Friday, 28 September 2007

garlic pesto recipe

My wife and I was experimenting with some pasta dishes and came up with something that we found to be simple, cheap and extremely delicious. It is a recipe that I wish to share.


a handful of pine nuts
2 tablespoon of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 satchel of tomato paste
a quantity of pasta

  1. Peel the garlic and roughly dice the garlic
  2. Put the pine nuts and the garlic into a mortar and pound it gently for about 30 seconds.
  3. Pour in the olive oil into the mortar and mix well.
  4. Leave the mixture to rest for about 10 minutes for the flavour to mix.
  5. Cook the pasta until it is to your liking.
  6. Drain the pasta and put into a large steel bowl.
  7. Pour mixture into the pasta and mix well.
  8. Stir in the tomato paste and all ingredients are mixed well.
  9. Serve and eat well.
You probably guess that the ingredients' quantity is not very precise. We have cooked this dish a number of times and found that the recipe works well with a wide variation in quantity. If you pound the mixture to a fine paste, the flavour will be stronger.

It took us about 15 minutes to cook this dish, so it is perfect for something on the run.

From a cost perspective, this recipe is dirt cheap. I think that the most expensive ingredient is the pine nuts.

Hope you enjoy this recipe.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Free to a good home...

As I have been writing this blog over the last few months, and reading the other PF blogs. It appears that one of the easiest way of getting ahead in your finances are to save your money by minimising spending. Well, I was thinking about the flip side of this concept, the concept of giving away things. From year to year, I would typically move through various items, in particular mobile phones, clothes and kitchen items.

Why should you give your items away? Let see,
  1. No good sitting in your shed or cupboard - The items are probably sitting in your shed or the cupboard gathering dust. Someone else might as well get some use out of it.
  2. Help others - There are plenty of others out in the community could benefit from our items that are not used. If I coupled that mobile phone sitting the cupboard with a pre-paid SIM, it could be a very useful item.
  3. Society is too cash driven - Our society is very much cash/money driven. I believe that our society would be better if we less cash dependent and return to a society that is closer to our agriculture background.
I wrote about Freecycle in one of my first post, and it is a really good resource for advertising what you want to give away. I believe that craig list is also a very spot for free giveaways, although I haven't use it yet. You can also do the following.
  1. Donate it - Your local church group or charity that runs a opportunity shop would gladly take what you have. Be aware that some won't accept electrical items as they don't want the public liability of selling faulty electrical items at their shops.
  2. Post a notice at work - Your workmates will more likely to take these items off your hands as there is a certain level of trust they have of you and your items.
  3. Leave it on your nature strip with a "FREE" sign - you will be surprise how fast the items will disappear. We left a roll of chicken wire and some sheets of roofing covers in the morning on our nature strip and it disappear that evening!
Go on, give it away...You will feel better for it.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

These are just the wrong reasons.

The current news of a couple suing an obstetrician for giving them twins via an IVF program is giving me a bit of headache. Some of the details are in this article from The Age newspaper. The couple only wanted a single birth, but instead, received multiple births. My head hurts because of the amount of money involve, and the circumstances of the case.

The couple is suing for $400,000 and, according to the newspaper article, it would cover the raising of the one of the two children. Included as part of the $400,000 is $158,000 for a private Steiner school education. I don't know about you, I get a feeling that the figures does not quite add up.

Sending your children to the most expensive private school in Melbourne for the twelve years would be getting close to the $158,000 figure. The questions are, does the couple's children deserve to this type of education, and why should this couple be allow to afford this education for their kids?

My son is just about to become two years old. To me, he has just as much right to receive the best education as my wife and I can possible afford. I think the key word is afford. Affordability comes from money that you have earned and saved. Earning money though legal channels as this couple is doing is just a very nasty way for this society to be heading towards, especially on the grounds which the couples are suing.

On one hand, I would like to see this case thrown out of the courts as the reasons for doing it are just not morally correct. However from an education perspective, it would provide a rather high quality of education for the kids, admittedly, it is a bit alternative.

What are your thoughts?

photo credit: Eyup Salman

Monday, 17 September 2007

Educational opportunities, class mobility and nomadic chinese

A couple of months ago, SVB over at The Digerati Life wrote an interesting article on class mobility, especially as the generation in your family becomes richer or poorer. I read it when the article was first published and never gave it much though until recently.

My heritage is Chinese base, and a nomadic Chinese as well. As most nomads know, in years gone by, we travel for many reasons, but it is not usually for pleasure. We may have moved on because of economic reasons, or because there isn't enough food here or many other reasons.

This artifact of my character was brought up during a discussion over a recent family gathering. It seems that it is in our character to always strive to provide the best opportunity for the next generation of succeed and live a better life. To provide this opportunity general requires some sort of sacrifice on the current generations. The family discussed this point and looked at the generations present at the family gathering.

There were three generations present.

