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Archive for May, 2007

Take it with a grain of salt

May 31st, 2007 at 06:21 pm

Today I visited the University library at which I have alumna borrowing priveleges. There was a display of rare books, including an 1822 biography of Napoleon and a first edition of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary. He was a character who came up with his own opinionated definitions. The book was open at the one which reads: "stockjobber (ie broker) a low wretch who makes his living buying and selling shares." Given the unregulated market of his day, he was likely correct.

I took out a book on Salt, Health and Diet by a couple of medical professors. I'm finding some fascinating information about the history of salt and the role it played in the economy, as well as the effect on the body. Some snippets:

- Salt is not necessary in the diet. Many primitive tribes don't use it.

- The top cause of death in the 19th Century was apoplexy, or stroke, caused by high blood pressure from eating so much salt preserved food.

- Salt played a role in the South losing the Civil War. They didn't have enough to preserve the meat the troops ate, so the Confederate soldiers were starving and couldn't fight well.

- Manufacturers add more salt, and MSG, to cheap meats like sausages and luncheon meats because it is largely mechanically recovered ground meat and fat, and doesn't have much flavor. Another reason is that salt can absorb more water so they can make it more cheaply.

- Salt makes you thirsty so that is why bars serves salty snacks and fast food giants serve soft drinks. Many manufacturers of salty snacks also own soft drink concerns.

- Cutting down on salt in your diet helps you lose weight. Part of it is loss of body fluid, and also because you are cutting out high calorie foods like chips.

The other book I borrowed was Planet India: How the Fastest Growing Democracy Is Transforming America and the World by Mira Kamdar. Only flicked thru this, but it deals with the effects of jobs offshore on Americans, the rise of the Indian middle classes and the impact of technology on their economy, and the consequences on the poor Indian villages and the landless who flock to the cities for work. Having seen this at first hand myself, I look forward to reading what an Indian economist has to say about it.

Heh, I'm getting the equivalent of another degree - for free. Oh, and found 40 cents coming back across campus. Think I'll start a running tally in the side bar.

House value

May 29th, 2007 at 08:15 pm

I got sent an email from a property valuers informing me that the average property value in my area now sells for over nz$260,000,- so if I'm thinking of buying or selling, please contact them.

Mmmm, on my local body taxes demand I'm still valued at nz$128,000 from 2 years ago. I'm happy with that, as I don't want my taxes going up any higher, but I'm thinking I ought to check the replacement value on my insurance.

I don't think my place will be worth anything like nz$260,000 tho - it's just a comfy little 2 bedroom with a nice view. There are a lot of apartment buildings and renovated big villas around which are going like hotcakes, so I think that's what's driving the average up. In any case, I don't really count my house value as part of my net worth or retirement savings. Yes it's nice to know I can tap into some equity if needed, but I still have to pay the loan back - so no plans for borrowing apart from necessary repairs.

Wandering round the shops

May 28th, 2007 at 04:31 pm

There are two schools of thought about this. One says; stay out of shops as much as possible to avoid temptation. The other says; keep going back to get the best bargains. I shilly shally - actually I do like browsing to see what's on sale, but I impulse splurge far less than I used to. (I used to be one of those ooh-a-bag-sale-at-the-thrift-store-I'll-get-five-bags-of-stuff-I-don't-need shoppers)

But today I got lucky - thrift store was selling herb plants. I got some basil and lemon balm at a dollar each. I also saw two new stores had opened. One was a consignment store. Wow, did they have some lovely stuff! Many garments with the original price tags still on them - up to 80% off. Of course they were horrendously overpriced in the first place, which is why the store of origin probably went bust - but still good quality. Will definitely go back there when I am earning again.

The other place was a new Asian food store. Lots of very cheap convenience foods - catering to local Asian students. I prefer the one in town where I can buy mung beans, big bags of rice, vegetables and other real food. I ocassionaly get some soy or other sauce, but all that MSG does me no good. The only thing I bought today was some soy milk for nz$1.70

Going past McD's drive in I remembered I had some packets of their ketchup still sitting in the pantry - it was from when a friend came round with burgers as a treat, but he doesn't eat ketchup - So when I got home I made a risotto with the last red pepper and squeezed in McD's blood for some flavor. Well, let's just say I'm glad I've got some herb plants now.

Trying to stay in fashion

May 28th, 2007 at 01:41 am

Now as a thrift store habituee I must admit I don't pay much attention to fashion, I just buy what I like. But a couple of gentle hints have been dropped that I am a little bit - uh, showing that I'm now in late youth and still wearing the clothes that were popular in my - trendier years. Important to dress for success if I'm job hunting! And since losing weight I need new clothes anyway.

So I decided to spend some time browsing the Main Street stores, then I'd know what to look for - in the thrift stores, of course. Well! I found some of the clothes pretty enough, but the prices! Oh me, my wallet would have a heart attack if it had to pony up over nz$20 for a few flimsy bits of material poorly sewn together. Some of those things look like they will become shredded rags the first time they are laundered.

