The anatomy of our monthly savings

 

Tonight I’m happy…somehow. I have just finished listing and computing our monthly expenses since it is already the last week of February. I’m not expecting anymore regular expenses as we have already bought our groceries and baby stuffs which usually share the largest slice of our expenses pie.

I have actually made a conscious effort to save since the early part of last year. The initial news about our company on April 2, 2008 and the other bad news that followed – including the admission of the then US president Bush about the recession taking place – made it more compelling for me to be thrifty enough. It’s also a good thing that the number of training that our company has arranged, and that I have attended, contributed to my knowledge on how to be in control of our finances. Although it may still not be half-perfect even at this time, at least our drive and urge to save is already there. We just have to start somewhere, somehow.

While there are five more days to go before this month ends, I already feel accomplished in terms of our budgeting. After I have transferred our expenses to the financial worksheet, I compared our current expenses with last month’s. I then marked those that have increased with red. And those that have decreased were marked green. In the end, and to my amazement, the greens significantly dominated the reds. Sweet.

So what was done right then? What have we done to successfully cut our expenses – some items were even cut in half. Let me share some tips.

Dilute, dilute, dilute. I apply this tip to all our cleaning agents for years already. The cleansers we use at home like the toilet liquid solutions and car shampoos are basically concentrated enough to be used in its pure form. Even the manufacturer’s recommended ratio is still strong for the intended tasks that it is a no-brainer that a saving can be achieved if you dilute it with more water.

Be brand-conscious. When I heard Mr. Bengco (of the Colayco foundation) talk about it during his recent seminar at our company, I couldn’t agree more since I’ve been doing it already. What I’m not aware though is by how much is actually saved when you know what you are buying. His example: the bath soap. In his presentation he showed one brand that cost a mere Php 9 (USD 0.2). The next foils showed several other brands that cost twice and even thrice the price just because it promises extra germ killing action, catchy fragrance…and everything there is a TV ads will do just to entice consumers like us. Right now, I try to settle for the ones in the mid-price range.

Buy two brands. This may sound confusing especially just after the previous tip but believe me this is what I’m doing. For almost a year already, I had two different deodorants (Disclaimer: not for the squeamish). I used one that has “superior” action every time I go to work or leave home. Then I use one with the “least superior” action if I know that I’ll be static at home and will be spending time as a couch potato and will just be home alone with the baby – at least he doesn’t know how to complain yet if the deodorant protection fails. Ewww, daddy!

Drive like your grandma. I have mentioned this in my blog – Being a Gas Miser and I cannot stress it enough that one’s driving habit does directly affect fuel consumption. This is where I often fail but I keep on reminding myself to be on track. Until now, I’m still at least within the 13-15 kilometer per liter expected range of our car. Now I’m wondering if I’ll be able to save gas if I stop blaring (if this doesn’t save gas, just at least my sanity) my horns every time I meet a jeepney with only one headlight on – I’ve heard that the reason why its drivers do it is because one headlight on saves gas than having two. Hmmm, sounds like an idea…Nah!

A Honda is a Honda. Well, at least that’s what I’m always telling myself whenever I’m on my Honda 100cc motorcycle instead of our Honda City. That’s because when it comes to saving gas the motorcycle wins, hands down. No contest. But when it comes to saving lives…errr, wrong discussion. Hahaha. Seriously speaking, I recommend this tip for those ready and responsible enough to drive a motorcycle. And if you’re not yet in that mind set, it’s still worth taking a ride in that one-eyed jeepney – I bet, your wife will be even happy about it.

Go slow with the fast foods. So far, this is the biggest savings we had for this month. It was cut by more than 50 percent and it’s a welcome development. One thing that helped us do it is by avoiding the malls. There’s something about the scent of the malls that attracts each individual (or even group) to go and line up in front of the fast food counters. It may be due to poor air circulation or a deliberate ploy to set the minds of the mall goers to go hungry and crave for pizza, burger or doughnuts (and coffee) in an instant. But if you can’t avoid it, and just like what I’m doing, try going there with a full stomach – i.e. take lunch at home. It works for me – I’m now eating Whoppers and half cup of sundae…and large Coke. Ti abi.

