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Free Food in Shinjuku - Anytime (as long as you give blood)

February 22nd, 2007 at 12:19 pm

So today my girl and I decided to do something good and get something out of it as well.

This is part of my RAoK (Random Acts of Kindness) of the month.

We had a fancy lunch at this BBQ restaurant (Rice, soup, salad, tofu, raw meat that you could cook on your own via the grill in the center of the table).

The price for this amazing lunch? about $15 each.



After that, we went shopping and then to Shinjuku (JR East side) to donated blood.

Donating blood in Shinjuku isn't difficult. In fact, you could see tons of young people waiting in line to donate blood.

Why? Well, because we have great hearts....and we would like to have free drinks and food at the same time.

The menu at the Red Cross Center was amazing. There were three vending machines that had at least 40 different kinds of drinks served either hot or cold.

I had 'Hot Lemon', 'Hot Corn Soup', and 'Hot Chocolate'. They were all served in standard paper cups.

I also had the chance to eat Haagen Dazs Ice Cream (your choice of chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry - though I think they had more flavors than that).

There were plenty of all-you-can-eat cookies, biscuits, and Japanese rice crackers (Sen-be).

On top of that, they also served hot dogs & buns, as well as donuts from Mr. Donuts. Mr. Donuts is my favorite donut shop in Tokyo --- See my Fukubukuro (Lucky Bag) entry for more info.

So My girl and I had a nice snack just before dinner. We both donated 200ml of blood each, and had a nice rest at Red Cross.

Btw, when you donate blood in Japan, you get to sit in this relaxing reclining chair that comes with a mini TV and VCR set. You can even select a short film to watch at the front desk before hand.



They have automatic/electronic monitoring systems that measure your blood pressure and the blood contents as you donate your blood.

All and all? Amazing technology that is worth a sight!! So give blood, eat free food, and relax in the chair - all in the heart of Shinjuku when you are tired from shopping and you don't want to pay to sit down at a cafe!


$50 raise!!

February 13th, 2007 at 01:31 am

Okay. I must say my new $50 raise isn't a lot of money!!

First, my $50 raise is per month, not week, and certainly not per day.

That works out to about $2.30 extra per every working day.

But I guess I can't complain. They are thinking of promoting me to branch manager in April. That'll be another extra $100 something per month on top of my raise.

I like the new idea of me being the branch manager though. My branch is relatively small, but, nonetheless, it'll mean that I get to do more sales promotion.

cool.

Today is tuesday, so in two more days, I'll be on my 3-day vacation to Hokkaido!!

woohoo




Day off - $20 Day Trip of Fun in Tokyo

February 9th, 2007 at 01:49 am

So yesterday was my day off. I only get a day off this week. I've already made a post of the additonal work I must do, and hence my one day weekend.

However, I had a great time with my girl. All for less than $20 (or 2000 Yen). $20? You may still think that is a lot. Well, it is, and I didn't spend all that money on my trip.

Let me explain.

In the morning, I made us tuna cheese sandwiches, potatoe salad, boiled wieners, and coffee in a thermo bottle.

WE then hopped on our bicycles and rode for 45mins to Kichijoji (a nice area on the West side of Tokyo). Kichijoji has a nice park called the Inokashira park and it also has a nice zoo and a small aquarium.

I got my exercise my riding my bike to and from the place (two hours in total), and I also saved train expenses of at least $5 (or 500 yen).

The admission fee to the zoo was $4 (400 yen) for both the Zoo section and the Aquarium section. It was small but still pretty good. We ended up spending 2 hours there and we had our picnic lunch there as well.

After that, we had to park our bicycles somewhere in order to walk around Kichijoji station/general area. So, we had to pay a parking fee for our bicycles unless we buy something at that department shore that was over $5 (500 yen).

My girl's gloves had tears and holes on both hands, and she didn't know how that happened since she only got them earlier last year (less than 1 year of use).

So we replaced that and bought a nice pair of gloves at the department store. The gloves were on sale anyway since it is almost spring and they had the winter clearance sale.

However, that expense wasn't included in my budget.

My girl wanted to buy some fancy pre-made salad at the shop as we strolled by. But, I thought the salads were overpriced and too oily (since they use a lot of salad dressings for flavor).

So I told her that we should hit the market and that I would spend at least $10 and make the best salad for her.

Well, my salad? It was awesome and a whole lot cheaper than the pre-made ones. I had leftovers of course and for a large bowl of sald, mine worked out to be $2 per person.

My daily expense?

Admission to the zoo $4 (400)
Train fees? $zero (Rode our bikes)
Lunch? $Zero (our own picnic)
Dinner? $14 (Groceries not just for one dinner, but for lots to come in the week).

Total: Less than $20 and a fun day full of exercise, beautiful weather, and a great time taking photos with my girl.

Smile

Not feeling quite like myself....

February 6th, 2007 at 01:51 pm

Work has been pretty stressful lately.

I've been handed extra workload and I felt very rushed throughout the day. Not only that, I was getting bored of the same routine.

I am in desperate need of a change. But I know I can't afford to leave my job just yet. Just 13 more months...they're all I need before I can quit for good.

