Saturday, November 30, 2013

Don't know what to think... yet...

There is a development which may significantly affect my finances in a bad way. I am a bit stressed but, I must be patient to see what happens. Then, and only then I can make sound decisions. So, I shall wait this storm out...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

One of my favorite Holidays of the U.S. !

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate!

Monday, November 25, 2013

2014 Financial Goals towards Total Financial Independence...

Today I found out how much extra I would have to pay into my retirement fund to get the maximum Government match. The problem is that I am short of cash so, I had to give up a part of my investments. I decided to part with 20% of my gold investment. I made 6% in 5 months on gold so, although it is declining sharply, this is a clean profit. I have sold the gold and put the money in my retirement fund. The government will match it by 25% which to me is a great deal.

In 2014, I shall be paying the maximum to my retirement account.

Unless the Stock Exchange plunges, I do not think I will be investing in individual stocks in 2014. I have enough risk exposure to stocks in my retirement portfolio. However, since I have 9,5 years to go before I can touch that money without having to pay extra taxes, I am comfortable with that.

I will be basically purchasing US Dollars and keep a bigger cash cushion in a savings account.

I also will not be purchasing any more gold.

So, based on the above decisions, I have set my 2014 goals which I will be tweaking a little by the end of December.

2014 is an exciting year for me because I will be truly Financially Independent by May-June. This does not mean that I will stop working. I think, I would like to work until June 2023 when I will be 56.

Lately I had been contemplating whether I started to work on a part-time basis too early or not. I cannot see what lays ahead and this somewhat bothers me. I also think my rate is a bit on the low side. I do not know if it would make sense to actively seek a full time job. In any case, I think I should stay put until May.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Friend

Today I invited a friend over to have a cup of coffee and chat. We see each other occasionally and she is a very busy person. She runs her own business, has 8 year old twins at home and basically has a real busy life.

Having today's break was refreshing for both of us. Lately I haven't been myself and she recommended someone who has been helpful for her in the past. All in all, a good chat with a good friend is refreshing. I feel good...

Friday, November 22, 2013

Technology and Old(er) People...

My mom is normally a very sharp person. She has a Bachelor's Degree, she is versatile, witty and pretty quick to grasp things. However, when it comes to very basic technology, she suddenly becomes...weird? She acts funny as if she never really wants to learn this stuff yet, she has to at least a little bit.

Her cell phone was one of those fool proof archaic ones and she absolutely loved it till it broke down lately. So, my thoughtful sister gave her, her old Samsung phone. It is a touch phone and it is smart. My mom? Not very much so... She is getting used to the phone reaaaaalllllyyyyy slooooooooowly...

She bought a new TV (smart) this year and her cable service had to be upgraded. However the idiot who went to bring the new box and take the old one out screwed up big time and she ended up having two subscriptions with some period commitments. If you cancel either of the subscriptions, there is a penalty. Mom of course did not realize this when the installation was being done. I pay for that service and when I saw two charges on my credit card, I inquired about it and found out the whole stupidity.

I had to call the cable company and pretend that I was mom because they want to talk to the member only and mom wants none of this mess. I was on the phone for several minutes and finally got the cable company understand that there has been a mistake and that it was not on our side.They told me they would take care of it and then they would inform me. I called mom and told her what has passed and told her that she would soon receive a call as to whether the problem was fixed or not. Did she listen to me? I thought she did but, apparently I was wrong. So, when the company called her up to inquire further about the membership numbers, she told them the problem was fixed! Why? Because, I took charge and talked to the cable company and for her that was it. So, a month later, I found out that the problem still existed, called the cable company twice again pretending to be mom and re-do the whole "it wasn't our fault so why penalize us?" thing.

I gave them my number and took hers out of the cable company's system but, her home phone cannot be erased. So, I called her up again told her what was going on twice and told her if she ever receives a call she should NOT tell that the problem is gone. Ahhhhhh! I feel tired. Such a simple problem yet it requires so much talking and re-addressing.....

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Frustrated with the Customer...

I think we are about to reach a point of dropping this Customer. No matter what we do, we do not seem to make any progress because their General Manager does not want any change. The boss, who is the owner is desperate. He had his business managed by not very competent people and did not intervene in what they did for a very long time. They are no longer able to keep up with the changing environment and they have started losing serious money.

I would have fired the 3 people at the top months ago. The boss is afraid to let them go and this makes matters a lot worse.

For a few weeks we thought we were finally making progress and really getting them understand what needs to be done. Last week, everything came to screeching halt. Again...

So, we shall see what happens. I might be required here for some work until March but the Change Project may come to an end.

