Thursday, March 16, 2006


I love vacations. Here am I in the lavender fields in Provence, France during a 2004 trip. I shall be leaving for Italy in a few hours. The culmination of a lot of extra work hours and brutal budgeting. This trip was planned a year ago and even now as I take this trip I'm planning for next year's trip to China. I am looking into ways to make this a business so I can make some money to help pay for these trips. "Considering life's brevity, we should travel abundantly with great enthusiasm" Peter Megargee Brown.

Everything has to do double duty in my life. I went into a junk shop the other day looking for a little bookcase for the side of my bed. I told the owner that my furniture has to double duty. She asked what I wanted them to do, sing for me? I don't mind if they could, I said, but the bookcase would hold the books I read in bed while acting as a bedside night stand. So I travel with an ulterior motive, makes it a lot more fun and more than justifies the expense.

I will not be making any entries while I'm away. I need to learn how to blog on the road. I'll resume in 2 weeks when I get home.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

decorating on the cheap 3

I feel almost guilty living in Southern California. It's the promise land much like the Cotswold in England and the Cote D'zur in France, as someone had said. While others in the rest of the USA are battling wind, sleet, snow and rain we are enjoying the most fabulous weather. What else do we need but an old straw hat, a cup of tea and a stack of books to while away these lovely days. It all cost almost nothing. When I'm home I never want to leave. I guess it's important to create a lovely space at home so we won't be tempted to go to the mall or other places of entertainment. Saves a lot of money this way. I paid $75 for each of these french garden chairs. One of my neices was horrified that I paid so much for chairs that are old and rusty. "but they are old and rusty" were her exact words. I still love her. Maybe it's time to clean house, clear out the ugly stuff, have a garage sale, don't put anything in storage. Or else make do with what you have, add some cute touches here and there. Create a lovely place and enjoy those solitary moments. For me these moments are incubators for my dreams that I'm right now living out.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Decorating on the cheap 2

Fantasy bedroom. The mattress was free, a discard from my brother when he got married and moved in with my sister in law. The bed frame, head and foot board cost $200 came a local furniture store. The picture frames were expensive but the pictures were cut outs from perfume boxes and decorative fabrics. There is also a dresser and a full lengthmirror
which cost a little bit more. They were from Betsy Cameron, a children's furniture line. I chose them because they were prettier than the adult furniture. I don't own anything from Ikea, in fact, I haven't shopped at Ikea in over 10 years. I prefer to look for odd pieces that I like and would enjoy.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

decorating on the cheap

Some people have gone into serious debt while decorating their homes. I have heard of folks buying expensive sets of furniture. The new junk style or shabby chic style while not entirely cheap allows one to afford furniture with time. We don't hav to plonk down thousands of dollars for a bedroom set or a dining room set. Case in point, my home, it took almost ten years to get to here. I buy a piece of furniture every now and then. I bought a pine tablet from Pottery Barn 10 years ago and 10 years later I have 6 dining chairs all painted in various shades of white and they look so adorable.
I read in a magazine article once about a lady who had some really cute stuff in her house. She said she didn't spend a penny more $10,000.00. I beat her record, I think I spent much less than that. Over the next few weeks I will lead a tour around my house. We've got to rethink the way we shop and spend money. The money I save goes to pay off my mortgage at an accelerated rate, it goes into my Schwab one account and finances my yearly European jaunts.

more fun, with less

If I were to write a book on how to pinch pennies and make financial sacrifices, no one will probably buy the book. Everyone will probably winch and turn away and postpone making hard choices for another day. The fact of the matter is we can have fun and a lot of fun with next to nothing but the bright sunny day, the green grass, the pretty flowers, the birds chirping and even with the crows gawking overhead. I have spent many weekends pottering around my house enjoying my own company and not spend a cent. It's so much more fun because I would not have spent a dime, or fight traffic (use up a lot of gas) and bump into like minded people(dreaded). This is my life's work, to find ways of economizing and still have a ball. I'm a college graduate with a six figure salary. After paying taxes and fica, there isn't enough to pay for what I want to do more of, to travel a lot. So I've taken on the vocation of squeezing the penny till the president on the penny winch in pain, and still have fun and not feel deprived. I want to be able to afford my own home, drive a reasonably new car, entertain, give gifts and most of all, travel. This dream life is very similar to what a lot of you have on your minds and hearts. We want to do it all without getting into a deep financial hole. In other words have a lot of fun without getting into financial disaster. I want to be able to do it all now. I don't want to wait till I'm 65 to travel. I don't want to rent forever. When I have a house I want to be able to afford it- the payments, taxes, insurances, maintenance and improvements. I want to be able to entertain friends and family. Most of all I want to be able to pay off the house. I want to be able to do it all without any assistance from the credit card companies. We all know what the means when the credit card companies finances our lifestyle. I hav been blessed the credit card companies don't figure into any of my plans at all. It's a lot of hard work and involves a lot of creativity that I decided it is fun to share these secrets with everyone.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Grass greener on other side? Not!

