Financial Fitness and Where to Start

Fitness” has been a widely used word in the recent years. From physical, to mental, and even relationships. But what about your finances? Financial fitness is as important as all the other ones. Lack of knowledge on how the money works will cause you to fail.

AWARENESS/EDUCATION

The first step to be financially fit is to understand your cash flow: inflow and outflow. This is like stretching– your pre work-out routine. Once you get a good grasp of this, then you’ll be ready to work out the building blocks of your financial life.

Adding the value of your assets and subtracting it with your liabilities will give you an overall picture of your financial standing. As a warning, you might even end up negative. But don’t lose hope, this is only the first step. And just like working out, this only means that you have some work to do.

PLAN

Now that you’ve taken the first step, the next and the most important one is to PLAN. Make your short term and long term goals. And an important part of planning these goals is “budgeting”. Make sure you know your monthly net income, and work your budget around this.

Needs vs Wants:

The first thing in your budget list should be what you need. This does not only stop with bills, you should also take into account your taxes (if already being deducted from your paycheck, take into consideration that you might still have to pay additional at the end of the tax year) and insurance (if medical insurance is already being deducted, you still have house and car insurance). Your short term goals should include monthly bills. Then the mid-term goals should include taxes. And your long term goals should include paying off your mortgage, any other loans, and your credit card bills.

After budgeting what you need, then you can budget what you want. Let’s face it, work without rewards makes working harder. We still need to reward ourselves every once in a while. Whether it be buying something you like, or eating out at a nice restaurant or even getting massages. But remember that with this you have to consider “What you can afford vs what you cannot afford”. So what if you really like something that you can’t afford at the moment? Let’s say you want to buy yourself a pair of shoes that costs $300 but you can only budget $50 per month for your “wants”. Set aside that $50 until it becomes $300. But at the same time don’t consider that $50/month as savings, consider it as money already spent.

SAVINGS

After you become aware of your financial standing, and budgeted your needs and wants, the next step is to ensure your future.

Emergency Fund

One thing you can’t be certain about is the — FUTURE. What if you lose your job, or something happens that will prevent you from working? Remember bills don’t stop coming even if you’re not working. Or what if something happens that would require a big amount of money? It is encouraged that you have an emergency fund of at least 6 months’ worth of your monthly bills. This is to give you enough time to find another source of income.

Retirement

Who wants to work forever? Even if you’re a workaholic, there will come a time when your body won’t let you anymore. So what will be your source of income then? As they’ve said, the old way of thinking of working until the retiring age and living happily after is over.  These days you have to be proactive with your retirement/savings.

You can only do this by making sure that your savings will yield you profit and that is through investing. But let’s face it, the word “INVESTING” can be scary. We always associate investing with “either you lose or you win”. But nowadays there are a lot of ways where you can invest and be sure that you’ll make a profit out of it. One example is a flexible life insurance. As long as you pay your policy it’ll eventually be a great low risk investment with a high rate of return.

This is just the start of your Financial Fitness journey. It is not going to be easy. But just like any other kind of fitness, for as long as you have the patience, you put in the work, and you’re consistent, it will eventually generate the results that you want.

To Read or Watch the KonMari Method

The book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo was published in the US in 2014. But only recently was the Netflix show, Tidying Up released. So sparked the question of almost what all shows or movies that have been based on movies lead to. “Which is better, the book or the show?”

Comparing the Actions: Reading Vs Watching

Makes use of our IMAGINATION

Reading books is being practiced mostly as an intellectual endeavor, not just to gain knowledge, but to also broaden our ideas and imagination. Even if an author would give a detailed description of a person, a place or a thing, no reader would be able to imagine the exact same image. I remember reading Fifty Shades of Greyand then being disappointed at who they chose to portray the characters in the movies. Because they weren’t how I imagined them to be while I was reading the book. And from the reviews that I’ve read, I saw that a lot of people felt the same way.

Meanwhile, the television, which is also called the “idiot box”, doesn’t really need much of our imagination. Although I don’t entirely agree that it is an idiot box, since it’s been used a lot nowadays in so many other ways other than just to entertain. I even remember it as part of my school curriculum to watch speech sample videos for my electives. And it was really helpful since you don’t just imagine how a good speaker is. But you actually see and hear how it is done.

Aside form the every now and then of the TV or videos being used as a medium to gain knowledge. Most of the time, it’s still being used just for entertainment. Unlike reading, when used for entertainment it doesn’t really encourage that much of our imaginative side. But rather it makes us more at awe of how brilliant the imagination are of those people who came up with the show.

But there are also times that a lot of imagination is not required. Marie Kondo’s clothes folding method for example. Although it’s nice to read the explanation of why clothes should be folded in a specific way. It’ll be hard to get a good result if you haven’t entirely saw the idea in action. When I read the book I had a totally different idea of how the clothes looks like folded just basing it from the description of the book. Whereas seeing it on TV made it easier for me to follow.