It is really frustrating to see our honest effort and time going to waste even if we do get paid. I wish I could contribute to people who really would like to make a difference.

We'll see what happens in the months to come.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Never let your mind wander...

Today, I caught myself thinking about paying up the remaining debt on the rental property. I have 6 months to go and a part of me wants to do away with that debt right NOW! However, this is pretty stupid because at this point, there will be very minimal interest saved and there really isn't much left to pay.

On the other hand, if I contribute extra to my retirement fund, Government will match it by 25%. That is a much better choice. Who is giving us 25% these days?

I must go find out how much extra I can contribute to my retirement account and whether I can comfortably do it. Next year, I will try to contribute the maximum to benefit from the maximum Government contribution. It should be doable especially after May, once the rental property debt is gone. Patience T'Pol...

Last night I went out with friends and it was a looooong night. I met the girls in our group couple hours prior to our get together and we went into a wine place. After much needed girl talk and two glasses of wine, we joined the guys at a nice restaurant. Some more wine and way too much food later we decided to pop in at a Jazz Club and ended up spending an hour and a half there. I took a cab home instead of picking up my car from where I parked because, I had drunk more than I ever do. Normally I drink only one glass of an alcoholic beverage and take charge as the designated driver. It was a very good night. We are having so much fun with this group and I hope to be able to do it for many years to come in good health.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Baked Falafel... Inadvertently:)

Last night I soaked some chick peas. My intention was to cook them and use them in soups and salads for a while but I forgot to time the pressure cooker and my chickpeas turned very mushy.

I scratched my head as to what I should make with them. I immediately thought of hummus but I don't have any tahini at home and also it is fattening. I like falafels but I never made them. I did not want to fry anything so I looked up baked falafel recipes and I found one which I could easily make. After the chicken came out of the oven, I put the falafels in and they turned out to be quiet good.

I am all set for the week ahead.

Choices

A not so close friend of mine contacted me over Facebook to say that she would be in Istanbul during the weekend and that it would be nice to see me. She called me yesterday and I was really feeling crappy due to my period so, I told her I could not go out at night, but we could have breakfast today. I guess her plans were different so we decided we could not get together this weekend.

A bunch of old High School mates are gathering today and I really wanted to go but I am still feeling not great. Besides, tomorrow night I am supposed to meet with my regular buddies and that usually ends up to be an expensive night. I could not justify eating expensive meals out two nights in a row so, I called my school mates to say I will not be able to make it.

Just a few minutes ago I was about to place a food delivery order online because I am not feeling well but suddenly I realized it is going to be both expensive and unhealthy. So, I decided to go to the grocery store which is like 2 minutes on foot to get my weekly food shopping done. I am now leaving this post to run to the store and I will complete it when I get back with a tally of what I had bought.

..............

OK, I am back and here is what I bought for 44 TL roughly around USD 22-23:

A Whole Chicken
Tomatoes
Satsuma Mandarines
Yogurt
Broccoli
Iceberg Lettuce
Arugula
3 cans of Light Ice Tea
Spinach Pie

I am surely glad I walked over to the store. It would be pure laziness otherwise and I would have eaten in an unhealthy manner. I am not going to defend the purchase of Spinach Pie and the Light Ice Tea but every once in a while those should be OK. I have limited the consumption of sugar and artificial sweeteners significantly. I probably consume a can of light soda or iced tea per week. It shouldn't be so bad.

The chicken, the broccoli and the salad material should provide me enough lunches and dinners till Wednesday when I will be travelling again. I think there will be even leftover chicken which I might end up freezing.

So many choices we have to make within a day... I feel good about my choices today.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Home!

I came home very early this morning. I still cannot fly so I take the stupid bus which takes 8 hours at night. I have a heavy case of my period so, as soon as I got home, I took everything out of my suitcase, dumped them on the floor by the washing machine, took off what I was wearing and added them to the pile and jump in the shower. After a nice relaxing short shower I went to bed and opened my eyes at lunch time.

I am done with all the laundry as I am typing this. This is a no spend day for me so, I am eating out of my freezer. I do not have the stamina to go out and do grocery shopping for the week so, that will be done tomorrow. I  had the last of the homemade yogurt so, I must go shopping.

I have been throwing out lots of worn out underwear lately so, I checked my stash to see if new underwear shopping is on the horizon. It turned out that it is. I took out 5 new underpants which brought my stock to under 10. I usually stock up on underpants when they are on sale and always have lots of new ones still in their original packages. I think I bought new ones over a year ago so, no wonder my stash is now so low.

There are a couple of stores I would like to check out so, probably, Monday is a better day to do that.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Important Milestones in May 2014!

