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mga bibitbitin ko pabalik ng Amerika kapag naka-uwi ako sa Pilipinas

May 16, 2010 1 comment

they say if you’ve been living in a foreign country for more than 5 years, then its unlikely that you’ll want to go home; unless you are forced to.  my four-year mark is on june 14 of this year which, if popular opinion is correct, would mean that in a year’s time i wouldn’t dream of coming back to the Philippines anymore. the saying has some truth to it i guess; we have been used to living here. but we have never dreamed of staying here for good – only for the next few years of our young adult life, at the peak of our earning potentials – after which we dream of coming home to give back to the country that we love and very dearly miss.

however, i have promised myself that i would take my summer vacation in Manila in 2 year’s time – by 2012 – after i finish school and before i start working. i can already see myself breaking this promise, but i am still hoping i can keep it. either way, the point of this post (and this unnecessary intro) is to list the things i would probably hoard if given the chance to come home, even if it’s for a brief moment. most of these are not available in the Filipino stores here, or are ridiculously over-priced.

(1) karton-karton ng Tortillos na red na wala ditoo!! my ultimate happy food that i haven’t had for 4 (soon 5!) years!!

(2) plastic cover para sa mga libro. pangit yung plastic book covers eh. by the bulk ang bili ng regular plastic in rolls – only libraries purchase them.

(3) Purefoods sisig in cans. Nissin’s sili-mansi yung jumbo packs – wala sa Filipino stores dito eh, bakit kaya…

(4) Spanish sardines, Ligo sardines (yung red), Rose Bowl sardines.

(5) Champ ng Jollibee (lahat ng kaya kong dalhin! i live in the east coast, 6 hours away from NYC – walang Jollibee samin!)

(6) tagalog books for kids and  my husband’s filipiniana books which he googles about every few weeks. tagolog cd’s of children’s song and dvd copies of Batibot. dvd copies of selected filipino films, mostly Bernal’s and some critically-acclaimed ones.

(7) parol na umiilaw or belen from Paete.

(8) a Baldemor painting, if we can afford it.

(9) Pilipinas shirts, polo-shirts, and jackets. sobtang mahal dito, naiinis ako – feeling ko uto-uto ako kapag bumili ako.

(10) kapatid ko (kung pwede lang ba eh…haay)

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Categories: others

the crazy things we do to save

May 13, 2010 8 comments

Most of our friends here know how careful my husband and I are with spending, most especially, spending too much. When you live in the US, spending can come, oh soo easily. But three years of living on a very (very) tight budget as graduate school international students allowed us to form this almost miser attitude.  Despite being blessed with a decent source of income now, we cannot help but stick to this framework that we have very well established in our family. It has its advantage of course; the savings and investments we have acquired for the past 2 years would have been unimaginable if we stayed back home and worked very hard for 5 years. The biggest disadvantage; rarely do we allow ourselves to enjoy this monetary blessing. What’s the point of “having” when you can’t do anything with it, right? It is only recently that we have allowed ourselves to buy without the complicated analysis we used to conduct prior to any purchase, which are most of the time, stuff for our daughter.

But as I’ve said, it has its advantages. And it is often the case that friends ask us how we do it. I’ve been meaning to write about it, to somehow make a list of the things we do to stick with our budget. Since I have 3 more days before the summer semester starts, I thought of finally doing it now.

Below is a list of a few of our spending and saving principles:

(1)    Everything that we plan to buy is subjected to our 3-way test:

  1. Do we really need it?
  2. Is there a cheaper alternative?
  3. Do we have to buy it now or can we buy on a later time?

(2)    The best things in life are FREE, or bought from a second-hand store.

We maximize the utilization of our local library. When we need something for our house, the Salvation Army is one of shopping stopovers. We buy books, dvd’s, and cd’s from our local second-hand shop (McKay) or through online stores (Amazon, AbeBooks). My toddler’s favorite shows are from PBS, and they’re the only ones I will let her watch. We prefer walking in the park rather than walking inside a mall.

(3)    Pay yourself.

