Impulse Buy = Shopaholic?

Am I a shopaholic?

According to some online tests, I may be.

I had an uncomfortable argument with the TubHubs this morning about discretionary spending and how I am prone to impulse buy.

Impulse Buying is a habit I admit to. It was always easy to cop to because I can just say, “at least I’m not in debt”.

Not being in debt is not the same as having substantial savings, though. 

When I was still in school, it was easy to blame the lack of savings on tuition and student loans. I was one of the biggest whiners about how expensive tuition was and how my education was the ONLY REASON I didn’t have any money left over.

After student loans were paid off a couple years ago, I told myself that I’ll need to start seriously saving. I was able to keep the ‘rainy-day fund’ going, but beyond that I didn’t make much head way. The excuse I made then was that I couldn’t possibly save large sums of money because of the wage cuts I took. In reality, it was because I was spending frivolously.

While I did realise the problem a while ago, I never really seriously looked at how to curb my impulse buy habit. Now that I have no distractions, I forced myself to spend some time researching theories and ideas behind shopping addiction.

impulse-buy-cartoon

Shopping Addiction Symptoms, Causes, and Effects – Seriously, this article actually exists. There are actually drugs that you can take in order to curb your impulses (it’s the same drug they prescribe for Alzheimers).

Though, based on the list provided there of “Are you a shopaholic?”, I don’t really compare. I don’t have financial hardship, and I don’t feel a ‘euphoric rushes or anxiety’ when I’m shopping.

That article annoyed me more than I thought it would. It felt like another way for drug companies to tell you that you need drugs to curb your behavior. I need behavior tools, not mental state altering chemicals.

After some more research, I found this blog: The Simple DollarThere is an article there listing 10 tools to help you prevent impulse buying. It seems like something that was more doable.

Tool number 6 really caught my eye.

6. Calculate the value in life energy

If you’ve been a reader of The Simple Dollar for long, you know about how to calculate your true hourly wage. Keep that number handy, and the next time you want to buy something, divide the price of the item by your true hourly wage … this will tell you how many hours of your life you had to give up to buy that item. Sometimes the number of hours can be eye-opening, especially for more expensive items. Consider whether you really want to give up that much of your life for that item.

Then I went on to read about the “true hourly wage” he mentioned. I went through and made a spreadsheet to calculate my actually hourly wage.

To get your actual hourly wage, you take your annual salary, deduct tax, then deduct any expenses related to work such as childcare, lunch, commute, etc. Then you take that annual number and divide it by the actual hours you are working through the year. 

Here is the assumption I had (and probably most people had) based on googling annual salary to hourly:

The average, full-time, salaried employee works 40 hours a week. Based on this, the average salaried person works 2,080 (40 x 52) hours a year. To determine your hourly wage, divide your annual salary by 2,080. If you make$75,000 a year, your hourly wage is$75,000/2080, or $36.06.

So making 75 grand is pretty great, right? …. NOT.

When I plug in 75,000 as the annual salary into the spreadsheet I made, here is what I got:

True_Income.png

Notice that my Work deductions are LOW. I don’t have childcare, and I have a cheap commute (transit). I included clothing/vanity for office appropriate clothing (that I otherwise would never buy) and make up (that I otherwise would not need to wear). My tax deductions are based on the Australian income tax rate.

Still, my actual hourly income on $75,000/year is really only $22-23/hour.

So I sat here and let that sink in for a bit. When I consider that I’m only making around $20 an hour, that really puts a damper on impulse shopping. Now instead of just thinking about what I can afford, I should be thinking about what I can afford after savings.

There are other great tips in this article, but number 6 caught my eye as it speaks directly to how I think.

Thanks, The Simple Dollar. I’m now a little bit more money-savvy. I hope.

My Job Is Driving Me Crazy

For the past week, I’ve been checking my work emails at 6 am in the morning–and getting angry.

Monday:

One part of my job is to schedule projects for various members of our development team to work on. I had a project due to release for Thursday last week. I was meant to configure the complete system and show the client their product on Monday.

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, I remind my team of the due date. I do this because they’ve been missing a lot of deadlines lately, and I am sick of rescheduling meetings with clients. It makes us look sloppy and stupid.

On Thursday, my boss steps in on the project thread (we have an internal project assignment site), and re-assigns the work to developer Victor because the original developer was too busy.

Friday morning, I check the project thread. No notes, nothing to show that Victor started it.

