Five Things I’m Grateful For This Thanksgiving

Today is Thursday, November 28, 2019 in Japan. In the US, it is celebrated as Thanksgiving. In that spirit, I wanted to write about things that I’m grateful for.

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I’ve written before how gratitude is my superpower. But I wanted to re-visit it today.

It only seems fitting.

So here are five things that I’m grateful for this season:

Knowledge

I am grateful that my eyes are opened to this idea of financial independence. I’ve been able  to read a lot of books, blogs, and articles about it. I’ve also been listening to podcasts. All this has made realize that I don’t have to pursue a consumerist lifestyle, that I can focus on doing the things I want to do so that I can have financial freedom. The community of like-minded people is growing, but there are people still out there who are stuck in the default mode of work, spend, and repeat. I’m so glad that I’ve seen the light.

Security

I’m forever grateful that I live in the first world, where I am living in safety and don’t have to worry about a lot of things. I can buy food whenever I want and not have to worry about where and how to get it. I have a home to protect me against the elements. I can always find a job. I have easy access to healthcare and medicine. I don’t have to defend myself against violence from other people. I don’t have to flee or protect myself from an authoritative government.

These are things we take for granted when you live in the developed world. But when you think about it carefully, billions of people around the world are struggling to meet these basic needs.

It kind of makes you feel really small for complaining about traffic or not getting paid more.

Health

I am grateful that I’m healthy. I can move and walk on my own, not confined to a wheelchair. I have no major disease to battle with. This alone makes me appreciate how lucky I am. I have drawn the genetic lottery by being born into a family with healthy genes and a mother who is a nurse. She made sure that her children all had healthy habits.

I can only imagine the daily struggle sick people go through. I’m including mental health here, too. My husband is one of those people. I see what he goes through and I sympathize and support as much as I can. 

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Friends and Family

I am grateful for the family and friends I have. Without them, I would not be the person I am today. I’m always thankful for their love and support. I live with the knowledge that if I have any kind of problems, there is always someone I can call or talk to. When things get rough, somebody is always there to give me encouragement. When something good happens, I always have someone to share it with. 

I realize that not a lot of people are as lucky as I am. Some people don’t have good relationships with their families, and this makes me so sad. It also makes me appreciate the bond I have with my siblings and my family. Though my friends are also far away, I love getting the occasional text from them that says they are still thinking of me, despite their busy lives.

Resilience

I am grateful for my ability to be resilient. If I can be proud of anything, it’s my ability to handle difficult situations and rise above it. I’ve lived through a lot of rough times, but here I am, still standing. I think I can weather any hardship. This skill also allows me to think of ways to solve problems and not to give up easily when things get tough. 

Of course, this did not happen overnight. It took years and experience to develop this ability. I wish more people would be able to do so. The best thing anyone can do when faced with a tough situation is to face the problem head on instead of running away from it by turning to self-destructive behaviors. 

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So there you have it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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Rushing the Process

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So I just hung up the phone with my nephew.

Or more like: I just switched off Facetime with Baby Boy.

Baby Boy is in college, in his second year of the University of Connecticut’s Business Program. He texted me this weekend, out of the blue, exclaiming that Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad was one of the best books he’s ever read.

I’m so proud. He’s already thinking long-term and thinking about financial independence and being serious with money, productivity, and life.

However, as the conversation went along, he suddenly says that he doesn’t think him getting the business degree he’s currently working on was worth it.

Wait, what?!

Oh, crap.

He goes on to explain that his friends who are the same age as him are already running their own businesses and making $40,000 in profits. They’re doing drop shipping and FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) type of hustles.

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He says he wants to do the same thing. Or if not, create his own business.

While I understand his desire to start a business and get started running, I wonder whether swapping or giving up the business program is a good idea. Unfortunately, nobody in our family has ever owned a business–we all went the traditional education and employment route.

I’m not sure what to say.

