Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some Pictures from my last travel to England

Here is a part of the Windsor Castle Garden:



Here is another part of the Windsor Castle:



Here is a very old and pretty crooked building in Eton:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Counting the days...

I will be attending an extensive training for two weeks in the UK next week.

Visa- Check!
Airline Ticket- Check!
Hotel Reservations- Check!
Preparations- Ummmm... No, not yet. Today I have received two giant folders via FedEx and I must study.

I have to make a list to pack so that I do not forget anything. The giant folders and my laptop are already very heavy. There is a 20 kg. limit on my luggage so I guess I will take these in my carry-on. Oh boy!...

I am excited. I love to travel and my recent jobs in the last three years had no travel at all. I miss working for a multinational. If I am going to work freelance from now on, I guess travel will be mostly in-country.

I graduated college when I was 21, that was 22 years ago... I have attended several trainings and actually took a course for a semester at Bloomfield College, NJ, when I was working in the US. I would have never thought I would feel so competitive for this upcoming training. I gotta go and study!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Corporate Rate? You gotta be kidding me!

Late October I will be traveling to UK for training. This is a step for my new freelance consulting/training career. The training organization sent me a letter last week saying that if I needed accomodation at the training center, they have a special rate of 90 British Pounds. Being the frugal soul that I am, I decided to check the same hotel at Expedia.

Lo and behold, I booked the same room at 85 USD. Now, the current exchange rate between GBP and USD is 1.4542 in Turkey. There is a savings of roughly 45 USD per night!

I used to work at a very large multinational company and they encouraged us to use the corporate rate codes even for personal travel and believe it or not some people actually used them! The travel/purchasing departments do work out real good deals with hotels, car rental agencies but they usually get a rebate at the end of a quarter or a year because they are profit centers! So, using corporate rates benefit only a small part of the company. Yes, of course there is still contribution to the bottom line but all profit centers are evaluated separately. A smart manager would choose to keep her costs down and not use corporate rates.

I love Expedia. I have always been satisfied with their prices and service whenever I needed to change my itinerary or cancel reservations. Their policies are very clear, there are no hidden costs or traps. What other online sources do you use?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Never Owned a Dryer, Never Needed One

In my country laundromats are not common. Usually school campuses might have them. It must be something about the culture I guess. Most people own washers but not dryers. Owning a washer was quiet an expense in the past so most people would not spend any money on dryers at all. Therefore, they never became popular until recently. Even now, most people do not buy them. I can afford one but have no place to put it. We own front loading machines and many people stack them; washer at the bottom, dryer on top. In my case even that will not work.

However, I never needed a dryer at all. I am so much used to using a drying rack in my spare bedroom that, I never felt I needed one except for a brief period during late Fall and early Spring when the Central Heating is off. During those periods, it takes a little longer than I like to get my laundry dry. You might say that it is easy for me to dry my stuff since I am single and there is not much laundry when compared to a family of four or five. Well, when I was growing up, mom had a semiautomatic machine and we were a family of four. Since mom worked, Saturday was her laundry and cleaning day and after an exhausting day of these activities, she would hang the laundry on lines she would put all over the apartment and at the back balcony. I still remember the acrobatic moves we had to make so that the fresh laundry stayed fresh.

Nowadays, I see lots of commercials about dryers and all those commercials claim that the dryers are very frugal in terms of electricity usage. Well, I do not have that cost now, do I? So, how can buying a dryer be frugal?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dressing up, dressing down or just plain dressing...

It is one of the two weird times of the year again. Although it is getting to be rather chilly, I see women refusing to give-up their flip-flops and tank tops yet. Some others have already started showing up in their Uggs as if we are expecting real cold weather and snow sometime soon.

For me, it is time for socks, pants, reasonable shoes and light jackets may be. It has been raining heavily in Istanbul lately so, I always check the weather report to decide if I need to carry an umbrella or not.

