Sunday, 17 September 2017

Cost of Housing

Small house in Bhutan


We've just started a new internet promotion, courtesy of our still living-at-home university  student daughter who qualifies for a special rate.   It's a win, win situation. Part of the deal includes HGTV, otherwise known as Home and Garden TV.   On this channel there are many, many House Hunter programs filmed all over the world, ranging from tiny off grid  houses on a remote island to luxury mansions in exotic locations.  

It's all a bit staged and I have read that the couple or family on the program has already purchased a home  and two more are added to the mix to make a show featuring three different properties.   I am certain realtors cooperate as the publicity would no doubt help sell the other properties.    You get to see what's available and a quick look at the different areas.   The results can be interesting.  Some couples seem to have granite countertops as their main priority.

 Recently, a family was looking for a home in Lusaka, Zambia.   I happen to have been there so that made it especially interesting.    I stayed  with the relative of a relative in a gated home complete with a rifle toting local employee patrolling the grounds even though it was in the embassy part of town.   When I thought of going for a walk, I was advised 'better not.'    Accompanying our hostess on a routine shopping trip meant tipping a parking lot attendant to ensure her vehicle wouldn't be stolen.   I've seen this in Mexico as well.   Safety is important to most.

The couple looked at a basic, somewhat grungy home in Lusaka which was priced at $1200 USD.   Going way out of Lusaka to a neighbouring town a home with unreliable electricity and water (but a back-up well) was more appealing to them at $500 a month rent.    Yet on the tropical island of Roatan, a destination for cruise ships and expats in the Caribbean, off the coat of Honduras, a much better home was available for $700 and included waterfront. 


This Roatan vacation rental is $1000 a month

I've seen families in Bhutan who could rent a basic (almost primitive) house for $50 a month and American style  homes in Papua, New Guinea for $5000 USD monthly.    Western Europe is uniformly expensive but it is possible to rent an apartment in Tirana, Albania for $500 a month.

You might have a mental image of some of these places.   I certainly did as far as Papua, New  Guinea  and Manaus, Brazil were concerned.  Let's just say my image did not at all fit the reality.    Prepare to have your assumptions challenged.   Spend a few months on the ground to find out if you can put up with or preferably enjoy the differences, both the culture and accommodation.    Or maybe you just shrug your shoulders and exclaim, 'It'll be an adventure!'.

It's sure to make you think about what you're paying at home.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Replace the Shopping Urge with the Creating Urge




Many of us have had the shopping urge well ingrained in us.    Trained by media forces and habit from almost infancy, shopping becomes the thing to do, whether on vacation or on Saturdays or as a thing to do with friends or family.   You set off on your day trip, cruise excursion or outing with friends not needing to buy anything in particular.   Will you find something you like and want to buy?   Almost without doubt something will catch your fancy.   It wasn't something on your list of need to buy.  You do keep such a list, right?   Oh, how easy it is to talk yourself, or let yourself be talked, into taking out your wallet.   There's a little euphoric hit as you hand your credit card over to the cashier and watch the item being wrapped in tissue paper and put in a fancy bag.  How long does the thrill last?   Have a look at these shopping triggers at the Money Crashers blog.

Is it possible to substitute something else for the shoppers' high?   What about a creators' high?   Can you train yourself to get a kick out of being creative and producing something either beautiful or useful or maybe both.    A family member collects shells on the beach and with some acrylic paint and shellac spray finish produces beautiful artistic pieces.   Pinterest and Youtube is rife with ideas.   There's a special satisfaction in artistic creativity.   Don't fall into the trap of investing a lot of money, though.    There are always ways and means to keep the cost minimal.   Someone else has likely given up the pursuit you want to try.

What about achieving proficiency on a musical instrument?   Once you own the instrument, there are plenty of online guides to improve your skill if you don't want to/can't afford to invest in lessons.   There are many pianos available just for the cost of removing them from someone's home.   If you want something smaller, harmonicas can be had for less than $20.

Try to conjure up a new recipe.   There are sites that let you enter a couple of ingredients you have on hand and will then come up with various recipes for you to consider.  For example, try here.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Budgeting/Dreaming/Spending


 




What kind of spending seems worthwhile to you?   This was the question posited in this article by Adam Jusko in the blog Proud Money.    He decided to contact a range of people to find out what was worthwhile  to them after deciding that live performances by favourite artists made the cut for him.

Health is an important expenditure, especially for those who don't have the government safety net to make them feel secure, at least about emergencies and critical care.   Some find contributing to charity especially meaningful.   Travel gets several mentions as a purchase not regretted as does spending to improve oneself, either for employment or personal growth.





