Friday, March 31, 2017

High School Buddies

Last night I was out with a few HS buddies again. There is a club building that belongs to the Alumni Association. The service is good and the food is basic but very good. Also, it is inexpensive when compared to other places.

During the summer, they have an open pool that I had never used and a couple of tennis courts I used to play tennis with a younger friend.

Although this place is usually very quiet with just a few people dining there, last night it was very crowded. Apparently business owner graduates have a group of their own to do business and help each other. It is a nice thought but, I do not know if it works well. Two guys from that group was also our friends so, it was a pleasant surprise to see them.

A lady came to tell us that she envied us, the Class of  84, since we get together very often in big and small groups and at a resort every year on Turkish Riviera. She said she was from the Class of 80 and they were not like us at all.

It was a nice night. The other group had a talented piano playing lady and a gentleman who could sing really well. He sang both Turkish and English songs.

I came home right before the car turned into a pumpkin:)



Thursday, March 30, 2017

My Budget Now

I use an Excel File with several sheets. One sheet is dedicated to the budget, another one shows my Net Worth, another contains several account, pin, password info, another is vacation planning, some others are dedicated to following certain financial indicators like exchange rates of some hard currencies I invest in, the stock market historical data, gold prices etc. Needless to say the Excel is password protected.

On my budget sheet, the top few rows are for my income. For the time being, 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, vacations, cleaning lady and etc. I have a general category for spending that includes all my grocery spending including personal hygiene items and clothing needs plus eating out. 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 able 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 as soon as 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.

With a click of the mouse, I can tell my yearly income and how much I need for the entire year. My forecast is accurate by +/- 2-3% which is sufficiently manageable.

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. By looking at my projection, I can calculate when I would like to call it quits and fully retire without having to work ever again. There are still a few years for that:)

If you have a budget; is it monthly, yearly or longer term?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

My budget when I was a kid

For some reason, even when I was really little I liked to count my money, separate it into categories as to what I would like to do with each little sum.

Both my grandparents were very generous and for the two religious holidays we celebrate, they both gave me the highest valued banknote in circulation. Imagine being 7-8 and receiving USD 100 each from your grandmoms for Easter. Other relations would also give smaller amounts and after the holiday, I would feel filthy rich! Lol!

My mom still laughs at  the "pleasure" category my budget had. Well, I still have that category with the name of "Misc. and Fun"

I do not quiet remember my exact budget categories but mom remembers it went like this:

Books (I was an avid reader and although mom bought me a book every week, it would never be enough. If the book was "thin", I would beg her to buy two and usually succeeded at that)

Clothes and accessories (Although mom bought me everything, every once in a while I wanted to buy myself something that I chose myself such as fancy socks, hair accessories or something small like that)

School Supplies (Again, my folks bought what I needed but, I bought things I wanted.) I think choosing something on my own and paying for it from my pocket used to make me feel very grown up.

Pleasure (could be used for anything from buying treats for myself or treating friends to ice cream to buying story books or little toys for my baby sister)

Gifts (I would set aside money to buy gifts for Mother's and Father's Days and birthdays)

Savings (Even then, I was a saver)

I disliked sharing how much money I had even with my parents. I always thought it was a private matter and I still do believe that. So, I am amazed at the people who open their finances to others in their blogs. It surely makes their stories more believable and honest but, telling the world how much money or debt I had? Forget it! Not my thing. Only my sister has a general idea about how much I have.

I will talk about how I handle my budget as an adult later. Do you have a budget? Have you had budgets as a kid?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Married Life Finances Mom and Dad Style

Since I have always been on my own, I have made all my financial decisions myself. How is it with married people? Is it "our" money or is it "your money and my money separately"?

A post over at One Family One Income gave me the idea to talk about how my mom and dad handled their finances before the days of personal computers, Internet banking and automated payments.

In my country personal checks were never a thing; that is probably why it was so easy to get used to automated payments and internet banking once they became available. Even credit cards date back to very late 80s.

So, how did my folks handle the finances?

Both my parents were paid on a monthly basis as is the custom in this country. My father used letter sized engineering papers (square printed) as his "spreadsheet". Each payment and due date would be marked on it. They would bring in their salaries in cash, set aside the necessary amounts for each bill first. The remaining amount would be set aside for groceries and clothes shopping and etc. Since I was going to a private school, there was not much left to be saved but mom would always manage to save some money for the rainy days or surprise vacations. They would each take some pocket money.

Since there were no personal checks, all bills had to be paid in person usually having to stand in line. Thankfully, there weren't so many bills in the past.

We would not have much money for long vacations but, my dad's workplace had a couple of places ran sort of like a primitive resort at a low cost by the seaside and we used to go to one of those places where my folks later bought a summer apartment when my dad retired. We were always sent to my grandparents on my mom's side each summer. They had a house and a nice garden so, it was always a pleasure. Besides, my grandma on my mom's side was my favorite person in the whole wild world.

