Thursday, July 31, 2014

Keep losing...

Mom and I went to see our dietician today. Finally we have both lost weight during the last month. She gave us new lists and a three day protein only shock diet to follow in two weeks. This little success boosted our motivation.

Menu planning is easy for us. We eat very basic meals and always cook from scratch. We try to consume everything in season. Nowadays, we consume lots of string beans, zucchini, peppers, eggplants and tomatoes. We use only olive oil in our cooking. Our diet menu consists of a vegetable dish for one meal along with whole wheat bread and yogurt and another meal with a large salad and meat. Our breakfasts are pretty standard.

The dietician gives us a variety of snacks that are easy to pack so that we can take them anywhere with us like date palms, dried apricots, figs or some whole wheat crackers. When we feel like it we can have two-three scoops of ice-cream as a snack.

Buying in season has both health and taste benefits. Budget benefits are an added bonus.

Mom will spend the next two-three months at her home in Ankara but we will keep supporting each other over the phone.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I am looking sooo forward to the Fall

It is hot and humid in Istanbul. If it weren't this humid, probably we would not feel so hot. My apartment is probably the coolest apartment at this complex and if we stay home, we are fine. Going outside is torture.

We have been home for the last two days but tonight we would like to go out for dinner. We have barely enough stuff to last us till Friday when we are going to Ankara. I will leave mom there and return in a few days.

Work was scarce during the last month. Worse than the previous two months. We have not heard from the big project soooo, the future is a little blurry at this point. This is not bad but not good either. So, I am hoping there will be more work during the remaining months of the year.

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

Shopping

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.

Grandma;
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.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Early Birthday Present for Mom

Mom's Birthday is August 13th and I was thinking of getting her a Tablet PC because she is having trouble with my old laptop. She is used to using a touch screen since her cell phone is one of those smart phones with a touch screen. When sis bought herself an iPad, she gave mom her old Samsung.

Yesterday after a lot of fussing and mumbling she just had it with the laptop and closed it without reading her papers.

She asked me how much the tablets cost and told me she would get one when she gets paid her retirement pension in October.

I smiled and ordered one online as she was watching TV. Hopefully her tablet will be here today. I am hoping she will master using this better than the laptop. I am also hoping that she will be pleasantly surprised and happy for her present.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Taco Night!

Last night, I decided to make hard shell tacos. I sauteed chopped meat, prepared diced onions, homemade salsa, salad greens and some sharp local cheese. I used Mexican spices and it was easy, relatively inexpensive and tasty. I could not find avocados so, we had to skip my favourite, the guacamole.

Mom usually does not like to try "exotic" things. She is very classic minded when it comes to food but she also enjoyed the tacos although she found eating them a bit messy. I love some Chinese Food, some Thai, some German, most Italian and Mexican dishes. Turkish kitchen is very rich and I enjoy that too. Different regions have different specialties.

The package had 12 hard shell tacos and we used up 6. So, next week will be another taco night.

After dinner we had tea and called it a day.

Today's menu has mushrooms for protein and stuffed eggplants as a veggie dish. Eggplants are ready. I will have to sautee the mushrooms so, that will be easy.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Should I see another orthopedist?

Yesterday I went to see an othopedist thinking that I had Haglund's Deformity. That is a condition which can be cured by surgery and even though I am scared of surgeries in general, I was hoping to get rid of this problem but alas! The doctor sent me for an X-Ray and confirmed that it is tendinitis and there is no cure. I must wear comfortable shoes all my life. So no fancy shoes or even regular, normal shoes for me for life!

So far, I have been wearing a pair of Nike Air Maxes. They do not bother the back of my foot but, what happens in the winter? I do not know...

We'll see how I will handle this issue.... the....rest....of.....my....life :(

I have looked up the condition on the Internet and what I have read pretty much confirms the doctor's opinion but, should I get another opinion? I will talk to my sister who knows many doctors and quite a few orthopedists. May be she can schedule an appointment for me in Ankara.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hot, Hot, Hot!

Istanbul is hot and humid these days. Thank God there is a nice breeze today. We keep all windows open and my apartment is nice and cool. Walking outside is another story...

We bought mom a very firm mattress yesterday. It is this mattress. She tried a few others at a different store but liked this one the best. This was the firmest mattress they had. Hopefully, she will be comfortable sleeping on it.

Then we went to IKEA which is ten minutes from my apartment and strolled around to look at some bathroom furniture. Mom wants to do a little re-modeling right before the paint job in August. I think, most of what she wants is totally unnecessary but if it is going to make her happy, I am not saying a word.