He sees his friends already running businesses and making a lot of money and he becomes impatient. He wants to do the same thing because he thinks it’s easy. He hasn’t seen the work that they’ve put into running the business. But at the same time, Baby Boy says his friends are also in college and had to stop because they had to focus on their studies.

I feel like he is rushing the process. Because he’s growing up in the instant, snap-your-fingers-and-it’s-there-type of world, he thinks that making a profit with your business is immediate. I’ve told him that it takes time, that he’s in school to learn how to go about achieving his dream. Since he’s only taking the intro classes so far, he says he already knows what they’re teaching him.

Maybe that’s it–he thinks he’s learned enough and doesn’t need more information. While I understand the passion and motivation to get started, I worry whether he can sustain it for the long-term. He needs to learn the patience and to endure the suck when the bad times come–because it’s not always going to be good. What will he do then?

I did tell him that he can always go back to school and get a degree at a later point in his life if he changes his mind about the business. His immediate answer was that he was going to be behind. We then talked about him maybe switching majors or taking more interesting classes that will keep him in school and not become bored.

Building a profitable and sustainable business takes time, and that’s something he needs to learn. Getting an education takes time. Saving and investing takes time.

There is a natural process for all this. You cannot rush it.

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Which is weird because he says he knows what investing is like–that you need a set it and forget it mentality. Because he started working part-time he’s earning an income and actually started a retirement account. To become a millionaire and grow wealth, you need time.

I feel like he’s on the right path, at 19 he’s already starting to invest. It’s not much, but at least it will give him such a massive head start in life.

Now he just needs to stick to the plan and wait.

But I guess that is the hardest thing to do in this world for a teen-ager bursting with dreams.

Again, it’s all a learning process.

In any case, Baby Boy needs to be mentored along the right path. I’m happy to be here and help him along.

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Point Cards and Stamp Cards in Japan

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I am at Fujiya, our local cake place, choosing which cake to eat for dessert tonight. I make my choice and take out the money for this purchase.

The lady pauses for a moment before she rings up my order. She seemed to be waiting for something.

And then, “Do you have your point card?”

Oh! Whoops! With an embarrassed laugh, I whip it out of my wallet.

“Of course, I do.”

She knows I have one, of course, since we live right next door and we often come here, too. We’ve known each other for years. Usually, I’m vigilant about these things, but I forgot about it today.

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If you live in Japan, most stores will have members cards, point cards, or stamp cards for customers. Now, it only really makes sense to get one of these things if you frequent the store enough, or make purchases that will give you cash back on huge amounts: think furniture or electronics.

Other than that, there’s no point collecting these cards because it will just make a mess in your wallet.

Some things to think about:

Do you frequent the store often?

I guess this one is common sense. If you don’t go to the store often enough, you won’t be needing a card. Think about grocery stores, coffee shops, book stores, drug stores, and even convenience stores. Basically, any place that you’ll be visiting at least once a week.

I know there are many kinds of each store, but that also requires a decision on its own. Do you get a point card for all the drug stores, or just get it for the one you use most often?

For example, there are four major convenience stores in Hokkaido: Lawson, Seven-Eleven, Seicomart, and Family Mart. I only have a point card for Lawson because their Ponta card is also used at Geo for video rentals and the gas station Shell. I can accumulate and use points that way. Even though I do go to the other convenient stores, I don’t really need their cards.

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If you teach at a coffee shop other than Starbucks, you might want to think about getting the coffee shop’s stamp card if they have one because you’ll be there often enough. You’ll usually get a discount on the coffee price, or get a free coffee once you complete the card.

If you don’t go frequently, are you thinking of making a big purchase?

Think expensive electronics and furniture. I have all three of the point cards for the major electronic shops in Japan: BicCamera, Yodobashi Camera, Yamada Denki, and K’s Denki. I just think it’s worth it. These stores usually give you ¥1 or 1 point per ¥100 you spend. If you make a purchase that is over ¥10,000, you’ll get ¥100 in credits for your next purchase.