I remind Daniel (our newest member, who’s not a developer, but hired to share my work load) to make sure Victor completes the work. Daniel and Victor both work in our Vancouver office, and sit in the same room. Daniel assures me that the work will be complete by Monday.

Sunday night–I’m itching to check our internal site to see if work is complete. I decide against it because it’s Sunday. I had a feeling work was not complete, and I had a feeling I was going to mad about it.

Monday morning–The project is not complete. I shoot off an email and a phone call to the client in question and tell him we have to reschedule. He’s understanding, but no doubt as his first interaction with us has been about rescheduling meetings, his impression of us will now forever be, “disorganized”.

Monday afternoon–West Coast team is online. I search for Victor in our work messenger, so I can ask him directly why the project is late. He’s not online.

So I ask Daniel via message: “Is Victor sick today?”

Daniel: “….”

Me: “What’s that mean?”

Daniel: “[Boss] just told us today that Victor is no longer with the company.”

Me: “Uh huh. When did this happen?”

Daniel: “I dunno, I just found out today.”

I feel badly for Victor. He was a funny guy. But in that moment, all I could feel is angry. My boss, the one deciding to let Victor go, or accept Victor leaving (I don’t know whether he was fired or quit), didn’t think it was important to follow up on any of his open projects. He also didn’t think it was important to inform the person (me) who assigns work to our team that one of our main developers is gone.

My company is poorly managed. Our CEO is a creative programmer; he is not organized and lacks the skill to properly assess outcomes of in-the-moment decisions. This is just one of the many examples of how my work and our clients suffer because of our poor management. There’s a reason why creative programmers stick to programming and don’t run a company: they are not good at it.

I have way more to gripe about for the rest of this insane week, but I have to stop myself here. Actually… this one is too priceless not to mention.

My other boss (two of them own the company) sent me some work he had been doing with another client. He was going on vacation (did not tell any of us?) and he had me take over the work. Fine.

Work is importing some data to this client’s system using excel file. Simple enough. Trouble was that the data import wasn’t working.

I spend at least 4 hours the last couple of days just digging through this spreadsheet to find out what might have been wrong (our import tool SHOULD show error messages, but it DOESN’T, so I have to search in the spreadsheet for errors itself).

The spreadsheet is 641 rows long and Y (abcd columns)columns wide.

I finally find the errors last night (I finished work at 8 pm), and I send this to one of our developers to fix. I send off an email to our client letting him know the clerical errors I found on his side–reminding him to check this next time.

This morning, I get an email back from the client… all bitch-toned.

He indignantly informs me that the spreadsheet I was working on is an old one, and “I guess [Your Boss] didn’t give you our updated one before he left on vacation. Our new one should only have 619 rows. Here is the new one, please re-do the upload.”

At this point, I don’t know who to be angry at. The entitled client who insists on having us upload files for him (we built the system, but any upload work is for him and his staff), or the idiot boss who couldn’t be bother to send me the correct file to work with before heading off on vacation.

I CAN’T WAIT TO STOP WORKING FOR THESE PEOPLE. 

Day Ten – No Noodles; No Rice

For as long as I could remember, I’ve always had either noodles, or rice, once per day. Chinese people eat rice and noodles like it’s bread. On this low carb diet, I’ve challenged myself to not have any noodles, or any rice. Today is Day 10.

The first couple of days were difficult, but now I’ve actually gotten used to it. For a cheat day this Saturday, TubHubs suggested that we get noodles. I get to celebrate my efforts.

As much as I love noodles… it feels even better to be look forward to enjoying something. Not that I didn’t enjoy the foods I eat on my diet, but they’re really nothing compared to a good bowl of Taiwanese Noodles Soup.

Saturday!!!!

Tale of Two Computers

ASUS X205TA 11.6 Inch Laptop (Intel Atom, 2 GB, 32GB SSD)

Versus

HP Stream 11.6-Inch Laptop (Intel Celeron, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB SSD)


I’ve wanted a smaller laptop that ran Windows OS for a long time. I currently own a Samsung Chromebook, but after using it for a year, the glitter has worn off.

Whenever I took the Chromebook somewhere where Internet wasn’t readily available, the functionality of the Chromebook suffers. As well, there were everyday software that I needed to use (like Skype) that I couldn’t install on a Chromebook. Some of these programs offer web versions, which can be run of a Chromebook, but it’s certainly not ideal.

So I started the search into a very portable and very cheap machine that will still run Windows OS. These 2 small notebook laptops were what I found in terms of portability and price.