I am also feeling stupid today...as if I cannot achieve things. I guess I am feeling like a loser. I feel that....I don't know....I feel that maybe I can't do a good job.

But I am already trying my best. Hence, the disappointment. I am doing the best I can and I still feel like a loser.

I've lost my motivation for the day. I tried to cheer myself up by using extra money. However, my frugal cheap nature didn't let that happen. I didn't even have the impulse to buy things.

My daily expense in Tokyo today? 580 yen (or $5.80).

So I resorted to comfort food.....ah...which makes me feel even worse since I have a diet challenge to do..

All and all.....a bad day

Rant - Financial Retards

February 2nd, 2007 at 08:29 am

So today is my day off, and of course I am online.

A NET-friend of mine (who is a lot older than me...she is 34 now) messaged me on msn. She and I met somewhere in the cyberspace back when I was young and when I was in different chatrooms. I have long forgotten where/why I have her on my msn.

Over the years, she would drop a hello here and there, and we would chat as if we were old friends, but we have never met each other before in real life.

She said "Hi" this morning, and after chatting for a bit, she asked me,
"Why are you home?"

My response of course was, "Cuz it's my day off." (I work on weekends and on 3 weekdays as well - full-time job).

She then proceeded to say.."Well, get your ass offline and go out and do something productive."

I got offended by this comment. She just assumed that I wasn't doing anything productive, and that I was merely sitting in front of my computer and chatting to her.

Hell no! I was actually in the middle of updating my previous Financial Review for Jan. on this blog when she made that comment. Which, by the act of even checking my budget, staying on track, and meeting my saving goals, I have already exceeded all of her financial achievements. (From previous chats about her life, it seems that she is living with her sister due to financial reasons, unmarried, and doesn't have a full-time job).

Then, she made a quick excuse to say that she now had to call her boyfriend to talk!

A few hours later, she came back online and messaged me again to see if I was at my computer.

I replied, "of course". And within a few mins, the same comment popped up, "why don't you get offline and do something productive. So you can enjoy the 'real world'."

Only this time, I got angry. I told her that I've just spent the last 2 hours browsing through MorningStar.com and learning about Mutual Fund investments and earning credits like I said I would in my previous post.

She replied by saying.."Sounds boring."

It ticked me off even more and I responded, "Well, it may be boring, but it'll mean that I get to retire early and spend all that extra free time to do whatever I want."

Her response? Unreal.

She said, "Great, then you can spend all that time online."

Unreal.....truly unreal.

Here I am, in my mid-twenties. I've got a good stack of savings. I just came back from my 5 day vacation and I am planning my second trip.

I have a partner, and I'm also learning about investing and saving for a downpayment on a house...and here's this cyber-know-it-all telling me to get my ass offline?

OMG. I am just at loss for words. Where do some people get the idea that they can just tell other people what to do!!

No. 1 - I didn't ask for her advice on how I should spend my day off.

No. 2 - Not all the time spend in front of the computer is useless and unproductive.

No. 3 - Sometimes by not going out translates into a no spend day which not only helps my budget, it also helps my retirement plan, and as well as the environment!! I don't need to create extra waste of energy or consume other goods.

No. 4 - Saying that investing is boring means that the person is financially retarded. And unfortunately, in the real world? Financial ignorance translates into a world of stress (unless you are super rich already and you never have to worry about money)!

On the other hand, being financially fit means you'll have a better chance of surviving and leading a more productive life!!!

It means self-dicipline, goal-setting, not being selfish by being financially responsible for yourself and your loved ones everyday and not just in case of emergencies!!! It means not being wasteful, and thinking of creative ways or even cheap/inexpensive hobbies!!!

I have made up my mind to remove this person my msn list, since chatting in the future will serve little purpose and will only make me more irritated.

end of rant.

*I apologize for my harsh terms like financial retards.

MorningStar Education Challenge

February 2nd, 2007 at 03:52 am

Inspired by Broken Arrow!

(BA, if you are reading this, here is to you mate!)

I've decided to start the free MorningStar self-education program to earn some credits and as well as to educate myself about stocks, funds, and other investment techniques.

I like the quiz section of each chapter.

The goal is to hit 790 Credits by the end of March. I figured that will give me what...8 weeks or so to study on my own. If I can complete 4 section a day, I could earn 12 credits.

And let's do the math (i like this part)

16 credits x 5 days a week x 8 weeks = 640.

That's not 790, but I figured it is the progress that matters. And setting small goals are better than setting one giant one that i'll never reach.

Well, off I go to hit the books!

End of Month Review

February 2nd, 2007 at 02:40 am

Wow, so January is finally over. I am glad. For some odd reason, January felt really long to me.

I did meet my saving goal for this month. I saved approximately 50% of my monthly salary, if not, a bit more.

I also managed to take a small 5-day vacation with the rest of the money. My trip to KyuShu (the southern island of Japan where Fukuoka Prefecture, Nagasaki prefecture, Oita Prefecture, Miyasaki Prefecture and Kumamoto Prefecture are located.

I could have missed a few other smaller prefectures, but that's not the point.

The point is that I managed to have a wonderful vacation without breaking my bank. My total was around $400 for 5 days.

