Monday, July 27, 2015

Dog Days of Summer

This year the summer did not hurry to get here and up until the mid of last week, the weather was pleasant. Temperatures were lower than normal but, starting by the end of last week, the humidity and the temperatures both rose and the wind died down quiet a bit.

Mom and I were out shopping on Saturday for my upcoming US trip. I was looking for gifts for my friends and decided on Turkish towels, pistachios and Pistachio Turkish Delight (some sort of soft candy). We went to a large department store run by one of the biggest textile companies in Turkey and lost ourselves among soft, fluffy towels. I liked one kind and mom liked another kind so, we ended up buying four of one kind and three of the other. We also bought traditional hand-woven hamam towels (peshtemals) for every one of my friends. Those hand-woven hamam towels are great as towels, pareos, shawls, lounge chair covers and even as extra sheets when you do not particularly like the bed sheets at a hotel. They are so versatile. I own probably a dozen. They get softer and softer as you use and wash them and last a very long time.

I will buy the pistachios and the candy later on. Saturday was a good day because, we were at an air-conditioned mall. On Sunday, we were supposed to go out for breakfast to Ortakoy and take a nice boad ride on the Bosphorus. However, it was so hot that we could not even dare to get out of the apartment. We stayed home and tried to relax. I do not have air-conditioning at home because my apartments is really nice and cool during the summer. During the hottest year, I might need an air-conditioner for a maximum of two weeks or so. I get by without one. I have a fan I use during the hottest days of summer.

I have less than a month to go on my big vacation and very excited with anticipation. I am hoping it will be a nice trip. Trying not to jinx it.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Car Wash

So, how often one gets her/his car washed? This morning I dropped my car at the car wash right by where I work. I will take it back at noon.

It is always such a joy to get the car cleaned inside and out and enjoy the ride. However, that lasts about two days in this city where so much construction is going on. Very dusty!

Istanbul is a giant construction site. Everywhere you go, you see high-rise buildings popping up. It is almost impossible to keep the car nice and clean for very long. Plus, it rained almost every week this year since the summer decided to postpone her appearance this year.

I get my car washed every three weeks or so but, I always feel like at least the outside should be washed more frequently. It is not a lot of money. I can get my car hand washed inside and out for less than USD 10 including the tip.

The area where I live is going to be the Financial Center of the city and HQs of several banks along with the Central Bank of Turkey which will be moving from Ankara to Istanbul. Why? Just because the President wants it so. There is no logic in this whole matter but, if I get started about the President, I may get myself in serious trouble. So, let's leave that subject alone.

Istanbul is already overcrowded and congested. There is absolutely no point in moving more people into it. Although, I love this city, I may have to move out some time in the future. The good thing is my small two-bedroom apartment is constantly appreciating in value and whenever I decide to move out (if I ever do), it will buy me a much bigger and nicer place somewhere else.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why I never give up budgeting

I had a budget even as a young kid. I would plan how I would spend or save my allowances. I always had a "fun" category in my budget. I still do.

When I read other blogs I see everyone has a different approach to budgets. Everyone also has a different way of dealing with gift expenses. For instance Gill from That British Woman posted "How far do you think ahead?" today which inspired me to write this post.

I am not good at depositing a certain amount in a jar or box. The part of the reason is, I grew up in a high inflation environment. Although it is not the case now, I still like to have my money earn some interest instead of sitting in a jar. The inflation is still high in this country when compared to developed nations. I can earn about 10.5-11.75 % on TL deposits and about 2.30-2.50 % on my USD accounts per year.

Here is how my budget works:

I use an Excel Sheet on which the top few rows are for my income. I have a regular salary, a retirement income and a rental income there.

Several rows are dedicated to monthly expenses and bills such as utilities, taxes, insurances, cleaning lady and etc. I have a general category for spending that includes all my grocery spending including personal hygiene items and clothing needs. This entry is not exactly the same for each month. I know when I usually shop for clothing so, I bump up the numbers a little bit for those months. I have never been ablo track every penny and make a zero-based budget. My budget guides me not to over-spend and save each month. My savings are also on my budget so I know exactly what I am saving and how.

