Sunday, July 27, 2014

Old Style Shopping

Mom and I went to Eminonu yesterday. This place is incredible. There all sorts of shops selling anything and everything. We were on a hunt for white bed sheets. We like bigger sheets than the standard ones usually sold. If we go a bigger size that is too big and requires touch up.

Mom wanted to buy the fabric and make sheets herself but, she was looking for a specific type which she could not find. So, I wanted to get fabric enough for an extra sheet for myself and two new sheets for my guest (mom's) bed. The seller told us if we had a half hour to wait around he could have the sheets sewn! What a surprise! I did not know that they did that. Mom decided to get a sheet for uncle's bed too. For just USD 45, we bought beautiful, crisp white sheets. 3 of them were about the size of a Twin Extra Long and mine was a bit bigger than the US Standard Full Size. So much cheaper than store bought sheets, much better quality too. I love the cool, crisp feeling.

We also bought two fabrics for mom to sew me dresses. She makes simple summer dresses which I wear at home to keep cool during the summer.

We walked a lot, even through the Spice Bazaar but, I hardly ever shop there.

It was a hot, humid and tiring day at the Old City but was so worth it. We plan to go back in the Fall when the weather is nicer.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Finally.... The Dentist Edition

I admit that I hate going to the dentist. I postponed this dreaded visit until today but finally, I decided it was time. Social Security covers dental work only if you go the the clinics and hospitals they have an agreement with. Those places usually have long waiting lists and I personally do not like the attitude of the employees there. Of course, there are exceptions.

I decided that oral hygiene is important and I can certainly pay for this out-of-pocket. I also decided to go to a private college's dental clinic not too far from where I live. This place was recommended by many people so, I thought it was worth a shot.

I am so glad I went there. There are gazillion doctors, most of whom are faculty members and the place was very organized, full of employees with a professional attitude and full of brand new equipment. I initially thought, students would be doing the work supervised by doctors and I was a bit worried about that but a friend of mine said that was not the case and she highly recommended the place.

I was taken care of by the Oral Diagnosis doctor first. She examined my teeth and ordered 3 X-Rays one of which was panoramic. She then checked the X-rays and told me that I needed a cleaning first. She also told me I needed two of my old fillings replaced and I should no more delay the implant I need in place of a lost tooth.

So, I went in to get an appointment for cleaning but the nice doctor there told me if I could wait for a half hour, I could get my cleaning right away. I happily accepted her offer. Since I have one extremely sensitive tooth, she had to administer a small dose of anesthetic.

After that I got an appointment for replacing one of my fillings for August 14. OK, I really do not like all that drilling but my mouth was in better condition than I thought.

Diagnosis, X-rays, cleaning with ansthesia cost me a total of USD 134.- I think that is a very good price.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Today we went out to look for a clog for me and get deodorant and hair color. Mom got tired so, we decided to eat our dinner out too.

We also ended up getting Krispy Kreme treats as well. The diet plan? Out the window for today...

So, 3 deodorants, 2 boxes of hair color, a small size vaseline, dinner for two and sweet treats cost me about USD 43.- Not bad...

No clogs for me... I will have to order Dansko clogs from the US as J udy suggested and will pray they will fit... Sigh...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lessons learned from grandma...

My grandmother on my mom's side and I had a very special bond and since I was her first grandchild, we have spent tons of time together. Every summer, I would go to visit them and I used to have the time of my life.

She was a very frugal person by necessity. Grandpa was an Air Force Veteran and with one retirement pension, they lived a simple life.

They had a small house with a good size yard. Grandpa grew lots of vegetables, had fruit trees in his garden, kept chickens and sheep. He would not touch his retirement pension and let grandma take care of every bill. He used to sell excess produce and earn his pocket money along with money required for necessary repairs around the house.

1. Never wasted food,
2. Always made a budget,
3. Knew her prices and would buy produce in season and at good prices when she had to purchase produce that they did not grow,
4. Never let clutter at her home,
5. Owned very few basic clothing items and kept them very neat,
6. Did not care for knick-knacks that would collect dust so dusting her home was a breeze,
7. Sun-dried many fruits and vegetables to use during the winter, made jam and pickles,
8. Made sheets, and pajamas and simple items since knew how to sew and inherited an old Singer from her mom which I now have,
9. Always cooked from scratch, made yoghurt and even made cheese sometimes,
10. Never ate out more than once a month,
11. Re-purposed everything. Old pajamas became rags to dust or rags to tie tomatoes and beans to poles.
12. Watched her utilities and kept diligent records,
13. Never bought anything just because...
14. Saved a little money for rainy days even her income was small.
15. Anticipated upcoming expenses and budgeted accordingly,
16. Never complained about money...

She was the most caring and nicest person I know. God bless her and make her rest in peace...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reader Question from Derya

Derya wrote:

"I have been following you for over a year now and you have been a huge inspiration. I wont say we live totally frugally (hubby myself and 5 year old son) but I have certainly refrained from spending and have managed to save a large portion of our earnings. We managed to buy an apartment with a 5 year mortgage plan. I won't have a lot of cash left over but am definitely interested in any tips you have to grow money in TL. I'm also wondering if you think it's better to pay off the loan early or to save and invest the cash? Best wishes. Derya"

I think they did a great job by buying an apartment at a 5 year mortgage rate. As for paying the loan off early, as far as I know in Turkey there is a penalty for doing that. Derya should check her mortgage paperwork and/or talk to her mortgage lender. So, paying early may be a bad idea.