This included $240 for the plane tickets, and play money. hehehe.

Next month, I plan to go to Hokkaido for a trip around $400 as well. See if I can make the numbers work.

-----

Exercise update.

I failed completely here. hahahaha. I guess when it comes to money, I am just better at it than I am when it comes to exercising.

ahhhhhhhhhhhhh....it can be so frustrating.

I am about 110 lbs, but I have 27% bodyfat. I'd like to go back to having 23% bodyfat or less. But certainly not under 20%.



Mid-Month Financial Checkup

January 16th, 2007 at 03:05 am

Okay. So yesterday was pay day in Tokyo. Strangely, people in Japan usually get paid once a month. Which means, people here really gotta manage their money well or else they'll be screwed for the month.

Through a casual conversation I found out that a few co-workers live dangerously from pay cheque to pay cheque.

One guy only had 1000 yen left (about $10) in his wallet and zero in his bank the day before pay day.

Scary. I don't think I could sleep. I guess security means a lot more to me than fun o entertainment.

Anyway, my mid-month update:

1. So far I am doing very well. I earned "Free Money" of $110 (see previous post if you are interested).

2. I've only managed to spend about $120 on groceries for two people for 15 days!

3. I did my finally calculations for December 2006, and I had about $400 USD in excess after I've already put away 40% of my monthly income!

I am in great shape this month, though, some expenses are about to come since I will be on a mini-vacation to southern Japan next week for 5 days.

Nevertheless, my rewards travel fund should suffice.

Free Money Psychology

January 15th, 2007 at 02:48 am

So I went to work yesterday when I really really didn't want to. I mean, I wasn't sick or anything, but I was having one of those days where you just don't feel like going to work.

I so wanted to call my boss and make up a lame excuse of coming down with a stomach virus or something. The last time I called in sick was in June, 2005.

Anyway, I didn't. I went to work on time, as usual, and I made about $110 yesterday.

I am happy. Since that feels like a bonus or free money to me. So yesterday after work, I bought my honey some treats (chocolate cakes), and Sashimi (raw fish) and we both had a feast.

I wanted to use more of my "free money" but we only ended up spending $15. Pretty good eh?

Yup, feels like extra cash to me!

Odd mentality!

Charity - I did it!

January 12th, 2007 at 04:01 am

So earlier this year I said I would donate some money every month to a charity organization for my cause.

Well, I did. I did my donation in a lump sum value too, rather than monthly payments.

I figured, might as well start now and get it over with. It wasn't a lot of money, just $50. But I hope that helps.

This year I donated to a centre for Battered Women, and domestic abuse.

Next year, I will donate my money to Gay & Lesbian Youth Support agencies.

The year after that, Heart and Stoke Fundation.

Wow...good to know that my charity plan is all done and taken care of. Yay!

Good to learn that I am also true to my own words!! hehehehe


The Joy of Eating & Cooking & Saving

January 11th, 2007 at 05:03 am

I have been living on my own for almost 2 years now, and all I can say is that life is great!!

It is when I stop and really take a look at my life do I realize just how lucky I am - to learn the skills I have now and to continue to learn new skills everyday.

***

My mother is a wonderful cook. When I was living with my mom, she would make these amazing Asian dishes!! Things like sweet & sour pork, sushi rolls, steamed buns easily surfaced from her kitchen.

I, on the other hand, was a terrible cook. Even, my younger brother was better than me.

I remember I used to wait around on Sunday mornings for my younger brother to get hungry so that he would jump into the kitchen first and make lunch for the two of us while mom was away.

I was never a picky eater so things worked out just fine. Except, every once in a while, my family members would call me 'LAZY' or 'SNEAKY' for always letting others do the work for me.

Well, that all changed when I moved out and started living on my own. Since then, I have managed to train myself to make all sorts of delicious things!!

The other day, I even baked and decorated my own cake. I never thought that was even possible. Haha.

The best part? Not only can/do I cook everyday, I actually enjoy cooking!! I enjoy shopping and finding good grocery deals too!!

I bring my own lunch box to work everyday, and I eat out about 3-4 times a month on average.

Whereas my co-workers would spend roughly $12-$20 a day in Tokyo on food, I would spend about $5. I eat healthier and better!

Tokyo is extremely expensive, so, I am doing really well in terms of being frugal and healthy at the same time.

Bottom line? I loveeeeee to cook and I never thought I would say that!! So cheers to a new me, and the ability for anyone else to change their habits for the better!!

If I can do it, so can you!




How to Stretch a pack of RAMEN (Instant Noodles)

January 10th, 2007 at 02:33 am

Okay, who in the right mind would try and stretch a pack of inexpensive, or should I say, dirt cheap Ramen?

Well, I would. For reasons that may or may not suprise some of you.

For starters, we all know that Ramen is bad for our health, and we should never ever eat Ramen if we could help it.

Sadly, that is like telling people to quit drinking, quit smoking, quit eating chocolate bars, and quit a shitload of other things that are unhealthy.

Sometimes when we are busy and hungry, we need that quick-fix dinner, something that can be prepared on the spot for less than 5mins.

