A tale of failure

Dearest Reader,

Not too long ago, I was about to turn 30 years old and took the opportunity to ask all the more mature, wiser people in my life for advice on how to manage this new decade. To my surprise, everyone simply responded: “You’re already doing all the right things. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

I found this very puzzling.

To me life continues to be a big, scary, unpredictable mess no amount of planning can prepare you for. I have countless memories of throwing myself on the bed theatrically and weeping into my teddy bear after life pooped all over my hopes and dreams.

Here’s what people don’t see – behind all the things I’m seemingly doing right, there are a lot of things I did wrong.

Let’s take work for example. Once upon a time, I was drawn to an exciting life in the media – journalism, broadcasting, public relations – you name it, I’ve tried it.

On the outside, it looked very glamorous.

But on the inside, I had to sit in disciplinary meetings and was literally shouted at for my attitude, my lack of interest, and my inability to cooperate. When they threatened to fire me, I apologised. Whenever I threatened to quit, they kept offering more and more money.

This disturbing bipolar relationship existed because both parties involved were clearly psychotic idiots. Despite my difficult attitude, my bosses didn’t want to lose me and kept throwing money at me because I was excellent at doing my job. And despite being abused on a daily basis, I didn’t want to lose my dream.

Unsurprisingly, I cried on the way to work, on the toilet at work, and on the way home from work. My career was supposed to be exciting and amazing, but I was failing every single day. I had wasted years of my life climbing this ladder, just to find a pile of crap at the top.

So what do you do when everything you worked for turns out to be the wrong thing?

You do the right thing by quitting doing the wrong thing.

My attitude, I later learned, was never problematic. But I was doing something that my attitude found problematic.

I was uncooperative and difficult to work with because I refused to bend the truth or twist a person’s words to fit an agenda. I showed a lack of interest precisely because I had no interest in increasing corporate revenue. And my loud and annoying attitude never shied away from arguing with its superior on these matters.

So me and my attitude packed our bags. While I am not particularly spiritual, I do believe we all serve a purpose. I realised this failure was simply there to tell me that what I was doing wasn’t fulfilling my purpose. All I knew was that I wanted to help people, and I wanted to make a positive change through my work. But in my cloudy mind, I couldn’t yet see how.

As I sat on the couch weeping into a box of tissues, it turned out that out of all people, it was my mother who cleared away the mental mist and reminded me.

“You’re a teacher,” she announced, patiently sipping her tea.
“Why are you so sure?,” I asked, narrowing my eyes suspiciously.
“Because I’m your mother,” she replied, matter-of-factly.
“Well! Why didn’t you tell me earlier??,” I snapped, childishly.
“Because I’m your mother, and you wouldn’t have listened. You had to find out for yourself,” she explained, surrounded by her oriental garden of wisdom.

Deep down, I always knew this. Because before I ever started working in the media, I had worked as a teacher and I absolutely loved it. But in my immaturity, I considered it too “unglamorous” to pursue as a career.

My punishment for ignoring my purpose? Years of fighting bitches and crying on the toilet. Since finally embracing my real purpose, my oh-so-difficult attitude has been sitting back, smiling, and peacefully nodding at the choices I’ve made.

So if you too find yourself doing a good old ugly cry over a missed opportunity, a broken relationship, a failing career – just know that this is simply a sign that you need a change, and deep inside you probably know what that is. Time to roll up your sleeves and do it!

I’d offer my mother’s in-your-face counselling services to get you through it, but seeing as the phrase “I’m your mother” is her only credential, it might not work for you.

How to manage money like an adult and save up to 40% of your salary (in a big city!)

Dearest Reader,

I am what is called a Millennial, or formerly known as Gen Y. When I browse around the web, I can see that my generation is most known for lavish, for spending, for ordering fancy things like avocado on toast which prevents us from buying houses, and for being glued to our phones which we use to order avocado on toast.

I live in Sydney, Australia and have previously lived in London, so I know a thing or two about living in a big city where you seemingly have to spend – but over the years I’ve learned that with a few adjustments, I’ve actually been very anti-millennial and pro-saving. In fact, I have finally hit the sweet spot in which I can save up to 40% of my monthly income!