The first thing we do with my husband’s salary is that we separate funds for our savings and investments. Whatever is left is budgeted for the monthly spending.

(4)    Whatever we save is placed on a black hole account.

A black hole is a region where nothing can escape. The only time we remove money from our black hole account is when it can earn more somewhere else. This black hole account/s is where  buffer funds are kept, which is basically the amount of money needed to live without any source of income for 6 (or more) months. Ideally, this account should follow a CD laddering to create maximum yields with zero risk. Only when you have this buffer account can you start investing your money to a more profitable (yet more risky) endeavors.

(5)    Create a realistic budget then stick with it – no excuses.

We review and adjust our budget every 6 months. It has to be a realistic because there’s no point of making one if you won’t be able to stick with it.

(6)    Monitor. Monitor. Monitor.

There’s no point of making a budget when you can’t monitor what you’ve spent, how much you’ve spent, how much you’ve invested, and where your investments are headed. Find a realistic way to monitor your finances. Open and update it as often as you check your email. We use mint.com. It’s free and very user-friendly, plus you can synch your bank accounts with it.

(7)    Support nonprofit versus corporate entities.

Sesame Street rather than Dora the Explorer. Farmer’s market rather than Whole Foods. PBS Kids rather than the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. Credit unions rather than big banks.

(8)       Extensive research before buying anything.

And I mean, extensive. The amount of effort and time consumed in researching about a purchase should be directly proportional to its designated dollar value. 

(9)    Buy in bulk if you can, but stick with your budget.

 If you will be eating up your savings to be able to buy in bulk, then don’t. But also remember that annual savings is what matters.

(10) Look at every dollar in your bank account as an employee that you need to utilize to the best of its ability. A dollar now can be $100 in a month if you invested it properly. Remember this, especially when you are in the dollar store or in a yard sale.

11) Choose your bank wisely.

Choose a credit card that provides the best cash back policy. What’s the point of having pages of reward items to choose from if you don’t need them? Consider banking with a credit union. The fees are generally cheaper than the bigger banks, services are better, plus you get better loan terms.

(12) Learn to how cook well enough, that you and your family will adore and prefer to eat-in.

Eating-in is actually more expensive in some cases. Why labor in the kitchen, preparing dinner from scratch when a big box of pizza that would be good for 2-3 dinners is only $7/box? Burger meals can be as low as $3/person, there are even $1 big burritos at 7-11 or at the Dollar Stores. But if you would want a healthy, decent, and scrumptious meal that only a sit down restaurant can provide, then eating-in becomes the cheaper alternative. Doing things from scratch – from cookies, cakes, breads, to buffalo wings, and ice cream cakes is cheaper and healthier than the stuff you buy pre-made in stores. Attending cooking classes or buying good cookbooks are worth every penny if you are committed to learn how to cook well.

Here are a few of the crazy things we do to ensure that we would be able to stick with our strict budget:

(1)    We don’t buy the latest technology. When we need to buy any electronic equipment, we buy models that have released its second generation, or we wait at least a year before we buy them. By then they would be way cheaper , with lesser or known bugs, yet we get to enjoy almost the same features that a newly developed technology could offer.

(2)    I buy whole chicken, then I cut them up to small serving sizes that I need. Whole chicken is around $0.70-0.75/ pound, sometimes even cheaper plus you get a range of chicken parts. The cheapest cut-up chicken available in the supermarket is at $0.90/pound. Of course you need to know how to cut chicken properly if you plan to do this too, just search for instructions in youtube.com on how to do it.

(3)    I rarely buy meats that are not on sale. And when I find a really good deal, I stock-up and buy as much as my freezer could hold.

(4)    I cook batches of food in the weekends, because electricity rate is cheaper during the weekends than in the weekdays.

(5)    I create a 2-week menu list and I shop with a list based on this menu. This helps me utilize all the items that I buy efficiently allowing less spoilage, and I get to stick with my food budget.

(6)    We bring packed-food when we leave the house. This is a necessity because of my daughter’s allergies. But eventually it has become a health concern too. We do eat out, but when we do, we reserve it for special dining experiences and not just to remedy our hunger whenever we go out.