More often than not, they’ll have promotions that will give you more than 1%, sometimes up to 20%. I keep a lookout for these deals whenever I’m thinking of buying any type of appliance. Our DVD player/TV recorder broke down last month. We ended up buying a Blue Ray recorder for ¥45,000. They had a 10% point campaign so we got ¥4,500 worth of points–that’s quite a tidy sum of money!

Plus, you can use your card anywhere in Japan.

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Is it free? Are there any fees?

Be careful with this one, especially for department stores because they tend to be pushing their credit cards on customers all the time, which requires an annual free. Some grocery stores operate the same way. In general, though, most stores don’t require you to pay them to use points.

If you find out find out about the fees, just say no to these cards. Why pay the extra money to get the “discounts”? There’s no point. (See what I did there? Wink, wink.)

What do you get for completing the stamps?

So point cards are fairly simple. You get points that equate to ¥1, but stamp cards are different. It can mean a discount on your next order, if it’s a restaurant. Either that or a free drink, a side dish, or a free meal. I use the stamp card regularly at the coffee shop because every time I fill up the card, I get a free coffee.

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We used to have a stamp card for the Fujiya next door. For every ¥500 you get a stamp. So two pieces of cake earned us a stamp all the time. Once you fill up your stamp card, you can exchange them for a ¥500 coupon or stuff like cushions, mugs, or bags. If you like getting things, that’s another reason to get the card.

How are the points/stamps earned and used?

Again, be careful with this one. Most stores are upfront; you can use the points to discount your purchase. Some aren’t as straightforward. For the Tsuruha Drug Store point card, you need to earn 500 points first, and then they’ll print out a coupon for you to use in the future. So if you have 320 points earned, you cannot use it to get ¥320 yen. You have to keep spending money at the store to keep earning points and get to 500.

Are you a vigilant person?

By this, I mean, are you going to actually use your points? Because sometimes these points will expire–just like airline miles. Most of the time, stamp cards have a one year span for use. Same with point cards.

Some people like to save their points until they’ve accumulated big chunks and then spend it. Some people are the opposite, they’ll spend the points, no matter how small it is on the next purchase at the same store.

I think both are good, but you just need to be on top of these things.

Also, be aware that sometimes, having a point card for the store means you’ll be spending more money than you need to–just to earn points/stamps. In that way, it’s not really much of a discount. You’d be better served by not spending your money in the first place. But, if you need to make the purchase, it makes sense to accumulate points.

Are there any equivalent store apps?

You can tell I’m not very tech savvy. But most of the stores have their own apps that you can use to earn points, get discounts, or get special deals. These things are always an option instead of having the physical card in your wallet. However, these apps, especially if they’re Japanese stores, won’t always be available to be downloaded in your home country’s iTunes/Google Play store. Since my account is linked to the US App store, I can’t download any of the Japan-specific stores, unfortunately.

 

 

You can see from the above photo that there is no downloadable version of BicCamera for the US App store. They have a Uniqlo app, though, but not the Japanese version.

That’s it in a nutshell. I think there’s some merit to using point cards, especially in places where you often go. You probably won’t be able to escape the store clerks asking you every where you go, anyway, so think about it.

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End of the Year

So we’re coming up on the last two months of 2019.

Frankly, I have lots to do on my list, and I feel like I’m bowing to the pressure.

For the past few weeks, every morning I wake up, I review the things that I have to do for the day. I start the day motivated and then I lose steam later on. I become disinterested in the tasks and just give up sometimes.

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It’s funny because this is how my year has been so far. I feel like I started out strong in April, hit a few bumps on the way, and now I am limping to the finish line.

It’s starting to affect me in negative ways. I am not feeling the joy I used get when I go to work. I am dissatisfied with the projects I am doing. I feel disinterested in the things that I used to be passionate about–like the PhD I’ve dreamed about for years. Or even, the dream towards financial independence.

