Holy crap was all I had to say, lol… but I already committed myself to getting my hair done there, so the price was a moot point. From the moment I sat down, there was definitely a feeling of “you get what you pay for.” The seats were comfortable, the decor was great, the relaxing ambient helped me feel at-ease and the stylists were clearly the-best-of-the-best at their job. I remember one time, my girl-friend mentioned that when she got her hair done at a really nice place, the scalp massage and hair-wash was amazing. Just the way she had her hair-stroked and rubbed totally turned her on and she could feel herself “getting wet” (down there). I mocked her at how someone could be turned on by a haircut – but no doubt, as the girl ran her hands through my hair, washed it (5 times… yes, FIVE) and massaged my scalp, I swear I was in a hair-cut-bliss. Although I didn’t quite get turned on like my friend did, I could certainly see why a girl may have such a reaction! If I had imagined and dreamed that it was bebe running her cute fingers through my hair, maybe I would’ve been more excited, LOL.

At first, I was very skeptical to get a short cut due to my lack-of-hair (so I thought, but clearly I have lots of hair it appears, LOL). She said that it would be very hard for me to keep my hair long because I don’t have “manageable hair” and would look terrible on me. She said however given I’m the customer, my wish is her command. I told her that I trusted her expert-opinion and to style my hair in a way that fits my (fat) face. I have this habit of closing my eyes while (any) stylist cuts my hair so I can “surprize myself” when I open my eyes. I could feel the hair falling off my head, it made me grimace at how short she’s going to cut it. When she told me she was done, I opened my eyes and wow… there I was – a new man staring back at myself. I was so happy, because it really did make me look (limited, lol) handsome and manly. I commented on how happy I was with what she chose and just as the stylist promised, wouldn’t even show my “lack of hair” one bit!

When we paid, I left her a nice tip because of how wonderful she made me felt. Yes, at first I was already staring at the prices which made me puke, but now it was all worth it – you do get what you pay for! Before meeting up with some friends for lunch to celebrate an ‘uncles’ birthday, I went to buy some Chinese food from the nearby supermarket. Lunch was great but we had to leave early to get out to North York to where the TCMDR was located. While it’s a long drive from my house, it’s a much shorter drive from Mississauga. There were massive traffic jams on one of the highways, so knowing some alternate routes, we bypassed probably a large majority of the traffic and arrived much earlier than anticipated, only taking 32 minutes to get there! Luckily there were vacancies, so my treatment began. This time I received 16 needles on the back-side and 9 on the front. It was less painful this time because the needles weren’t inserted into places that were as sensitive and I had her “realign” one of the ones that I felt discomfort on this time. It was quite comfortable this time as I had practicality fallen asleep, lol. No doubt, the needles going in hurt as usual and immediately rendered a numbing sensation, but being more relaxed and knowing what to expect this time helped my muscles loosen up.

At the end of the treatment, it is followed by a very tough massage session. When I say tough, it means that she squeezes me with so much power that I actually scream and yelp. I guess not a lot of my readers know me in person, but I do have quite the tolerance for pain. When Iwas young, my parents used to discipline me using “Chinese methods” such as belts, bamboo sticks, rulers and wood planks, so I am quite resistant to pain. I have been kicked in the nose, hit in the nuts (glad I can still have kids, haha), fallen on a steel chain, etc. and have little verbal reaction… yet when she did this “massage”, I couldn’t help but grunt on the pain and breathe in and out heavily trying to resist hitting her back (haha – natural body reaction when someone hurts you). As soon as it started, it ended and my body muscles relaxed after such excruciating pain.