Before starting investments, I have some questions:

1. Does Derya have an Emergency Fund?  If yes, how many months of living expenses does that cover?
2. When she mentions investments, how far in future she is thinking? Is she thinking retirement?
3. Are there any major expenditure in the near future, say 1-2 years?

I am assuming she and her husband both work so, can they survive on one salary in case one of them loses a job? If yes, probably an Emergency Fund of three months worth of living expenses may be sufficient. If not I would opt for 6 months and may be even more. Now this money will be sitting in a low interest earning savings account earmarked only for emergencies.

I admit this is painful to set aside so much money to earn very little interest but when an emergency strikes, this provides an amazing level of peace of mind.

After doing this, I can start investing for the future. The key word is future here. We are talking about a long time so any vacation expenditures or new car funds should be saved elsewhere, probably at low-interest savings accounts. So, investing for the future and saving for upcoming expenses are totally different.

For investing for the future, Derya and her husband can do two things here in Turkey: They can both establish a BES account (sort of like a Roth IRA) that they should not touch before the age of 56, or they can invest in individual stocks.

I have a very small individual stock portfolio. I mainly invest in BIST 30 companies. I put very small amounts of money and totally ignore the ups and downs of the stock market. This is highly risky and I do not intend to touch that money in the next ten years or so. This type of investment is always very very risky and I would hesitate recommending it. Besides people get caught up in tips and dreams of high returns in a short time and turn this into a dangerous form of gamble. Buying and selling frequently is a definite no-no!

As BES is a fairly new system, people are skeptical about this. I am past 10 years in this system and I am 9 years away from my BES retirement. So, I maintain a medium-high risk portfolio. The government matches my contribution by 25% up to a certain level. The government match will not be forever so, I take advantage of this as much as I can. This also is affected a lot by the stock volatility but in the long run, I am sure one will get ahead. The trick here is to select medium-high risk funds when you are farther away from retirement and gradually move into lower risk funds as you approach your retirement date. What people do not understand is that the amount you save in this account is the amount you will be paid. There is no guarantee of money for a life time. Also, people would like to put in 100 TL every month and receive 1000 TL when retired. That is an illusion and it will not happen. Before stepping into a BES account, I would read everything about it and be realistic about my expectations.

Gold and USD investments are also popular in Turkey but gold is very unpredictable. USD accounts generate very little return but, on the long run, that may be an idea.

So you see there is not one single good investment idea. That is why I have a BES account, a small stock account, some gold (very little) and some USD besides a hefty EF.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Not a hoarder...

I am not a hoarder. Every spring and fall I go through my closets and shoe racks to donate whatever I am not planning to wear so that those in need get what they can use in time for the upcoming season.

However, sometimes I hold on to some real old pieces of clothing because they are so comfy around the home. This is especially true for some night gowns. I realized that I have holes in two of my favourite night gowns a while ago and yet I kept wearing them. However, I started feeling cheap about this recently, especially after our visit to mom's cousin. I am very neat when it comes to wearing things outside. I never wear anything with a hole or a stain. If I cannot fix it, it doesn't get worn, period!

I have two small drawers for my night gowns and they are stuffed. There are some night gowns never worn. I usually keep two that are brand new just in case I need hospital care (old habit inherited from grandma) but I think I have 4 or 5 that are brand new.

So, after mom goes back to Ankara, I will go through my stuff and cut up things that has holes and donate things that are still in good condition.

Mom is actually great in doing this but she is very impatient and whenever we tried doing a purge together, she took down all the closets and dumped everything on my bed all at once and made this a whole day chore. I like to do things at my own pace. One closet at a time or a couple of drawers at a time. I do not like to do this all day long. So, I am not even mentioning my intention :)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Even if you own your home free and clear...

I hated being a tenant. Not because my landlords were bad but, I tought I was just shoveling money out the door so, when I bought my apartment back in 2004 and paid it in full by 2005, I was extremely happy.

Home ownership is great and I am very thankful for God's help in enabling me to buy my current residence. However home ownership doesn't come cheap. There are 9 apartment buildings in my community. Some are 6 levels like mine and some are 10 levels. There are 1-2-3-4 bedroom units.

We elect a management every year and make monthly payments for security guards, gardeners, cleaning personnel and for general upkeep of the complex. It is not a fancy place. No pool or anything like that but it is at a very desirable spot and our apartments are still considered great investments. The buildings are 16-17 years old or so, last year we had to pitch in extra for insulation of all buildings and an external paint job. This year, we are paying for a new heating system. I am sure next year will be something else. I also had an internal paint job and tore down my bathroom last year. Now, the kitchen is awaiting for a complete renovation. So, you see even if you own your place free and clear, it is a money pit.

I am also a landlady. I have a rental apartment in Ankara. That is at a fairly new complex so, I do not have many expenses related with that....yet but, I am sure some time in the next few years, there will be additional money I shall have to shell out.