I have 6 more months to go on the bank debt for my rental property. In May 2014, I will be the proud owner of two apartments one being my primary residence free and clear. Both apartments are humble, small residences with 2 bedrooms. Right now I am paying more to the bank than I can collect as rent on the second property. However, finishing off the payments in 3 years was important to me.

I am so looking forward to May. I will have a significant breathing room in my budget and will start saving for more home renovation, a vacation in the US and a new car in 2018.

The best part is; after May 2014, my passive income will be just enough to cover all my living expenses. What I bring in due to the part-time consulting job will be icing on the cake.

In my country, we did not have retirement accounts like the 401Ks or the IRAs up until 2003. The Social Security system was sufficient up until the l1990s but, due to poor political decisions, people could retire early and the social security system started showing signs of insufficiency. The Government raised the retirement age gradually but it is still low when compared to developed nations. In 2003, a private system was introduced as a voluntary supplement to the social security which is similar to the Roth IRA in the US. I joined the system in May 2004. The system requires a minimum of 10 years of active payment and a minimum of 56 years of age to take advantage of the full tax benefits.

The Government is matching our payments by 25% to encourage participation to this system. Of course it does have a cap. They contribute a maximum of USD 127 per month. To me, that is free money to be snatched up. My mandatory 10 years will also be up in May 2014 but, I shall continue contributing to the system as long as the Government support continues. I am 9 years away from 56.

Many people were skeptical about the system and so was I but, it turned out to be a good deal. However, it is not something I would solely depend on. I read a lot of US blogs and select the funds in my retirement account based on what I learn from them.

Hope, I will reach financial freedom in May 2014, in good health too...


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Reviewing Bills help save money

Today, as I was looking at my credit card bill, I have realized that the bank was charging me about 50 cents to process an automated payment for ADSL. That is not a significant amount but it is a stupid charge. I immediately cancelled that payment and set up a new automated payment with my other bank. That one does not charge me anything.

I had never seen that charge before so, I am assuming it is something new. I didn't even bother contacting the bank, just made the change.

I think everybody is after our hard earned cash one way or the other and we should be alert to keep our money in our pockets.



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Found Money!

As I was trying to control clutter in my pocketbook and my wallet, I came across a return merchandise credit note which I had totally forgotten. It is from a Home Depot style store in Turkey. It is worth a little over USD 50. I was so happy an I immediately thought of replacing the hangers in my closets with those velvet covered ones and went to see how many I would need.

The moment I opened my closet, I just looked at all the sturdy hangers that served well up until today and decided to give it some time to think this over. The note is valid for a whole year and what is the rush? Why should I throw away perfectly good hangers?

I may actually end up buying something I truly need vs. velvet covered hangers that I want.

Besides, I should take down my kitchen cabinets to see what items need replacing and what items can be given away. If I need something replaced, I can use the store credit for that purpose. If not, I can hold onto the note until something I truly need comes up.

Oh the shopping bug! Go away!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The 7 things before the New Year Challenge

There are 7 weeks till December 31st so I have decided to challenge myself to de-cluttering and re-organizing 7 areas at home.

They are as follows:

1. Guest Bedroom closets and the junk drawer
2. Bedroom closet and the bookcases
3. Living Room console and the TV stand
4. Balcony storage unit and the balcony in general
5. Kitchen cupboards
6. The fridge and the freezer
7. The car

I am going to attack one of those places every week and break down the task into days so that I will not feel overwhelmed and give it up all together (I hope).

Now the question is: Where do I start? Where do I start?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Stuffed Grape Leaves, Meat Patties... A day of cooking...

Yesterday I bought some grape leaves and stuffed them with a mixture of ground beef, onions, rice and parsley. I love this. I think it is my favorite dish but the leaves were not too great so some of them got wasted. I ended up with more ground beef mixture than I wanted so I rolled them into meatballs and cooked them in tomato sauce and added the remainder of the broccoli I bought last week. That is going to be tonight's dinner.

Tomorrow night I am having some of the stuffed grape leaves and freezing the rest.

I made patties with the remaining beef and used up the remaining parsley. I have 6 portions of patties in the freezer as of this moment.

For tomorrow's lunch, I will take down the frozen eggplants which I believe spent too much time in that freezer. Tomorrow's lunch and dinner will help me in using up the yogurt I made. I also need to use up all the salad material before Tuesday. I will be on a business trip till Saturday.

I snatched toilet paper and paper towels at a deep discount yesterday so, I am happy. I think the paper towels will last me at least 8-9 months. I use rags around the kitchen so not a lot of paper is wasted.