I have an Emergency Fund, a TL savings account, a USD savings account, and a Retirement Fund in addition to a small stock portfolio in an investment account. Each month I allocate some money to all these accounts right when I get paid so, I do not overspend. If anything is left over at the end of the month, I put that sum into one of my savings accounts. For instance if the stock exchange is doing poorly, I buy stocks, if USD is comparatively lower, I buy US dollars, etc.

I also have a row for gifts and a row for charity. I know when I will be buying birthday and New Year gifts so, I plan ahead. I also give planned sums to charities every month. This is so much easier to manage.

So far, this approach has worked for me. My budget extends to several years ahead. I know things may change but, I like to be able to plan and project big expenses of the mid-and long-term.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How I saved some serious bucks!

I had mentioned that I had bought a tablet PC to use at home and take with me to vacations. I am so glad I did! It cost me the equivalent of USD 374 and saved me about USD 270 if not more. How?

It has GPS so, even without a data plan, the built-in GPS is excellent. I have downloaded a couple of different navigation apps to use during my stay in the USA. This way, I will not have to rent a GPS from the rental company which would cost me USD 270 before taxes. Yay me!

Besides, the 10.1 screen is excellent for navigation. I will be making some serious mileage while I am in the US so, this is great.

I am slowly getting used to using it. There are so many features that I haven't yet tried. I no longer carry my laptop home during the week. It is so light and the S-pen that comes with it, is excellent.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Need to purge...

Before my visit to the US, I need to purge my wardrobe. I am tall by my country standarts at 5'9" and I am also overweight so, it is a hassle to find good fitting clothes. Some stuff I have are past their life some time ago but, I held on to them.

Now that I am going some place where I can shop, I need to get my act together to get rid of what needs to go. 3 TLs to 1 US Dollar will not make it easy to shop this year but, I will not splurge. I will get what I need and what I will wear. I am out of even simple daily wear. No athletic shoes are required because they are practically coming out of my ears.

What I have to purge is not limited to clothes really. I am sure there are many unused items, books, old receipts and paperwork and etc. I am just soooo lazy to go through the house. If I were moving, I would have been obliged but now that I have postponed the idea, there is no motivator.

I just got myself a new tablet PC which I had been eyeing for a long time. The price finally dropped and I grabbed one just in time because there are talks about raising taxes on electronics. This is my belated birthday gift to myself. I think, it will be a great help during my vacation and I do not need to drag my heavy work laptop home everyday. I have a very old laptop at home but, it is past its economical life and is getting extremely hot. It is also very slllllloooooowwww...



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blessings

Earlier this year, things were not looking good. We had a health scare due to an autoimmune disease my sister was diagnosed with. My previous part-time gig as a consultant was not going well. I thought money would be tight and a nice vacation was out of question.

Today, we know that my sister's condition is under control. Her lab tests have improved and her doctor is not concerned. Thank God!

I now have a new job which is paying real well and I was able to plan a nice vacation in the US.

A health scare, a job loss, income reduction, major repair bill, anything unexpected can happen anytime... This is why I like to be financially secure. So, first my sister's health improvement, then my new job are true blessings and I am so thankful for them.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A surprise for my beloved Sis!

I am going to start working full time in July and I will not be able to go on a vacation with mom this year. She is not coming with me to the US this time.

So, I was thinking of going to Izmir to visit my sis and BIL with her this week. I am not working on Thursdays and Fridays and I thought a long weekend would be nice. I wasn't going to share my plan with my BIL either but, I needed his help to find out if they had other plans for the weekend. So, we partnered up in crime and found an echological new hotel not too far from Izmir and I made reservations for all of us. Mom and I are going a day earlier. They will be joining us on Friday night. My sis thinks that her husband reserved the place to surprise her and she has no clue that we will be there. Heh heh he! I love surprises! Planning and executing them even more...