PACE of Acquiring Knowledge

If you want to acquire knowledge faster, watching is the best way to do so. Videos usually give you a walk-through. With DIYs for example, videos give you just enough understanding to accomplish the task. Ever watched those “Make this in 5 Minutes” videos? Even those speech sample videos that I was required to watch at school, was supposed to show me what the qualities of a good speaker are even in just a 5 minute speech.

While book reading will still yield the same result, and maybe even better. It will take a while for you to see it until you actually figure out how to tie the pieces together. Sometimes it will even take more than just one time reading it, and probably having to read more than just one book.

QUALITY of Knowledge

Since gaining knowledge from videos or the television is fast paced, there is really not that much depth to it. Reading books on the other hand will give you a solid understanding of the topic. A base upon which you can build something, since it usually contains the essentials for a specific topic.

With novels and biographies, they omit a lot in the film/videos. Let’s face it, while we hold to almost every single word on a book to get the entire picture. Making every part of it as a scene in a movie or a show would bore even the most detailed audience.

Combining the Actions

While it is so easy to see the difference of the two, combining both actions might actually yield a better result. Especially with self-help books like Marie Kondo’s, because you are trying to learn something practical. Meaning something that can you can practice daily and not just imagine. So why not watch the video first to see what your topic is about then read the book to get a solid understanding of the topics.

Videos might be time saving but books has all the information which a video may not have. But as books might clear a lot of stuff that videos can’t, videos can also do the same.

Like in Marie Kondo’s book, she encouraged tidying to be a one-time special event rather than a daily thing. This thought scared me a lot, thinking that this special event means doing all the tidying in just one day. Because I’m not really good at finishing big tasks in just a day. Through the show, I found out that special event can last to a month. And that’s okay, for as long as you’re following the method correctly and you have a set deadline.

So reading why I have to do it and being shown how it is done and that it is possible, encouraged me more to try the KonMari method. So go ahead read and watch the KonMari method.

Treasure in Thrift Books

Ever since I was a kid my must haves for my future house are a grand piano and a mini library. Although I haven’t saved for the piano yet, I was able to get my mini library before 2018 ended. It was a torture before I got it though. A whole different story that involves stress and headaches with contractors, which I just want to forget. An it was also really expensive.

So having a big bookshelf with floor to ceiling height will take a lot of books to fill. And as much as I would’ve want a full library. It wouldn’t be cheap to buy books all at once just to fill it up. And what makes it even harder is my idea to buy mostly hard bound books to make it look more elegant.

So rather than buying brand new books, I went to thrift stores to save a lot of money. But I don’t only want to save but also to find good quality, almost good as new books. And books that wouldn’t give me any problems like termites.

So I went to a few Goodwill stores and found a lot of hard bound quality books for only $1.99. Such a pretty awesome deal from the usual $20 and up price of brand new books. But to my surprise, I didn’t only find good deals, I also found treasures inside these thrift books.

Treasure of MONEY

A lot of times people will use whatever is in their arms reach as bookmarks. And yes that can also include money. Or if you’re like me, I sometimes use books as a secret place to stash money. Which I’ll totally forget until I open the book again. I’m not very particular with the kind of books I read. For as long as I think I’ll like the story, or I can learn something from it. So when I saw this book in good condition, it was no question that I’ll take it home with me.

As I was scanning the pages, I saw these Iraqi dinars. Money for free? You might think that I hit the jackpot, but these aren’t really worth anything. Even if they are thousands of Iraqi dinars they might only be worth a few USD. And worse is there might not even be any way to convert it to USD. This I know because my husband has some of them from way back and he tried to convert it. But no bank or currency exchange that he tried to have it changed has accepted it.

So okay, I might not be able to buy anything with this money. But I still find it very awesome to find it in a thrift purchase. Also having an Iraqi money itself is quite exciting, just the thought of having a currency from a country you and a lot of people are not allowed to go to. Who knows how much it might eventually cost in the future. And you wouldn’t have any chance of finding this in a brand new book, right?

Treasure of MYSTERY

One thing that scare most people from buying thrift stuff is the thought that it might’ve belong to a dead person. Although that thought have stopped me from buying thrift clothes a lot of times, when it comes to books, it actually gives it more value for me. Just the thought that someone spent time to read it gives me the thought that it is worth the read.

It also says a lot of what kind of person the previous owner might be. With this book being about politics and the military and then the Iraqi dinars in it. I’m guessing that the previous owner is either in the military or a military contractor / civilian who was stationed in the Middle East. Every time I see the book, it ignites my curiosity of why the money was there. When and where is the geography when the previous owner read it? Was he fighting in the war when he had the book? Do we have the same thoughts about the book?

Treasure of Knowledge

Aside from the stuff that might be secretly hiding in those books, the real treasure is what you’ll read in those pages. Whether they be facts or work of the imagination. There is always something to learn in any kind of book, whether it be new or thrift, whether it is a best selling or a crappy book. The knowledge you get from reading is not dependent on how much money you spend for the book. But on how much time you spend reading it, and the willingness to learn something from it.