Sometimes, there is a sense of overwhelm that hits me and shows up unexpectedly in times that usually bring me peace. It is not always there, but it lingers.

In times of stress, I usually like to pull back and take a day off. I’ll just decide not to do anything strenuous and do some light reading–usually novels. After about ten minutes of reading, I am recharged enough to give attention to what needs to get done.

This has not been working out recently. It’s getting harder and harder to recover from setbacks. Because of this, I get disappointed in myself and then fall apart again.

But if we’re speaking honestly, I go through this all the time. I think it’s just hard for me to accept the reality that I am not as productive as I think I am. Maybe I’ve been lying to myself all this time, thinking I can do anything but the day-to-day reality of doing the little things is slowly wearing down the initial enthusiasm I had. Suddenly, the follow through is a lot scarier than it was. I find myself just hoping to get to the end, to get that end product without having to do the hard work.

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But in the natural cycle of life on earth, there are seasons and stages. There is a season for warmth and activity and seasons for rest. Animals forage in the spring and summer. Plants bloom and flower in warmer weather. Come fall, trees shed their leaves and animals go through hibernation in the winter months.

I need to learn this lesson.

Because we live in a society where we are constantly seeking success, wealth, happiness, etc. we forget that we cannot sustain the go-go-go pace we’ve set for ourselves. In the past decades, we’ve been taught that we can have it all: family life, work life, and leisure life. But it’s really hard to do everything at once. It all comes down to how we balance and prioritize our time.

I think I forgot that there is a time to rest and a time to be actively forging ahead.

I put too much pressure on myself by creating those to-do lists that have to be done at all costs. If I don’t cross them off my list, then I am a failure. I wasn’t productive enough. I wasted my time while the whole world continues to get better without me. I am left in the dust and regretting that I wasn’t able to accomplish anything.

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In the long term, this swinging back and forth between enthusiasm and despair is not a good thing.

I am working on it–as usual. At least I recognize it in me.

Which means I have to think about what I can do reasonably in the next two months. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I just want to finish 2019 strong.

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Hanging On

Hubby is going through a crisis right now.

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He’s thinking about quitting his job, mostly because there are things that he just can’t deal with at his workplace.

Unfortunately, the bulk of the comforting and the encouragement falls onto me. Frankly, it’s a little draining sometimes. Though I’m usually very supportive, I’m a little tired of the conversation. We’ve had this discussion so many times. And that is the problem–we talk about it but hubby just can’t seem to quit his job. We only just talk about it.

Some days, I tell him to just say, “F*ck it. I quit.”

I mean, really, what is the point of hanging on to a job that you don’t even like? He should just quit and be done with it.

But it never is that simple, is it?

I’ve mentioned before that hubby is ill. Basically, he has a lot of anxiety issues to deal with. A lot of those anxieties are triggered at work. If you’re sick, there’s just so many things that your mind can handle. There is not enough mental bandwidth to deal with more than what you see in front of you. To hubby, the only things he can process are the most immediate ones at work. Beyond that, there’s no capacity to plan and look at the long term.

Personally, I don’t care if he does quit. I can take the uncertainty of it all like a woman. Yes, losing his income would hurt, but I’m more worried about his mental and physical states. I’ve heard too many horror stories about people who retired and then disintegrate because they don’t have anything to do with their time and mind.

So finding the extra income to fund our lifestyles is the easy fix.

What’s hard to fix is finding out what he’ll do if hubby does end up quitting his job.

Even then, it shouldn’t be a problem, right? If you’re not working, you’ve got time to think about what do do.

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I’ve told hubby he should just quit and then really think about what he wants to do then. The only thing is that I would like him to do something with his time. I’d like him to go out and walk or explore places on his own. I just don’t want him to stay home and just brood or sleep (which is what he tends to do when he has free time). Sleeping means he avoids problems and the things that need to be done.

