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Archive for May, 2009

Look at this and tell me - how can we get a new car?

May 22nd, 2009 at 08:39 am

We are not planning to until this one breaks, but when it does, it would be nice to buy a new car and keep it for 15 years, taking care of it well.

The problem is, we live in NYC. This is a picture of our bumper:





This is what happens to cars parked on the street (and that would be 90% of them).

I watch those small claim court shows where people SUE over a scratch on their car and I am amazed. They have a police report and everything.
Here police would not even come out for such reason. (if anybody bothered to report it). They would laugh at the thought.

It took 4 hours to get them to come when 3 of our tires were slashed (and that happened to like 10 cars on the block). They still did not want to take police report. So reporting anything is just not worth the aggravation or time.

We have dents on our doors.... people don't leave notes or anything - it is another world.

When we drive, we always note if there is a car with a new bumper in front of us and try to guess where they are from.

Luckily, we bought that car used and it already had scratches, so we do not care. But if we bought a brand new 30K car, it would bother us!

OK, now this is ridiculous!

May 21st, 2009 at 01:31 pm

Now, I am a person who appreciates the beauty and quality of stylish clothing, superb-quality shoes and unique accessories...

However, there must be some price-to-quality ratio.

I am not a Target shopper - I visit nice boutiques, see and compare quality and style and sometime score nice items from brands such as Escada at 90% off, and sometimes find very nice things at designer sample sales... and once in 6 month pay full price for an Anne Fonaine white shirt...

But when I saw these online I just could not help thinking how ridiculous it is:

Hair clip

$ 460.00
http://www.bluefly.com/Chanel-white-eyelet-canvas-large-bow-hair-clip/SEARCH/301667201/detail.fly


lace brooch
http://www.bluefly.com/Chanel-red-floral-lace-medium-camellia-brooch/SEARCH/301685001/detail.fly
$940.00

resin collar (I guess I don't always get high style)

$1,196.00
http://www.bluefly.com/Chanel-black-glossy-resin-crescent-collar/SEARCH/301792401/detail.fly

A decade ago my mom would buy a Chanel jacket (much better creation than the above) for this price.

Same trend is evident with many other designers. Many names, once they became popular in the US for some reason drastically reduce quality while raising the price tenfold. I don't know how to explain it.

Luxury used to really mean high quality items, and ironically it was cheaper. Now luxury just means "expensive".

I remember a really luxurious splurge in college - $500+ leather italian knee-high boots. The leather was superb, thin,soft, stetchy, it fit like a glove, beautiful... They looked amazing. (not very practical with 4" heel, but that is another point).

Now for $500 you get junk. Somehow things are made worse and worse, It is all about the name.

It used to be that the NAME had worth because of quality. Why did consumer choose to allow this disconnect by continuing to buy things that, in my opinion, just insulting our intelligence.

Designer name and high price is not a guarantee that the item really is "luxury".

No wonder people don't vacation much!

May 16th, 2009 at 07:35 pm

I added up 1 week in Hawaii totals.
This was a "typical" vacation normal middle class Americans go on. This was first time we went on that kind of "stay in one place by the beach" trip.

And the cost was very high!
$4,500 (includes everything - airfare, hotels, food, active sports such as horse riding and scuba diving and a surfing lesson, shopping...)

No wonder people who vacation like this don't do it often.

1 week cost 4,500 (and we had good deals on airfare and hotels)

1 MONTH vacations normally costs us about 10-11K.

1 month Ecuador (including a week on a luxury ship in Galapagos) was 10K

1 month in Argentina, having best food and nice wine was 11K

1 month in Europe this fall was 11K (though we had free central lodging for all but 4 or 5 days)

6 months in China was 6K.

4 months traveling across South-East Asia was around 8k

So the rule is - short vacations are always more expensive.

I'll think much more carefully about taking short trips now.

Next time, if we go to Hawaii we'll rent a house for a month. We can use free time to cook together and try new gourmet recipes. (I found that restaurant food on Kauai, while as expensive as in NYC is generally not as good).

And we can snorkel, scuba dive, and take more surfing lessons. I think, from recent experience, this kind of month would run less than 10K as opposed to almost 5k for 1 week. I need to start saving for it. Though I need to think of our 5 week China trip in July. Less than 2 months left.

That is one of the reasons I did not buy a house yet - I keep thinking "if I wait two more months, I can save for China vacation in that time. After we buy it, it will take us a year to save for it!

They are coming down! Finally, I see evidence.

May 14th, 2009 at 02:23 pm

We looked at this Manhattan co-op a year ago and it was 500K (it is 500+ sf) and now the price is down to 415K (the maintenance is 1K monthly which is not fun).
But that is a significant drop! It could be an isolated incident because the owner just wants to sell after holding out for a better price for a year.

It is a junior 1 (but was originally a n l-shaped stuio and it looks like owners just had a door installed).