Today I am going to see an orthopedist for my right foot. I think, I have Haglund's Deformity. We'll see what he will say.

Gotta go now...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mattress Shopping

Mom's back was giving her trouble for the few last months and I have realized that the mattress on the bed she is using when she is with me is too soft for her. So, today we are off to mattress shopping. This is an unexpected expense but, it can be built into my budget because I can pay in 9 instalments without interest.

The mattress on her bed hasn't been used much at all since it is my guest bed. There is another one which can be pulled out to accommodate another person. That bed was used perhaps 10 times in 7-8 years so, I have no intention of changing that one. Besides harder mattresses are thicker and it will not fit in the mechanism. So, when I change the upper mattress, the pull-out bed will not be the same level. Good thing is the pull-out part can be detached completely and can be used as a separate bed.

I have looked up two firm mattresses online and I want mom to pick the one she likes best.

We better get going...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

We like it clean...

We are back from our little trip to mom's cousin and I think half the way back we talked about how dirty and cluttered the house was. Mom is a neat-freak but it was even too much for me. I do not mind clutter as much but I cannot stand filth. The windows, the balcony, the kitchen sink, the bathroom, you name it, they have not seen a good scrubbing for very very long.

Her cousin was keeping her clothes on an armchair in the living room and when mom asked her if she did not have room behind the bedroom door or in any one of the closets, she shrugged and uttered something about being it easy that way.

I made up an excuse to make dinner so that I could scrub the kitchen sink and the stove. I even did not want to take a shower there. The shower stall was filled with dead bugs and spider webs.

This lady is a hoarder and a cheapskate. I am using the word cheapskate and not frugal because, I am telling you. I know what frugal is, thank you very much.

However, I am so glad we did this because, if we hadn't, mom would keep on saying that how she always invited us and how I did not take her there in ages. Now, I know she will never want it again. This cousin also has an apartment in Istanbul and she invites mom to that place too. To this day, I never let mom go and stay overnight there because I know those apartments are old and they are said to be not sturdy enough to stand an earthquake which is due any time in Istanbul. I know this is stupid but, hey I have only one mom! I do not think she will ever want to go and stay there now. So, I am fine with this.

Anyhow, we are back home and I am doing load after load of laundry. We shopped at the Farmer's market as we were leaving Didim so, today mom and I also cooked for the week. The last dish is in the pressure cooker. Once it is done, I will clean the kitchen! :)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

THANK GOD WE ARE HOME! YAY!

We are home! Had a light dinner and the second load of laundry is already in the machine. We shall watch two-three episodes of Hawaii Five-O and just take it easy.

It was a looong drive but, we are home to my beautiful, uncluttered and CLEAN home...

More on our experience later...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Wanna go back home...

We made it to mom's cousin on Sunday in about 9 hours! I jumped in water right away and relaxed a little bit.

Yesterday was a good day, I swam and pretty much did nothing and mom and her cousin played backgammon all day:) but, both mom and I are not very comfortable. Her cousin is super nice and she doesn't let me help with anything.  I feel like we are causing her extra work and her not letting me help is making me uncomfortable. Mom's discomfort is due to the fact that her cousin's summer home is very very cluttered. Normally, mom considers my home cluttered but there is no comparison. Well, mom is a neat-freak and she just cannot stand clutter. She cannot help herself.

Besides, there is a neighbourhood notion that we do not really understand or appreciate. Last night a neighbour called at 11:00 p.m.(!) and came to visit with her son. Mom and I were ready to go to bed so we just said hello and went to our room. Well it turned out that they came to say "welcome" to us! It is both a bit embarrassing and frustrating. I think mom and I have been city folks for so long that we do not understand the dynamics of small places. In Istanbul, I do not know any of my neighbours and I am fine with that. I certainly do not need people knocking at my door and conveniently inviting themselves at my bed time.

So, I asked mom if she wants to stay longer because I intend to go back home even if I have to work next week. Now that I can fly, it is easy. She said "no" so, I am going to make up an excuse to leave on Saturday. Before we leave, I will take her cousin out to dinner as a "thank you" and to shopping so that she can replenish her pantry. She does not have a car and it is difficult for her to go shopping without the help of someone.

I really want to go back home and be done with the summer vacation thing. I may go some place in the south in October for a few days.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Vaca-work? Workation?

Why do I have to make up a stupid header, I don't know...

