How to Cut Monthly Expenses

#killerpost (1)

A recent worthwhile purchase has forced me to rethink about my monthly expenses. Since the purchase was a major one and I had been dreaming about, ok… it was a house!, I willingly comply to a little adjustment to my monthly budget, and perhaps, slightly to my lifestyle. I need to save more money because I need to buy a lot of stuff for my house. Here are the things I do to cut my monthly expenses.

  • I buy clothing items online. I even buy clothes every other month now. Fortunately, I am not a brand-minded person. I can get a similar or even better quality dress than a branded one online. Even a branded bra can be half priced online if you don’t mind not having the newest edition. Besides, have you considered a hidden cost of buying your clothes from a physical store in a mall? Cost like rental that may be added to price tags by percentiles? I don’t know how the system works, but that possibility really bugs me. With online shops, you can always compare prices before buying.
  • I stopped buying coffee from Starbuck’s because I can always get better coffee much cheaper. Let’s be honest. Theirs looks stylish on Instagram, but the price you pay is not only for the coffee, but also for the logo and space rental.
  • I gave up visits to my favorite nail salon and do my own nail. I purchased a manicure set a while ago, and every Sunday morning, I do my nail rituals. I don’t polish my finger nails; just trim, smooth the edges, and shine them. I usually do extra with my feet: softening up the calluses and paint the nails properly at the end.
  • I reduced eating out especially on week days and started eating in office’s cafetaria. If the food there sucks, I set a limited budget for delivery from nearby warungs.
  • Unfortunately, I don’t live in my house at the moment because it is located in my hometown while I work in a different island. It means: apartment/house rental. The one I live in now costs me IDR 1.5 millions (about USD 120) monthly. If I want to save significantly, I need to start looking for a cheaper place. I have not found a decent place to move into at a lower price than I have to pay right now. I’m still looking.
  • I quit smoking. … … … Nah, I lied. But it is something I’ve been considering because I can save almost IDR 700,000 a month!

Do you have any other ideas for me?

#KillerPost #NotTheSeries

#killerpost

I recently watched a TV program called #killerpost on my favorite channel CI (Crime & Investigation). The use of “#” on the title indicates that the series has something to do with social media. The fact that it is aired on CI and the term”killer” say what it is about  quite lierally: real cases where simple clicks on social media turn into murders.

Don’t get your hopes too high, though, I am not writing about #killerpost the tv program, although it is clearly correlated, but I am certain what I’m going to share is relatable to our daily social media habits. The internet seems to affect our lives and our relationships with others, more than we may expect. For better or worse.

Let me ask you these:

  1. How often do you feel irritated by your contacts’ posts to the point that you think this isn’t right and you have to say something?
  2. How many contacts have you unfriended?
  3. How many times have you reported a post or an account?

I have my answers:

  1. Too often, at least once a day in the past month.
  2. One in the past month.
  3. At least five, in the past month.

Now, you may think that most of those annoying posts are political or religious in nature. That may be right, given that this country’s political & religion-related tensions has been escalating, starting from the pre-Jakarta provincial elections to the aftermath of the governor’s 2-year sentence for blasphemy, a decision that has split the nation like never before. People figuratively kill each other with posts and comments to a post.

Let us not talk about it, at least not yet. Let’s go into more generic things we, social media citizens, decide to post. What we assume to be an innocent party picture can be harmful in the eye of some beholders. Somebody may feel left out and this can potentially lead to an open argument. I saw it happen. A jealous wife who goes beserk after seeing a photo of her hubby with female colleagues (I received a plea from such a husband to take down a picture I shared online). An employee who receives warning from a company after posting a disgruntled statement about a delayed payday. A daughter who needs to clarify to the public after being targeted for her celebrity mother’s Twitter rants. An angry girl whose insensitive Facebook post blamed a religious ritual for a traffic she was stuck into gets ousted from the region by angrier crowds. We have witnessed or read such ‘killerpost’ cases.