So I left the teenagers to it and checked out the higher end of town, where the succesful business women shop. Now there was some really nice stuff, well made - but nz$120 for a simple black top with some beads sewn on? Reminds me of when I was a teenager; we used to get a plain T shirt and applique or embroider a motif on it ourselves rather than pay for a fancy one. Now I still have some cheap jewellry from India, so I was thinking I will just get a basic top and sew the beads on myself - come to think of it, why not just wear a plain top with a pretty necklace? You wouldn't need to worry about beads coming unsewn and blocking the pump!

I don't think I'll spring too much for a new wardrobe until I know what sort of job I get, but best dressed working women I know told me to go for basic black with a few solid colors - much easier to coordinate and saves time having to make deicsions. In the meantime I've borrowed Trinny and Susannah and Stacy and Clinton from the library as they haven't yet arrived at my front door with $$$ and a team of stylists to make me a knockout.

Oh and a NS day - second in a row - plus I found 80 cents.

Emergency fund

May 26th, 2007 at 04:54 pm

Happy to say I am still working on this number one goal of $5000 in emergency fund, despite tinyness of income. I am now at nz$3340. If I can keep it intact until I get a decent earning job I will be very happy. When everything seems to go on bills it's easy to get blue.

For those who are still struggling to pay off debts, I found in my case that it helped to be working on a positive savings goal at the same time. Obviously not have 000s in the bank that could be used to reduce interest paid on loans, but maybe put spare change towards a weekend away or a new car or whatever tickles your fancy. I just got too discouraged thinking everything fun had to be put off till the mortgage was paid. It is important to establish the savings habit immediately, IMHO, or you may wind up like so many people who pay off the credit cards and then run them up again because they haven't learnt good habits. I think David Bach calls this the "bury the past, jump to the future" approach or something like that. Rather than argue over whether every extra dollar should go off the loans or be stashed away, I take a 50/50 approach.

Free food diet

May 26th, 2007 at 04:35 pm

I went to a 50th party and ran into an old college friend. She complimented me on my new trim figure (tho the way I was eating the weight will go back on soon!) She told me about a new diet she'd heard of - the free food diet. You only eat if someone gives you food, not buy any. She reckoned it was doable in her case as she and her hubby go to so many business and social events where food is provided. Just think of the money you'd save on groceries and dining out!

Out of curiosity I kept an eye out for free food as I went back home across the campus. You wouldn't believe the amount of partly eaten burgers, fries, sandwiches, pizzas, fruit etc, which I'd be happy to grab if I were a street child in Mumbai. Also saw a couple of well known winos collecting bottles and cans. Also found $1 which I did pick up. These are the kids which are forever whining about their student loans.

When I got home a neighbor had left some windfall apples and walnuts for me. Now those I was happy to take.

Oh and I totalled up the amount of food I'd eaten at the party on fitday.com - 3508 calories! Maybe this free food diet could wind up being fattening ...

Things are looking up

May 24th, 2007 at 06:39 pm

Had a job interview yesterday which I felt went quite well. It is a reception position for a gym - with a free gym membership thrown in! The only snag is it starts at 6 am. Still, we shall see, I have a couple other applications in the pipeline.

I mislaid my library card the other day and was cursing because it costs $4 to replace - but it turned up at the bottom of another bag.

Work and Income recently insisted I owed them money and had to pay it back at $10 a week, but now admit that it was an error on their part. Phew - I was thinking I'd have only nz$20 for groceries.

The Salvation Army thrift store at the bottom of the street has a free box outside. This morning I checked it and got 2 free books - In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and Deadlock by Sara Paretsky. I shall be in the height of luxury this evening, soaking in a hot bath with a cup of coffee and reading of gruesome murder.

Retirement savings

May 21st, 2007 at 05:31 pm

I got my annual statement today. Because I worked parttime, I was able to add $360, and the interest added came to a $1000. Smile - now have nz$19,180.

This is in a private scheme. If I can stave off starting a new job until Jul 1 I will be eligible to join the new Govt Kiwisaver scheme, with a $1000 bonus beginner deposit and contributions up to 4% of salary from employer. (No, this doesn't mean I'll turn down a good offer that comes my way if I have to start earlier.)

Big Day Out

May 18th, 2007 at 01:41 am

My friend H, who had a breakdown earlier, is doing well now, and I spent the day in town with her. We both have to be very careful with our money, so we went to the thrift stores, where she was quite excited to find such good clothes so cheap (having always bought from high price stores) I got 2 very nice tops for $2 each.

This month is NZ Music Month and a lot of the churches are having free lunchtime concerts. We went to First Church and listened to a violin sonata played by senior music students. It is really neat being a college town - we can get to hear talented young musicians before they become famous and cost a fortune.

Then we took in a doll exhibition at the museum - for free. They were just so beautifully dressed, and they sell for around $800 each. H said, "you know, you can look at things and you don't have to buy them." I am so pleased she's getting it.

We finished up going to the supermarket and buying some surimi, pineapple and a couple individual quiches which are sold at half price at the end of the day. Then went back to my place, made a salad and sat and listened to Van Morrison. Paris Hilton, eat your heart out - we couldn't have been any happier if we were millionaires.

Having said which, I now realise I left the bag with my new tops in her car, but I'll pick them up later.

