Monday, February 28, 2011

Advice for Credit Card Debt Reduction

There are many credit card holders who have found success in finding their way out of loans. Some can find their way out by themselves and some use the help and advice from debt reduction companies, otherwise known as debt settlement firms. If you have borrowed a huge amount in the form of loans then you can find the following debt reduction advice helpful.

If you have outstanding credit card debt and are trying to find solutions on how to pay off your credit card debts, there are a few popular method and strategies to it. Sometimes it may be difficult when you're facing agressive creditors and collection agencies.

1) Snowball Method - List your debts from the lowest balance to the highest balance, pay the minimum on all your debt and divert all extra payments towards the lowest debt balance. This method is a moral booster although not the best, dollar wise. Keep repeating the strategy until your debts are paid off.

2)Avalanche Method - List your debts from the highest rate to the highest rate, pay the minimum on all your debt and divert all extra payments towards the debt that has the highest interest. Keep repeating the strategy until your debts are paid off. This is the best method that will ensure that you pay the least amount of interest over time. Although not as morale boosting as the Snowball Method.

3) Debt settlement programs - their target client are people who have debts over $10,000. An option if you're struggling with agressive creditors and lenders and just can't find your way out. They have experience negotiating with creditors for cheaper interest rates or to reduce the balance of your loan. Although there will be fees that probably apply.

4) Debt consolidation loans - Involves taking out a personal loan or organising a line of credit loan against your mortgage and using it to pay off your various creditors and lenders in one go. This enables you to refinance all the various loans into one, simple loan and usually at a lower interest rate.

5) Rolling the various loans into your mortgage via refinancing - This is always the best, however not always feasible for everyone. It's not feasible for you if you have no equity in your mortgage, if you don't have a mortgage or if your house is underwater (your mortgage balance is more than what your house is worth). If you have equity in your property, you can refinance your various loans into the mortgage and this will be amongst the cheapest form of financing. You have to ensure that if you utilise this option, you need to maintain your current payment so that you don't stretch out your debt for 25-30years. If you don't, then you'll discover that in 30 years time, you will still be paying for the dinner that you charged onto your credit card!

Negotiate with your creditors and lenders

Sort out all your bills and debts before you try any of the steps above. Call each of the creditors and see if you can arrange a payment option with them. If it's a small bill, see if you can get your creditor to reduce the bill with the condition that you can settle the bill immediately if they can assist by reducing the amount.

How you can erode your debts faster? Make extra repayments using the Snowball or the Avalanche Methods and always negotiate with your creditors. Keep them in the loop.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Charity has hit a minor road block - of the piggy bank kind

This little piggy is fussy about the coins that she will accept!

A piggy bank is just a piggy bank, right?! Not if you're a little piggy bank that's made in China...

When I wandered down to the local discount store, commonly referred to as the $2 shop, although this is a misleading misnomer because almost everything in the store costs more than $2 these days... I found this cute female piggy bank and bought one to hold money deposited for my charity fundraising. I didn't even realise piggy banks could be separated into genders of female and male until I realised that female piggy banks have eyelashes, and the male ones don't.

Each drink that I sell to raise money for charity is sold at $1/can, so it wasn't a problem if someone deposited a $1 coin or any other coin for that matter EXCEPT for the 50 cent coin. Maybe the coins in China aren't any larger than our 20 cent coin and this little, yellow piggy would have been fine if it was used to hold Chinese currencies. However in Australia, it wasn't serving its function properly lol

As you can see, the 50 cent coin is stuck. It won't go down!!!

I heart Japanese food, snacks, culture and their manga + anime

While being another random blog post, I thought I'd mention that there's an awesome Japanese grocery store in Artarmon(Eastern side of the station, the side with the least high rise apartments) that I found that beats the Maruyu Japanese grocery store (283-285 Clarence Street, Sydney NSW 2000) hands down. There aren't that many Japanese grocery stores in Sydney so finding a new one is rewarding.
The Artarmon one is awesome. Not only does it stock a very wide range of Japanese ingredients but it felt like I was back in Japan at one of their Seiko Marts or Lawson style grocery stores. It was quaint and full of imported stuff from Japan (bad for our economy but good for the taste buds). I bought a pile of random delicious goodness:

Lucky Mart Japanese Grocery Store, Artarmon

Anegawa Japanese Grocery Store, Artarmon

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Working multiple side jobs for extra income

It's been a long time now since I worked two jobs simultaneously, or three jobs if I count assisting my parents with their work.