Unlike me, hubby doesn’t have the time to think and dream of things he wants to do. He tends to wait until the last minute, for the panic to set in, before he ever gets motivated enough to do something.

I think, though, that deep down, he doesn’t really want to think about the possibility of leaving his job so he avoids thinking about such an uncertain future. In past conversations, when you ask him what he wants to do when he retires, he doesn’t usually have an idea. All I get is: I don’t know.

In this respect, we differ very much. I like confronting a problem head on, hubby likes to wait until the last possible moment.

If he does stay on at his job, he still has to deal with a lot of things that cause his anxiety. At present, he has chosen to hang on to this job because it’s all he’s ever done his entire life. I feel bad for him and have told him countless times that he doesn’t need to do so. Hubby says this is what he wants to do. He doesn’t want to start from scratch. I guess the prospect of starting over from zero is worse than hanging on to something that he is familiar with.

Part of me looks at this situation as a way to not live my own life. I know we are out of sync right now when it comes to all this. I’ve given him advice and expressed my own opinions, but ultimately he will need to act. I am just here to support him in whatever he chooses to do.

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The only thing is, I just wish he would choose the direction I’d like him to go in. But that’s out of my hands. The only thing I can do is to come up with a plan of action if he does quit his job. Since he’s not, we follow the path we’ve been on since the beginning.

I guess that’s also a choice, then.

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Consumption Tax Hike Japan 2019

So it’s been more than a week since the consumption tax hike here in Japan. I haven’t experienced anything earth shattering since then. Considering all the media attention and the panic that ran rampant in the streets regarding this issue before October 1st, I find the second week really underwhelming.

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Calendar  showing the 10% consumption tax price in the parenthesis

But let me back track a little.

Essentially, the Japanese government, under Abe’s leadership, needs to make money to fund the social programs. No big news there. This is what governments usually do. They had originally planned on raising the current rate from 8% to 10%. But a lot of people put up a stink and complained–understandably. Nobody wants to pay more taxes. And, the tax hike affects a lot of the elderly Japanese who depend on their fixed-income pensions. They are a powerful voting block.

To compromise, the government decided to do things in half-measures. So what they decided, in their infinite wisdom, was to raise SOME goods to 10% while the rest stayed the same.

What are those goods?

I have no idea. I didn’t pay attention to the news too much, I’m embarrassed to report.

From what I understand, though, most of the consumer goods and services (physical goods and also alcohol) went up to 10% but food prices remained at 8%. However, some food is taxed at the higher level. If you buy something at a store, let’s say a convenience store, you pay 8% consumption taxes on goods that you take home with you. If you choose to eat something at the store, at that location, the taxes go up to 10%. Dining out at restaurants is at 10%.

Confusing?

Yep.

In a land full of elderly people, a lot of them were confused, to say the least. In the food industry, don’t forget that cash registers have to deal with both tax rates. I feel bad for the people who work in food stores.

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Digital registers at our local grocery store that need to adjust for both 8% or 10% tax. 

So the tax hike had everyone panicking with the rise in prices. You had lots of people stocking up on goods before the rate went up. People were buying lots of things that they needed for everyday life, like toilet paper, beer, and other things. Remember, nonfood stuff are taxed at 10%. This includes alcohol.

Me, I only stocked up on my train passes. But in my excuse, the tax hike coincided with the train company’s decision to raise the price of the fares. So in essence, I had two increases to deal with. My one-way fare went from ¥450 to ¥540. That’s quite a steep rise. So I bought about three months worth in train passes. I wasn’t the only one, though. I saw many others doing the same thing.

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New board reflecting new prices in train fare. Used to be ¥450 now ¥540 to Sapporo (yellow)

Funny thing is, about four years ago, a similar incident happened. Our consumption tax went from 5% to 8%. That’s a larger jump than the recent tax hike. But I don’t remember people behaving like that in 2015. Maybe it was my ambivalence, or disinterest in the news, but I really don’t remember people freaking out and stocking up on stuff before the tax went up. Maybe this time around, I was paying more attention so it felt like people were going crazy.