The spreadsheet for the particular month and all the money left over from the bills would be kept in a tea tin. It was a purple tin may be Ridgways or Twinings, I am not so sure:) Small savings or may be a small Emergency Fund would go into a cigarillo box just to keep it separate.

They worked for Government Agencies so, their pay was not great but, very stable. We lived in a company apartment my dad's workplace provided at a very small cost. It was less than a quarter of a regular rent. He used to walk to work because our apartment was in a campus where he worked. Mom and I and later, my sister had to take a bus into the "city" to get to work and school.

They have sacrificed a lot putting us through a private school just because they believed in a decent education. Luckily we never were in the private school simultaneously. I graduated, my folks took a nice vacation as a late honeymoon and the following year my sis started school.

As soon as I started working and earning money,  I started to contribute to our household income too. because, I was living at home, my sister was going to the same private school I had attended and my folks were making payments for an apartment for their retirement.

Looking back, we were really lucky to have such great parents. So, rest in peace Dad and long live Mom!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Stir Fried Veggies

Yesterday morning I made a big batch of stir fried vegetables. Onions, bell peppers, garlic, leftover celery, Brussel sprouts and a small thing of broccoli. Just what I had on hand.

I like it as it is or served with some garlic yogurt on top of it. Sometimes I take a cup of it and chop it into smaller pieces and add two eggs on it to make some sort of a veggie omelette or a frittata.

Sometimes I prepare some pasta and mix it with it. Or add stir fried chicken.

I never make the same mixture. It all depends on what is fresh at the grocery store at a good price. Stir fried veggies are such a simple yet versatile thing to have.

This week I am planning to eat more veggies. I am also eating a lot of fish lately because the hunting season will be over in a couple of weeks. Fresh fish is the best.



Sunday, March 26, 2017

Cleaning Day- I

Yesterday, I got rid of all the clutter in the living room, changed my handbag and cleaned out all sorts of unnecessary papers, cleared the kitchen counters and basically broke my back doing all this.

I have decided to do the Grand Spring Cleaning Event where I wash and re-hang all the curtains, get rid of the clutter in cupboards, bathroom and etc. Therefore, I asked the cleaning lady to come next week as well.

Today, she basically attacked the dust which had been accumulating for weeks now. Since it is going to rain I asked her not the wash the windows from the outside. Doing everything in a day is not possible.

The kitchen counters were a mess and it really is sad because, that custom kitchen had cost me two arms and two legs. As soon as the cleaning lady came in and started in my bedroom, I cut up my veggies and stir-fried them for Monday and Tuesday meals. Then, I started the dish washer. When she cleans the kitchen there will be nothing out of place.

I am actually proud of myself because, I am usually very lazy as far as housework is concerned.

I know that there are still tons of stuff that I need to get rid of. In the past I used to change jobs frequently and sometimes that meant moving. So, with each move, I used to get rid of unnecessary stuff every 2-3 years. Now that I have been living in my primary residence mostly since 2004, clutter is taking over. There has been a couple of years I worked in Ankara but I used to come home every month so, I had never really moved. These days, I am staying at the studio during the week but always coming home for the weekend.

I must make a To Do List. I also want the cleaning lady come every two weeks. It is not that big a cost (here in this country) and since I am especially allergic to home dust, I think I should spend the money. Besides the poor girl needs to work especially hard when I do not call her on a regular basis.

I keep noticing this and that to be fixed around my home. For instance, I need a new toilet seat cover which I will hopefully buy today.

Also the floors desperately need to be changed but I think I may postpone that business till next year when I will need to have my walls painted. I will try not to stare at the floors:)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Trying different things for breakfast

In Turkey, a standart breakfast would almost consist of white cheese (similar to feta but not quiet so sharp), black and green olives, eggs, some variety of mostly homemade jam, honey, butter, toasted or fresh bread and tea, brewed the way we like it.

On the weekends it could be much richer with additional varieties of cheese, some pastries, may be crepes, Turkish sausages and lunch meat type of stuff. Especially, if you go out to eat, they usually stuff you. Dried fruit, egg dishes, walnuts and such are served also.

To give you an idea, a sunday brunch would look typically like this:

Of course, we do not have such rich food every day. My daily breakfast is a cheese sandwich made in a sandwich maker, 4-5 olives and tea. May be some cucumbers and tomatoes.

So, I have decided to try different things lately. For instance today, I had two hard boiled eggs and an avocado.

I also like oatmeal, a habit I picked up living in the US. A typical Turk would not like it.

Tomorrow is going to be a real treat. I had brought Organic Grade A Maple Syrup from my last visit to the US. So, I will be making pancakes and top them with Maple Syrup.

It is possible to find Maple Syrup here but they are usually grade B and extremely expensive. So, whenever I travel to the US, I take two cylindrical detergent containers with me and put the maple syrup in them tucked in safely with lots of plastic bags. Never had a leakage.

I also happen to like all sorts Peanut Butter Sandwiches, again a habit picked up in the US.

Do you have different breakfast habits? What do you like to have for breakfast?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Losing Sleep over nothing...