Tomorrow, I am driving down to Didim on the Aegean to visit mom's cousin. On Tuesday, early morning I will head to Izmir to work two days at a Customer site. On Thursday before I head back to Didim for another few days, I will visit the wife of my lately deceased friend. In case there will be more work the week after next, we will keep on staying with mom's cousin. If not, we shall probably head back on the weekend or on Monday to avoid traffic.

I am glad I can combine some work and some vacation time. Mom will also get a break since we kind of started getting on each others nerves. Lol! Generally we get along well but after a while since we are both very dominant types, we need a break.

I love swimming very much. I must have been a sea creature in a past life so, I am really looking forward to good weather and lots of swimming.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Goals, Budgets etc.etc.

I used to make budgets when I was 8 years old or so. I gave up that habit during my twenties and early thirties. What a waste! I should have known better and kept up the good habit.

Anyway, I went back to good old habits of setting goals and making budgets sometime in my mid-thirties. I had set myself a goal of buying my first apartment by the age of 35 but, I could only manage that when I was 37 due to some bad and hasty career decisions on my part.

After I purchased my current residence 10 years ago, I did not set goals but kept saving money diligently. However, I did not know much about investing so, I probably missed some opportunities. Retirement Funds became available mid 2003 in Turkey and I decided to open an account. It is similar to US Roth IRA. Many people were skeptical about this new system but, having read many PF blogs, I decided to do it. Last year the Government decided that not enough people joined the system so, they announced that they will be matching contributions by 25%. Whoa! That is a great match! So, I decided to fund my retirement account as much as I could. Unfortunately, I cannot fund it up to the maximum allowed. I divert all my rental income to the retirement fund. I am short by about 27% each month. If all goes well this year, I may put in a lump sum before the end of the year.

Speaking of rental income, I purchased my rental apartment back in 2011 when I had moved back to Ankara for about two years. My savings were not earning much money, the rents were too high and I did not want to stay with mom for too long so, I took out a very short term loan of 36 months and put in all my savings to buy a 2 bedroom apartment. That loan is paid of as of this past May.

I am semi-retired and work part-time as a consultant. I collect SS (yes, my country is weird that way, the eligibility age is now much older but I was not affected by much, so I was able to retire at the old age of 45!) and collect rent. Those constitute my passive income which by the way is just about enough to cover my living expenses. So, any money I make through my part-time job is for goals and savings.

My primary goal is to take a month-long vacation in the US driving from NY to Florida and visit some friends in 2015. My other goal is to tear down the entrance, the kitchen and the balcony and re-do those areas from scratch sometime in 2016-17. I have a 2010 Nissan Note which I hope to keep until the end of 2018 if not more and then, get a new car.

Above are my goals and I hope to fully retire in 2023 when I will have full access to my retirement fund.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Changing Preferences

When I was at High School or at College, I needed complete silence to study. I would usually go to bed around 5-6 p.m. and last person at home to go to bed would wake me up. I would then study for 2-4 hours and go back to bed. This worked for me for years.
I am now semi-retired with a part-time job and whenever I need to work on a presentation or a report by myself, I find it so hard to concentrate at home. When I am alone, I procrastinate and when someone is around, I cannot concentrate. Strange huh?

So, I usually go to a coffee shop to work these days. I am still wondering why.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Urge to shop...

I guess some people have a tendency to shop when they go out even if they do not "need" the stuff they buy. My mom is one of those people. She never has debt. She lives within her means and even saves a little bit of her retirement income. However, she likes to spend money.

A few days ago, I casually told her my observation trying not to offend her after she suggested we should look at some shoes that were BOGOF. I do not need any shoes for a very long time. She surely doesn't need new shoes either. She just wanted to get them. I said I was not interested in getting any and since she definitely did not need two pairs, she gave up the idea.

She barely wears everything that she owns. Sometimes she even forgets what she bought and looks at similar stuff and when I remind her that she already owns a similar item, she admits, she forgot.

My dad always worried about money. My sister and I went to private schools and even though both my parents worked, money was somewhat tight. We never felt deprived of anything but my parents needed to watch our finances closely. I think mom felt deprived during those times. She was a young woman who needed to deal with a worrying spouse. Ever since my dad passed away, she is in charge of her own finances and although she did well, she also did purchase pretty unnecessary stuff all that time.

I was watching a TV show the other day and the young woman was telling that she had 78 bottles of nail polish and 27 lipsticks. No wonder she had some credit card debt. Some people are just like that. They cannot hold themselves. This is really a shame because this type of behaviour isn't just bad for the budget but for the environment as well.