Thursday, January 31, 2008

Being Mr. Scrooge

Dr. Noet Ravalo, Inquirer business-advise-giver, wrote that he "dissaved" over the holidays. He went on an unplanned vacation with his family, and they had fun. Interesting new word...
dissaved (dis-seyvd) - verb, antonym of save, not to set aside, not to reserve or not to lay by: to dissave money

In other words - he spent lots of money!!!

Here's an excerpt of his article:

"Over the holidays, my family and I dissaved. We took an unplanned family vacation to see relatives and friends we have not seen in over 10 years. My family thoroughly enjoyed it.

We always stress the virtue of saving because what we save is the treasure that we bring to the future. But what we often forget is that saving, in practice, does not mean that we should stop spending.

The point of saving is not only to accumulate but also to save for something. We cannot minimize for the sake of minimizing. Ebenizer Scrooge was a miser until the three ghosts put cause-and-effect in perspective. He had that privilege; some of us may come to that conclusion too late."

I personally think that he's feeling guilty and he's justifying his spending with this article. Hahahaha! I fully appreciate what he's trying to say and to some degree he's right. In a gist I think what he wants to say is that we shouldn't be frugal and deny ourselves of the utter pleasure of spending. I also agree that you need to have a goal for saving (retirement, vacation, children's education, emergency fund,etc). But, sometimes we need to minimize for the sake of minimizing - for the simple reason of building the habit of saving. (Plus its environmental to consume less! Be green!) I'm sure most if not all fall victim to making it a resolution to save at the start of the year and end the year without a piso - all blown out in holiday shopping! It's a vicious cycle. Tsk tsk. So save a few pesos everyday and make it a habit.

I have yet to find out if BPI does automatic transfer of funds (say monthly). What I'm doing now is to transfer some money from my BPI savings account to my BPI Trade account as soon as I deposit my salary check. I can't withdraw from my BPI Trade account so my savings are safely tucked in. A day before I receive my next salary, I empty any remaining money in my BPI savings and dump them all in my BPI Trade account - that's extra money saved. The key is discipline.

I also save all my P10 coins in a large old green lambanog bottle. That's my Christmas stash.

There's something in Dr. Noet's article that I just can't swallow:

"I know of someone who no longer takes his car to work. He has reserved parking space at work but he wanted to save on gasoline expense. In so doing, his mobile phone has been snatched twice in a shuttle service. Was it worth it?"
What's his point? It's like saying I got robbed because I left the house! I say ditch the car and keep your eyes open! I've been commuting since .... ever... and I have never been robbed. (I almost was, but that's another story). Doesn't your mother (how ever old you are) tell you to keep your phones in your bag/pocket and don't show it off as if its Christmas present? Yes, having your phone snatched twice is well worth it if you're gonna learn to keep a hold of it properly! I can go get a loan for a car but have not because the fuel prices are soooo high, traffic in Manila is so bad it's more convenient to commute, and imagine your carbon footprint! Of course a car would be good for your image (and ego) but it serves the same purpose as the MRT or the bus or the jeep... it gets you to where you want to be at less cost. I say buy a car when you can buy it cash, when you'll be using it for multiple passengers or for business purposes.

My personal goal for saving is for a business that will ultimately free me from saving. Put up the business first before the house or the car or anything else, make the business work, and reap in the goods! Ok, no body better rain on my parade and tell me I'm wishful thinking!

Chocolates Forever

I love chocolates. I love the bitterness of dark chocolate and the creamy, sensual flavor of it melting in your mouth. Then there are the different flavored ganaches - caramel, cherry, mint, ginger... hmmmm... plus the nutty bars... creamy and crunchy in one bite... what bliss!

I'm really surprised why there are no cacao plantations in the Philippines. I mean we basically have the same climate as the other cacao-growing countries, we can grow coffee why not cacao? Apparently, cacao plants are easily plagued with pests and diseases -the type of which could easily wipe out a whole plantation. But, I still believe there's some way to make them grow here! Imported chocolates are just too expensive! How can I make my own truffles with expensive Belgian chocolates?

I did try to make my own truffles using GQ (galing Quiapo) chocolates... I think they came from China. The truffles weren't that bad, but of course it can't compare with the Truffettes de France's (2nd floor EDSA Shangri-la, MOA). A 250g box costs P480. You can literally get drunk with the cocoa powder that delicately coats each truffle. And the chocolate center is just... precious - creamy and milky which is a very good contrast to the strong taste of the powder coat.

My truffles was filled with ganache and rolled in Ricoa powder, the others in confectioner's sugar. As I said it wasn't that bad for a beginner chocolatier. I really really want a chocolate shop! Make my own chocolates, I can see the people lining up now! Hahahaha Wishful dreaming - there's just no market for chocolates here. Rich pinoys would prefer buying imported and the not so rich would prefer spending their money for cellphone load and other more filling food. But I'm surprised that Sonia's cupcake and other relatively high end food products are doing well. But, I may be wrong. I mean, the cupcake craze may just be a trend. And ugggghhh the cost of maintaining a shop at a posh area such as Bonifacio high street.

Oh well, there's nothing wrong in making chocolates for myself!

(Photo from - thanks!)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Stock picking: Why not Splash

Last November Splash Corporation opened an IPO... at a very bad time. Their offering price was 8.70, and then it went as low as 6.10. Very bad timing for their IPO since the market was starting to get bad due to the US's failing economy.