Family, company, society. At least these three should be our warning alarm when it comes to posting stuff on social media. Is it safe for my family? Does my family want to see this? Is it safe for my work? What will my boss say if he sees my post? Is it safe for my social welfare if I post this? Or will a certain group of people attack me? Will I be ready to deal with them? This applies not only to images or statuses you originally post, but also to your comments to someone else’s posts and what you repost online, thanks to confusing social media algorithms that decide what goes and what does not go to your contacts’ timelines.

We may be able to control what we post, but we can’t control what other people post. As the saying goes: bla… bla… bla…., but you can control your reaction. Your reaction is what you decide to do or not do after seeing a post that triggers a certain emotion in you. It’s totally everybody’s call. Human to human relationships can be hurt by killerposts. Some people have big hearts, they can easily forgive and forget. Some others take on the angry rants lane and get involved in long, exhausting battles of arguments online. There are  also people who do silent abandonment; they are familiar to ‘mute’, ‘unfollow’, ‘unfriend’, and ‘block’ features. I recently fell into the 3rd. I have unfollowed a few people because of the extreme nature of their posts: contacts who posted hatred toward others, those who shared pictures of dead bodies, and those who shared hoaxes (doesn’t matter whether they were aware if they were hoaxes). People with these gravity magnet tendencies. Even if you share the same religion as I do, believe in the same political figures as I do, and share a similar cause, if I detect an extreme or fanatic pattern in your posts that go beyond my logic, I may still unfollow you for my own good.

The rain song

Rain is subversive. People pray and dance for it to to fall down in times of drought, but people wish it would stop falling when it’s in season. Rain is moody. It has temper.

Rain makes things grow; it celebrates life. The same rain can cause unwanted floods; it can even claim lives. Some myth says rain on your wedding day is a bad omen (and then, rain stoppers earn money from wedding organizers). Chinese culture believes water symbolizes prosperity so they expect pouring rain on the Chinese new year. Absence of it foreshadows upcoming financial challenge. 

Rain, your existence is a mystery.

If you were born in the 70’s or earlier, you may remember Rain Man. The 1988 movie directed by Barry Levinson revolves around the twisted fate of two brothers: Charlie, played by Tom Cruise, and his autistic brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffmann). Raymond… or as Charlie mistakenly called Rain Man following an incident back when they were children, is considered liability because of his condition. Accidentally almost putting his baby brother’s life in danger, their parents sent him away to an institution. They grow up not knowing each other. Years pass and their father passes away, leaving arrogant Charlie a car and his collection of rose bushes, and Raymond huge portion of his fortune. Out of his greed to get their father’s inheritance, Charlie reluctantly takes Raymond out of the facility so that he can have full control of the fortune. His selfishness leads him to a deep sh*t. His debts are piling. What Charlie initially thinks as liability turns to be his good luck charm. Raymond’s ability to memorize hundreds of numbers helps Charlie get a big win in a casino. Their relationship changes forever. The story ends in a bitter sweet note. Nobody wins. Nobody loses. Everybody just gets by.

Rain Man is like an irony we have to live by: what we know we need, and yet at the same time, what we try to avoid when around. 

And then, there’s umbrellas. When we humans do not have power over nature, we create things to live in peace with it. I believe umbrellas serve that purpose. Rather than stop our activities because the rain has caused us inconvenience and discomfort, we keep doing what we normally do the best we can: we carry an umbrella in the rain. Or wear raincoats. There are things that the rain need to cool down or help grow. There things that we human need to do despite the rain. Umbrella is some sort of a peace maker between the two (not that they’re in war). It becomes a plain, uncomplicated symbol of harmony between nature and humans… within its limitation.