Let’s do a general comparison:

In terms of portability…

While these were both lightweights, the ASUS computer is at least 1 pound lighter than the HP.

In terms of cost…

ASUS cost me about $250 USD. HP cost $199 USD. Both are about the price of a Nexus tablet.

In terms of Windows OS usability…

The ASUS came with windows 8.1. That’s its first downfall. The second? When I tried to upgrade directly (it was advertised with free Windows 10 upgrade) to Windows 10, it turns out there wasn’t enough SSD space to upgrade.

Both the HP and the ASUS have 32 GB SSD space… but what I found with the ASUS was that a good 10 GB of that 32 was already partitioned into a recovery disk apart from C Drive, this completely changed how easy it is to upgrade to Windows 10. HP doesn’t have the same nonsense.

Not to mention, the HP actually came with Windows 10 loaded already.

Another point in favor of the HP: Intel Celeron is faster than Intel Atom.

Web Browsing…

The ASUS was much faster for web browsing than the HP. Although this could be due to me not using the ASUS for very long (I returned it pretty much as soon as upgrade to Windows 10 wasn’t feasible).

Edit from Starbucks down the street:

Turns out the slow web experience could have to do with our home internet. Web browsing on the HP loaded at normal speed in Starbucks WiFi.

General Experience…

Overall, the HP is more preferable for me than the ASUS. It is:

  • Cheaper
  • Runs Windows 10 smoothly
  • Has most of its SSD space allotted to C Drive
  • Faster USB ports (ASUS only has USB 2.0 ports)
    • 2 USB 3.0 ports, one of these is SuperSpeed

One huge problem about the ASUS:

As soon as Windows 10 upgrade was complete, the wireless network adaptor broke. Broke as in no matter what kind of fixes (upgrade drivers, uninstall and then reinstall drivers, etc) I applied, it simply wouldn’t work.

For the HP computer—I set up the machine straight out of the box. I’ve been using it for writing offline and just about anything else I do for work, and so far it’s running fine. Web browsing is a bit slow; but only on my Chrome browser. This is most likely due to the fact that I have so many extensions built into my Chrome browser that it’s taking a toll on this small laptop with 2 GB ram.

Final thoughts…

I’m very happy with the HP. I purchased this mostly for offline writing, and it’s doing that very well.

Week 1 of “Healthy Eating”

Trying to lose some weight for the holidays this year, so I decided to diet, for the first time in my life, ever.

I started out this week with eating about 3 snack meals a day. Some raspberries in the morning with sine ginger tea. Then chicken thighs & baby bok choy stir fry for lunch. Some nut and raisins in the afternoon.

I’ve also started drinking way more water. I skipped coffee (until Sunday).

All of this started lasts Wednesday. Each day I’ve eating roughly the same amount and roughly the same things. We decided to make Saturdays a cheat day, so I got to eat more food than the rest of the diet days.

The one thing I’ve cut out completely? Noodles. I used to eat some kind of noodles (flat noodles, egg noodles, pasta noodles) just about every single day. I knew the carb count for noodles (or rice) were high, but I just didn’t care; my addiction to noodles was something I wasn’t ready to give up.

Today is Day 5 without noodles. I saw a photo of beef noodles in Flushings, NY last night, and I forcefully told myself not to keep staring.

Good news is: I dropped 2 solid pounds in 5 days.

Also for the first time in my life, I have a “goal weight”. I’ve always been happy to stay around my current weight; but recently the numbers just don’t seem to sit so well anymore on this aging body.

I can’t promise I’ll never eat noodles again; but I need to cut back for a while before I can get back into it with moderation.

Gadgets

I can’t stop looking at all the cool gadgets on sale right now.

Thanks, Cyber Monday.

Dentistry In Stamford

Welcome to Stamford, Connecticut, where people have to sell their liver for perfect looking teeth. It’s “The City That Works”.

Ready to read my long dental history? You’re going to have to, anyway.

I’ve had braces twice in my life time. Once for 2 years when I was a kid. Then another 3 years when I was 19 (braces didn’t come off till I was 22).

When I was 19, my dentist saw that I was genetically missing some teeth. I was missing my top lateral incisors, so my top row of teeth looked like this, and I was missing 2 second premolars on the bottom. My adult 2nd premolars never came in; so I still have 2 baby premolars in my mouth… the x-Ray looked funny (not my X-Ray, obviously, but it was what my teeth looked like at the time).

What was decided at the time; pull out my baby premolars from the bottom, and use braces to close the gaps. This would pull my bottom teeth back under my front teeth (how a normal bite should be).