After the announcement of their IPO, I did want to buy some of their stocks. I admire how they were able to start from a backyard business to a big corporation now. One of my lab mates in UPD is now a researcher in Splash and she said that they are planning to go into micro-biology testing and completely stop using humans as guinea pigs. Setting up that kind of lab would probably cost a few millions. Anyway, Splash seems to be very promising, creating international markets, capturing a very good share of the local market, continuously improving their products and expanding their product lines.

I didn't buy SPH because of two things. First, I think their offering price was sky-rocket high for their type. I mean EDC's offering price was less than 4.00 - and its a geothermal field with secured markets! Second reason, I'm not a financial analyst and I'm just starting to learn this investing stuff, so I go by gut-feel. I buy stocks whose products I believe in. Although Splash has a major local following, some of their products are just... wrong! A few years ago I was working on medicinal plant research at the UPM. Some of the students tested local skin care products for possible carcinogenic effects (cancer-causing). All of the products tested negative, except for Splash's! (I just can't remember what product line it was...) So their professor (a very respected doctor of medicine who is also active in clinical research) called Splash's attention, and as far as I know Splash did nothing. Well, I hope I'm wrong and I hope Splash did act on it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Are rich people happier?

"A study in the US published in Social Indicators Research found that those who avidly pursued possessions were less satisfied with their friendship, families, jobs -even their health - than participants who were less materialistic."
- Stacy Weiner, The How of Happiness -

Warren Buffet, the rich guy, still lives in the same 3-bedroom house in mid-town Omaha, that he bought after he got married 50 years ago. He says he has everything he needs in that house.

Sometimes I wonder if I have all the things that I want now, would I be happier? Well, in the first place is there such a thing as happy-ER? If I buy a Celine sandals right now I would be happy... but if I buy those nice little Nine West peep toe shoes I would be happier! Actually, I'm happy right now with or without a new pair of shoes. I think despite being unable to follow my budget (still!) I have improved with my purchasing habits. I don't buy on impulse and I weigh if I really need to buy another item. Besides, consumerism contributes to filling up the landfills!

I really love Warren Buffet, he loves to play with money. He loves the game of acquiring money but not necessarily wallow on its spoils. I opened an account in BPI Trade last year to try my hand on investing. No big money involved yet, but surprisingly I loved the game! Choosing stocks, monitoring how they do everyday and how global economies affect our own. Since buying a few stocks I think I've already doubled my money. Thanks to the EDC IPO! And although some stocks have not done as great as EDC, I still earned more compared to leaving my money in a savings account. Well, stocks are so down now because of the bad US economy, but there's no doubt that their values will bounce back in a few months. Besides, low values means greater opportunities to buy.

Sometimes I envy some of my cousins who have thicker wallets, can afford to buy a new home, a new car. They were able to get very high paying jobs that unfortunately I didn't get. But somehow, I think its better that I didn't get that high-paying and very demanding job. I have more time in my hands, I have more freedom in my work and less corporate-crap, I have time to serve in my Church and I have more time to explore other financial opportunities. I mean if I experienced earning really big (6 figures) it would take hell before I leave it. I would be scared to get out of that financial security (actually, a job is far from being a financial security). And besides, however hard you work you will get the same salary... which is still only a very small fraction of what your company earns.

Without that big money in my hands, I am beginning to explore other sources of bigger money. I'm planning to open a small food cart in our area and an online store. I'm really really excited! This is what I want to do! Manage my own business and provide others with jobs.

I can't wait!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Budget, how to make it work?

I can't stick to my budget.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Vintage Shopping

Sometimes I find myself in a maze of smelly clothes, sneezing, and rummaging through endless racks of pre-owned (translation: very very old) clothes. I'm not necessarily a patron like my friend whose wardrobe is almost entirely from the ukay-ukay. She can find Levi's jeans, Mango tops, Gucci shorts, etc in those stalls in Quiapo. A pair of old Levis' costs less than P100, a shirt around P50, sometimes there are bags for P75 - definitely a whole lot cheaper than their brand new counterparts.

My feelings for ukay-ukay are still unclear. Am I for it or not? Should I stop shopping clean and new? Is buying used clothes practical?

As far as I know I have three ukay-ukay purchases. One is a blue baby doll blouse and 2 Bossini white shirts. The t-shirts look new and cost P75 each. The shop keeper said that their items aren't pre-owned, but were displays from Hong Kong malls which were not bought. Some items still have their tags on. Hmmm... sounds believable. I bought my baby doll blouse from the Olivarez Complex in Tagaytay for P120. There are at least 5 HUGE shops of pre-owned clothes in the complex. This item, I'm sure has been used... but still looks cute. It took me almost 2 hours to find this one good item.

A new shirt would cost between P300 - P500, a nice blouse P500-P1,000. It seems obvious that one should switch to buying used clothes... But, what if the previous owner is dead? Won't she haunt me? Or if the previous owner was struck by a terrible disease? Won't I catch it too? Or am I going crazy...?

Oh well, if I find a good item from an ukay-ukay shop and it costs lest than P150, I'm buying it. Except shoes.

Besides, they're not old clothes... they're vintage!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

LPG Prices

We bought an 11kG tank of LiquiGaz LPG last night... it was P605.00! WTF! I thought they rolled back the prices of LPG 0.50centavos per Kg! The last time we bought a refill it was just over P500.00. I don't believe it!

At least LiquiGaz is cheaper than other brands.

Total Gas - P617
Caltex - P623
Catgas - P615
Gasul - P622
Shellane - P633.50

No more boiling water in the mornings for my bath then...