But honestly, though, this is all part of life. We all know that inflation happens–it’s the same with taxes. I just always assume that taxes will go up. It will go up again in a few years, I’m sure. So there was no reason to get caught up with the hysteria of stocking up and spending a whole bunch of money on things before prices went up. Advertisements prompted/tempted people to buy a lot of stuff–expensive things like cars, appliances, homes, etc., before the tax hike.

I get it. But still.

I didn’t change my behavior. We tried not to get caught up in the buying frenzy. Also, I am content to use the stuff we have now that are still working. No need to buy something new or to upgrade just so that I can “save” money on taxes. I still don’t get the logic in that.

But I do understand that for people struggling in the lower income brackets, the increase in the price of daily necessities is huge. Unfortunately, many companies felt that since an increase in the tax was coming anyway, they raised their prices on goods to go with the momentum. So those struggling will feel it more than those who are well off.

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1kg bag of floor has no indicator of tax, which means it stayed at 8% because it’s at food level 

I feel blessed to say we’re financially secure enough to not worry about the tax hike.

I know we’re luckier than most people.

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Coursera, EdX, and MOOCs

The problem when you live in Japan is that everything is in Japanese, especially for those of us who live in areas that are not as connected globally. You do have to rely on the local language most of the time–so if you choose to take classes, most of it will be in Japanese.

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Prayer cards at the Chiba Shrine

Enter online learning.

I’m surprised I haven’t written anything about this topic at all.

Ever since I discovered that I can still keep on studying–all for free–I’ve been off and on taking courses from Coursera.

I love it. It’s been such an awesome experience. Right now, I am enrolled in two courses about environmental science. I decided to take some introductory courses to see whether I really want to go after that PhD in Environmental Science.

I am learning a lot of the basics. It’s all very interesting so far. I am solidifying a lot of core facts from the news I’ve been hearing all these years. Before, environmental studies used to be very vague information about climate change and global warming. Now, I’m understanding the mechanisms of how these systems work. I am looking at the science, basically the physics and the chemical components of how they happen, and I can keep up with it–somehow.

I then asked myself whether I can see myself doing this for the next three to six years, and I decided that yes, I can. I’m fascinated by all this.  I have fully committed to getting that PhD. I really want to go for it now. At least, I’m going to try to get into the program.

This wouldn’t have been possible without Coursera, which is a MOOC, or massive open online course. I’ve also taken a class on EdX. Anybody who has access to the internet and are interested in taking classes that are free and available can sign up through both of theses sites.

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There are many classes available. I usually go for the free ones, but you can also choose those that are paid. Usually, these have more bells and whistles, like certificates to show you’ve taken the class. There’s also more contact with the class administrators if you pay. You’re also limited to what EdX and Coursera have to offer, but some of the classes are really high quality from universities like MIT, Harvard, and Dartmouth.

I like that some of them you can study at your own pace. Others classes have strict assignment deadlines that have to be met. You can take quizzes and do the readings. Some of the homework is really interactive–I have to design my own earth for one of my environmental classes.

Besides MOOCs, another option is Apple’s iTunes University, which also offers a lot of courses from world-renowned universities. This is all free–but you do need an Apple device to access them and we all know that these gadgets are not always cheap.

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There are many reasons why anyone would want to take these courses. Some want to get certifications for their jobs. Others want to learn a new skill or just to improve something that they’re already learning. Personally, I originally wanted to take a course taught by a very famous professor in the field of International Relations: Dr. Jeffrey Sachs. I took his course on Sustainability and I’ve been hooked ever since. Now, I am just learning for learning’s sake.

Taking these courses has unleashed the nerdiness in me. I try to do the classes when I can. I love that my schedule gives me the freedom to do.