I'm in my backyard, under a mild wintery Southern California sun, preparing an entry for my blog. I have an old straw hat on and I'm sipping ice cold ginger ale. Mind you, its the first week of March and I'm dressed (in shorts) and behaving like it's summer time in the Rockies. Am I in Hawaii or in Mexico? No, I'm living in Southern California. Life doesn't get any better than this. I am living the life of my dreams, owning real estate near the Pacific Ocean and loving every minute of my life. Years ago I was determined to live the life of my dreams. I was determined not to be anvious of other people. I was determined to live in the moment- while at work, to put all of me to work, while with my family, to be all there for them and with them, not wishing to be with someone else or be somewhere else, while at home alone, to enjoy my own company. I was determined not to be encumbered with debt. Debt is the biggest lifestyle crimper. First do not incur new debt, next pay off existing debt. I am a strong believer in the age old advice, "use it up, wear it out or do without". There are many ways we can reduce our expenses. Lately on weekends I have resorted to taking the bus to and from errands, I don't drink Starbucks coffee or eat their scones. Instead I go to a generic doughnut shop for coffee and muffins. I used to cook elaborate meals but not anymore. I don't remember when I last shopped for clothes. I buy makeup at a drugstore (I work for a drugstore). I don't have cable, VCR or CD or DVD players. Every month after paying my mortgage, I send a cheque to my Charles Schwab brokerage account and every so often I buy some stocks. Every year (sometimes twice) I take a trip to Europe. I eat authentic French food in France, authentic Italian food in Italy. I don't what they serve at Donald Trump's wedding or at White House state dinners or at the Oscars' parties. For entertainment I read. I love travel essays. I write a lot too. I have scribblings on every subject on note pads all over the house. Lately I discovered blogging and this blog keeps me busy and occupied. In 7 days I shall be leaving for a 2 week vacation in Italy. It's a wonderful life. Make your life wonderful too.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

financial literacy

I watched Robert Kiyosaki (Rich dad, poor dad) on public television last night. I like Robert Kiyosaki's insight. In life, we must do due diligence. We must be diligent in being well informed. This way we can make informed decisions. The more knowledge we have, the better are our decision making abilities. So many people have gone out and done great things (sometimes by trial and error) and have left wonderful written records. Jim Rohn said, we must read a book or read 2 books, better yet hav a library. We get ideas from reading. A good idea will get us on the right path. A few good ideas and we'll be prosperous. I own a few good books, many of them I have gone on to reread many times. Someone once said, a book is a present one can open again and again. I remember once I was spurned by a guy I liked, turned out he's gay. I went and reread David Bach's book 'Smart women get richer'. I remembered I felt much better. It healed my broken heart. I had no reason to waste precious time and energy on a love that will never be. There are more pressing matters in life like how to proceed on the way to financial freedom. I have read and reread many times the major works of Napoleon Hill. I like Robert Kiyosaki's series, 'Rich dad poor dad'. Even though I don't invest in real estate, I agree with his views about what an asset really is, an investment that puts money in your pocket. I agree with him on the importance of financial literacy and to start learning it while one is young. I also like Jim Rohn. Being a christian I have an extensive collection of bible commentaries. I like vintage William Barclay. He is the epitome of an educated man. Modern writing is too much fluff. We need to read older books like Ralph Waldo Emerson. Amazon.con and are excellent sources for older used books. I've found many out of print classics from these 2 book sellers. It's expensive to collect books but if one budget for it, one can amass a good collection. Mind you, one can reread all these books. Even used books are not cheap. Used books can be an expensive habit. I do without a lot of other things just so I can afford books.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

a good realtor

While not all realtors are bad, there are good ones. To sell a house be sure to chose an aggresive realtor. Star, my realtor, who sold my house, was a 'star'. While I was out, she came to my house (the outside) took pictures and had brochures ready when we sat down for the interview. She took the initiative, she hasn't even sign me up as a client. She suggested a price that knocked me off my rockers. I reiterate, when selling your house, be sure to interview a few realtors. The good ones will stand out, they'll be hungrier than the pack and more aggresive. It could mean the difference of tens of thousands of dollars. In my case about $45,000. I knew a friend who listed her house almost the same time I did. She had pity on a new realtor who hasn't made any sale yet and had her house priced too low. I estimate she lost at least $80,000. This makes a huge difference in your next purchase. With more money I went out and bought the house of my dreams. Today I live in an adorable little house pretty close to the Pacific Ocean. Today I am at peace. I travel to Europe every year and am continuing on my personal track to financial freedom. I have dreams of doing bigger things. How did I get here? How did I rise above the ashes? Stay in touch and come visit with me.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

5 years later

Today 5 years later, I am still in love with my house. How did I get this far financially after a few devastating financial setbacks. First major one was my divorce and without help from a lawyer I gave up rights to a lot of the financial pile which I made the most contribution to. I made twice what he made when he worked. The second major setback was after liquidating a stock portfolio of $150,000 before the tech bubble, I put $80,000 into a business venture with family and never saw a cent return. I was stuck with a $20,000 capital gains tax bill. When it was time to pay the tax man, I had to charge it on my credit card and then apply for a home equity loan to pay off the credit card bill. A lot of people probably would not be able to get through such devastation. It was a shamefull experience. It's been 7 years and I am only just now able to talk about it. I remember one lonely night, on my knees in the sitting room, praying this prayer. "I want to prosper, Lord, prosper me" as big tear drops trickle down my cheeks. He answered my prayers beyond my wildest expectation.