OTHER STUFF I FOUND IN MY THRIFT BOOK PURCHASES:

(Information of the ticket owner has been blurred for privacy )
  • Plane Ticket -You might say it’s just a normal plane ticket, so what’s so special about it? But for me seeing the condition of the book and also with the book receipt showing it was bought in the airport (I think I threw the receipt already). Tells me that the person who bought it might’ve read it for the length of that plane ride and just donated it after.  With the thought that it was still an almost brand new book and hard bound, it’s definitely a steal paying only $1.99 for it.
  • Newspaper Cutout –I saw the movie about the author of Winnie the Pooh, and I liked the story so much that after I watched it (in a plane ride) I did additional research about it online. So when I saw this book, with this cutout of Newspaper from 2001 and this Winnie the Pooh postcard, it gave me the goosebumps, reminding me of the curiosity that I felt while watching the movie. Could it be that’s how the previous owner felt too when he saw the cutout, that it made him want to buy the book?

See how interesting some thrift finds can be? It’s like going there and searching for the great books are already a journey in itself.

*With all the thrift books that I bring home, I make sure to scan the pages first, and I also clean them before I put them in the bookshelf.*

The Gift of Giving – Charitable Gifts

A new year has finally started. But as always, before a start of a new year is a memorable Christmas holiday month. During the years, gift giving during Christmas has upgraded. From DIYs, to beautiful wrappings, to themed gifts. And what a better theme to have on the day of giving other than Giving the Gift of Giving.  This year, me and my husband gave our Christmas dinner guests charitable gifts (gifts/purchases that benefits charities).

THE UNICEF MARKETPLACE

Christmas Ornament

UNICEF Holiday 2018 Glass Ornament ‘Chasing Dreams’
PRICE: $14 (shipping not included)

I think that the best gift for people you are not close with will be a souvenir that will remind them of the occasion. Some of our guests I’ve only met once or twice. So I chose this Christmas ornament ball, which is also their 2018 edition. It also comes with a very nice box which makes it more presentable and easy to wrap. So rather than buying specific gifts (except for the children), I gave one to each family. I also bought one for my Christmas tree. And as per their website one purchase “…can provide 5 packets of life saving nourishment to children suffering from acute malnutrition”.

Soccer Balls


UNICEF Sports Soccer Ball with Logo Size 5,
‘Goal Time in Blue’
$15.95 (shipping not included)

The ornament balls were perfect for the family in general. But as Christmas gifts are really for the kids, I decided to buy separate gifts for our young guests. The UNICEF marketplace made it easy for me to choose a gift for the boys. They have soccer balls in 2 sizes. As per their site, one soccer ball purchase “can provide, enough polio vaccine to vaccinate 10 children against polio”.

The blue ones are size 5 but they also have size 3 (prize:$11.95) which is in color white. As there was no comparison from their website photo and didn’t find any reviews in the internet. I decided to just search soccer ball sizes in general. From my search I found out that size 5 are for adults while size 3 are for children.

I almost bought all the balls I needed in size 3, but my husband recommended to just buy the size 5 so that the boys can play with their fathers. Since I was still very nervous that it would be too big, I bought one in size 3 for our 2 year old guest. But I should’ve just followed my husbands advise, because when the size 3 ball came, it was so small it was just like doubled the size of a stress ball.

ALEX AND ANI

One more issue with the balls is they arrived deflated, which was a surprise to me because I didn’t see anything on their site that indicates that it needs to be inflated. And since it wouldn’t look good to give it deflated, I bought a small pump for soccer balls (pins included) that is worth almost $9 at Target. Wrapping a round gift was also a challenge.

Warm Hearts Expandable Wire Bangle in Shiny Rose Gold
$38 (shipping not included)

For the teenager, there are a lot of jewelry at UNICEF Marketplace. The only problem is on the details listed, there’s no assurance that it would fit our teenager guest. I continued searching the web for charitable gifts and stumble upon Alex and Ani through other blog posts. One of the good things about their bracelets are they’re adjustable. Not all their products benefit charities, you would have to go to the ‘Charity by design’ choices.

Although they had a special Christmas bracelet, I decided to buy a different design that can be worn all year round. It also comes with a box which made it easier to wrap. When it arrived I was so pleased because the quality was really good, I might even buy one for myself in the future. I also found out that they aren’t only available online, they also have actual stores, I saw one that was just beside a Pandora store which I am more familiar with.

As per their site they will donate “20% of the purchase price… to SOS children’s village whose mission is to build families for children in need, helping to shape their futures and share in the development of their communities”.

BEARS FOR HUMANITY


Animal Pals – The Jungle Bundle (elephant, monkey, tiger)
Prize: costs $56.25 with $75 value (shipping not included)

For our very young guests, I was planning to buy the stuffed toy from UNICEF Marketplace, but since it was out of stock, I looked for stuffed toys from other charitable shopping sites. Bears for Humanity was not just a perfect alternative but they offer even better products as all their stuffed toys are organic which I bet the parents would love. For each purchase, they donate a stuffed bear to a child from your chosen foundation. You get to choose from their charity partners, and for my purchase I chose ‘Save the Children’.

These are only 3 of the many more companies that offer charitable gifts. So for your next occasions, try gifting the gift of giving. And you won’t only bring smile to your loved ones but also to those people who will be helped with your purchase.