This is a good time to sort out summer clothing and get rid of those pieces no longer needed by way of charity or re-purposing. I usually give items in good condition to charity and make rags out of the ones no longer usable. I am a practical dresser. I stick to certain colors and classic styles so if I grab a top and a bottom blindfolded, they will still match.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Frugal Choices and One's Values

A lot of people think frugality is deprivation. It sure is not "hip" or "cool" to be frugal in today's consumer world. I have a different opion on the matter. Frugality allows me to spend money on things that are important for me. I like to make budgets and stick with them. I like to save money for rainy and stormy days. I also like to take nice vacations which can be quiet pricey.

Not replacing an old but working TV with a cool new LCD or plasma, buying a used car instead of a new one, replacing old bulbs with CFLs and cooking from scratch are frugal choices. I do not care to impress anyone with my possessions. For me important things in life are family, quality time spent and experiences gained by travel and socializing. For you it may be driving the best car you can afford to buy or giving your time and money to charity.

We may be different when it comes to our values and I do not think it is logical to argue on them. The problem is wanting to have everything. If you want to have the best car and the biggest house and the luxury clothing and that Rolex watch and to travel the world, then this is a problem. Economics 101 usually starts by stating the obvious: There is a "Scarcity of Resources". It is no wonder why many people have huge credit card debts. They just want to have everything NOW and they use the money which seems to be available right away without considering the consequences.

Do not get me wrong, I am not against credit cards. I use two cards for everything which allows me to track my spending. I have never ever paid a penny of interest or late fees on them. For me credit cards are a simple method of payment not a money source.

If you know your values, then you know how to spend your money. Frugality makes that only easier.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Three Generations and a Sewing Machine

Today I took out my grandmother's sewing machine for the first time since my mom gave it to me. I had bought a brand new sewing machine when I had decided to sew my own kitchen curtains back when I bought my apartment. That one now belongs to mom who in turn gave me this old Singer which is at least a good 70 year old machine.

I have many wonderful memories of this machine and grandma in her big kitchen or rather the center of universe at her house. I have learnt to cook, sew and knit a little right there under the supervision of my beloved grandma. She used to sew me and my dolls cute outfits and pajamas. She was a very frugal lady and always recycled and re-purposed everything. During her time "going green" or "conservation of nature" were not popular topics but she probably was the "greenest" person I have ever known.

This old Singer has already served my grandma and my mom faithfully. Now, it's my turn. I guess this is a great opportunity to learn more about sewing. Besides, it is a frugal choice to keep a machine which still works regardless of how old it is. I do not have a daughter to pass the machine on but may be it will not outlast me, ha?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Life goes on...

The last few days were especially tough due to a sudden death of an old friend. Still trying to cope with it. His death took away a part of my youth, the carefree, wonderful years, most probably the best years of my life.

Well, life goes on...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fishing Season and Good Times...

September 1 marks the official beginning of fishing season in Turkey. Today, a close friend of mine invited me over for the season's first Atlantic Bonito , (Palamut in Turkish) feast. She fried the Palamut since it is not fatty enough at the moment. I have not been eating fish during the summer except for canned tuna and sardines and I have realized I missed fresh fish.

I usually broil all sorts of fish instead of frying them. Frying is both messy and the fish smell takes over the entire apartment for quiet a few days.

The best part was to dine with good friends, chat about all sorts of different things and have a relaxed night. I feel blessed when I think about my friends. I am happy to be surrounded by many thoughtful individuals who brighten my life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fall: My Favorite Season

My favorite season has always been the Fall. Some people find it depressing but I love to go leave watching, sip hot cocoa while there is a thunderstorm outside and bake apple pies (an acquired habit while living in the US). For me the first sign of the Fall is when I wake up early in the morning feeling chilly and needing a warmer cover in the bed.

Nowadays I am trying to consume the contents of my freezer to make room for tomatoes, sauces and veggies for the winter. I am not going to overdo it like two years ago. I had frozen so many packages of string beans that by April there were still some left and I could not enjoy the fall and winter veggies at all.

The effort of trying to empty the freezer had me eating curious combinations of food. Chili with zucchini anyone? It actually tasted very good. There is a large open market close to where I live on Saturdays. So, this Saturday, I will go and get tomatoes, grape leaves, green peppers, string beans and red beans. I stuff the grape leaves and cook them before I freeze them in portion sized aluminum containers. I heat them up in a small toaster oven and have them with plain yogurt. Yum!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"No TV Weeekend" Challenge

I promised myself not to turn on the TV this weekend. Sometimes I find myself glued to my TV chair zapping endlessly hoping to find something good to watch.