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Starting From Scratch

I am still reeling from the shock of it all.

Two years of work.

Gone.

It’s my fault, really. I am the first to admit it. In a fit of spite, I undid all the work that I had painstakingly and lovingly built from the ground up.

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I run another blog, which is dedicated solely to my life in Hokkaido, Japan. I started that blog the same time I started this one. I created two because I wanted to keep these two aspects of my life as separate as I could–even though in essence, the two are inextricably linked. After all, I live and work here. This is where I earn my income and spend most of my money. However, I wanted to focus on money issues on this blog, while the Hokkaido blog was meant to showcase what living in the north of Japan was like.

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Bye-bye, my beloved blog.

About two months ago, I got an email from the hosting company saying my contract was up. Fair enough. I appreciated that gesture. However, I set my account to NOT renew automatically. I didn’t want to be billed the full amount. Plus, I was unhappy with their hosting service so I wanted to take my time to think about other options.

Well, I forgot about it until they billed me and charged my account to automatically renew for a year.

Wait a minute.

I thought I had my settings off auto-renew. I checked it. It was. So why then did they renew it and charge me even though I deliberately didn’t want to sign up again?

So I contacted my credit card company and refuted the payment. Chase helpfully did everything on their part and didn’t pay the hosting company. The hosting company then sent me a lot of threatening emails about my account.

All this time, though, I was checking up on my website, and as soon as I did, the site was already down.

Wow, they work fast.

Before I could even back up any of my blogs, they were gone.

Poof!

And so, I refuse to pay the hosting service to recover all of my blogs because I am really sulking it’s the principle of the thing. I don’t want to pay a company for holding my own work hostage. I really dislike the way they did their business.

I spent two years working to build that site. I had followers, all 15 of them. People were actually reading my posts! Some even commented on my blogs. According to my stats, visitors from all over the world were looking at my articles.

But I let my emotions get the best of me and destroyed it in an instant.

Again, though, I know it was my fault. I take full responsibility for my mistake.

It’s been a few weeks, so I have gotten used to the idea of me starting the blog over. Oddly enough, I feel excited about the prospect. I feel like this is my chance to make it even better than before. I do remember the articles that were popular. I am confident I can recreate them and even improve some of the things I was unhappy about.

Granted, I was in shock when I first found out that I lost all the information on my site. I was cursing up a storm when I realized how stupid I was.

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But now, I am ready to roll up my sleeves and do it all over again. It may take another two years, but I knew even before I started it two years ago that this was going to be a long term project. For as long as I live in Hokkaido, I’m sure I can come up with things to write about.

My fingers are itching to type.

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Non-Conformity

In my twenties, I was all about experiences and hanging out with friends. I spent most of my time traveling everywhere and eating out with the people I know. I tried to be fashionable and bought brand-name goods that I really have no business buying. I did what I thought I was supposed to do. In general, though, most of the personality tests I’ve taken have shown that I am a rule-follower, so I tend to do what I’m expected to do.

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Now that I’m older, I am all about staying home and relaxing on my favorite armchair. All I need is a comfy couch and a book. It doesn’t even have to be a very good book, it just has to be interesting. Usually, though, after work, I decline invitations to go out and just head home so I can de-compress from teaching.

My husband and I were watching a program the other day. It was about young school-age children in Japan who quit school for various reasons. Mostly, it was about these students who don’t want to go to school and just chose to opt out of that part of society. To make that choice at such a young age takes a lot courage, especially in Japan where a lot of expectations are placed on children to follow the social norms. The main character interviewed several adults who didn’t follow the normal route but persevered and created success on their own terms.

There are a lot of surprisingly successful people who went the non-conformist route–which is very rare here in Japan. Every where you go, most people emphasize that the group or the overall society as a whole has precedence over the individual.

And yet the times are changing. You see a lot of people–not as many as those in the US–who are choosing a lifestyle not bound by duty to work, school, family, and society. I really like that things are changing and most people are starting to accept that not everyone has to be the same. Acceptance for the outlier seems to be growing.

The journey to financial independence is a little bit lonely. You have to be willing to say no to a lot of things if you’re trying to save money. You also have to tramp down your ego by not always having the latest and the greatest. It’s about not keeping up with the Joneses even though everyone around you looks like the Joneses. You have to not follow what is trendy and not buy what the latest consumer craze is.

You have to be non-conformist.

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Photo by Daniel Reche on Pexels.com

You have to do what a lot of people just aren’t doing because it’s hard. It’s a lot easier to be mindless than mindful with your money.

You have to follow your own path–which makes a lot of sense because the path that you choose most likely affects just you and your immediate family. What others do and think of you really should have no effect in the way you live your life.

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Slaying Your Enoughasarus

Enoughasaurus: “The beast within each of us, he/she that must be satisfied. Slaying or at least satisfying your Enoughasaurus is a matter of deciding what’s enough for you and then designing your priorities and life around it.” 

I love this concept, but I think it’s one of those things that is very hard to do.

I came across this word a few years ago when I read  Jeff Yeager’s book, The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches: A Practical (and Fun) Guide to Enjoying Life More by Spending Less. 

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The book itself is very humorous and easy to read. It’s all about personal finance and the main point is that spending less than you earn and investing the rest will get you to financial independence. I highly recommend it more as a personal development book that focuses on being content with less. Yeager makes frugal living look really fun and enjoyable. I admit to being a frugal person, but not really a cheapskate.

I define frugal as somebody who is willing to spend a lot of money on something they think has value. They then don’t spend money on other things they consider frivolous. A cheapskate is someone who is always trying to save money on everything.

But the one thing from the book that stuck with me was the word and the concept of Enoughasaurus. According to Yeager, once you can clearly define what enough looks like, then you’ve slayed your Enoughausarus. You have come to a point where enough makes sense, that there is no need to earn or acquire anything more.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Though it’s easy to say, it’s not as easy to do. In my case, this was difficult to achieve when it came to savings. I really thought that when I had X amount saved in the bank, I would be okay. However, when I got to that point, I didn’t feel any less anxious. When I was first trying to save $10,000, I was very motivated to save and get to the goal. When I got to the goal, instead of being happy, I felt like I needed more. Even though having that amount of money in the bank was an achievement that should have been celebrated, I felt like it wasn’t enough. To this day, I don’t feel like I have enough savings.

When it comes to my income, it becomes even more complicated. I think this depends a lot on the amount we spend on our expenses. In general, our expenses come out to be about $3000 a month. That doesn’t include any type of savings or investing. I know in my heart that we could do better to get that amount down, so I always feel disappointed that I can’t. Maybe I’m focusing too much on my failure, which is why I don’t feel like it’s good enough.

In my mind, bringing in about $4500 a month was enough. This was supposed to be the amount that covers our expenses and some extra change to have fun and play with. However, I don’t really feel like it’s enough.

I want to do more fun things, like travel to more expensive places or eat out some more at fancy places. I am okay with not owning a lot of stuff, but I definitely would love to travel more.

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I then wonder whether I have slain my Enoughasaurus?

The fact that I want to do so many things that require more money makes me feel like I am still dissatisfied and discontented with the amount of money that we earn. Even though I’ve quantified in exact terms the amount of money I say I will be happy with, I haven’t really felt satisfied when we got to the amount. Maybe I should up the amount then?

I think I am still motivated by fear of the unknown. There’s still a part of me that wishes that we were earning more money. I have yet to analyze the why of that because we are not struggling at all. Our life isn’t hard. We’re doing good, and I am grateful. I have all that I think I need, but maybe the feeling of not having enough lies with the small amount in our retirement accounts. I think I still need to quantify what that amount needs to be before I feel secure about it.

I guess still have a long way before my Enoughasaurus can be tamed.

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