Well, if this idea appeals to you, then here are my personal suggestions that can help bring out a better meal (at least better than instant Ramen alone).

Step 1 - Smash the pack of RAmen before you open it up. Yes, that is right, I said smash it!! Pound it, and hit it like you mean it!! Break the dried noodles into smaller bits and pieces.

Step 2 - Find rice or have a small pack of rice handy. Rice is easy to make and you can freeze and storge rice by wrapping rice in individual packages via Saran Wrap.


Step 3 - Open the Ramen pack and divide the package in half. Use half now and save the other half or later. It won't go bad as long as you store it in a plastic bag and in a dry place.

Step 4 - Cook as usual, and add in the rice to make a porridge like meal. Add in some veggies if you have some lying around.

Step 5 - Use HALF and only half of the soup base package. This will cut down on the amount of SALT and other crap you put into your body.

There you have it!!

Healthier, and just as delicious, if not better snack/quick meal.

The flavor should be just as strong if you have a porridge like paste instead of a watery meal. So the key is to add in less water.

I am no expert, but my common sense does tell me that this is better than the original alternative!

Enjoy!

How much is Property Tax??

January 4th, 2007 at 10:57 am

I live in Tokyo. I have no idea how much property tax will be if I want to buy a home in US (California).

I know it is calculated based on the value of your home, but I need some ballpark estimates.

Is like it....$1000 USD a year? Is it as expensive as home insurance? Which can be between $900-$2000??

I have noooooo idea what so ever...

Plumbing Emergency - Help Needed

January 3rd, 2007 at 03:43 am

Okay, everyone. Please help if you have any experience or info about this situation.

I just got a call from my brother who is living in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. He told me that the basement of our parent's house is flooded. He lives alone and now water is seeping through the concrete walls and into the basement.

Recently, Vancouver has been hit with heavy rain and snow, so that is probably the reason for the flood.

Now, my parents have no money for such an emergency repair and my brother just graduated from University. My mother lost her job about 3 months ago, and my father is unemployed.

They count as a low-income family. So my questions are:

1) Can we get financial assistance from the government? If so, does anyone know where and how I can apply for such programs?

2) Can our home insurance policy cover the repair cost? Can we make a claim? Has this been done before?

3) Other tips? Finances?

It will be expensive, I am sure of that. So what can we do? Any advice will help a long way since it is our first time in this situation!!!

Not sure about $20 Challenge

January 3rd, 2007 at 01:34 am

Okay, so it is 2007 and I've been on this blog for almost 3 months. I've seem many people post under the $20 Challenge Category and I've read what Jeff said about the rules and what not.

But I am still confused as to how to use this category and what to put in it.

I guess it all depends on me. So I am going to make my $20 Challenge to saving money by using coupons and basically stretching my money in creative ways.

Just like the Fukubukuro (Lucky bag or Grab bag entry I've made yesterday), I guess I saved a lot of money. So, I am going to place that in there.

Also, at the end of every month, if I hit my budget of spending and saving goals, then I will add another $20 to the challenge.

If I completed 3 hours of exercise per week without using money by excercising at home with my dumbbells or go for a run outside, I will add another $20 dollars to my challenge box.

To summarize:

add $20 when
1) I use coupons or creative ways to stretch my money.
2) When I hit my budget goals at the end of each month.
3) When I exercise for more than 3 hours a week without incurring extra costs.

Lucky Bags (Fukubukuro) Day in Tokyo

January 2nd, 2007 at 12:10 pm

Wow...today was a ton of fun!

First of all, it is the 2nd day of the New Year here in Tokyo, and one of the most popular activities on this day is to shop till you drop.

In Japan, retail stores create what is known as a Lucky Bag (Fuku = lucky and bukuro = bag, paper bag, plastic bag, retail bag). The bag has a pre-marked selling price of 5000 yen ($50 USD), 10,000 yen ($100 USD), or as high as you can imagine.

Inside, there are usually many items valued at over 3-10 times the selling price. I will give you guys two examples of some of the bags I have gotten today.

The key here is the surprise, since buyers don't really know what is inside until they've made the purchase. It is kind of like gambling, except, you could at least minimize your risk by sticking to stores you know that have items that you want.

Anyway, on with my bags!!

Bag 1 - Mr. Donuts (1000 yen or $10 USD)

Yes, that is right. They sell lucky bags for donuts!!! I paid $10 and I got

-5x donuts (each priced between $1 to $1.35 normally)

-1x 2007 Calendar of Cute Donut Cartoon characters
-1x Mug
-1x 2007 Agenda with a pen
-1x small blanket for your legs
-1x small pouch/bag

-5x more donuts in coupon form so I can exchange them anytime within the next 3 months.



So I saved!! I normally buy donuts anyway so....I ended up getting more for the value.

-----------

Bag #2 - Clothes (5,250 yen or $52.50 USD)

Here, I got

-1x Handbag
-2x Jean Skirts
-2x Coats (Brown and Black)
-2x Sweater Jackets (thin material for Spring)
-1x black sleeveless top

------

Again, pretty good for the value if you ask me. My girl also bought a bag of clothes for about $70 USD for pieces of clothes including 2 jackets, 2 pants, a hand bag, a belt, and some tops with a scarf.

