Monday, September 29, 2008


So we thought we might try to get away for a quick weekend. The kids are out of school all next week and Jeff has plenty of leave time, so a weekend away sounded like a good idea. But, a weekend away seems to be one that is going to cost WAY too much money. maybe it is because we are planning it so late, but damn it seems like everything costs a lot these days. I miss being able to take a quick trip off to the coast, spend a weekend for not much more than a tank of gas and 2 nights in a cheapo motel. So, maybe we won't go away. I would rather save up the money for a big trip, but it is too bad really.

Maybe a vacation in Singapore is what we should do, but what and where, that is the question.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Peace in a Japanese Garden

From the Prince's house at the Gold Ecological Park in Taiwan

From Taiwansept-8

From Taiwansept-8

A debate... about purchases

Jeff and I do pretty good at maintaining a balance when it comes to purchasing big ticket items. With the execption of the business (where I have made some major decisions without bringing him in) we find that both of us talk through our purchases befoer we buy them. But even with the business my big upcoming trip to CHA for the Winter Show was still a joint decision.

So, the big thoughts are on a car. Jeff found a 1993 Volvo 940T station wagon on sale for a "low" price of only 17K. Yes, it is ridiculous that a used car still costs 17K (that is Sing dollars btw, so divide by 1.4 to see it in US Dollars). So, while it would be hard to find ANY car for less than that, we started to balance that want vs need impulse.

Why do we want a car? What purposes do we need a car? What things are we willing to forgo for a car? Our family wants to take our big "summer vacation" to Japan this year. Japan would be a great trip, but not cheap, even when doing budget travel. Do we balance 17K and the flexibility of being able to drive places vs. a trip to Japan?

So, where are we. I am primarily against it. I think we can continue to do without a car (and a Turbo Volvo just smells like a money pit to me). I would consider looking at buying a used scooter for getting around this part of town, but even that seems silly when you consider we can call a taxi or ride the mass transit system. I also just can't get behind buying a car for 17K and nowing that in 3 years we would have to renew the COE (Road Use Tax in Singapore) to the tune of another 20K or so. So for now, I think the want of a car has been pushed back (although trips to Malaysia would have been fun) and we go back to thinking about where and when to travel and investing our money in our retirement fund instead.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Why do food and travel magazines always focus on the high end, the luxury? Why not feature simple foods, low cost but quality travel, feature real families, real food, real life?

Not everyone aspires to the new and shinyest item on the shelf...

Taiwan Friends

I was blessed to be able to catch up with a couple of dear friends this trip to Taiwan. The last few times I have been here my schedule has been so tight and the trips so short I have not been able to get any time to myself. This time I was able to catch up with Julie.

Julie is one of my dearest friends in Taiwan, and while our time was short it was easy to reconnect and catch up. It is amazing how good friends are able to do that, pick up where we left off, even if it was over a year since our last face to face meeting.

I was also able to catch up with Michael and his lovely wife Nai-Yu. Micheal is a funny guy who I take great pleasure in ribbing when it comes to politics. We really agree on more than either of us lets on, and it is all in good fun.

what connecting with these two friends made me realize is how lucky I am. How while there have been times in my life where I feel out of touch with my family and friends back in the US, I know that I am one of those people who can say I have friends all over the world. From Taiwan to China, Malaysia to the United States. I am lucky. I am blessed. I plan on getting in touch with more old friends, how about you?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fighting the urge

It is always a challenge to fight the urge to buy new things. Finding ways to satisfy the need to keep up with the neighbors (not literally, but proverbially). The national hobby in Singapore tends to be shopping and it is tough to not "buy" into that. weekends are often spent running errands which includes shopping. It is a constant struggle not to buy unneeded things.

how do you fight the urge?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

How can you afford your rock and roll lifestyle?

Our single largest line item bill (excluding tuition) on any given year is travel. This does include travel for work, but that is reimbursed. But, we do fully take advantage of the opportunities given to us by living in SE Asia and we travel. We have lived in Taiwan and Singapore and in the 9 years that we have lived in Asia, we have traveled to Singapore, Guam, China, HK, Macau, Japan, Thailand, Bali, Malaysia, the US and Mexico with the kids. Jeff and I have also traveled to a few other places including Cambodia and a few other spot around Taiwan and Malaysia.

This seems like a lot of travel. It is and no it is not cheap. So for someone who claims to be "live simply" how do I afford this rock and roll lifestyle? Well, this is it, we choose to spend our money on the experience of life. We live very frugally during the year, we are very good about at sourcing good deals on the internet (we just booked a trip this December to KKB in Malaysia where we will stay in the Hyatt for a 100 a night). We also don't buy things here in Singapore. For example. We don't own a car. We have one TV in the house, the first new TV that Jeff or I have ever owned. Our furniture was included when we rented our old place in Singapore and the landlord gave it to us when we moved. You would laugh if you saw the condition of the couch under the slip cover! With the exception of the Ikea bookshelves, tables and TV table, everything else was bought second hand.

We don't dine out much, not really anymore. We would love to, but we love to cook and entertain, we have a helper that loves to cook, it is just as easy to cook at home. We shop at NTCU for groceries, at least the bulk of them. Where others will spend hundreds per week on food, we spend 150 at NTCU for most of our food, plus a 2 time a month trip to Tanglin shopping center for wine and meat and those other foods we can't get locally. Those trips run about 250 each time. So, there you have it, our total food budget for the month (excluding dining out for lunch for Jeff) is less than 1200 Singapore dollars a month for a family of 3 adults and 2 kids.

I don't shop for clothes. My total clothing expenditure for the last 3 years has probably been around 1000 US. That includes shoes. This seems like a lot of money to me, but I have gone down around two sizes and I needed new clothes. The clothes that I have now are getting too big, but I will take them to be altered rather than buy new. I don't buy makeup, shoes or designer bags. The last makeup I bought was at Body Shop, a tube of foundation, I think it was 20 bucks. I don't buy perfume. I bought my first bottle of perfume in 10 years about 3 months ago in Duty Free. I don't buy fancy Jewelery. Give me a 20 dollar ring or some 15 dollar funky earrings and I am good to go.

Our kids don't have tons of toys, but frankly they have too many. We need to whittle these down and donate them to Charity. I do shop for books but I try to go to a used bookstore, Salvation Army or the Singapore American School Booksale when possible. My biggest weekness is scrapbook magazines and supplies, but I have a room full of stuff now, more than I could use in a life time, so I am seriously curbing my expenses there.

Our power bill is low, lower than many others because there is really no need to turn on the Air Conditioning most of the time. It is there when we need it, it is on at night, but most days we get by with fans.

We live frugally where we can so we can give our children this huge opportunity of traveling around the world with us. It is an education, a life altering experince and will make them better people. Rock and Roll lifestyle... well if the ripped up couch is indication of that, so be it!

As mentioned before I started a blog about our travels. You can check it out here.

Globetrotting with Kids
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