My parent's generation - We migrated to Australia so that our educational opportunities were increased as opposed to living is South East Asia and being educated there. I am not saying that the education system in South East Asia is bad, in fact it is particularly good. However, the opportunities to obtained a placed at world recognised university are difficult. Among other things, my parents sacrificed being close to their brothers and sisters and familiar surroundings for the kids, the next generation, would have a better foundation.

My generation - My parents sacrifice paid off as my brothers and I are in good jobs that pays well, and that has allow us to live a pretty comfortable life. With our well paying jobs, we are able to setup a nice foundation for our children to build upon to live an even better life than us.

My children's generation - My son is only coming onto two years, so all we can do is develop the opportunities for him. However, I hope that given the correct opportunities, he will be able to take it and provide a better life for him and his family.

SVB calls this phenomenon migrating upwards in class mobility. Migration downwards in class mobility is always a sad occasion in any family, and it could be dangerous. Sometimes a download migration is difficult to stop.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Tax free food

Well, tax free food has arrived at my work. Hang on a minute, food is already free of GST isn't it? Yes, it is but it is also taxed because you use your after-tax dollars to purchase your food, so in an in-direct manner you are being taxed for buying your food.

While I was overseas, our HR department has introduced a program where you can purchase your food with your pre-tax dollars, essentially salary sacrificing for your food. The organisation that is running with this program is EzyBite, which is part of the Accor services.

This is how it works.
  1. You sign up with EzyBite to get onto the program.
  2. You nominate how much you want to spend on your food per pay period. So for me that would be monthly.
  3. When you are hungry, you order on-line and your food will be delivered at agreed timed, usually be lunch time.
  4. Enjoy the food and the savings.
According to EzyBite, an average saving of around 31.5% could be made but it is largely dependent on which tax bracket you fall into.

However, there are a couple of rules.
  1. You must order through the EzyBite program to get this savings. So you can't just walk into the shop and order over the counter.
  2. You must eat your food on your work premises.
These two rules are quite strict and is one of the reasons that the food can be purchased with pre-tax dollars.

I am still thinking if it make sense in my case, but will probably sign up for about $10 per month. I sometimes forget to brown bag my lunch and just buy it from the take-away across the road. This program will become quite handy. $10 per month equates to a purchase power of around $13, that should buy me a nice juicy burger with the lot!

I shall let you know in a few months time if this is working out.

photo credit: Maira Kouvara

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

24th Carnival of Money Stories

I was part of the 24th carnival of money stories, which was hosted at Enough Wealth just recently. My entry about small expenses leading up to a large expense was included.

Two articles that caught my attention were:-

Money and Such - The most expensive loan in history - Solving Our Savings and Budget Issues - The No-Budget Budget Way

There are also plenty of other money stories that has personal spin to it as well. Happy reading.

real cost of bulk purchases

I was at the local Chemist Warehouse this evening to buy some Blackmores vitamin pills and noticed that they come in three different quantities.

- 60 pill bottle @ $20.99
- 120 pill bottle @ $29.99
- 180 pill bottle @ $46.99

The obvious assumption is to go for the 180 pill bottle as the general rule of bulk purchases is " the larger the quantity, the cheaper it gets". Well in this case, it is certainly not true.

Doing the maths, we get the following

- 60 pills is 35c per pill
- 120 pills is 25c per pill
- 180 pills is 27c per pill

From the figures, it is clearly cheaper to buy the 120 pill bottle. I guess that assumption isn't always correct but may be true most of the time, which is why I like the saying " if you assume, you will make an ASS out of U and ME".

photo credit : dima v

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Saving on currency exchanges while travelling

Recently, I was travelling to Gothenburg, Sweden on business. As I was starting my trip from Melbourne, I had a couple of connections, one in Bangkok and the other in Copenhagen. If I had only two hours in either of those airports, it would not be too bad. But I was in Bangkok for three hours and in Copenhagen for four hours.

Anyway, when I purchased some food, I forgot one of the less enjoyable things while travelling, handling many different currency. Having a think about the situation, I came up with a two tips to save money from the currency perspective.

At the departing airport, I exchanged some Australian Dollars to Swedish Krones. At travelex, they offer a service to buy back your converted currency at the same exchange rate as they have sold it to you. Travelex call it their Buy Back Plus, and it has cost me an extra $10. This could make a significant difference as the foreign exchanges usually would offer to buy foriegn currency at a significantly different exchange rate that they would for selling it to you. For example, Travelex offered to exchange the Swedish Krones at approximately 5.6 krones per dollar. I looked at the buying rate, and it was at 6.1 krones per dollar. At these rates, I would have got 2800 krones for my 500 dollars, and if I didn't spend any money, I would have got about $459 when I returned into Australia. In this example, I saved about $41 dollars.

To save on fees, when shopping at airports, buy from shops that accept the currency that you have. When I was Copenhagen, the majority of the shops accepted Swedish Krones, which I good as I don't need to exchange for Danish Kronas. The trick with this is ask for the change to be in the currency you use to pay, especially if you are just transiting at the airport.

Travelling for either pleasure or business is usually an expensive activity. Juggling many different currency is always a challenge to keep the fees low and not to lose over the currency exchanges.