Here is what I have planned for the weekend:

Saturday:
-Catch up on PF blogs.
-Look at the contents of the fridge, salvage everything that may go bad in a few days.
-Work on the material required for the new venture (i.e. study at least 4 chapters and take notes)
-Do a load of laundry

Sunday:
-Go for a walk
-Study at least 2 more chapters and take notes)
-Back-up old files, clean-up the laptop and activate Skype again. (I dislike all kinds of instant messaging but this is the preferred type of communication of my new colleagues in the consultancy venture)

And there is a new book I started to read last night by my bedside. These should be plenty to keep me occupied.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Business Card Collection!

For how long does a sane person keep old business cards? In my case, it was forever!...Until yesterday.

Now that I need to do some networking, I went through more than 1500 cards collected from suppliers, colleagues, customers and friends since 1997! You could actually follw certain people's careers: Salesperson at XYZ Inc., Sales Manager at XYZ Inc., Director of Sales at PQR Inc., etc. etc...I kept about 50 or so. I know I still have a bunch dating back to 1988. Thank God, I will not have to look through them.

In the process, I also saved some notebooks which were barely used. I threw out the used pages and they are like brand new. Waste not, want not! I probably have enough notepads, notebooks, post-its and a variety of office supplies to last me at least ten years. No kidding!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Testing the Waters for a Freelance Life

For the last few years, I had been contemplating about a second move in my career. I am 43 and would like to work at least until 60. However after 45-47, I think one should be able to work in a different pace. For me, this may be possible by doing consulting work and training.

To be honest, I am scared. I think, I still need to have a full-time job till I am 47-48 so that I can continue saving money. Right now, I am living on my savings while looking for a new job. I hope, my job quest will end latest by the end of the year but there are no opportunities at the moment. (Gotta think positive, think positive!)

Meanwhile, as I have mentioned in my previous post, there is an opportunity to become a certified trainer late October, early November. Until then my friend, his partners and I will be trying to find clients for our business. Although, we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, I am glad that I have something to do and feel like I am working. You can read only so many blogs and books while at home. I hate not having a job not just because of the negative cash flow but rather the inactivity and laziness.

OK. I need to go now and work on a list of possible clients and do some research on freelance life. Any suggestions are welcome (although since this is a new blog and that I have not advertised it's existence, I am not sure how many readers there may be out there in the blogosphere).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hiatus is over...

I had frozen this blog of mine for a while. I have not been active on my other blogs as well. I guess summer laziness had set in.

Since my last post, a few things happened.

I went to Cesme, Izmir for a short vacation. The beaches were incredible and I just stayed in the water for as long as I could. Must have been a marine creature in a past life.

I bought a used car from a relative. It is chugging along and taking me to the places I need to be. Gas is expensive in Turkey fluctuating between 7-8 USD/gallon. The car I bought is a 2000 Civic with an automatic transmission. So, it is not very economical but the buying price was right and I am not using the car every day.

I have also started to think about a freelance career in training and consulting. I am still looking for a regular job while I am playing with this idea and actually doing some work on it. If I cannot find a DECENT job in the near future, this is my fall back plan. This type of work was in my plans for after 2015 or so but an opportunity just presented itself and I see no reason why not to grab it. It is very difficult to get your first job as a trainer. So, this one will be my test bed.

I will soon be attending two trainings abroad for my certification. I will incur the flight, accomodation and misc. expenses myself. I will not pay for the classes which are not cheap. My investment will be my time and expenses of my trip.

I will make sure to post about the costs associated with this trip and my money saving tactics.

Although this summer was much cooler than usual, I did not play tourist in Istanbul after my visit to the Museum at all. One gets lazy when at home. The apartment sucks you in and you do not want to do much at all. Days have gone by without doing much of anything but reading.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

No car...Oh my...

Ever since I have got my driver’s license in March 1987, I have been driving. So, being without a car is a new and somewhat painful experience for me.