1. Be a smart renter

Sydney is one of the most expensive cities on this earth, and anyone who’s lived in similar cities knows that “only spending 20% of your income on rent” is impossible. If you are like me, on a very post-study average income, you’ll be paying more like 30-40%.

A total downer indeed, but this is the price we pay to live where it’s all happening, and you have to be smart about your rent. Consider these questions:

  • Can you share your place with a friend? Or even a sexy stranger?
  • Would it be cheaper to live a little further away from the city centre?
  • Would it be cheaper to live closer and pay less on transport? (welcome to Sydney!)
  • Could you make a sacrifice, like not having a tub/balcony/washing machine?
  • Can you find some place where bills/internet are included?
  • Can you downsize?
  • Can you settle for a less scenic view from your kitchen window?

All these things affect your rent, so make a list of deal breakers and be open to everything else!

2. Bring your own avocado and toast

Guys, let’s face it – in the city, coffee is at least $3, lunch is at least $10, multiply by 5 and you’re looking at over $60 for coffee and lunch per week. Doesn’t seem like much, until you realise that’s over $200 per month, and $3000 per year. How much do you earn that you can spend that much on lunch, dude?

You know this. You have heard this before. But you keep doing it.

I want you to go to the store now, buy the cutest portable cup you can find, get yourself a nice coffee machine and make your coffee at home. And for God’s sake, get your avocado and toast from the grocery store and bring it to work. It will save you thousands.

3. Catching up with friends doesn’t equal restaurants

A very simple night out in Sydney – a meal, a drink, a dessert to share, tip, uber home – can easily add up to $70 – $100. Add more drinks, and you’re easily up to $150. Do this three times, and you’ll realise where all your fucking money went.

But city life works like that – you catch up after work and that’s just going to have to be at a bar, and obviously you have to spend and if you don’t do it, you won’t have any friends, right?

Wrong.

There are 100 other things you can do together that don’t require money.

  • Sit in the park with a hipster coffee and judge people
  • Work out together (or plan to, and then end up sitting down and judging people)
  • Invite your friends over instead – cook, make cocktails, popcorn and a movie etc.
  • If you’re artsy or culturally inclined, there must be free exhibitions and events everywhere
  • Take a day trip to nature
  • Catch up during work lunch ($10 instead of $100!)

If you can replace some of the nights out with other activities, you’ll find that you can save a ton of money and still socialise. In fact you might become the one friend that’s a little more exciting to hang out with.

4. Finally, learn the difference between wanting something and needing something

You worked hard for your money, and you have every right to spend it on whatever you like. But you know you’ve been spending it on shit you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people you don’t like.

You don’t need more clothes. You don’t need more make-up, skincare products, decoration for your house or any more stationary. Use up what you have first, and you’ll automatically go on a spending freeze. This spending freeze can save you hundreds of dollars a month, which you can save up for greater goals – a trip? a house? Wouldn’t you rather have a coffee in Paris than buying yet another bag?

I hope this was helpful – if you have any more advice, leave it in the comments! 🙂

Save or splurge? 2 best tips on how to travel like an adult

Dearest Reader,

There comes a time in your life when you just can’t imagine yourself sleeping in a bunk bed with 10 other people in some hostel anymore. You go to work like a real grown-up every day, you’re trying to desperately stay on top of your adult responsibilities, and you just deserve a holiday with a little more luxury than this.

At the same time, you need to be money-wise, because money doesn’t grow on trees – just remember all them bitches you didn’t slap at work every day to afford this holiday!

So how do you travel like an adult?

What do you save on? What do you splurge on? 

1. SPLURGE: Realistic flights and journey times

How many times have you booked a low cost flight, thinking that sure, I’ll be fine taking off at 6am in the morning and having 2 stopovers of 7 hours each to save 100 bucks. 

But think of the reality. If you fly internationally at 6am, it means you’ll have to be at the airport around 4am. Depending on how far you live from the airport, that means trying to organise transport an hour or more before then. And before that, you have to wake up and get ready!

Trust me, when you are shivering outside in the dark waiting for the airport shuttle bus at 2am in the morning on no sleep, with 22 hours of travel to go, and someone came along and told you:  Hey, if you give me $100 right now, I’ll make this whole journey 100 times more comfortable for you!
You’d be like: Hell yeah, take my money and just get me out of this shit.