But is charming, has a kitchen with at least some counter space (pretty big by NYC tiny apartment standards), in a pleasant area - not the most central, maybe over 10 minute walk from the subway, but tree-lined and near the park.







The main drawback is that the co-op rules only allow subletting for 2 years out of 5 and the board has to approve the tenant. That lacks flexibility. But I was thinking fondly of this apartment, and seeing it come down in price gives me hope and some evidence that the price drop everyone is talking about for the last year may actually have some basis in reality Smile

Rewards and miles balances snapshot

May 13th, 2009 at 08:30 am

AA miles 94,000
Delta miles me 27,000
Delta miles DH 52,000

Discover cashback $140
crabtree & evelyn giftcard $80
home depot gift card $40

Marriott points 120,000 (after we used most of it up for 2 weeks of best central hotels in Europe this fall) We'll be using 80K for a hotel in HK this summer, and after that there won't be much left.
(we'll earn a lot of miles though, for roundtrip to China)

Also a bunch of Amtrack miles, to go pretty much anywhere - including Florida for free (2 day ride though)

Sadly, most of the rewards besides Marriott and Amtrack are from personal travel.

But these things do add up. And they do save money on vacation. But they also "provoke" vacations: We had an expiring Delta $400 certificate, so we decided to look for some cheap airfare. After we found one, and applied the certificate we thought - oh, the airfare is only $250 pp from NYC to Hawaii - how can we not go??? Well, the airfare was definitely cheap, but we ended up spending 4-5K there, I am yet to add up the totals. So it is kind of a double edged sword.

But I am careful about my rewards and make sure they all are credited. I love getting something for free!

Spending is so subjective and illogical

May 12th, 2009 at 09:58 am

I find that I will think for months about buying a $600 TV, yet not think 5 minutes about spending that much on a day of surfing/horse riding and eating out at a nice restaurant.

That makes no sense and yet this is how it is for me.

I have thought for years about buying nice furniture - still have not done it. Yet I spend enough on eating out to furnish my apartment with any designer furniture if I didn't.

We never bought a new car - yet we spend enough on vacations to buy a new car each year.

I find for most people it is the opposite. Stuff has value. Experiences have less value. I don't know to what extent I agree. But faced with a vacation vs. new car choice, vacation wins every single time.

So frugal in some aspects, I spend money like a drunken sailor in the other.

I guess everybody has similar issues.
What do you feel easy to spend on and what is harder for you? I'm not talking needs - no one likes to spend money on repairs or medical bills, I'm talking about "wants".

Very very sleepy - and the flight is not over yet

May 11th, 2009 at 03:15 am

I am posting this from the Continental lounge in Atlanta.

We left Kauai 11 hours ago and now we are waiting for our connecting flight to Newark. We should be there in just over 3 hours.

The flight is at inconvenient time (that is what happens with cheap prices) and very long.

And I don't know if I will have to go to work straight from the airport (by that time I'll be up for 20 hours straight) - 29 hours by the time I get home from work. (and I caught a small cold - that does not help) I'll have to call my office from the airport and find out if they could do without me today. I hope so.

The trip was fun. I did not want to come back. As after every vacation, I am fantasizing about moving there Smile

Aloha from Kauai!

May 5th, 2009 at 01:10 am

Our second day here. I like it - the ocean, the uncrowded beaches. (Locals say there are much less tourists due to the economy.)

The weather is absolutely perfect!

It is pretty nice to be able to go when others can't. Plus, I didn't refinance anything to do it. Smile

Financially, it is not a cheap trip.
And not because of airfare (cheap) or food (close to NY prices, so I am not as shocked by it as others.

The most expensive part of our trip is active sports.

We are taking a surfing lesson tomorrow morning, than going for a 3 hour private horse ride in the afternoon (the one where you gallop and canter, not the one where you walk nose to tail with a bunch of people - I can't stand that).

Wed, Thur, Fri - scuba diving.

Don't know what we'll do Sat. and Sun. yet, but I'm sure it will be something. So for 2 people it adds up to more than hotel costs.

But if I just wanted to lay next to the beach in a nice hotel, I could have found one much closer than Hawaii.

Taking advantage of what the island has to offer is important.

Got approved to upgrade to the "ocean view" room!

May 1st, 2009 at 08:36 am

From the cheapest "garden view", bypassing "pool view", "partial ocean view"... the only room better than that is suite.

I am so happy! Not only for the view, but the room is nicer. And it is free!

DH was working on it - the important thing is to locate contact info of the right person to ask. And holding elite status with the hotel definitely matters(though not always, especially at popular resort destinations where people go for pleasure and not business). And we booked our room directly from hotel's website (it was still the cheapest rate). I have read posts on trip advisor about so many people who were denied upgrades that I was not very optimistic. But yey!

We are leaving on Sunday, and we have not packed anything yet... and our apartment looks like it got hit by a tornado. And we have dinner plans tonight and tomorrow night. Ah, busy NYC life - there is never time to clean one's tiny apartment.