I never had a problem with working two or three jobs, working six or seven days a week. If it had to be done, it had to be done. Afterall, my parents had worked seven days a week for over two decades with their business and never once complained about it. BUT... unlike a lot of personal finance bloggers, I never had any sort of crippling consumer debt to pay off. The extra income allowed me to buy stocks, go on extravagant holidays, buy investment assets and indulge in my various hobbies and interests.

Why are some people working multiple side jobs?

So do you think your life is tough?

On the weekend, while busy shopping, I chatted with a friend's hubby who updated me with the news that he's been working three jobs. A full time Monday to Friday office accounting role, Tuesday and Wednesday night doing restaurant and grocery store work and Sunday doing grocery store work. He's been trying to erode the mortgage and save some extra money for travelling. He's not the only one at that store doing three jobs. There was another guy that told me that he was a banker Monday to Friday, grocery night filler for 5 nights a week and during weekend daylight hours, worked in Dick Smith Electronics retails section.

If I thought they both worked hard, but then there was another guy that told me that he worked 7am to 4pm at a science lab and worked 5pm-10pm at the delicatessen every Monday to Friday and a full 8 hour shift on Sundays.

All three are working on average 70-90 hours a week holding down two or three jobs each. All driven by different factors - trying to pay the mortgage off early, trying to support parents who live overseas or trying to support the wife and two kids. Some people choose to whinge about not having enough income to buy the things they want and do the things they want, while some choose to work hard to earn that little bit extra so that they have the freedom and choice for their future.

A few years ago, when I raised the issue of multiple jobs and working 70-90 hour weeks, a friend of mine replied, "Why work harder? They should all be working smarter." True true, however, working multiple jobs can allow you to build your wealth or erode your debts much faster. If the idea of cutting back on current expenditure or luxuries in life is painful to you, then you could experiment with the option of working a second or third job while maintaining your current lifestyle. As long as you divert that extra income into saving/investing or paying off debt, then you shouldn't have to live so frugally nor feel guilty about it.

Ideas on how you can supplement your income with side jobs:

  • Do contracting work on the side within your area of specialty, knowledge, experience or strengths. Examples: a programmer can write websites on the side, I.T consultants can do I.T contracting work on the side, web designers can do design work for weddings, parties, events on the side.
  • Have a 'side hustle'. Examples: teaching music/guitar/piano/dancing, dog walking, baby sitting, gardening, mowing lawns, cleaning, blogging, selling items on Ebay/Etsy/Artfire, catering for birthdays, functions and parties if you have culinary skills, house sitting, coaching a sport team, tutoring a variety of subjects. There are plenty of pf blogs out there exploring the many ways in which you can create income on the side.
  • Invest in assets to build passive income streams to replace your multiple jobs. This is my favourite option. If you're lazy then this should be your preferred option too. I label this as a side job because it's just as time consuming as a job. It requires a lot of hard work, effort and number crunching to find assets such as positive cash flow properties and good dividend paying stocks. Also to be diligent in ensuring that your funds are earning the highest market interest rates.
  • Working in a part time side job. Examples: Retailing with clothes or food, waitressing, at stadiums or sport events. This one doesn't take advantage of your existing skills, knowledge or experience so will probably pay a lot less than contracting in a side job that uses your existing skills. Although it can add variety and allow you to meet other people from different walks of life.

LA Times and their money makeover disaster stories

You can read about the money makeovers at,0,849848,full.story

A lot of the money makeover people featured could really do with second or third jobs to catch up and solve their financial problems. Although anyone with a lots of debts need good defense (cut spending) and good offense (increase income). Ever since Boston Gal started featuring these money makeover couples, I've been reading the makeovers.

Money makeovers involves cutting back on lavish expenditure, looking for how to increase income, how to budget, facing up to reality and how the disaster started to gain momentum and how to reverse that disastrous financial slide.

Would I ever consider working multiple jobs again?

Having time off to spend on personal interests and hobbies is a great way to balance life but if reality required me to hold down several jobs simultaneously, I wouldn't complain. The good thing about saving and investing to create passive income is to actually create choices and flexibility in life. At this point in time, if I lost my job, I could survive indefinitely without working.

It may not be surviving in luxury, but the basics would be covered by the passive income stream. That's what my ultimate goal is. To create choices for my future self and create options for pursuing further dreams, whether that be doing my own thing, or going down the philanthropic, volunteering route.

If you're stuck in this apex of life, holding down multiple jobs and wondering if it will ever end, you need to set some time aside to actually analyse your situation, form a budget and start finding out how you can force yourself to save. With those savings, you can learn to invest and build your investment portfolio whether that be from stocks, properties, bonds, CDs, deposits, interest or whatever. Your future self will thank your current self.

As a side note, thanks to those who have subscribed to my blog and those who have returned to read my new posts :) It's always nice to know that there are readers out there who return to read my new posts and that I'm not just writing for myself and for the sake of writing.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Peform monthly or fortnightly financial health checks for optimum results

Everyone should perform a financial health check at least once a month, if not fortnightly.

The benefits are vast:

1) You can see what bills need to be paid, what you've paid, tally up any expenses if you track them and update accounting or financial management software if you use them
2) If you have a budget then you can see how your actual income and expenditure measures up against your budgeted ones
3) If you've got savings in high interest accounts, in term deposits or whatever, then you can have a quick hunt around to see if there are better rates on offer, negotiate for them with your existent bank or set up new accounts and transfer your funds into them
4) You can check to see if you've been meeting your liabilities and have been making payments against outstanding debts
5) If you've got funds in transactional accounts not earning any interest, then move them into a high interest account
6) If you've got debts or bills to pay, you can figure out how you're going to allocate your income to pay them, instead of waiting until the due date comes around and then panicking about how to pay them

Recently I just performed mine. It involves doing the following:

1) Checking the interest rates on my online saving accounts and ensuring that I'm receiving a competitive rate on my savings
2) Pay my bills, check for future bills that may be forthcoming, check my expenditure for the month, compare with previous month and if I can be bothered, compare with last years
3) Recurring bills such as insurances, checking to see other offers out there and requesting or changing to something more competitive if I can't get a better deal
3) Finding out the balance of my superannuation retirement funds, the balance of my HECS student debt, checking the market value of my portfolio of stocks (although the iphone Bloomberg app is fantastic for this - it will automatically update the prices whenever I'm on the WiFi)
4) Check the social events that are coming up and the gifts that I have to buy (birthdays, baby showers, special events) or give (most wedding gifts require money to be given as gift since most couples are already living together)

The results of my recent financial health check:

1) (good) Savings account were good, all up for 2011
2) (good) Interest and dividend incomes were good, also all up for 2011

3) (good) Stock portfolio was good (capital gains), up for 2011

4) (good) Superannuation retirement fund was good, also up for 2011

5) (good) Expenses for Jan/Feb 2011 was down from Jan/Feb 2010, which is good

6) (good) Investment loan liability balance for Feb 2011 is down from Feb 2010, which is good

7) (stable) My HECS student debt is pretty flat, have been contemplating making another lump sum payment in April. I had the plan to make an additional lump sum payment in April off my HECS / HELP debt to drop the balance to 30% (ie have 70% paid off)
8) (good) Net wealth balance is up comparing Feb 2010 versus Feb 2011, which is good

No Euro trip for 2011, bummer:

Unfortunately the Euro trip will have to be for 2012 instead. It turns out, I barely have any annual leave days left after burning through so many days in 2010. So as a result, the 2011 savings/funds will be utilised in four possible ways:

1) Lending some to my friend to buy the replacement car since it was my fault that we were in that region when the guy wrote off the car and the insurance payout is insufficient for buying a replacement
2) Spending some on a snow trip somewhere, either Australia or New Zealand
3) Buying the investment property or
4) Doing nothing and buying some(all) toys on my wish list