I was given a plethora of natural remedies this time, without the regular Chinese herbal medicine. I knew this was definitely going to cost me, but she was very honest and said this is only meant to be a once-a-year once-every-other-year treatment! It’s a colon and liver cleansing solution, meant to detoxify your body and primary organs. She assured me it’s not going to be something you do regularly (and at such a high-cost). I have seen my dad do naturopathic treatments before and I know it is expensive as shit – but I really want to get my act together and commit myself to being healthy for once. At the end of the day, the bill came to $300 (~ 930rm conversion for my Malaysian readers :P) and we’ll see whether it is worth it! I know that many might think of this as being ripped off or taken advantage of, but I’ll tell you this – when you can FEEL and KNOW something is working well for you, then it’s all worth it. If I had felt no response to her treatments, I obviously would not accept. Also, she is a practical doctor and honest and has mentioned that after 2-3 months, I will no longer need to see her on a regular basis again. If 2-3 months of treatment will buy me good health – so be it. My health is important to me because I have a responsibility to take care of my mom and family. My health is important to me because I care about bebe and want to be strong, healthy and live-long to take care of her. I care about her with all my heart and if my health were to fail, it would affect her tremendously. To maintain your health is not only for yourself, but for everyone around you!

I am now “enrolled” in a 7-day clensing treatment which involves in a regiment of supplements each day, along with a piss-load (literally) of water to drink. Also, for seven days I should not be consuming any meat, fish, dairy product or eggs. I am a meat lover and to consider not having that for a week, I mind as well shoot myself. Ah yes, I just clean out my gun the other day – I guess I can put it to good use now 😐 However, I’m driving myself to stick with it, it’s only SEVEN days of 365 days in a year! I have a week of alternatives lined-up already, so I’ll survive. Each time I feel stupid or angry about how I could let myself get into a situation where I’m restricted what I’m allowed to eat, I remind myself I’m doing this for bebe. She gives me the power to be strong to stay healthy and fit. She gives me the power to do what I could never thought was possible. She gives me the reason to make sure I have the ability to take care of her, her family and our family!

I learned a lot about myself through this TCMDR because she takes time to teach her patients and answers inquiries. The reason why I have such a huge requirement for meat is because my body is so full of toxins and toxins thrive on meat to give us a false-sense of satisfaction. I feel bloated even when I eat small amounts of food or drink a bit of water because the toxin is affecting my digestive system’s ability to recognize hungry/full. The toxins cripple my ability to stay hydrated even when I actually consume enough water. My hair is dry, brittle and falls out easily because the toxins live off of the liver and kidney, both which regulate scalp regularity. By cleaning out these toxins from my liver and colon, I am helping them stay healthy, resume regular operations and my entire body as a whole benefits.

I will feel less desire to consume large portions of meat since the regular human body can survive off of fruits and vegetables. My appetite will reduce to normality since the toxins aren’t acting against my feeling of being full/hungry. I will thin down because my body will start to burn fat and metabolize matter properly. All these things are so important to day-to-day health which we ignore, either out of ignorance or lack-of-knowledge. She applauded me because I’m one of these feel ‘youngens’ who take time to appreciate our health which so many young people take for granted. She gives me hope that through my decisive action to go through this that I will reap the rewards of good health. It is of course any “business person” would say to make you feel good – but the reality is I can feel the difference it has made already for the ONE WEEK I’ve experienced this and no one can tell me that it’s “just a gimmick.”

So I returned home for the night because it’s an exhausting drive. As usual, the highway was packed with cars but luckily I know enough of the roads in Toronto, Scarborough, Markham, North York and Mississauga to duck through the jams and make my way home in about a bit over an hour. My mom decided not to cook and gave me “one last meal with meat” (lol) by ordering pizza. I just took my first drink of the detox liquids tonight and it definitely tasted good 😛 It’s a kiwi flavour, lol. For some odd reason, the stuff burns my throat as it went down, guess it is indicative of the effect it has once it reaches my intestines.

Anyways, we’ll know more after a week of doing this and hopefully I’ll survive for 7 days. I wanna get this done-and-over-with before the “core” of the summer hits. I want to go to the nice Italian restaurant in the hotel @ Niagara-on-the-Lake with bebe so I want to have the “full accessibility” of what to eat rather than losing like 75% of my food options, lol. Speaking of which, as of July, I have already spent a shitload of money. Of course just the TCM alone cost quite a bit, but also this morning I also bought a new mattress. Mine’s getting old and it’s about time for a replacement. Not sure why whenever I have to “spend money” it is all at once, lol.

I’m getting tired but I’m going to go join Ally on BlogTV for a bit 😛 It’ll be my first time and I refuse to go on cam, haha… but I’ll happily talk 😀 Going to sleep after this then!

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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