Last but not the least, the No rot rule. This is still in the works after I told my wife that we should avoid foods inside the refrigerator from spoiling. Believe it or not, I used to admire people whose ref is so full of foods that most of the times, some of it will rot and end up as trash. Back then, I see it as abundance. Now, it’s nothing but waste – both food and money. So far, I’ve been successful but that’s after I’ve monitored and eaten the leftovers and had my weight build up as a consequence. Ti abi. I think it’s just about time to apply then the “No rot, No fat rule”. That I guess is win-win.

During these times when everyone gets so tired of hearing about the recession (and the rest of the similar tags that’s associated with it), the need to save and finding ways to learn more how to do it is already a must. This is also when sharing what we know – no matter how trivial – and learning from what others already knew (and follow) will help each one of us survive the turbulent ride that the rest of the world experiences.

 

 

 

Mood: 4/10 Honks!

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Motorcycle blog

This week I personally know a person who got into an accident while on his motorcycle. And I learned all about it after I have arrived at work – on my motorcycle. The good thing is that my friend and colleague survived the supposedly fatal crash. The bad thing about it though is that it’s one more person added to the statistic of victims of motorcycle-related accident – whether by his own fault or not. Now anti-motorcycle advocates are out once again with their almost unending see-I-told-you’s that seeps even thru the inch-thick helmet padding.

These days, proponents of the motorcycle seem to be losing their case as the incidents involving their favorite two-wheeled vehicle shares the headlines with reports of employees being laid off. Incidentally, these two headline makers are expected to thrive more while the financial crisis continues like an un-curable itch. Nowadays, a lot of people are trying to save and one way of saving is by saving on gas. Of course when gas gets mentioned, the thought of having a motorcycle, specifically what others call mopeds, scooters or underbones enters the picture. These crotch rockets are gas misers and it’s no wonder that almost everyone wants one. And that’s because almost everyone can actually afford one – frighteningly, even the irresponsible ones.

This is when motorcycle safety advocates begin to have nightmares about this uncontrollable or unregulated scenario. There are just so much eager and capable buyers (and sellers) that the aspect of safety is often forgotten. Anyone with a cash or downpayment which is normally just around Php3,000 (approx. $ 60) gets to go home with a decent motorcycle – once again, with or without a “valid” license, training, or worse, even without the common sense.

Now, other motorcycle riders may cry foul about all the stereotyping. Some will instinctively point their fingers to the four-wheeled vehicle drivers for causing all the troubles. Others may even blame the accidents due to poor road lighting, open manholes, wayward pedestrians and I’ve even read complaints about dog poops. All fingers are pointing to other factors but so far, only a few have done some self-reflection and immediate correction. Sadly, these are reasons why live motorcycle crash test dummies continue to exist.

Failing to recognize the risk is often what leads to unnecessary crashes – regardless if it is minor or major. I remember from one defensive driving seminar I once had the four guides of a responsible driver:

  1. Identify (or anticipate) the risk or danger.
  2. Act accordingly. Example, adjust following distance depending on the driving condition.
  3. Control whatever you can as you can’t technically influence others. (This is what I often forget. Hehehe.)
  4. Take or consider a plan B if everything else goes wrong.

Unfortunately, with the fact that not everyone seems to take time to even read (or search thru the internet) about all this driving safety stuffs anymore is what makes the road a far less safe place to drive…especially for motorcycle riders like me. It’s already a given that riding makes one vulnerable to elements – like reckless cage (a term used by riders to distinguish a car) drivers. So I went further to identifying every risk that I possibly can. After more than six months of riding my motorcycle, I have actually listed several of these hazards already.

Stay away from riders without the basic gear or clothing. Since riders are sitting open to almost everything hazardous, the least one can do to protect himself is to wear long sleeved-shirts (thick jerseys or jackets preferred), long pants (jeans if possible), and a closed-toe footwear. These of course should be paired with a decent helmet. If you spot one without such means just one thing: he doesn’t care about himself and most likely he doesn’t care about you. So stay clear.

Stay away from those with confused persona. These people are easy to spot: they have rosaries and crucifixes wrapped around their motorcycles (mounted on the dash if in cars) but when you actually see them, they are either poorly clothed (at times even lewd) or drives like someone who have just escaped from a straight jacket.

Stay away from cars with Japanese or Chinese stickers or decals. Some of these have even extra large ones that almost cover the whole rear window. These stickers scream anything but “I understand what my stickers say”. If these people don’t even know what those stickers meant, most likely they don’t even understand what an amber light is for.

Stay away from skinheads who for a moment are seen driving slowly over an ear-shattering base music. These people (often in their teens) are beat-driven so expect them to speed up anytime the Snoop Dogg rhythm picks up.

Needless to say, also stay away from pony-tailed or dreadlocked drivers especially if the car’s interior appears foggy despite the un-tinted windows.

Stay away from truck drivers especially those concentrating on picking their noses. I’m thinking that this is as distracting (or even more) as using a cellphone while driving.

Stay away from motorcycle-riding policemen without helmets. Period.

Lastly, stay away from someone who is absent-mindedly composing a blog while riding a motorcycle. He’s easy to spot. He made this blog. Ti abi.

 

 

 

 

Mood: 3/10 Honks!

Rookie Rider’s Day Out

 

Almost a week has passed after I bought my motorcycle and I’ve ridden it only once inside our village. It was one quick ride and I’ve been craving to do more. However, since the day after that I had to report to work and rain has been pouring since then, that left me no choice but to lock and cover it up in front of our yard until today.

This morning, weather hasn’t improved and it isn’t exactly what I call a motorcycle-friendly day – it’s gloomy and the threat of rain is looming over the horizon. But the call to take another ride took over my worries of getting wet. I felt a sudden mix of anxiety and excitement once I got home after dropping my wife off the shuttle bus stop.  After parking my car I prepared for my maiden motorcycle ride.

And so from the very start of the preparation alone, I was awaken to the world of MC riders; little by little I experienced what it is like to be taking a ride out of the comfort of my car. Here’s my log for today’s ride:

1.       MCs are meant to be started and left idling for a few minutes before taking it for a ride – It’s not unnecessarily wasting gas but it’s a requirement to warm up its engine unlike cars that you can start and step on the gas right after.

2.       I wore (needed) shirt, jeans, sneakers and a helmet (which I got free from the MC dealer).  These are the minimum – although one item in the newly debated LTO guidelines state that a leather jacket is a must.

3.       A P500 in your wallet is more than enough for a full tank.  I have a full capacity of only 3.7 liters or P200 worth of gas. That’s just sweet. I’m yet in the process though of figuring out how far 1 liter can go.

4.       Signal lights do not automatically turn off after executing a turn. Don’t forget to manually switch it off or you’ll be giving wrong signals to the vehicles behind you.

5.       A jacket is needed for an early morning ride like I did. I realized midway of my trip that my nipples are getting harder with the cold wind blowing all around me. Ti abi. The LTO must have the thing against stiff rider nipples.

6.       You can’t scratch your nose or any part of your face while your helmet is on. I unconsciously tried doing it and saw some smiles by the sidewalk. That’s embarrassing.

7.       Fixing something somewhere in your crotch is a no-no.  Need to elaborate?

8.       Water puddles isn’t fun anymore. I love to go fast on these while driving my car (making sure of course that no one’s around to be reached by the splash), imagining myself in a Peugeot and trying to beat Sebastian Loeb.  Now I guess I’ll have to get used to imagining beating Jeremy McGrath instead. Just kidding.

9.       Coasting isn’t possible. My MC’s shifting pattern does not allow (or I may be wrong) me to shift to neutral after achieving a sustainable speed like in a downhill.  But then, other than being illegal according to the rule of defensive driving, MCs fuel consumption is already thrifty compared to cars (or cages, as MC riders call it) so coasting isn’t significant anymore.

I covered 32 kilometers for this morning’s ride and it felt good to be out on the road and coming home safe. It’s not actually scary as most people (usually wives and those without MCs) would say. The rules that need to be followed are still similar to driving a car except for some other things that need to be observed – such as staying visible to other motorist, giving more focus due to the obvious reason that the rider is exposed to all elements and maintaining balance at all times.  

With my introduction to the world of MCs, it opened me to a new perspective. I’m now beginning to feel empathy to those people who have no choice but to take an MC to work despite heavy rain, I now respect their space on the road, and I now understand the need for car (and any other 4-wheeled vehicles) drivers and MC riders to co-exist in order to create a healthy and safe commuter environment. Of course I still believe that education is the key to achieve orderliness and hopefully, more people will soon get educated enough to drive safely.

 

Postscript

Having holding back from telling my mother about the idea of buying an MC, I finally called her after this morning’s ride and told her all about it. I was expecting some sort of worried remarks coming from the other end of the line, but I was all smiles when I heard her say, “Ay gali? Ano ginbakal mo? Ang mga pambabayi na motor? (Really? What did you get? Those feminine motorcycles)

 I was laughing when I asked her what she meant by “feminine” motorcycles and I laughed harder when her description fitted that of the underbones –the one I currently have.  She must be expecting me having a motocross (also known today as motards) which I remember were the “in” thing when I was yet a kid. Anyway, I explained to her that underbones (and scooters) are now the trend as they are cheaper and have lower displacement – thus, lower fuel consumption; AND that they’re not just for women. (she’ll be mobbed in the forums with those remarks. hahahaha)

I was still wondering about the unexpected jolly remarks from her after I ended our conversation, and then I remember that she was the one who taught me how to ride a bike during my elementary days. I recalled her patiently holding on to me until I felt comfortable with the balance and she eventually came running along while I pedaled it all by myself.  From my late high school to college years, she  likewise never questioned my scuffed shoes, tattered jeans and tiny bruises when I was into BMX flatland.  AND she even approved when I came home with a haircut which has the word “BMX” shaved behind my head.  Come to think of it, she’s a cool mother. (Baw!)

 

 

Back on 2 Wheels

 

What do these things have in common?

1.       Vietnam

2.       Discovery’s American Choppers

3.       Nat Geo’s Long Way Down

4.       Nat Geo’s Rides

5.       The movie Wild Hogs

6.       Mo Twister’s most hated

7.       Motorista magazine

If you still haven’t got it right, the last one is supposed to be a giveaway.  Yes, it all relates to motorcycles big or small; slow or fast; flashy or funny. And so today I got my own – my first one.

Now I’m back to riding (or better yet, learning) on two wheels – this time it’s motorized. Following careful and lengthy considerations and several discussions with my own self – yes, been talking to myself as to whether or not I need to get a motorcycle (or MC) – I finally convince myself to give in to this urge of riding one. I’m quite sure though that my dear wifey still has some reservations on my recent toy – disguised in the name of “beating the gas prices”.

Well, how can I blame her for having such thoughts when we were both together when we witnessed an accident right in front of our very eyes? And if that’s not scary enough (other than the fact that some newscasters deliver it like the world is coming to an end with their exaggeration) the news of motorcycle riders clashing with other vehicles or pedestrians is so common nowadays that one will get confused if the news he’s currently watching is a reply of last month’s.  That’s the bad side of motorcycling: motorcycles have gone so cheap that even those who don’t have the capacity (read: brain) to ride defensively can buy it as long as he’s  got the cash to pay for it.  Needles to say, it’s this ignorance that results to these accidents.

But as any motorcycle advocate will tell you, accidents are bound to happen – whether you’re in a car, in a bus, in a train, in an airplane or just even while walking leisurely to your destination. While I’m so sure that this reasoning will raise an eyebrow or two, it is just always true. It doesn’t matter what transportation you’re in if the one who’s in control like the pilots, captains, bus drivers or yourself (in the case of driving a car) doesn’t know what he is expected to do. And that’s when training comes in. But for all we know, it may even just need good judgment and a common sense to do it, at least for driving on the road. But then again, common sense is not so common.

Luckily nowadays, MC newbies like me have the world wide web to help us coach on how to go about in learning how to ride. A couple of googling in just a couple of hours will lead one to a numerous motorcycle-related sites (e.g., MSF) and forums (e.g., MCP). It now depends on how one comprehends what he reads. And individual learning curve will tell how soon one becomes adept in this new kind of transportation.

So how am I doing so far?

(From hondaph.com) This is my toy. No name yet...

(From hondaph.com) This is my toy. No name yet...

After spending a couple of my time reading all about motorcycles since more than a month ago and right after I got my brand new unit this morning, I’ve given it a try only once by doing a couple of rounds inside our village. I did it by noontime where sun is steaming hot but with fewer people outside. I was actually rather more embarrassed than nervous for riding it like a sissy unlike those I’ve seen that were so relaxed, confident and at some point, irritatingly showy. A few more practice and I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it. And I swear I’ll stay safe by then.