Note on Jan/Feb 2010 vs Jan/Feb 2011 - I had a lot of one off expenditures in Jan/Feb 2010 which I didn't fortunately have to incur for Jan/Feb 2011. Expenditures such as passport renewal, prepaying for tickets etc for our trip to Japan and Hong Kong, medical expenses. I got really gouged by medical expenses last year to the tune of $3,314 and wrote two post on medical bills:
* Navigating our health insurance
* Poor health can send you broke

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Say no to Luddenham, Greendale and Bringelly Cemeteries and Crematoriums

There's been an update at the site. All objectors are encouraged to contact anyone of the members for information and to join the protest against the cemetery and crematorium applications in the areas of Luddenham, Greendale and Bringelly. Email Duncan at or send an email to

If you would like to oppose the Luddenham Memorial Park (cemetery and crematorium) proposal, then refer to my other post which you can read by clicking here: Luddenham Memorial Unwanted

Will the children of tomorrow look back upon our generation today and say that we've made a bad decision in land use policy? Agricultural land in Australia is a finite resource and it really is time that the Government and local councils take a good look at Australia and its food production future. Particularly since NSW is the last bastion of viable agricultural land that isn't affected by extreme drought, flooding and cyclones.

1) The urban sprawl from coast to inland has seen development built upon the best and most fertile land already in Australia. Inner city and coastal regions receive regular rainfall, the soil is fertile and perfect for farming, however, housing and apartments have taken over the farms and orchards and pushed farmers further inland

2) Now it's a case of agricultural farmlands going up against competing land uses such as: cemeteries and crematoriums, gas fields, mining, viticulture, breeding and urban development.

3) Mining is something that will provide revenue for a period of time and after that, nothing. It will pretty much rip the land into pieces, pollute the area and then any attempts at land rehabilitation will take decades to repair. Cemeteries as a land use option, is just as bad as mining. It affects watercourses and groundwater, the drainage and water runoffs are heavily loaded in nutrients which will ultimately pollute local creeks, watercourses and dams. They both have a single use policy. Use once for a period of time and then the land is useless afterwards.

Will the Australian public finally wake up and realise that their food is in danger of being raised and grown in areas surrounded by cemeteries and crematoriums? I was raised in an agricultural background and I find it so sad that farmers are now having to fight against developers from building crematoriums and cemeteries adjacent to their land. It's also sad that they have to protest against miners from mining the land.

The quality of our groundwater and aquifers are currently one of the best in the world but at the rate that we are spiralling downwards, the future may be looking extremely bleak for food production. Why are councils even considering these type of development across the remaining bits of fertile land?

Australia's population is small at 22 million. Instead, there should be intensive development clustering around CBDs (Sydney, Parramatta, Hornsby, Liverpool) and close to train lines to encourage our population off the road and onto environmentally friendly options. Why was the Epping to Chatswood line built? It was to connect the city with the North Ryde Macquarie Park business park.

The North Ryde Macquarie Business Park is one of the biggest waste of public transport infrastructure. The new train stations are surrounded by low rise office buildings. These should have been developed as high rise office towers so that more businesses can rent out a suite near the station and again, reduce the urban sprawl and reduce the amount of cars on the road. It's the biggest failure of new train lines - there are so few office workers getting off at the Macquarie Park/North Ryde trains stations that it really was a piece of infrastructure that should have been built elsewhere - particularly out in the wild wild west.

When will local council realise that developments without infrastructure is unfeasible? When will they build the infrastructure first and then bring in the developments?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Best Orange Cake Recipe

I love citrus fruits. Oranges, limes and lemons. When it's orange season and there's plenty around, you can squeeze a fresh glass of orange juice or you can bake a cake. Same with lemons. Or you can candy the orange and make scrumptious snacks. The following recipe is for an orange cake that I've made plenty of times because it's and easy, soft and very yummy. I love icing but will usually omit the icing to cut back on the sugar... gotta cut back somewhere! ;)

Cake Ingredients:

140g butter softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs room temperature
2 cups self raising flour
3/4 cup milk
juice and rind of 1 orange (if you want the intense orangey taste, use the zest of 3 oranges)

Orange Icing Ingredients:
2 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp butter softened
juice of 1/2 orange
zest of 2 oranges or you can candy some zest and garnish on top

For Cake:
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm tin.
Cream butter with sugar. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each one.
Fold in flour alternately with milk.
Fold in orange juice and rind/zest
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. At 35 minutes, insert skewer in to the centre of the cake and if it comes out cleanly, remove from oven and cool in tin for a few minutes before cooling on a cake rack.