WE got home, tried them on, and decided to keep some clothes. The ones that didn't fit well, we separated them into two groups..

a) for my girlfriend's younger sister as gifts when we see her in 3 weeks.

b) for re-sell value as second-hand clothes at a second-hand shop down the street. We will go there on Friday and see if we can collect some cash back.

Overall, an awesome day.

Charity - My New Year's Resolution

December 30th, 2006 at 06:24 am

It is Dec. 30th here today in Tokyo. I am sitting at home peacefully on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

I just had three wonderful days off work and I saw some old friends. We had great conversations and some good times.

Then I realized that this is what life is all about. It is about spending more time with people you love and doing the things you love.

I am very fortunate to have had a wonderful year. I thank my partner for her support and her love. In fact, I think I'll write her a letter later today before she comes home from work and make her a special meal.

I also realized that I haven't given much thoughts to charity. I've been saving and I've managed my money quite well this year, but I didn't give anything back in return.

So I've decided to give away $5 a month for the entire year of 2007.

$5? Maybe some people will laugh at the small amount of contribution I've decided to make, but....it adds up. It would be $60 by the end of the year.

This still may not sound like much, but at least I am trying. I also want to increase that amount next year in 2008.

My plan? I'll drop it into a box when nobody's looking. And I will do so around Tokyo each month. From disabled charity funds to rain forests, etc. I vow to help and take no credits.

Since this entire blog of mine is anonymous anyway, I thought I make an entry more for myself as a self-binding contract.

Having saving and giving!

$90 left for 6 days

December 25th, 2006 at 12:20 pm

So I decided to check just how much money I have left before I exceed my monthly budget of 1000 US dollars.

Well, I have just under $90 left. I have plenty of frozen meat, pasta, a can of tuna, 3 cans of peaches, instant noodles, rice, cheese, and what not.

So if I stay home, I will have enough money to get through December.

However, tomorrow will be my last day of work before I get a chance to enjoy 10 days off work. I am so excited!!!!! I can't wait.

I've made a few plans here and there, and I guess a bunch of friends and I are going to hit an indoor batting center.

My plans so far along with projected daily expenses:

1. wed (lunch at a restaurant)- $9
(krispy Kreme Donuts new to Tokyo) -- $4
Cafe with friens when we are tired of walking -- $5

Wed projected total - $18

2. Thur. (new shopping centre) - Window shopping only. I will try not to buy anything. It's likely that i will buy some snacks or go to a cafe again for some rest.

Thur. projected total - $20 (with public transit fees)

3. Fri. (baseball batting center) - I can bat away a lot of money.....so....maybe I will need at least $20, and we are going out for dinner at an inexpensive restaurant following by a drink or two at a bar.

Fri. projected total - $50 with transit.

4. Saturday ----------- no money left.....as you can see I have already spent all of my money. I still need some money for the weekend, sat and sun. What can I do to stretch my money without looking like I am poor when I am out with my friends.

How can I get around batting away less money? I guess I can watch them play more often, and only go for a few rounds....mannn...

money money money..

Am I too Cheap?

December 22nd, 2006 at 03:10 am

This morning as I am typing this entry here, I asked myself the question "am i too cheap?"

The answer, is likely to be yes, but I am not too sure.

Yesterday I spent 7 times more than my daily budget, that is, around 70 dollars USD or 7000 Japanese Yen.

I guess because I keep track of my expenses, I know exactly how much and where I've spent my money. And yesterday's budget was:

1. Train pass (good for about $12 worth of train value for me) for $11

2. Dinner party for my birthday at the scary/horror themed restaurant - $35

3. Karaoke with friends where we sang Christmas Songs - $10

4. Donuts and Coffee to cure my afternoon sugar cravings - $3

5. Buying bread and vitimin to eat at home - $8

6. A small baseball present to a friend for christmas - $5

Well, I had a great time yesterday, but why do I feel like I've splurged? hahh, and why do I feel semi-guilty about using that money?

I mean, honestly, I've already budget for those expenses, and yet, a part of me still wants to saveeeeeeeee...

And I did! I used coupons for the restaurant and for karaoke.

Ah well, maybe I am just addicted to saving money..



Social Comparisons

December 19th, 2006 at 03:57 pm

Ever wonder how much money the average Canadian, American, Japanese, etc make?

Ever wonder about the average amount of credit card debt each person carries in your country?

What about the average personal debt? And the amount of cash in one's pocket/wallet?

What about the average number of credit cards that each person has? How about bank cards?

What is the average networth by age? and what about the average mortgage size and term?

Social Comparisons can be fun and also depressing. The question is, where are the data? Where can I find the answers to my questions? Does anyone know?

Has anyone else been as curious as I am? Why do we lack such info? I've spent the past hour searching on the web for some kind of money stats page, but I have been unsuccessful.

Hmm..maybe no one else cares..

Off Topic: Diet help

December 18th, 2006 at 02:37 pm

Hi all, this is completely off topic in terms of finance, but...

I am addicted to sugar!! Or so I think I am. I can't help myself. Everything I get cravings for sweet things and I am so afraid of becoming excessively overweight.