The same applies to long or frequent stopovers. I was recently tempted to buy a flight ticket from Sydney to Venice which was $900 cheaper than the average airline because there was a 26 hour stopover in Mumbai.

Woah $900! But let’s do the maths here.

Now, with a probably 40+ hour total journey, you’re looking at basically missing at least two working days. Let’s say you make $200 bucks a day, that means you lose $400, and at this point you’re only saving $500. On top of that, now you’re stuck in Mumbai for 26 hours. Do you leave the airport? That costs money. Do you buy food? That costs money again. Do you rent a room? That’s going to be a handsome sum!

And trust me, even after only 10 hours of waiting at the airport, bored out of your mind, dead phone, out of snacks, you’d be willing to spend $500 to be on the next flight to Venice.

You’re on holiday for fuck’s sake. Time to relax!

2. SAVE: Hotels and room service

When you finally say goodbye to youth hostels, there are a whole new set of challenges: Resisting the mini bar, the room service meals, and all sorts of other luxuries that come with a price tag. Many hotels will charge more because of the little extras – maybe you get a bottle of something bubbly on arrival, or fresh fruit every day, or some ‘complementary’ high-end skincare products.

The good news is that you can have all this and more for a fraction of the price, if you plan ahead a little.

For instance, did you know that you can have unlimited ice in fancy buckets delivered to your door for free? If you just bring your own bottle of champagne, or buy it when you arrive, you’ll be spending $30 on this sparkling experience instead of $150 in extra daily charges for the convenience of having it there on arrival. In fact, have a damn champagne bottle once a day for that price! Go ahead, you earned it!

Fill your mini fridge with your own favourite snacks and drinks – you are allowed to keep your own things in the fridge! You know that you’ll want a beer and a snickers at 11pm at night. And why shouldn’t you have those things, dammit? So when you arrive at your destination, just take a trip to the convenience store and fill up the fridge will all the disgusting things your heart may desire.

And if you really want food and drinks delivered to your door – just use a delivery service. Food delivery is a thing in most countries, so just use any of the normal delivery sites you’d use at home (and yes, they deliver to hotel rooms!). I recently ordered ice cold beers and awesome meals from a local restaurant to my hotel room in Brisbane. Not only was it delicious to eat, but it was delicious to know that the hotel would have charged me 200% of what I’d paid for the exact same thing.

I hope these tips and small hints of luxury will make your next trip feel a little more grown-up. And sparkly.

The Comeback of Bartering

Dearest Reader,

One thing that all humans living in urban areas have in common is the hunt for money – we don’t have enough, we need more, because it will buy us the things we need to survive, and many things we definitely don’t need, and perhaps also happiness.

But in simpler, less consumerist communities I have observed some signs of the old bartering system.

The village in which my parents reside is a perfect example – your neighbour grows figs and gives you some for free, in return you make some jam and share it with them. It’s very cute and helpful, and everyone can survive this way.

But it got me thinking, if we were truly to burn all our money and collectively start bartering in modern life, how would we work things out?

Issues arise with very basic things, for instance, is a cookie worth more than an apple because more physical labour and ingredients went into a cookie? Or should the intangible things, like time, care and love be considered when valuing an apple?

Also, could we only swap food for food, or could we swap a tub of sour cream for multi purpose cleaner?

How much is a pair of jeans worth in, say, eggs? 50? 80?

How would we go about technology? I mean sure, an iPhone must be worth thousands of eggs, but not everyone can offer that. Perhaps one could offer a mixed bag of things, like a couple of pairs of jeans, a bit of sour cream and some completed pinterest crafts.

Perhaps it is simply a utopian idea that’s never going to work in the world we have created. But nevertheless, the other day I gave it a try.

After buying a second-hand microwave from this lovely young lady in my suburb, she also offered me other household items as she was moving overseas and needed to get rid of things.

I replied that I could definitely use them but I didn’t have the money to pay for anything else. So instead, we made a different arrangement.

She donated these things to me, and I baked banana bread for her very last breakfast as I assumed her kitchen would be completely empty after packing and moving everything out. I also wrote her a nice note to express my gratitude, and paid her with that.

She loved it, and we had a very nice goodbye despite being complete strangers.