For the last 10 years, I always drove a company car and after I quit my most recent job, I decided not to buy a car for a number of reasons:
1. I am obese and I need exercise… Lots of exercise.
2. I live in a part of Istanbul where public transportation is quiet good.
3. Being a frugal person, I like to avoid the costs associated with owning a vehicle at least for a while.

I am sure, I will want a vehicle in the summer for a vacation. My uncle has a 9 year old Honda Civic which needs a little bit attention and fixing. I might be able to borrow that car since he drives another vehicle he owns.

Anyway, ever since I am carless (is this a word?) I had to walk to my dietician. I walked briskly for 30 minutes from my apartment to the hospital where my dietician works. She told me to walk a lot slower because, she does not want me to injure myself. I am quiet heavy.

On the way back, I took a “dolmus” (read dolmush) which is a minibus for public transportation. You can only pay in cash on a dolmus and usually the drivers are nuts and they allow you to stand if the vehicle is full which is something they really should not do. It is extremely dangerous given the traffic in Istanbul and also a traffic violation. The one I took had empty seats and that’s why I took it. I usually avoid this type of transportation. However, it was only 75 kurus which is three quarters of a Turkish Lira (less than 50 cents US) so it was well worth it.

Today I needed to do some grocery shopping and although there is a small one right by my apartment, I wanted to go to another. This grocery store has a free shuttle service from where I live so that cost me nothing. The distance? Well, if I wanted to walk there, it would probably take 50-60 minutes. Since I need to walk to and from the bus-stop, I tried not to buy too much stuff which would be very heavy.

I walked for over an hour today and this is quiet good but I will still get on my stationary bike for at least 20 minutes before dinner. I have to make sure, this free time that I have now is well spent.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dolmabahce Palace


I took the above picture at the Aviary at Dolmabahce Palace... I finally went to see Dolmabahce Palace! Yay for me!

I am surely not gonna get into any detail as to when it was built, who lived there and such. There are tons of resources on the Net for you to learn all that if you are interested and here are a few of those:
1. Wikipedia
2. Palaces of Istanbul
3. Turkey Travel Planner

I took a dolmus (read dolmush) from where I live to Uskudar coast. I took a motorboat from there to Kabatas (read Kabatash) and the palace was about less than half a mile from Kabatas.

It is a pretty big place and probably would take a whole day if you wanted to tour all of it. I took a combined Selamlık and Harem Tour. Selamlık was basically the offices of the Ottoman Sultan. He accepted visitors, ambassadors and government officers, held meetings and entertained at the Selamlık part of the Palace. Selamlık was meant only for men. Harem was the living quarters of his family where no other men was allowed to enter.

You can see the Western and particularly the French influence in decorations. For my taste, it was too much but, I guess it just had to be spectacular and very rich at the time during the Ottoman era. I loved the park surrounding the palace and I guess, in a couple of weeks the flowers will be in full bloom.

The entrance fee is 20 TL (little less than 12 USD) for the combined tour and believe me it is worth every penny.

I relaxed, took a long walk in the park and also toured the palace. I need to go back there to see a couple of pavilions I could not see because I was really tired.

I will post more pictures...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Frugal Istanbul

I had been contemplating about setting up a blog in English for a long time. This sure is a tough job for someone whose native language is not English.

I already have a blog in Turkish and write some articles for another as a guest writer.

Anyway, now that I have ample time due to quitting my job recently, I decided to take a shot at this.

I know it sounds not only stupid but also very un-frugal to quit one’s job given the worldwide economic crisis but, there is only so much stress I was willing to take. The level of stress was so high that, I started having nightmares, my weight and my blood pressure went completely out of whack. I decided to quit and devote all my time to taking care of myself and looking for a new job.

I have been living in İstanbul since August 2000 but, there are many places I haven’t been to yet. Now that I do not have a car anymore (I had been using a company car), I will go around İstanbul like a tourist and share the experience. I will of course make frugal choices and set a grugal example for all who would like to see İstanbul on a budget.

This blog will not only be about frugally touring Istanbul though. I have many other things in mind to share so, we will see how this blog will take shape. I am also on a quest to lose weight and get healthy. This will also be a subject I would like to share here.

Comments will be moderated. This blog is intended for family appeal, therefore the content and comments will be kept appropriate for all ages. I hope you will enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing.