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Archive for December, 2008

Another journey begins

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Today, I’m flying out to Central America to commence a three week journey through Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. This is the first time I’ve travelled to Latin America and I’m so excited about it.

I truly love to travel. I love all the new possibilities, new encounters and the sense of adventure. I truly believe my life is all the richer for my travels.

My posts may be a bit sporadic over the coming weeks. I have some posts pre-prepared and I’ll try to provide updates along they way, but I suspect internet access may be sketchy in some of the areas we are traveling.

Photo by: ~Aoi

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Hubby is so darn proud of himself. For weeks he’s been keeping an eye on Craigslist for a second hand sewing machine. Since we are trying to buy second hand or not at all, we scored big time earlier this week.

The machine we bought retails on Amazon for over $300, but Hubby found a guy who was selling a brand new one on Craigslist for $70. Bargain. We felt a little bad because the guy had bought it for his girlfriend who then walked out, but at least it now has a happy new home.

First job is to take up some pants which are a little long. I see us getting some great use from our new appliance and we are guilt free because we bought it in a sustainable (second hand) and frugal way. Yay for us. There is hope yet.

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One Month down

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Living My Rich Life has now been live for one whole month. A few months back I had started seeking out personal finance blogs to feel some connectivity with other people who might be suffering pain in the current economic turmoil. Misery loves company after all. In the process, I found some wonderful blogs on frugality, simple living and going green. Early one morning I sat bolt upright in bed with the idea of starting my own blog. I had too many things running through my head and no-one to share them with. Within a few hours I had set up this blog and had about five posts drafted. 

The thing I most wanted to get out of this blog is a sense of community with like minded people. In that aspect, this blog is already a success. I’d really like to thank those who have stumbled across this blog and cared enough to leave a comment. Thankyou. You make my day. 

This month I’ve also participated in a few carnivals.

A big thanks also to those who added me to their blogroll. I’ve really enjoyed this first month of blogging and can’t wait to share opinions with more like minded people in the future.

Photo by padawan

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On the weekend we watched the documentary called WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price. This documentary takes a look into the everyday lives of families struggling to fight the Goliath that is WAL-MART. 

When I arrived in the US, I had heard general grumblings about the company and some of their practices, but I must confess I was ignorant of the details until I watched this movie and did a little research of my own. From the movie it seems that WM is well known for persistent, and often illegal, anti-union activity and that many of the stores are purposefully under-staffed. Many WM employees are on public assistance of some kind. It amazes me that such a rich company will not pay it’s employees enough to live on. WM sells products from Chinese sweatshops, but sadly I suspect that many companies throughout the world over are doing this to improves their bottom line. I truly feel for the sweatshop workers who really have no alternative and no recourse to improve their conditions.

What I found particularly sad (and I’ve seen it all across the US since being here) is the loss of competitors as these mega-stores move into town. The soul of small towns seems to have disappeared and to me it feels like I can visit any town in America and nothing would distinguish it from any other town. Every one of them has the same chain restaurants and fast food, and very rarely do you find a town full of thriving Mom-and-Pop stores. Of course there are exceptions where a town has consciously chosen to keep big corporations out. When I find a town like this I choose to return again and again.

Recently I’ve become more aware of the effect big corporations have on society, and to be honest, it concerns me. Is this trend going to continue? I certainly plan to read more about it, and would really appreciate any recommendations for places to find good information.

I personally will not be shopping at WAL-MART and intend to do more research into other companies before I decide to patronize them.

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This year I’m adopting a no christmas card policy. I will not be giving out cards to every man and his dog for the sake of tradition. In fact I usually adopt this policy every year, but usually I also feel guilty about it. This year I’m embracing the decision and using it as a statement about the new direction my life is heading. I’m motivated by a few of things:

  • Laziness Simplifying my life – This is the usual reason christmas cards do not leave my house. In the past I’ve even gotten around to writing them and then don’t send them. I don’t know why this is, but it is a pattern so regular that I’ve given up questioning why it is so.
  • Economical – The whole concept of a consumer driven holiday does not sit well with me. I don’t really do gifts either, but I guess that’s a whole other post. I partake in Christmas parties because I see value in spending time with friends and family, but to be honest I don’t know why we need to spend so much money on gifts that the recipient probably doesn’t need. There are many other ways to give.
  • Environmental – I guess I don’t need to point out that we chop down trees to make the cards and then consume greenhouse gases to transport them all over the globe.