So perhaps, dearest reader, bartering can make a comeback from time to time, even in the great metropolis.

 

Maths: Was it worth it?

Dearest Reader,

You may or may not know that while I have always been a good student, I have always struggled with maths. I told myself that I can’t be good at everything, and that’s just a weakness of mine.

But here’s the thing. When I think back, I realise that maybe there isn’t anything wrong with me, but with the content of the curriculum.

I recently realised that most of what I had to learn and understand during math classes has not at all been applicable in my everyday life, not even to impress in some pretentious conversation, and many skills that I could have used were not discussed at all.

For instance, I never learned about taxes. I need to pay them, that I figured from the threatening letters I received when I didn’t.

Yet, I have no idea exactly how it is calculated, where it goes, what I need to do to save on taxes and why some people put money in Swiss banks and somehow avoid taxes altogether. Why wasn’t that taught? That could have been helpful, literally applicable every year of my adult life.

Instead, I remember having to calculate the water mass and volume of a river that varies in width at different points. I can safely say that this has yet to come in handy.

The other thing I wish that I had been taught was budgeting and saving. While we learn to add and subtract, nobody teaches you about money, about interest rates, credit cards, saving for retirement, debt or personal financial management in general. Not surprisingly, most of us are in some sort of debt, or at least limping to the finish line that is payday.

Rather, I was busy calculating the speed of a ball that is falling off a tall building, considering its weight and the distance it needs to travel to the ground. I believe if I did this in real life, not only would it serve no purpose, but it would also be highly illegal. Though admittedly I have been tempted during watermelon season.

Finally, while the whole world calls for entrepreneurs, start-ups and creating new jobs, nobody explained exactly what maths one must consider when making investments and starting a business. I remember spending years and years doing abstract calculations that don’t even include numbers but just variables, figuring out the ominous formulas required to work out ‘x’. Well, it turns out that x ain’t worth a damn when you have a great idea and you’d like to know how to put it into action.

While we can’t change the curriculum or the past, dearest reader, at least we can make peace with it.

From now on I shall no longer claim I’m bad at maths; I shall say I am just a little more practical than the school system plans for!

 

 

Saving Fails

Dearest Reader,

Becoming frugal is one of the key skills one develops as one progresses into adulthood.

However, there have been times when I had the best intentions and was trying to save money and do it the grown-up way, only to find that I made the situation worse or more expensive.

On the top are and will always be travel saving fails. 

I remember dragging my two suitcases through the snow in a deserted area of Germany because I tried to save money on air travel and booked my landing to an airport which was many hours from my actual destination.

I not only ruined by bags with the mixture of ice, snow and salt, but also almost suffered my own death waiting for busses and trains in -15 degrees celsius.

I’ve also experienced countless anxiety-ridden moments of my luggage being weighed, hoping nobody would notice the multiple layers of clothes currently on me, and the several pounds of toiletries in my pockets.

It goes without saying that many times, I ended up paying much more on excess luggage fees, train tickets from and to remote airports, as well as numerous bottles of overpriced water on airlines that don’t provide free water.

The other ways I unsuccessfully attempted to save money on was food wrapping. Reach for the cheapest cling film, aluminium foil or sandwich bags and you are sure to keep spending and spending as these don’t hold, grip or seal in the way you’d expect, and you end up wrapping things in multiple layers or putting bags into bags, only to find your entire handbag covered in sauce anyway because your lunch leaked all over.

Finally, clothes. We all know it is best to shop online if you’re not too fussed about the wait and the inability to try things on. I have myself been an avid online-shopper, with more positive than negative experiences.

But money, dearest reader, and your greed eventually blind you. And it was not long before I too discovered the kinds of websites that offer what look like stylish and good-quality clothes for ridiculously cheap prices, such as $7 for a jacket, $5 for pair of jeans or even $30 for a wedding dress.

Needless to say, when I ordered a dress which cut off way above my waist line and a ‘one-size’ top that barely fit one of my arms, I realised that this was not the answer. Sure, it all only cost $15. But there they go, those $15. Poof. Wasted.

But dearest reader, may this not encourage you on the quest to look for the sweetest deal. More often than not, it works out well.

And if it doesn’t, at least you have a funny anecdote to tell.