Lately in Indonesia, whether we realize it or not, we have witnessed how we are used to living in the irony of controversies and differences. Just like coping with the rain. We have learned to manage it, not with ease, but we get by.We carry umbrellas in the rain. #payungbiru, or the blue umbrella that the president carried last week at the Friday’s prayers, seems to represent this humble resilience. It may not easy to be an Indonesian living in Indonesia at the moment, but as long as umbrellas are compulsory items in all households, we always have a hope. ☺

On flexibility & emotion

A week ago I attended a digital marketing seminar organized by Marketing Interactive, a Singapore based company. This was my second time joining their event in Jakarta. Last year, the seminar talked more about how customers’ behavior had changed in the face of the digital era and how companies of different industries turned to digital when it comes to market their products and services. It was also emphasizing the power of visuals. This year, the keynote speakers – that came from medium to gigantic scale corporations and startups – mostly focused their strategy to making engaging videos. Still visual, but moving. Brands move fluidly to respond to fast-pacing change of trends. Customers are hardly loyal. Generation Z are not a loyal group. Their attention needs to be constantly disrupted. Patterns need to be broken in order to get attention, let alone, go viral. Companies splurge on video making to project their brands’ images. Video making companies flourish offering customer behavioral approach at a skyrocketing cost, well seen from the perspective of a small company’s worker like myself, of course.

After Day One was over, I met with some friends at a bar not far from the 5* hotel the 2-day where the seminar was taking place. One of my friends works for a reputable travel magazine – one of a few print magazines that still survive in the wake of  the ‘everything digital’ age. Newspaper and magazines met their dooms one by one. Only those that either have segmented readerships or have solid digital platforms keep thriving. Lucky for my friend, she works for the thriving one. It’s no secret that advertising in print media is expensive, thanks to… well, all the labor of printing! Businesses now turn much of their marketing budget to online advertising, simply because it is cheaper and more measurable when it comes to ROI.

It was just after 6 PM when each of us finished our second glass of cocktail. Tipsy and all, we started to strip off our surface gentility and reveal ourselves more true to ourselves. Turned out six of us (there was about 12 of us) were Javanese, so we took the liberty of mixing English, Bahasa Indonesian, and Javanese in our exchanges that night. It was so much fun. So fluid. Everyone was laughing. Nobody was offended. All felt good.

Catching up with friends and cocktail are two ways to good feelings!

Emotions. Those are what tie people together, whatever changes that may take place. Emotions are what people share and spread. Bad emotions: anger, sadness, anxiety, a loss of some sort. Good emotions: cuteness, silliness, the world-is-still-a-good-place-to-be kind of feeling. One of the keynote speakers from a company called Unruly at the seminar couldn’t stress this enough. Brands play with emotions these days. They can’t help that.

A room with a city view

I came to remember the day I checked in at a hotel in Jakarta; what I experienced was multiple disappointment. First, I had requested a smoking room, but I could not have it. “We are full,” the receptionist said. “But we can move you to a smoking room tomorrow.” How convenient it was to have an elevator ride to the hotel foyer every time I had the urge.

The next day at the hotel, I got most of what I’d wanted granted. I got a smoking room and my phone’s reception went normal. I didn’t have the city view like what I had in the first room, though. In fact, there was no view at all, but I did not want to fight for a view at this point. I guess the hotel had successfully played with this particular guest’s spectrum of happiness. By being flexible, they restored most of her good feelings. Emotion.

I understand not all business people understand the concept of flexibility and emotion. Like the other day when I gave a hotel voucher I had won in an event to a friend of mine because I thought I was not going to use it. Bad news was its validity would expire within days and my friend did not plan to use it anytime soon. Then she emailed the contact person who happened to be the hotel’s PR to ask if it was possible to have it extended. Good news: it was possible. BUT… here comes the bad news, she still had to mail the original physical voucher back to the hotel so that the PR could issue a new one. Small, but itchy inconvenience. Knowing her (the PR), I texted her asking if she would give some sort of leniency as to allow my friend to bring the invalid voucher upon check in. Her flexibility had stopped the moment she told my friend the voucher was renewable. My friend was disappointed. I was disappointed, not so much because of the fact that the hotel’s rule was different from that of my company when it comes to being flexible to business peers, but mostly because my collegue PR expressed her irritation over my friend’s and my queries. The exchanges between us ended up in somewhat ill feelings, but point was taken.