For Icing:
Combine icing sugar and butter and add enough orange juice to make a soft past
Mix well
Spread on cake and you can garnish with extra zest on top or candied zest/rind

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Alexa Ranking: Visitors and pageviews increased by 1200% over the quarter

The amount of visitors on my blog has gone up 1200% in the past three months according to Alexa, the web information company and its search engine rankings. It was rather odd because at first I thought I was just blogging for an unknown world and maybe someone out there may one day find something useful in my blog. As I started posting more and more articles, Google improved the ranking of my blog in the search queries to almost first page on a few of the topics. Which is probably what brought all the new visitors to the blog.

The more articles I write and the more fequently I post, the more visitors that I get. Although I may not post nor blog frequently, when I do, it does improve page view results. Most bloggers start off with a structure, an idea and a target audience in mind. I started off with writing about topics that interested me and that other readers may find interesting. The idea of having your blog ranked and trying to improve the global ranking didn't even occur to me.

Until I stumbled across something called the Yakezie Network (which I haven't joined) and their goal to achieve an Alexa ranking of under 200,000 or under 100,000 for all members. In order to improve each other's Alexa ranking, they encourage members to visit each others blog, write comments and cross promote articles. The positive side of joining such network is people power and leveraging off their shared audiences. The downside would be that sometimes they blog about exactly the same topic at the same time and it's get repetitious reading the similar topics across different blogs.

Alexa ranking counts website traffic in terms of average daily visitors to the website and the number of page views. I checked my Alexa ranking and it wasn't even counted a few months ago because this blog was too new and didn't have sufficient visitors. Many bloggers aim to cater to a huge audience and reduce their Alexa ranking, which means their blog has grown in popularity. If you have a low Alexa ranking then it could translate into advertisers clamouring around you trying to pay to advertise on your blog.

I checked Alexa again today and I finally have an Alexa ranking! 6,047,422 haha!! It's pretty lame really ^_* but I was surprised at the statistics that the number of visitors had increased by 1200% over the recent quarter. Of course, if I had a blogging hiatus, the numbers would probably degenerate quickly as well in this world that constantly craves new information, new materials and new articles on a regular basis.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why do people think they are anonymous on the internet?

Some people think that they can hide themselves under a pyseudonym or write something and call themselves 'anonymous'. It doesn't work that way on the internet. Not only can you be traced back to your IP Address and internet service provider (ISP) but you can be tracked back to your suburb and with a bit of googling based on the various handles (nick names you use), your address can be located. It may take a bit of work, but it's possible. Even if you signed off on a comment as 'anonymous' or something innocuous.

The SMH had an interesting article about twitter and the many victims of twitter. Namely those who think they are tweeting something witty and interesting, only to find themselves being lambasted in reality over their inappropriate tweets (Stephanie Rice, Courtney Love, Shane Warne, Catherine Deveny etc).

Before you post to the internet, consider that the world is your audience

If you use Facebook or you blog and decide to post an article that is criticising someone or some company, you never know when you may one day find yourself at a promising interview but fail because after they google your name, they pull up your negative rants against their company or one of their staff member. Although if that company doesn't read your rant, learn and try to modify their ways, then they may never know why sales and revenue is dropping, staff are leaving or why people are dissatisfied. It works two ways. Most of the time, they'll probably read the comment or rant and see red. So sometimes it's better off to hold back rather than publicly rant.

What about the 'friends' on your Facebook social network who can betray you. There have been a few cases of those last year where someone has called their work to say they are 'sick' but then they post a status update on Facebook stating how much they've enjoyed a concert or a football match. Now that 3G phones with data plans are ubiquitous, people are constantly posting comments on Facebook and twitter regardless of their workplace trying to 'ban' these social media and sites. Whitelists and blacklists and proxy servers can be useless when staff have data plans on their phones.

However, having 24/7 access to the internet doesn't always lead to happy results. You can find yourself facebooking or tweeting something that you shouldn't have if you had a bit more time to mull over your comments.