Over the past two years, I've lost a great deal of muscles and I probably have about 25% bodyfat as of now.

I eat large meals three times a day, and I snack in between as well.

Help!!! What can I do? I don't exercise as much as I used to anymore, but I do try to walk for at least an hour each week (usually on my weekends).

I think I could somehow cut down on my junk food budget, but I can't seem to have enough will power to say no!!

ah.....now, xmas will be here soon....more food...yummy....in Japan we have a lot of chocolate xmas cakes...

....damn..

Birthday Party

December 18th, 2006 at 01:03 am

Thank you everyone for your kind replies to my previous posts, and also thank you for your happy b-day wishes!! It really brightened my day.

This week, I will have a birthday party in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan. Now, this place is totally awesome. It is a themed restaurant where I will get lockup in a jail with some friends, and there are people dressed in monster costumes to scare us.

The dinner is a 7 course meal for 5 people plus 2 hours of all-you-can-drink alcohol. The price is a bit expensive, but it is worth it. It is around $40 per person.

However, me being frugal, I rarely dine out. And I have even managed to find a $5 off coupon for everyone. So instead of paying $40 per person, we will pay $35 each. I am saving my friends some cash too!!

For those of you interested in visiting Tokyo, or if you just want to check the website with scary pictures, here's the link to the restaurant!!

http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g528910/

But it is in Japanese though. Nonetheless, some pictures and you can see the menu as well.

I wonder if there are many themed restaurant like this in the US. Perhaps, this can be another money making business idea!

Cheers!

How I did it - Saving 30K before the age of 25 - Final Part

December 13th, 2006 at 01:46 am

How I did it Ė Saving 30K before the age of 25 Ė Final Part

As promised, I said I would write all three parts of my article before I actually turn 25, which isnít too far away from now. My birthday is extremely close to Christmas, and I guess I could be called a Christmas baby.

Anyway, this year, my greatest gift for myself is the amount of money I have managed to save up over the course of 2-3 years of working full-time. My job pays about the national average in Japan. It isnít great, but it certainly isnít bad. But thatís another story.

In part 3 (the final part), I want to share with you guys my budgeting system, and some of my personalized features that may be interesting. Feel free to comment, or use, or change any part of my budget system to suit your own needs. Or if you donít budget at all, this will hopefully be another entertaining piece of article to read.

XXXXX

A look at my own budgeting system

How do I save? Well, to start, there are 4 categories to my budget system. I will group each in the following:

Category A Ė Total Income for the Month
This group includes earned wages, earned interests on deposits, investment
gains, reimbursed travel expenses, and other unexpected income or bonus.

Category B Ė Total Savings for the Month
-Pay yourself first.
-This is where I pay myself. Currently I am paying myself a value between
40%~50% of my monthly income.
-Your savings will grow faster or slower depending on how much you can pay
yourself before everything else.

Category C Ė Total Projected Expenses
-There are 3 subcategories in this section:
1. Fixed or committed expenses such as Rent, Taxes, Insurance, Phone, Utilities.
2. Varied expenses but necessary such as Food (groceries), transportation (gas), household items.
3. Varied but not-so-necessary things such as Food (eating out), fun money or entertainment money, and unexpected expenses.

For 1.Fixed-or-Committed Expenses, I try to allocate 40% of my total expenses (spending) to this group.

For 2.Varied Expenses, I try to aim for 30% of my total expenses.

For 3.Varied But-not-so-necessary Expenses, I try to spend another 30%.

Category D Ė Total Reward Fund
-In this group, I write down things I want to buy or trips I want to take as a motivator for me to save. Of course when buying the items listed in this box, I would exercise good bargaining and price-comparison skills. It is good to be a smart shopper.

Next, putting it all together:


Category A
Total Income

minus Category B
Total Savings

minus Category C
Total Expenses

Equals X > 0
(For Category D)

Note: X should be equal to, or greater than zero in this equation. If X is a negative value, it means that you have overspent this month and that you have a negative cash flow for the month.

Are you still with me? Now, if X is greater than 0, it means that Iíve managed to use less than my projected expenses. Then the entire amount of X is placed towards Category D Ė Total Reward Fund. As you can see, Category D serves as my motivation to spend even less than my projected expense budget. This is good since it eliminates the need to splurge even with the budget framework.
Category D can also serve as a carryover account for emergencies or other unexpected expenses. An example here is the repair costs or replacement costs of large household items. Note that there is already an unexpected expense subcategory within Category C. So, this is just another backup plan.

Well, there you have it, my complex personal road map to my financial success. Saving takes a lot of self-discipline, and hard work. But if I can do it, so can you.

Happy Saving!

Realistic Grocery Budget

December 11th, 2006 at 02:25 pm

So I've been reading about the grocery budget on the net, and I must say, most people do not provide enough information for me to get an accurate view of how much the average budget should be.

For example, most people ignore the location factor. Where you live and where you shop clearly affect your grocery budget. Living in Tokyo is extremely expensive.

Second, I often see things like $105 per person, and I get confused. Is that $105 for 1 person per week, or month? Is that the average mean?