The whole thing got me thinking. If my brand is associated with being flexible in offering customers solutions to their problems, thus giving them good feelings at the end, the chance that they will return is better. Being rigid will cost a business misfortune in the (not so) long run. My brand has to respond to what the customers need. Their headaches should be lessened, if not made gone completely.

My boss loves saying, “My hires are the company’s assets. They are our investment.” I agree. Giving good feelings is also investment. Doesn’t matter if we’re in the stone age or in the Snapchat age.

Fingers crossed!

The luxury of doing nothing

the luxury

THE ACCIDENT

Three Sundays ago I got into a single accident. On my way home from buying my favorite sweet treat, my scooter stumbled on a paving block and in split seconds, I was already on the ground and my scooter on me. The block seemed to be accidentally hauled right into the middle of the road from the unfinished sidewalk construction. The area around my left eyebrow got swollen from hitting the asphalt, and I got cuts and bruises all over my legs.A good couple helped me and took me to the nearest hospital. After spending some time at the Emergency Unit, that I night I stayed at my friends’ home, another good couple.
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THE CAST & CRUTCHES

A few days after the accident, an X-ray ruled I had a tiny fracture near my left ankle. The orthopedist put a cast on my leg which will remain there for the next two or three weeks. Good news is a surgery is not necessary.

Although I assume this condition is only temporary, this stupid, high-schooly cast on my leg has changed my day to day life. My mobility is suddenly cut short. I am in total dependence on crutches to get me to places, which are basically just the narrow spaces in my tiny place. I have not gone to work ever since, but managed to have my laptop sent from the office, not just for work but also to get rid off my guilty conscience over being absent in quite a while. It can also distract me from binge-watching Korean dramas on TV like there’s no tomorrow and worrying over what’s to eat and how I’m going to get it. Thanks to Go-Jek, I’ve got my meals covered. Some friends also delivered food to me. Not just for food, they have been my real-life “apps” when I need toilet paper, gas for my stove, and cigarettes. God bless their good souls!

THE GOOD SOULS

Let me start with this couple. The guy’s name is Angga, and the girl, Dewi. They were riding their motorbike when they saw me hopeless on the street that evening. They were the ones who took me to the hospital. Another good couple that evening was my best friend Netri and her husband. They have been very helpful since the first time I moved to Bali 8 years ago, but that night was particularly the greatest help they did to me. I was taken to their home after the accident, given food and anti-inflammation gel. When I returned to my place, they came to visit me and brought me (again) food.

And then, there were my collegues with the stuff they brought from oranges to toilet paper to… beer! *good bye medication*

THE DOING-NOTHING-NESS
Not every day I have the luxury of doing what I really want because work occupies most of my time. Even when I am home, I always have my phone in my hand and it is mostly work-related: responding to guest inquiries on Facebook, posting new images on Instagram, and work-related WhatsApp messenger exchanges. The accident was a game changer, even when it only lasted for some time.
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I was lucky enough Indovision recently had opened all of thei channels as reward for having subscribed to them for 24 months. Oh how I looooved just sitting there, watching Korean movies and series. Great titles, such as Oldboy, Memory of Murder, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, were treats. I also had the luxury of watching Game of Thrones season 6 world premiere! I ordered food, even cigarettes and coffee, from Go-Jek Apps. I am not saying I loved the situation, but I did have a pretty decent time in my confinement.

To a candle put off (the funny guy with the sad eyes)

Dead Poets Society

Like any other morning, I woke up earlier than my alarm this morning, a little perplexed by a dream I had. I remembered it vaguely; it involved a chasing scene I suspected having a correlation with The Walking Dead I’d been watching back-to-back the day before. I checked on my Facebook timeline on my smartphone only to find shocking news: Robin Williams is dead. I prepared my coffee, black and strong.