(7)    We have a 2-gallon water jug in our car. This prevents us from buying from vending machines. We used to buy those big cartons of water bottles, but we remembered that those bottles are bad for the environment, so we now have big water jugs.

(8)    I use coupons, but only for items that I planned to buy. What’s the point of saving through coupons when it forces you to buy something you didn’t need in the first place?

(9)    I am a BIG fan of store brands. The only time a name brand can beat the price of store brands is when you have a coupon for it. Yes there are corporate brands that I stick with, but only after proving that it was way better than the store brand.

(10) Always think twice. Over thinking can be a problem yes, but most of the time it helps.

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health mandates

May 12, 2010 Leave a comment

i wrote this argument paper a few weeks ago during the last exam in my english class. we weren’t supposed to save a copy of it, but i was too happy with what i was able to come up with that i tried to find a way to save it through my online blackboard account. so to somehow make sense of my semi-illegal saving of this essay, i’m posting it here. bakit ba ako naman nagsulat ah?!

btw, i got all the A’s that i needed. now that my first sem is over, i have 7 semesters left until i finish nursing school. if only i can wake up one morning and all these studying are over and done with – wishful thinking.

===============================================

The Need for Health Mandates.

The recent passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (HR 3590) and Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HR 4827) have been both praised and criticized. Among the many programs that will take effect through these laws are the individual and group mandates on getting health insurance coverage. Supporters of these health mandates argue that their inclusion is crucial in achieving the reform that US seeks and without it this shared responsibility, lasting reform is not possible (Health Care Mandates, 2009). This paper aims to provide support to this claim by showing how the inclusion of the health mandates help solve the many problems of the current health care system.

Studies show that the largest group of uninsured Americans consist of young, healthy people who choose not to get covered (Health Care Mandates, 2009). Together with this group are the workers of businesses who choose not to cover their employees. In the event that these groups of uninsured individuals get sick, they do not have the capability to pay their bills. Someone else then, the insured or the government, picks up the tab; causing the overall health care cost to rise (Health Care Mandates, 2009). Mandating everyone to pay into the system while they are healthy helps create an economically fair set-up. Also, implementation of the health mandates forces the government and the private insurance companies to manage health care costs. High cost will “infuriate constituents who are being forced to buy something they can’t afford”, requiring Congress to “get serious about holding costs” down (Klein, 2010,1). The current voluntary insurance system has not provided enough incentives for insurers to efficiently manage costs. Linda Blumberg, in her article published in the New England Journal of Medicine notes, that “the most expensive 5% of the population accounts for half of the aggregate health care spending, and the bottom 50% of spenders only account for 3% … the gains insurers get from avoiding the sick outweighs any possible gains from managing their care” (Blumberg, 2009). Blumberg also states that, “mandate will tend to bring healthier people and those with higher income into the system at a relatively low incremental cost … with added benefit of government financing”, addressing the benefits in terms of cost for the healthy and the wealthy (Blumberg, 2009).

In a voluntary system, companies “compete to avoid the sickest people and sign up the healthiest people” (Klein, 2009). Removing this un-humanitarian kind of competition while enabling the right kind (which is, drive down cost), helps create a better quality of health care in the US. Without coverage, individuals who are sick either get sicker or they end up filing for bankruptcy. Forcing insurers to cover them prevents this downward spiral. The only way to allow insurers to be financially viable while requiring them to cover these group of people is the inclusion of the health mandates. Also in the current system, government resources of approximately $43 billion in 2008, are allocated for minimal health care service for the uninsured (Blumberg, 2009). Blumberg states that, “care provided this way does not amount to continuous, comprehensive care for the uninsured…” (Blumberg, 2009). Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein also relates a story when he was left uninsured for months because of a computer error. He claims that these incidences will be prevented with the health mandates in place because it will force both employers and individuals to “make sure the paperwork is in order” (Health Care Mandates, 2009).