Result at the time: my teeth were straight. All four of my wisdom teeth had room to stay in my mouth, so they stayed. I now get annual lectures about how I have to clean my wisdom teeth really well because they are hard to clean. Blah blah blah.

On to the Vampire Issue

So because I was missing the two lateral incisors up top, I ended up looking like a vampire whenever I smiled. My dentist at the time said he could flatten out the canine fangs and we can “pretend” that they were lateral incisors. I didn’t want to do it at first; but after a couple of years of whining, I let him do it.

So he put bondings on my canines to make them into lateral incisors. He also put bondings on my central incisors (2 front teeth) so that they would match. Great fix.

4 Years Later

The bonding on my left front tooth starts chipping. I get it fixed at my new dentist in Vancouver. New dentist is the first one to suggest using porcelain veneers instead. I said no, because it’s expensive and unnecessary. She tells me that me that the bonding will continue to chip every few years. Bondings are less expensive and are usually covered by dental insurance, because it’s not a strictly cosmetic procedure; bondings are typically used to protect any “open wounds” on your teeth in order to prevent cavities. I refuse again.

2 Years After 2nd Bonding

Front left tooth starts to chip again. This time I’m in Stamford. This is May of 2015. I go to Dental Care of Stamford for a regular cleaning, and I ask them to fix my front tooth with more bonding. I’m hounded this time to use procelain veneers. I ask for a quote. Too expensive (can’t remember exactly the cost). I turn them down. They charge me $153 for bonding on one tooth, since insurance only covers a part of it. I walk away happy.

Yesterday

My front left tooth has chipped a lot in the past two weeks. I put off going back to the dentist to get it fixed again, and this time I’m thinking maybe I should just do the veneers. Maybe the problem was that regular bonding just wasn’t strong enough.

I go back to Dental Care of Stamford, only to be quoted a whooping $2152 dollars PER TOOTH for procelain veneers (and Carol wants me to do 4 teeth. That’s close to 10,000!). The dentist spent about 2 minutes with me, telling me what she would do, and when I ask her for  a quote, she says, “I’ll let Carol tell you that.”

Carol is the sales woman assigned to make me sell a liver. She’s dressed like a sales person and she has zero dental skills. Why do dental offices even have sales people? Carol fights hard to sell me this incredible expensive procedure that I “absolutely must have” if I “want to look my best.”

I refuse a couple of times. She tries other tactics of convincing me. I get tired of saying “no”, so instead I say:

“I have no money. My husband supports me. I have to ask him.”

You’d think Carol would leave it at that, right? Nope. She then starts showing me this brochure for some kind of medical services credit card, she tells me that my husband can finance it on a monthly basis. I want to stop her there and tell her that I have no credit here (I’m not American, and I don’t have a bank account here), but I figure I’d let her continue wasting her breath for a few minutes before I just say, “great, thanks. I’ll talk it over with my husband.”

Carol’s closing line, that really made me laugh? –> “Just tell him it’s your Christmas Present!”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Dentist in White Plains

I walk out of Dental Care (I doubt they care) of Stamford, laughing internally and feeling like I needed a shower after 30 minutes spent with sleazy sales tactics thrown at me. I complain about the cost and experience to TubHubs for a while, then I ask him for the number for his dentist.

Turns out his dentist is The Lincoln Lawyer of dentists. His practice may not have all the fancy tools and shiny chairs that Dental Care of Stamford does, but there isn’t a single sales person on his staff.

After taking some X-Rays, the dentist came and looked at my teeth. I told him briefly about my dental history (he knew I had braces from looking at the X-Rays) and why my front tooth had been chipping so much. I told him that I was thinking veneers since they were stronger, but that I was worried about the cost.

Here is what he tells me:

There’s no reason for bondings to chip so easily after just months of use. The reason that mine are chipping more frequently is because I no longer had canines.

Canines are naturally designed to absorb the impact between your top and bottom teeth. He showed me how my bottom teeth have collusion “damage”.

He then gave me 2 options:

  1. Get porcelain veneers, and he could try building me proper canines. This would be expensive and out of pocket, as veneers are always considered cosmetic.
  2. Get bondings on that one tooth again, but this time he’ll give me a night guard to wear, which would prevent my teeth from grinding and chipping the bonding. This option is covered by dental insurance. Good bondings should last 5 to 10 years.