I don’t know Robin Williams in person, but I know he had done something very important in my life. That small highlight on my life timeline was when I was still teaching at the English Language Education program at a university in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I used “Dead Poets Society” as one of my teaching materials in my Drama class. We played the movie in our language lab several times, and I encouraged my students to rent the dvd from a local rental to further study the movie. I gave them topics they could choose from, such as character analysis, plot analysis, and symbolism, to be developed into an academic essay. It was 2001 or 2002, I don’t remember exactly; it was when the Internet was not as advanced and widely accessible as today, but it was the time when we, teachers, started to wonder why these younger generations seemed to develop impatience toward reading novels, textbooks, or any other longer materials.  I used films because films were definitely part of my students’ reality. Back to Mr. Williams, his portrayal of John Keating (easily a reference to the short-lived Brit Romantic poet John Keats) was bigger than life. Like little Todd, I was inspired. My Drama class students got inspired. They began to explore materials, both online and offline. They read. They quoted. They put down their ideas on paper. They learned from crosses and yellow marker highlights I made on their paper. They wrote essays they were proud of. I was proud of them. I learned one important thing from their initial laziness: TEACHERS SHOULD DEVELOP MATERIALS USING TOOLS THAT ARE CLOSE TO THEIR STUDENTS’ REALITY.

I went to work as I was supposed to, no longer as a teacher, of course. I threw jokes around my colleagues like I habitually do. I went to meet a travel blogger from New Zealand whom we hosted. We talked about how the Balinese lead their lives, about life twists, a book called The Journey of Souls, and Bali coffee. We didn’t talk about Robin Williams, but shortly after the meeting, I was suddenly reminded of depression, the silent killer: my own, years ago; a few family members’; a dear friend’s. We live a relatively happy life on the surface, but what goes on beneath is sometimes a wolf — conditioned, but not tamed.

Now, before you say that Robin Williams had done nothing to my life (that everything I felt was just an emotional outburst), think about the movies you remember he was in. How many of them gave you chills and touched your humanity? I think that exactly how he contributed to life: by choosing to be part of those moments when a fictional character is able to move something inside of the audiences. Through those movies, Robin Williams had made a decision after a decision to be an agent that helped us see how to be a better person. His portrayal of John Keating in DPS did that to me. 

“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day… make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.”

Like Neil in Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams decided to leave the life he led. The funny guy with the sad eyes. I am sure that, like Neil’s, his death — and despite my own limitation in understanding such a fatal decision could have been made by someone whose existence had inspired many — will spark flames in others’ lives to carry on and contribute to life.

So I started to write again, starting with this one. I continue weighing a decision after a decision. Rest in Peace, Robin Williams. Thank you for your contribution to life.

On Sharing Online

 

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Certainly sharing something online has become a more and more common daily activity. I share, and even multi-share my selfies, pics of my food and office assignments, my blog posts, funny images, some-rocking-peep’s quotations on daily basis. I share interesting news pieces or practically anything that draws my attention and is, in opinion, worth sharing. What I post is mostly personal stuff; and by sharing them, I am more or less aware of the consequences of revealing some aspect of myself and that people may react differently to it. Funny comments, sarcastic attacks, retweets, likes, trains of conversations, or nothing at all — ready or not, I must accept that they color my social media existence.

Most of the time I am conscious of an image I want to project of myself whenever I post a material online. No, not so much because I am narcissistic (to some extent, hell yes, I love taking pics of myself and sharing some of them on my socmed), but because of measured social and professional consequences of who and what I am when I decide to share something online. Because people can read my professional identity online, I think I should behave responsibly online as well. I leave my accounts open so that people can look into my profile as they wish, and they will find that I don’t update on problems at work, or on how I feel about a certain coworker, nor would they find me an angry person by going through my online posts. There are certain times, though, when I blur lines between my private and social life, just to have fun with myself and let others see my silly side without having to make people think, “Oh geez, how could this company hire this witch in the first place?”