The enforcement of the health mandates allows the US to be one big step closer to the ideal, which is, universal health insurance coverage. Statistical projections by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show that, “between 6 million to 7 million people who would not be covered by under the current law will be covered …” through the employer mandate (CBO, 2009). A study on the impact of the health reform bills by the Rural Policy Research Institute declares that because of the reform, the number of uninsured will decrease from 50 million to 21 million (Mueller, 2009). Ezra Klein notes that the, “uninsured category has gone from the second largest to the absolute smallest” (Klein, 2010, 2). Reducing the number of uninsured by insuring the sick, those with preexisting conditions, and employees of businesses who used to deny coverage, will not be economically viable without the health mandates in place.

Driving down and managing health care costs, insuring the sick and those with preexisting conditions, and decreasing the growing number of uninsured individuals are  just a few of the most critical problems in the current US health care system. The data presented is plain and evident that without the health mandates, health care reform will not be doable and sustainable. Alternatives to achieving the much-needed changes without the health mandates are extensive subsidies that US government cannot afford,  increase in revenue by insurers through higher premiums, or through higher taxes that a majority of Americans do not need more of.  The health mandates, then, are indispensable to the fulfillment of the essence of health care reform. To oppose it would automatically mean continuity of the current health care system; a system which has been repeatedly proven to be inadequate, unacceptable, and inhumane.
 
Resources:
Blumberg, Linda and John Colahan. “The Individual Mandate – An Affordable and Fair Approach to Achieving Universal Health Care Coverage”. The New England Journal of Medicine. Vol 361, p6-7. [http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/361/1/6]. 02 July 2009. (25 April 2010).

Health Care Mandates. “Issues & Controversies”. Facts on File News Services, 16 Oct 2009. [http://dll.umaine.edu/ble/U.S.%20HCweb.pdf] (15 Feb 2010).
Klein, Ezra. “How Health Care Reform Reduces the Deficit in 5 Not-So-Easy Steps”. Newsweek Web Exclusive. 21 Mar 2010. [http://www.newsweek.com/id/235246]. (25 April 2010).

Klein, Ezra. “Who Is Left Uninsured?” Washington Post. 22 Mar 2010. [http://voices.washingtonpost/ezra-klein/2010/03/who_is_left_uninsured_by_the_h.html]. (25 April 2010).

Mueller, Keith. “The Impact of patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act on Covered Person”. Rural Policy Research Institute. 29 December 2009. [http://www.rwfg.org/files/research/53234.pdf]. (25 April 2010).

United States Congressional Budget Office (CBO). “An estimate of the budgetary effects of the reconciliation proposal; in combination with the effects of HR 3590 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)”. [http://www.cbo.give/ftpdocs/113xx/doc11379/Manager’sAmmendmenttoReconcilliationProposal.pdf]. 20 Mar 2010. (23 Apr 2010)

laptop hiatus

May 12, 2010 Leave a comment

first the battery was acting up. then the power cord followed.  yesterday it was infected by a trojan / worm / i really don’t know anything about viruses – all i know is that i can’t open anything without encountering an error. it was somewhat my fault; my anti-virus expired months ago and i haven’t bothered to buy a new one. however, i refuse to claim full responsibility since in my family we have designated responsibilities and my husband is the official systems administrator. he had been bugging me to learn how to do it on my own – at this point a threatened to refuse to cook for him; we then agreed he’ll fix it this weekend.

hay laptop. well i can always use my husband’s, but of course it’s not the same. my laptop is the extension of myself, i actually feel light-headed without it. but i guess this is a way of reminding me how attached i am to it, and that maybe i shouldn’t be … then again, it’s 11pm and i’m still up typing this non-sense in a borrowed laptop — not really the therapy i should be aiming at.

anyhoo, i miss my laptop. i really don’t care if the battery is all messed up, or if the power cord fails every time i move an inch. i (my husband) just needs to get that virus out of there and i’m back to my normal existence. and if he fails in recovering  my files from last semester, i might consider not making the new york cheesecake i promised this afternoon. i know that’s not fair. well, as i say to my toddler whenever she stumbles when running, that’s a part of life.

Categories: others