Similar to the exercise I describe in my book, this is useful to determine whether you are getting value for the money you trade your life energy for a la Your Money or Your Life.    No one seemed to mention a roof over their head or a car to get around in.   I suspect that those questioned considered those items a given and were considering their disposable income.   Unfortunately, for many, after they pay the bills for items they have previously committed to there isn't that much left for the meaningful stuff.  


Something to think about.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Small and Local Stores

                                                             



I like the idea of patronizing small and local stores.  It feels like the right thing to do.   After all, if no one shopped locally, my hometown would just be a collection of houses.   Local businesses support some local activities and events and make me feel like I am part of a community.  Unfortunately, it can be difficult if it means buying a lesser product for a higher price that you have to pick up yourself.  

I moved to my new hometown a year ago with the intention of shopping locally.   However, at less than five thousand inhabitants, some items are not in sufficient demand to be stocked locally.   There are not enough people buying yarn, for example, to warrant a yarn store.   There is a local hardware store but it is small and seems to have fallen into the general store trap of attempting to stock a wide variety of products like pet food and children's toys which lessen the amount of space for true hardware items.   Then there's the most consistent problem:   everything costs more, sometimes considerably more.

My hometown isn't set off in the middle of nowhere, thereby limiting choices unless one wants to travel a hundred kilometres.   No, there is a bigger town 20 km. to the south, complete with some big box stores and a little over thirty-three kilometres (about twenty miles) north there is a city of one hundred thousand inhabitants.   But I like my little town with its scenic vistas and peace and quiet.  

I'm looking for a more unusual purchase at this time, a children's ukulele.   Not a toy; I want to encourage a hopefully budding musician.  But I had a $50 budget in mind.    I go first to one of the major suppliers of instruments in my province and easily find a suitable one in a choice of colours, made with a rosewood fingerboard and basswood sides and back.  There is a store in the city 33 km away which will be a 45 minutes drive each way.  Annoyingly, in order to see the full price, I had to open an account with my e-mail and address.   I don't like this all too common practice; it feels like I am being tricked and setting myself up for an endless stream of promotional material.   Particularly in this case when the added shipping costs of $16 put the item well over my budget.    I closed the screen and didn't make the purchase.  Sure enough when I check my e-mail the first of no doubt many contacts  was awaiting me.

I check with Amazon and hone in on one product, available in various colours, that is under my $50 budget, at $37, and with free shipping.    Plenty of five star reviews.   Perhaps too many to be believable.   No details of where the product is shipped from or who the manufacturer is.   Oops, one reviewer provides the information that they are shipping from China. Another  writes that the ukulele is all plastic even though the product description states it is made of Basswood.   I check the few three star and lower  reviews and they seem more valid and provide more information.   The only manual is in Chinese -- that wouldn't be helpful.

Decision time.   I've been burned a few times with deliveries from China not arriving within the specified time frame or taking several months.    Even more importantly, I've read and seen videos about labour practices and product safety practises in China.   Basically, I avoid buying from that part of the world, if at all possible and definitely not food items.



  




I liked the Youtube video from the local company.   I also have somewhere not too far away to go if there's a problem.  Their product is a little more expensive but definitely better quality.  I'm going with the one at the top of the page but will wait a couple of weeks until I am making a trip to the 'big city' and save the shipping costs.

Shopping can be so complicated but price is definitely not everything!  And I do feel good about shopping (kind of) locally.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

USELESS ITEMS

Do you ladies have one of these:



I do and it fits in my category of 'useless items'.    But, but, every woman needs an evening purse for those special occasions--the theatre, the opera the . . . the . . .

Somehow my evening purse has had very few outings.   For one thing it doesn't hold much, including my wallet.   That means I have to remove my drivers license and credit card from my wallet and place them loose in the evening purse prior to my outing.   Keys, a handkerchief and lipstick round out the contents.

Very few events call for gala wear.   No one seems to dress up to that level at the professional theatre productions I enjoy attending.   Wearing a basic dress and scarf or sedate jewellery already places one  among the better dressed.   Formal evenings on cruise lines might be an occasion for a purse such as this, but since your cabin is close at hand, you're not driving anywhere and everything is charged to your account, a purse seems superfluous.  I never had room for it in my carry-on suitcase.

I could relate to this post by Frugalwoods and laughed at her description of the artfully arranged collection of cushions that she and her husband endured on their bed prior to their recent move.  I, too, have thought that our master bedroom lacked a certain flair when compared to magazine and catalog offerings, because a half dozen or more coordinating pillows did not grace the top.   I've stayed in places with this chic arrangement and encountered the same problems with figuring out what to do with the cushions when the time came to actually use the bed.   The floor or any nearby chairs became handy receptacles.     I think I ultimately decided that similar to Diderot's robe I would be forced to chic up the rest of our home from its comfortable and minimalist appearance.