I also came across a great deal on tablet dish washer detergent but, I passed since I already have too much on hand. Last year I had bought them at a very good discount and I still have at least 3-4 months worth of stuff.

Today is a no spend day and I am hoping to make tomorrow a no spend day as well. On Tuesday I expect to spend a little and the rest of the week I get reimbursed for dinners. Breakfast is at the hotel, lunches are provided by the customer.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Do without?

Lately I have started noticing some of my teflon pots and pans are getting worn out. I have been thinking of replacing them with the ceramic coated ones but then, it struck me: What if I do not need all that many pots and pans? Can I get rid of the ones that are worn out and do without them? This way I will know if new pots and pans are needs or wants.

I really should take the kitchen cabinets down and get rid of things that are no longer being used and are worn out.

Sometimes, I feel like kitchen stuff is coming out of my ears. I have some stainless steel pots that I had bought back in 1993 and they seem to be indestructible. I use them very very often.

I now need to find the enthusiasm to tackle the kitchen cabinets...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Slashing my cell phone bill by half!

Recently, I have decided to check my cell phone usage and realized that I wasn't even using half of my plan. So, I called up the company to inquire if there was a plan which would suit my needs better and save me some money. Starting next billing cycle i.e., December, I shall be paying 29 TL (USD 14) instead of the 62 TL (USD 31), I am currently paying. My new plan covers 300 minutes, 300 messages and 300 MB Internet. Took me all of five minutes on the phone and I feel satisfied. It is not a big deal of money but still something. Why pay for something you do not use? Right?

I have a SONY Ericsson W995i phone that I had purchased back in December 2010. It is a great phone which has Internet, some nice applications such as a step counter, Facebook,water level, a navigator (that I do not use at all). I do not use IM apps anyway so, I do not really care it doesn't support Whatsapp or others. It is a walkman phone with an MP3 player and radio. If you only use it for calls and looking things up on the Internet, the battery still lasts for at least 3 days which is something you do not see with smart phones.

Many friends of mine make fun of my phone and tell me to get a smart phone which to me are unnecessarily expensive. Well, unless this phone is broken beyond economical repair, I have no intention to buy a new phone. I had used my former SONY Ericsson W550i for four years and if I hadn't forgotten it in a cardigan's pocket which went into the washing machine, I would still be using it:)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

One last thing to be fixed or, so I hope!

As the contractor was drilling a hole for me to hang a picture, he damaged an electrical wire which basically carried electricity to the outlets in my bedroom and the guest bedroom.

This was over a week ago but, I could not attend to the problem since I needed to travel.

Today, the electrician came to look at the problem and right now he is making a big mess of making a really big hole in the wall to get to the wire to fix it. Mind you, we are talking about concrete walls here not any other easy to take down material.

Well, that wall has been 1. painted, 2. damaged, and 3. damaged even further.

It will have to be re-painted after the repair is done and no, I am not hanging any pictures on it!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How much have I saved?

My car was approaching the 90,000 Km. mark where it would require one of the most expensive maintenance fees at 890 TL (USD 445). This month Nissan Turkey advertised a promotion on winter maintenance for all Nissans over the age of 3. Their offer is at 260 TL for my Note. I brought in my car today but the promotion does not cover everything that is covered under a regular 90,000 Km maintenance such as the replacement of the alternator belt. They noted those as extras.

It turned out that my alternator belt was in pretty good shape and they decided that it could wait until 105,000 Km. maintenance. I love my dealership. They are honest and I never think of getting my car serviced elsewhere. I was charged only 425 TL (USD 212.50)

I am glad that I was able to save quiet a bit of money.




Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Is it me or are there others like that out there?

The most common advice in terms of frugality is "Never shop when you're hungry." I agree with this statement 100% but it also has a side effect for me. Sometimes being full makes it impossible for me to shop. I especially find it hard to buy meat while I am full. Being full makes me picky. Many times I walked from fish to chicken, from chicken to red meat and ended up not buying any kind of meat. Then at night when I am hungry, I realize that I do not have anything appropriate to eat and end up eating something that may not be a wise choice.

I wonder if it happens to others?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Participating in a Blogosphere Challenge!

I have decided to participate in SFT's Sealed Pot Challenge this year. Please visit her blog to see what it is like.

This year my budget took a big hit because of some miscellaneous expenses that I could not foresee such as gifts, unexpected and unplanned repairs. Therefore, I have decided to build a fund for those. I am sure it will be fun and I will discover many new and interesting blogs.

Money is tight for November and December and I must be careful. I am sure, I will not be able to make my Cash Goal by the end of the year even though I have exceeded the other categories. However, cash is shorter than I would like so, this is not good.