Total spent today nz$10.70

Out of the blue

May 16th, 2007 at 01:59 pm

I received a check for $29.97, for some remaining holiday leave. Not much, but enough to put a smile on my face. So I splurged on an hourlong phone call to ds in England.

Also recieved an invite from the Brahma Kumaris (the organisation I went to India with) to attend a Self Managing Leadership weekend program, covering purpose, vision, values and goalsetting. Lunch provided and all free. I am looking forward to it.

Job hunting

May 14th, 2007 at 02:29 pm

Got two "thankyouforyourapplicationweregrettotellyouyouhavenotbeensuccesful" letters, so am feeling a bit blue. I really thought I had a good chance at the bookstore one in particular.

It costs me each time I make an application: nz$1.40 for an A4 envelope and stamp, plus the ink and paper for printing out CV and letter. Then busfare to an interview - unfortunately job hunting costs are not reclaimable from Work and Income.

Previously when I kept myself busy with volunteer work I was given a small allowance for travel and lunches, but this is no longer payable to the unemployed, only to sickness and invalid beneficiaries. I'm tempted to write to the Minister of Social Welfare and ask him what genius came up with that idea. I would have thought it better to encourage unemployed to at least do something.

Ah, it's not just the lack of job and money that's getting me down. I'm missing ds and also grieving for dad. Also coming into winter here and that can be cold, damp and miserable. So I had a dig thru my stash and pulled out some bright red wool to knit myself a cheerful scarf.

Tithing (long)

May 9th, 2007 at 01:47 pm

There is a thread on the forums about this so if anyone is interested in my POV...

When I found myself unable to work and facing medical bills, I sat down with my minister and the treasurer and we worked out a budget for me. When it was clear that I didn't have an income big enough to live on 90%, my minister said that part of the original use of the tithe was to help poor people. As I was now officially poor, I should not pay the tithe - in fact the church should be helping me. Which they did, with food parcels and the building team helped with home repairs and tending the garden.
I am now at the point where I am able to pay a portion to my church; when I get work I hope to be able to gradually get back up to 10%.

My church always provides financial counselling for people who are having difficulty, and will alleviate the tithe if there are genuine difficulties. If it is just bad money management, they are expected to tighten their belt and make a plan to pay off debt while continuing to contribute to the church. The ideal is:
80% bills and debt payment
10% tithe
10% savings

If this cannot be done, then they may start by saving and giving as little as $5, and gradually increase it to a percentage. Our minister insists that no one should compromise their future (retirement savings) for the sake of giving to the church, as they will wind up a burden in their old age. Nor does he insist on the full 10% being given to the church; most people give 6 or 7% and support charities of thier choice with the rest.

I do not think tithing is a "magic key" unless it is accompanied by good management of the 90%, and the churches' responsibility is to teach this. I agree it is disgusting when a church demands tithes from poor people and the minister lives in luxury while the congregation struggle - I have seen this happen with a church that had a lot of people on welfare. A few found their situation got better and gave glory to God; most wound up walking away in despair, their faith shipwrecked.

ETA: I was responsible for ds at the time. The key verse given me was "If any provide not for his own, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." My minister said he couldn't think of a better way to turn a child into a heathen than to have the parents giving to the church while not meeting the child's needs. (needs, not wants)

Another verse to bear in mind is: "Children should not lay up for their parents, but parents for their children." That is where the saving for retirement comes in. It is wrong if people give to the church all their life and wind up dependent on their children. In those cases the church should pay back the tither by helping them out.

So in a situation of real hardship don't feel bad if you can't make the tithe; remember - "if the eagerness to give is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have."

New Rags for Old

May 9th, 2007 at 01:54 am

Now that my old clothes are too big for me, I thought I would try selling some of the better quality ones thru a consignment store. Today a check arrived for one of my suits - $30. I was very pleased as winter is setting in here and I needed a new coat. Set off to the thrift store and found a very nice one for $20. The remaining $10 will be set aside for new underwear.

Happy memories

May 4th, 2007 at 01:59 pm

I haven't blogged for a while, i know. It's been a bit of a struggle lately, and I'm rather depressed about having so little money to live on. It's nice catching up with you guys, to know I'm not alone and see everybody working so hard toward their goals.

Today I had a job interview, which i think went well. The interviewer asked me one question - what was the achievement I was proudest of? I suppose I should have said something work related, but the first thing came to me: I'm really proud of the fact tho I had nothing after my relationship breakup, I managed to buy a house for myself and ds - and get it paid off in 15 years.

Well, he WAS impressed. He said, "that's amazing. I'm 55 and I'm scared I won't get my mortgage paid off before retirement." I didn't say I only had a little cottage, and he prob has a huge mansion, but I went home feeling much happier. I remember when I got the final letter from the bank, I threw a mortgage burning party. It felt like a great burden had been lifted off me to be debtfree.

Since then I've been drifting a bit I guess. I was so focused on that goal, i wasn't sure what to do next, and the idea of saving up 00s of 000s for my retiremnt seemed so enormous, it was hard see progress. But now I'm motivated to get started again. When you're a bit down it helps to remember past victories.