  

Sunday, 13 August 2017

BUYING IN BULK





There are some all purpose products that do for so many purposes.   Amazing objects really and those are worth your investment.  Likewise, there are some products that serve many purposes.   You can find articles on-line detailing one hundred uses for vinegar.    It's an inexpensive product so have at it!  Mason jars also come to mind.   Go on Pinterest for one hundred ways to use them if you come up short of ideas.    Besides canning and storing food, vases and fancy summer drinks, you will find ideas you haven't thought of.    

Bulk Barn lets you bring your own mason jars to purchase from the plethora of items they stock.   The idea is to save time by not having to first load up plastic bags and then transfer them via a funnel to the jar once you get home.   Another advantage is that you purchase the amount you want and no more or less.   I find that inevitably I end up with a half cup of the product unable to fit in the jar and I have to leave a sad little plastic bag of something floating around in the cupboard until it spills out and makes a mess on the shelf.   Think of hot chocolate mix.

The staff weighs the jar in advance and writes the amount on the lid so that you don't pay for the weight of the jar when you check out.   The only problem I encounter is that you need to use the product up entirely before you return to refill your jar and  items are used at a different rate.   I use large jars originally bought from IKEA for flour, pasta and sugar.   Transporting many of these can be a little awkward.   I still like the idea but I don't berate myself if I end up using plastic bags provided by the store since I do recycle them.  

Buying in bulk means you only need to buy what you need and you can try a small amount out rather than commit to something that you or your family doesn't like at all.   If you are purchasing for a special diet, like gluten free, there are many options.

But a word of warning, 100 grams (the pricing method used)  is not very much and some things, like chocolate chips, seem to measure heavy.   It was also my experience that anything that is crispy such as chips or cheezies (these are my husband's weakness) will become soft  and not crispy from exposure to the air in the store.  

   


Sunday, 6 August 2017

Don't look on it as Deprivation

                                                                       


Look on it as a challenge.   Think about what you need (or at least think you need) and then consider how you can use your skills and talents to get it cheaper.   Don't put yourself down, you do have abilities that can save money and give your ego a boost.   

There are the short term, single use items.   Don't spend much on these.   You need some fancy clothes to wear on a cruise vacation or to a fancy do.  These are once a year items.   Now, if for some reason you have been nominated for a prestigious award--Best Actress, Nobel Peace Prize--by all means go all out.  Splurge.   The world is watching.

In other situations, the ones you are more likely to be involved in, don't spend more than absolutely necessary.    This is where sewing skills could be useful.   You can whip up a dazzling sequin covered top for less than $20 and the sequins will cover up any wobbly seams.   No sewing skills?

See if you can borrow or try a consignment or thrift store.  Use your treasure hunting techniques and skills.  Glamorous apparel is inevitably in good condition from infrequent use.   Some cruisers gain weight from cruise to cruise and have to upsize.

Sometimes you have to be patient and wait for a solution to present itself.  I have been contemplating purchasing a small camping trailer for some time.   As any dog owner can tell you, vacations can present problems when you have a pet(s).   Airlines make it difficult and expensive to bring a dog on a flight, not to mention a few that have gone astray while in their care.   Hotels and motels will sometimes label themselves as pet friendly and then use it as an excuse to add a $40 a day, per pet uncharge.   I can understand that there will need to be a thorough cleaning including carpet shampooing at the end of the stay but an additional $560 for a week's stay with two small dogs is pushing it.   

Wisely, I considered renting a camper for a trial run.   Always a good idea with major purchases.   For example, not that I was ever considering it, but driving in a relative's Mustang convertible a few times put me off that purchase permanently.   Too difficult to get in and out of, too much wind your face and too much of a temptation for the driver to speed and subsequently get noticed by roadside patrols.     But camper rentals specifically state, No Pets.  I suppose they can't say No Children although small children can drop ice cream cones on the carpet and mess it up that way.   Pulling even a small fibreglass camper requires a larger vehicle with a tow package so the entire project is still in the fantasy stage.   

For now, a still living at home daughter provides pet care.   We've yet to find a future solution but then they all seem to miss us so much when we're gone so we'll have to cope with the guilt factor first!

I remember that  in The Tightwad Gazette, Amy Dacyczyn  advised against getting premade pudding cups even if they were free (due to some extreme couponing venture).    Your children (or you) will develop a taste for them and they won't always be free.   Getting into that situation can lead to feelings of deprivation.