Is it even accurate for us to simply divide the total amount of money spent on grocery by the number of people within the household?

I mean, isn't the additional person an increment to the grocery budget in a value less than the first person, and therefore implying a curved mathematical function?

Okay....confused yet? I sure am. But, let me illustrate my point with an example. Take me for example, when I lived alone I needed to spend a base cost of at least 40 dollars (US) a week on groceries. I would cook most, if not all, of the meals for the week from scratch.

However, ever since my girl and I started living together, I would buy groceries for the two of us. Of course I would spend more money, but most definitely not 80 dollars (US) a week. I would spend between 60-70 dollars. Which means, the additonal person (my girl) actually caused an increase in my grocery budget by about 50% ($40 + $20 = $60).

Hence, my point, is it okay for me to simply divide my new grocery average by 2 and say my new personal average is $35 a week? This would mean that having my girlfriend around is actually helping me save money? Or is there a logical error here?

How can I accurately find out just how much I can live on in terms of food? How can I compare my budget value to those of others? How can I know where I stand? How do I measure up? How can I trim my budget even more?

Some questions for me to think about over the cold winter break. At least I know I won't be bored.

Cheers mate.

Cheap Date ideas & tips needed

December 9th, 2006 at 01:32 pm

Hey all,

A friend of mine asked about some dating ideas, and he basically wanted a cheap but romantic date with his girl.

I thought of a few ideas, but I was hoping to find additional ones to the list.

1. Park and picnic date

2. museum date with discount tickets/coupons.

3. eat out for lunch instead of dinner.

4. movie date at a second-run theater

5. rent some dvd's and cook and eat at home.

6. go ice skating

7. go shopping or window shopping together

8. go to a second-hand bookstore

9. go to a cafe and spend hours talking to each other over coffee.

10. go learn something new together like going to a latin dance bar/club with free dance lessons.

Any more ideas?

How I did it! Saving 30k before the age of 25 part 2

December 4th, 2006 at 03:58 pm

How I did it. Saving 30K before the age of 25 - Part 2

Hello again everyone. Thank you for reading part 1 of my achievement. Here is part 2. In this part, we will look at some of my strange mentalities. So, welcome to the world of Lez Save Money.

Principle # 1 Ė Develop a Sense of Shamelessness

A lot of times when you are on your journey to financial independence through saving and investing, you are bound to face many psychological challenges. For example, do you remember how you felt the first time someone called you a cheapskate? A miser? A thightwad? Stingy? A penny pincher? A scrooge? A no-fun-stay-at-home-loser?

They havenít yet? Well, they WILL at one point or another, Ďcuz thatís just plain old human nature for ya. People gotta put down other people in order to feel superior and to pamper their inner insecurities. So the questions really are, ďWhen they do call you by such negative terms, what would you say? How would you react? Would you feel hurt?Ē

How you answer the above questions will determine how you view your sense of self-worth and your commitment to your financial goals. For me, I just decided to have no shame, and I guess I donít really care what others think or say about me. Although, sometimes I do tend to break down and let others affect me negatively. Like I have mentioned before, the world today can be a cold place for people who refuse to accept the norm Ė whether the norm be heterosexuality or consumerism.

So back to Principle # 1, train yourself to become shameless by fostering your sense of self-worth internally, rather than externally.

Principle # 2 Ė Think of Financial Goals as a Video Game, Monopoly, or other Board Games.

Thatís right. Life really is nothing but a game. Sometimes you have control over your actions, sometimes you donít. Sometimes life will deal you a good hand, and other times a shitty round. The thing is, it doesnít really matter! What matters most is how you approach the games and what you can build out of the things you already have.

Let me rephrase myself. If you want to be successful, you have to learn to control your emotions. Think of life as a game. I mean, if I were to lose a basketball game tonight, would I get so depressed that I would jump off a bridge? No, cuz that would be stupid. It was just a game. If you cannot accept certain risks associated with making investments, then, donít play. If I know I am a terrible basketball player and I still wanna play, well, I gotta find other ways to train myself. For example, work out more often, learn to run faster, learn to shoot better, etc. Practice, practice, and practice. And once youíve done that, and you still canít win? Play with players who are worse than you, so you can rip them off. LOL. Just kidding. Find a new game to join.

Remember, wealth can be created in many different ways.

Principle # 3 Ė Think, Talk, and Act like a Self-help Book

One of the most obvious factors to my financial success of having a positive net worth of 30k USD is largely due to the amount of self-help books Iíve read. I find that reading self-help books on personal finance, as well as on self-esteems, motivations, goal-settings, and relationships, have helped me become a better person. But what is more important is that Iíve managed to cement fundamental savings/investing rules into my brain through the process of repetition.

Each day, I would track my daily spending, and visualize my goals. I would repeat my goals for the month as well as for the year. For example, if I wanted to save 10K over the next 12 months, I would already envision myself in possession of that money. And, if you have ever read the book, Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill, youíll know exactly what I am talking about!!

So yes, train yourself to think, talk, and act like your favorite self-help book and youíll be well on your way to financial independence.