The interesting, weird and wacky things that people google to stumble upon my blog

I thought this would be an interesting way to cap this post. You should be self conscious that somewhere out there, websites are busy gathering statistics on how you got there, entry links, exit links, stuff downloaded, pages visited, length of visit, IP address, suburb and state that you're from, type of browser you used, type of computer that you used and that's just scraping the surface of how website statistical counters collect information about you.

Here's a list of random stuff that people have been googling to end up at this SMG blog (and yes I also collect statistics about you, so if you're visiting my blog for honest, intellectual, random or nefarious means, don't think that you're 100% anonymous!):

The various and the wacky google queries(I haven't corrected the typos, it's quoted verbatim with incorrect spelling and grammar as queried):

*"To cut all the many answers short and relieve your worries, keep this in mind: Children are not lega" - hmm... maybe their google query was too long...this is wacky to end up with my blog as a search result. I can guess what the query would be if it was completed. Children are not usually legally liable for your debts unless their names/signatures were on the loan documents.

*"BC Housing and bed bug, tenant can have help with prepared place for spray for bug" - How on earth did they end up on this blog? If you're a tenant, and you have bugs like termites and millions of cockroaches, get your land lord to organise a pest inspection and request them to treat the place. If it's a unit block, advise your landlord and the strata managing agent and they should organise a pest/treatment solution at their own cost. If it's your bed that has the bed bug, good luck because that's your own personal problem.

*"HOW MUCH PER HOUR DOES A WAITER GET PAID AT MC DONALDS SOUTH AFRICA PE" - Using all caps lock doesn't mean you'll get a better search result. This person would have been better off checking Mc Donald's South African website if there's such thing as that. Would it be too much to expect South Africa to have minimum wage protection or award rates? That googler would be better off sending an email enquiry to Mc Donalds to ask. Better yet, stroll into one of the stores and ask one of the store managers how much does an average waiter get paid.

*"marine groom cakes" - The googler would have found the wedding cake photo that I took complete with fishes and turtles. Can't help that one.

*"siantar golf club" - ho ho ho...since when have I blogged about golfing?! Maybe I may have mentioned Tiger Woods and his wondering ways at some stage but then so has the entire world.

*"half the world will be flooded" - This googler probably has a predilection towards doomsday scenarios or something. Sure, there's been awful flooding in a lot of countries lately that have been terrible disasters(Queensland-Australia, Pakistan, Brazil) but that doesn't mean our world's going to end tomorrow or someday soon unless the crazy nuclear bombs are set off. Yes North Korea, I'm talking about you.

* "Gina Rinehart, gina rinehart husband, older richest women in Australia, gina rinehart who is she and what is she like her personality, where does gina rinehart live" - There have been so many people who visited this blog to view the Gina Rinehart page. From all over the world and countries I've never heard of. Goes to show that when you're a powerful women in mining and the richest women in Australia, people are interested in your life and your businesses. Several of them were googling about her husband as well. Maybe the one googling about her husband wanted to marry her?! Sorry, I think she's happily married.

*"how to melt down 9 carat gold" - This one should have visited a jewellery site or a jewellery store.

*"how to gift money to the y generation" - You can gift the money to me, I'll send you my bank details!

*"what the average australian spends money on" - Outrageous living costs of course. All bills have been increasing-electricity/energy, water, gas, insurances, food, groceries, rent, mortgage interest rates, fuel, restaurants and takeaway foods, alcohol, mobile phone plans that includes a data plan so they can Facebook, Twitter and use the satellite navigation at every single spare moment, overpriced coffees and sugary drinks from Chatime, Easyway and Boost Juice and their ilks.

*"15/hour for 40 hours means" - $600, there I've done the maths for you so next time you google that, you will see the results.

*"2207 elizabath drive luddengham, penrith cit council views on cemetery in luddenham, cemetery development luddnaham, luddenham memorial park, protest of crematoriums and cemeteries in australia" and other different variations. I'm aware that a lot of people can't spell and the suburb "Luddenham" isn't really the easiest word to spell but it's not as difficult as the suburb Woolloomooloo. Woolloomooloo encourages people to remember the following sequence in trying to get the spelling right - sheep, toilet, cow, toilet. Seriously.