Out of all of the dentists I’ve seen (aside from my first dentist, who did my braces) before him, they’ve all pretty much omitted the “truth” about my ever-chipping tooth–just so that they could sell me a much more expensive procedure.

The Very Short of It

Honest dentists are hard to find. That’s all.

Personal Victory

Every time my boss calls me on Skype (he did this four times yesterday, which is more than usual), I expect him to ask him to work the weekend.

I expect this because he does ask, in his round about way.

He’ll tell me how many of our clients have events this weekend. He said these words, “we gotta whip our team into shape for this.”

Usually when he says things like, I’ll volunteer myself like the eager beaver I am. Perhaps that’s why he thought if he called me to tell me just how swamped and shitty the weekend will be for them, I’ll feel sorry for refusing to work weekends and offer.

I have zero sympathy left for them, really.

Since they’ve “saved” some money from cutting my pay for the entire of 2015, they’ve gone on to hire 3 developers in our Canadian office. Our company had operated on developers working from China for lower pay than Canadian ones simply because developers in Canada would be “out of our budget”.

While it did piss me off initially, I understand they made a sound business decision for their company; they had a eager employee who was bending over backwards to help their company, so why not take advantage of her and redistribute financial assets for more valuable skills.

But I’m a contractor now. Which means I should be operating for my own benefits. That means: whatever additional responsibilities or services their company requires from me; they have to pay more. I’m no longer a salaried chump that has to do whatever they say.

My “boss” (or are they my clients, now?) called me yesterday to tell me about how his partner is going to have to be awake at 4 am in the morning to help our east coast clients. There was a long pause. I said, “wow, that sucks” and nothing more. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I honestly have no need for this information… so the only plausible reason I can think of for him to tell me, is to hope that I’d offer to pitch in.

Anyhow. I’m hoping this is the last time I’ll ever have to write about working with this company. I don’t like to waste more time/energy thinking about all the ways they screwed me over. I do consider it a personal victory though, now that I know I can say, “No, I’m not your under-paid chump anymore.”

Let’s All Just Stick to Our Own Choices; and Stop Telling Others How to Live

Thought Catalog: Children Are The Shackles to a Woman’s Dreams

This woman wrote candidly about her choices in life, and what having children means to her. It’s freedom of expression. She writes about how she was constantly reminded that her “time is running out”.

Why do people make it sound like you’re dying of some disease if you’re not having children? Her “time” is not “running out”. She’s still a person who has a whole life ahead of her without kids.

Then to scroll down and see the first couple of comments tell her that “not all parents have the same experience” and that “being a parent is good for some people”. That’s awesome. But then they go on to tell her that they don’t think she ought to be saying that having kids is a bad thing; because that will scare people off from having children.

Err… isn’t that exactly what so many people have been doing to us young folks the entire time we’ve been alive? Telling us (women at least) that having children is the most wonderful thing you can or will ever do? (Don’t get me started on how damaging this type of conditioning is to a women who literally can’t have children).

There was an article a few months ago about studies done on couples with kids. Their conclusion was that depression is a lot more common among parents versus non-parents.

Thanks to people who keep referring to parenting as some wonderful thing; people who listen to them and end up having kids EXPECT some kind of wondrous experience. Then when the experience doesn’t live up to the hype and postpartum hits, these women are extremely unprepared to deal with their emotions.

I do want to have kids, but I’m tired of people telling me how wonderful it’ll be. I know it won’t be wonderful. I know it’s not going to be sunshine and rainbows. I know I might even end up with some ungrateful assholes for kids. They might be disabled, they might become sociopaths.

I’m definitely sick of hearing people tell other women who don’t want kids exactly the same sales speech they give me. And then to go on and paint these women as “not real women” because they lack the urge to procreate.

For all the parents out there who talk about the good and the bad of parenthood: Thank You.

Children ARE a burden. The reason we’re biologically made to think of them as “cute” is so that we won’t want to just leave them on the road side because they are too much work. I want to have kids despite the fact that they’re a burden. They are a burden I’m willing to take on.

The “rewards” that these procreation sales people keep talking about are not always a guarantee, so they should stop peddling their BS. It makes people who do have kids end up expecting way too much; it makes people who don’t want to have kids feel like they’re abnormal.

Do I look forward to the first time my future kids laugh and smile at me? Yes. Do I look forward to the first time they tell me about someone they like? Yes. But I know enough not to expect those things. Too many things could go wrong with having children that for me to expect only happiness and fulfillment from having children is just plain misguided.

Folks who think they have to “tell” other people how to live their lives should kindly shut the hell up.