Let me end on principles one to three, these principles are your insights into my strange mind. I believe that how we think affects how we act and vice versa. So, part 2 focuses on the importance of psychological factors that I call ďthe power of financial freedom.Ē In part 3, we will look at practical tips that we can all use to save 30k before the age of 25, or after, if you like.

How I did it! Saving 30k before the age of 25

December 4th, 2006 at 01:38 am

So, it is Dec 4th today for me here in Tokyo. And soon, I will be 25 years old.

I thought I write an article about myself and how I have managed to save my money since my graduation from my university.

This article has 3 parts.

Part 1 - My obsession with money and financial independence.

My parents have always been savers rather than spenders. They've managed to pay off their entire mortgage in less than 6 years for their house. My mother always tracked her spendings, though, she lacked well-planned investments and a sound budget.

To my mother, saving every penny was important, but investing and planning weren't. Hence, she didn't really have any goals....or dreams..of what to do with life. Nor did she have any dreams of building up a stream of passive income so that she no longer had to work for a living.

So, at the age of 19 when I first entered university, I became a spender. I spend and spend what little money I had on things I didn't really need.

Why on earth would I do that?

Well, my actions were a result of my psychological need to be as different as I could from my mother. You see, back then, I simply hated my mom. She was homophobic, narrow-minded, selfish, and unreasonable. I wanted to enjoy life, and be free from her constrains. So what better way to live than to do everything she despises.

However, I was fortunate to have my wake-up call at the age of 21. My younger brother was 19 at the time. He and I suffered in the same negative household that my mother reigned. He too, wanted to get away and have a place of his own. But, how? We were so young and we had no jobs. He had became interested in personal finance and investment. He showed me that by using term deposit accounts with higher interest rates, I could get free money.

And I love the idea of getting free money! I mean, who wouldn't?

So we started to hit the libraries together on weekends and we picked up some personal finance books. From then on, we opened separate investment accounts with our banks, and by the end of that year, I had my very first investment portfolio.

My investment of 10k grew at an annual rate of 10% over the course of 2 years. I had managed to come up with that money by working at various part-time jobs and saving my scholarships and awards.

Hey, scholoarships and awards again, are like free money!!

After, I graduated from university and found a full-time job rather quickly.

From then on, I became extremely frugal. Money was all I thought about as I hated the real world. I mean, I have to spend 8 hours a day just to earn a living. To me, that was inefficient and stupid. I wanted to be free!! I want to work whenever I wanted to work and do things I loved with my time. Life is short!!!

So my obession started and I place my financial plan into action. What plan would that be? Well, read part 2.

Help! Xmas wish list part 2

December 2nd, 2006 at 12:29 am

63 Gift Ideas for Under $10 - For Any Occasion of the Year!

http://www.betterbudgeting.com/articles/money/63giftsunder10dollars.htm


Thank you everyone for your replies and ideas!

I found this on the web. Maybe this will help some ppl with xmas gift ideas!

Help! XMAS Wish List

December 1st, 2006 at 01:43 pm

Yes...so, yes..I need help.

I've been trying to do a xmas wish list for myself and for my girlfriend....but I have been frugal for so long, I realized that I don't have any wants.

I mean, I dont know what to buy for myself!! I have been staring at my blank wish list for the past 15mins trying to come up with something.

I think....this is not very healthy. I want to splurge, but on what?

Does anyone else here feel the same way? I mean, have you been such a saver to a point that you find little material rewards for yourself that you truly want verus truly need.

I always tend to just buy what I need. Something very practical.

Today is the day I celebrate for the end of Nov.

November 29th, 2006 at 01:29 am

I know, I know, we still have 2 more days left to go for Nov. But being here in Japan means that I am actually living a day ahead.

As I am typing this entry, it is around 10am on Nov. 29th. Just today and tomorrow until I close my budget for the month.

Hence, the good news!!

1. My total expenditure for Nov. will be under $1000!! This includes personal taxes, rent, food, parties, bills, insurance, eat-outs, all in all!! EVERYTHING!!

2. Compare my net expense to my net income, I have saved 60% of my salary this month!! wooohooooooooooooooooooooooo

3. Not to mention that I do rent my own place, and live in one of the most expensive cities in the world - TOKYO, JAPAN.

4. I have even managed to buy two small presents for myself this month, a really interesting book about life, and a colorful budget book for year 2007 with cute stickers and designs.

5. As for my $10/day daily budget? I did it! On some days I spent more than I had to, but on some days I saved a bunch. In fact, I still have a total of $30 dollars left to spend for today and tomorrow and still remain just under the grand $1000 expense for the month.

I can't say how happy and confident I feel to take control over my finances. I think my self-confidence has increased simply because I was able to walk the talk.

It is an amazing feeling, and a strong one too, being able to feel the sense of purpose and direction in life.

Well, new goals for Dec:

I've already drafted my budget, and I will also continue to read/listen to some books/audio books.

1. 7 habits of highly effective people
2. the millionaire mind - Thomas Stanley.
3. 21 secrets of self-made millionaire by Brian Tracy.

Happy saving everyone!!! I hope this will encourage some of you, and I did it because of all you guys here!! I come to this site, and I read, and I am more aware of my finances than ever before!!

To all of you! Thank you!


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