Having said all that I will be sending some personally made cards to close family and friends, but each will be accompanied by a letter. I see no point sending a card with ‘Hope you have a great year’. If I’m going to make an effort then I should do it properly. I try to write a letter to people back home every few months and everyone has loved receiving a real letter in the mail, rather than the usual email. What a perfect time of the year to reconnect with the people you love.

What do you do about the tradition of giving christmas cards?

Photo by: tenderlung

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Getting ready to travel for a period time requires some preparation and a very big list of things to do. We leave for a three week vacation in Central America this weekend, and I decided to share some of my to do list. This list assumes all travel preparations have been made i.e. buying tickets etc. 

4+ weeks to go

  • Check the expiration date of your passport. Some countries require that your passport has at least 6 months validity left. Also check any visa requirements for the countries you are visiting. 
  • Check your prescriptions. You don’t want to run out while you’re away.
  • Pet Care. Organise for someone to take care of your pets while you’re away.
  • Get travel insurance – Ideally within 10 days of booking your trip. Make sure your insurance covers any adventure activities you plan to do. I’ll have an upcoming post dedicated to travel insurance.

2 weeks to go

  • Check your camera & other equipment ~ Purchase batteries if needed and ensure you have enough memory.
  • If you’ve purchased new shoes, start to break them in.
  • Arrange to have your mail put on hold or organise someone to collect it for you while your away.
  • Confirm your reservations and make sure no details have changed.
  • Compile a list of phone numbers, e-mail and snail mail addresses to stay in touch or send postcards. Include your credit card emergency number.
  • Let your credit card company know that you will be travelling and to expect charges from your intended destination.

1 week to go

  • Groceries. Ensure you have enough pet food to last during your absence and start consuming perishables.
  • Start your pile of what you plan to take. This way you’ll work out what you are missing and what needs a wash.
  • Check the weather to ensure you know what to pack.
  • Mark your luggage with your contact details.
  • Have a hair cut if needed.
  • Pay the rent and other necessary bills
  • Put subscriptions on hold i.e. newspaper, Netflix etc.
  • Return library books, movie rentals etc.
  • Make copies of important documents. 
    ~ Traveller’s cheque serial numbers
    ~ Credit card numbers
    ~ ID page of your passport
    Flight tickets or confirmation numbers
    ~ Medical and Trip insurance policies 
    ~ Prescriptions
    ~ Travel itinerary
  • Memorize PIN codes to credit cards so that you can use them with ATM machines to get cash.
  • Let your neighbors know you’ll be out of town so they can keep an eye on your house.
  • Arrange plant care. Have someone take care of your plants while you’re away. Set your automatic sprinklers to water your lawn if needed.
  • Wash clothes. You’ll want some clean clothes to change into when you get home, especially after backpacking for a few weeks.
  • Change money. You can often get a much better deal if you change money at home.

Day before

  • Confirm Flights. Most airlines recommend that you confirm your flights 24 hours prior to departure. You may even be able to check-in online.
  • Drop your pet off to the boarding kennel or pet sitters.
  • Finalise the washing of clothes and pack your luggage 
  • Empty your fridge of perishables. If you empty and unplug your fridge remember to defrost it first, then leave the door propped open.
  • Store away things that are easy to steal. 
  • Recharge batteries. Make sure they are all charging properly and that you have enough before you leave home.
  • Organise your trip to the airport.

The day you leave for vacation

  • Turn down the heating. If nobody is home, why waste energy heating it?
  • Turn the hot water to vacation 
  • Empty all water containers. 
  • Wash the dishes. There’s nothing worse than coming home to dirty dishes. 
  • Empty all trash cans. Don’t come back to a stinking house!
  • Unplug electrical stuff. Apart from saving on electricity you aren’t using, unplugging may reduce the risk of fire if the house is struck by lightning.
  • Do a walkthough of your house to make sure everything is off and nothing is forgotten
  • Lock up!
  • Have a great trip.

What have I missed? 

Photo by: Pragmagraphr

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I came across this video on One Green Generation the other day. It was the perfect reminder of what I want my life to be about. Why do I need to have a million dollars so I can retire and live the good life? Why not reassess what a good life means to me and live it now?

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