Last night I slept a total of one and a half hours. That's what my wrist band tells me.

Why? I had talked about this person at work being very childish and irresponsible right? Well, at about 9 p.m. she called in a frenzy. She talked about a mishap at work and blew it out of proportion such that I was totally upset about the unprofessional manner one of our technical people handling a Customer request. I was led to believe that we f.cked up big time and that both our partner and our Customer are extremely upset.

Although, I did not think about this consciously, my brain kept me from a good night's sleep. I had a terrible night. Tried reading and it didn't work. Tried listening to an audio book to put me to sleep and nope, that didn't work either.

So, I came to work in a not-so-great mood.

We were supposed to address the issue the first thing in the morning and I started waiting for the promised conference call. A half hour passed and I found out that yesterday's caller was talking on the phone to the Team Lead and the person who was supposedly the cause of the problem was not there. I normally do not get cross with people but this time I did. I told them to get their act together and tell me starting from the beginning what the issue was and what kind of an action the Customer was expecting. They were a bit surprised and "heart-broken" because I was cross. Anyway, at the end of a half hour of discussions, I found out that the situation was not so bad after all.

I drafted a heart-felt apology along with a new method to comply with requests from the Customer side so that, this type of a problem would not happen again.

Why did I have to write it? For some reason a lot of educated people have trouble expressing themselves in their native language. It is such a shame that they were able to graduate primary school let alone High School or College.

Sorry for the rant but I just had to let it out!

I am hoping to catch up on my sleep over the weekend.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Clutter keeps me from being frugal!

I am the kind of person who would not move a finger if I do not feel like it and I usually do not feel like it at all. Well, may be "usually" is an understatement, I should say "most of the time". I just hate any type of housework. My mom is just the opposite and she is a neat-freak. Oh, how I wish she were here.

I have asked the cleaning lady to come on Sunday. I will do my best to get rid of the clutter on Saturday so, my apartment can be thoroughly cleaned.

I need to sort through my clothes and shoes to give away what I no longer wear.

I also need to clean the bathroom cabinets and put them in order.

When there is clutter, I do not see certain items in the cupboards and keep buying them. That is not frugal!

There are so many bottles of God-knows-what and I have no idea why I keep them. Also, I need to see how much and what kind of detergent I have on hand. I stupidly go buy stuff that I have and forget buying what is necessary. Dumb!

Wish me luck so that I will feel like doing what is necessary over the weekend...


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Vacation Plans

Ever since I had learnt that a big company was planning to buy us out, I had switched to a super saver mode and decided not to make vacation plans.

Now I know, that is not going to happen, therefore, I can start to make some vacation plans. I will still keep my budget modest.

I will be taking three weeks off. A week off late April, early May with mom, sis and BIL. We will go to Chios for three days and then stay in Izmir until the weekend. That will be my vacation with mom this year.

Later in the year, I will be going to the US for two weeks. I have already bought my ticket from Istanbul to New York at USD 470.-. That is a very good price.

I also booked a ticket from NY to Charleston, SC at USD 204.- Last time I drove and ate away too much time. Not doing it this time. Besides, it is less expensive.

Who am going to visit? Well, I have been friends with these amazing people since early 90s. The couple who live upstate NY used to be co-workers at a Turkish-American JV I used to work for. My friend living in SC now used to live in CT and she was also a co-worker at the same place. Over the years, her husband became a friend too and we have kept in touch in all these years despite the fact that I moved back to Turkey in 1992. Now that we have Whatsapp and Facebook, we communicate regularly. In the past we used to write long e-mails but they were not so frequent.

The couple visited Turkey once in all these years and the others never made it here. It is a bummer but it is life... Work, kids, health issues prevented them.

Whenever I get a chance, I like to go visit them. I am going to be 50 this year so, I do not know for how long I will be able to keep this up financially and healthwise.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

We are not being sold after all...

My boss told me that the big company who was so enthusiastic about buying us out has decided not to make an offer.

To be honest, I am glad. I know that there is the possibility of someone else making an offer in the future but it was just too soon for me.

Now that the gray cloud is lifted, I feel motivated once again. Also, I can start to make vacation plans. Yay!

My boss will be spending the summer away from Istanbul as he did during the last two summers. After that, he will most likely be relocating his family abroad.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sick as a dog...

It started with a blood pressure attack. Normally my blood pressure is under control but sometimes, for 24-48 hours, it suddenly rises and makes my head ache very much. As I was trying hard to control the blood pressure, my temperature rose and I got quiet sick. Used two personel days and bridged it with the weekend. Went to work on Monday only to feel worse and saw a doctor who thinks it's viral. She gave me some medicine to get rid of the symptoms but told me that, other than bed rest, she could not offer me more. So, I rested for another couple of days and got back to work today. I could stay in bed though.

I still feel pretty sluggish.

I had a very frugal week due to my sickness. I was hoping to go out with friends and possibly do some shopping over the weekend. None of that happened. I have a feeling that, this weekend will also be a frugal one.