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How do I react to reckless posts made by my contacts? There is an excellent feature on Facebook and I love it so much I use it many times. If a post is annoying beyond belief, I will easily click ‘I don’t want to see this’. If the same person has a pattern of making stupid posts (such as controversial news pieces from god-knows-what media), I will unfollow or even unfriend this person completely. Life is too priceless, and your day is too beautiful, to be tainted by other people’s bitterness or weak judgment. It was when MH370 went missing and all social medias were flocked with shared updates of the search that I got really bugged with the fact that some people were mindless enough to share posts that looked more like a gossip than a reliable news piece. Of course everybody is dying to know, but, darling, let me tell you: it doesn’t help at all when your updates come from unreliable sources. 

If you care about your online credibility — because human beings are assessed in this manner too, nowadays — mind the sources you share your posts from, if what you post is an article or news piece. If you vent your anger online, and you think you can hide it by writing it in Swahili, please bear in mind that people do use Google Translate. If the post is light in nature, such as health tips and funny images, sources are less important than in the case of the missing aircraft updates. A note to keep in mind: we tend to take TIME’s or Huffingtonpost’s health articles more seriously than some teenagers’ magazine articles. Having said that, if you aim at entertaining, some cool sites like Buzzfeed have fun stuff to share on your contacts’ timelines just for the heck of fun (like the “Is Ryan Gossling Your Soulmate?” quiz).

End note: Follow any media you like, and start sharing wisely.

Tuesday Afternoon Reverie

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When life takes your hand to enter its torture chamber, let it be. Let it crush your particles it wants to crush. Let them die as their death marks the birth of those pink water lilies just outside your window.

If you are lucky — as lucky as I — I will take you inside and watch the water lilies grow, die, and grow again, playing our love recital.

2014 kicks off

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January 2014. I have given up making New Year’s resolutions. They’re useless and against the brevity of pleasure. Yet, I started off the year on a calm, slightly happy note. Nothing’s fixed, meaning that whatever I have is flexible for twists and changes. It’s like saying that your loving, sweet-smelling partner is planned to marry someone else he’s not in love with.

The cheesy last statement is not entirely figurative, I can tell you that now. The feeling of entrapment happens from time to time. Even though you have years behind you, still, you are left helpless when it comes around. Years only teach you to prolong your silence, holding back your anger a little longer. Years don’t teach you to be dead of emotions, especially when you were born with those intense feelings.

Exactly on January 1, 2014, I finished a pretty cool book “What French Women Know” written by Debra Ollivier. It compares and contrasts extensively between French women’s and American women’s views on love, sex, and morality. I called it cool because it is easy to read, matter-of-fact, and it is not afraid of being called stereotypical (the book scored pretty low on Goodreads, by the way, but I suspect it’s because most of the reviewers are Americans). Stereotypes can also teach you good lessons. I dare to say that because I believe most people I know are smart enough not to fall to petty judgments towards other people. I thought the book was cool because I am nearly as “messy” as the stereotypical French women described in it. “French women generally don’t strive for exalted standards of happiness, nor do they strive for exalted standards of moral perfection,” says Ollivier. There are peeps out there who think that mess is a preferable trait, or at least, they don’t give a damn.

A couple of days ago, I attended a wedding reception of a good friend of mine, an Indonesian, who married a French man. I assume my friend is already familiar with “French-ness” after knowing this lovely gentleman and being in the French circle in Bali for a couple of years. I assume she knows how to be messy and still appears fine. Well, I know she does because she is exactly the embodiment of that beautiful mess. And, as the night got late and the music got louder and the alcohol level got higher, my “dark passenger” got me under her control.

Days before that night, I experienced the expected pain of two people who see each other without commitment. It was a pretty messy stuff that involved a sleepless night and sickening dead silence before he came back to me on the next day, loaded with affection, putting everything back in order and me back under his armpit. Sweet, eh? Nah! In my friend’s wedding party, intoxicated, I was the one who stirred the calm universe with a betrayal (but how do you betray if you never commit in the first place? So I guess, it’s just a common-courtesy thing).

It is so much easier to blame it on the alcohol or ‘temporary madness’ for every mess you make. But think of this: cross the booze out of the story, will you still commit the “crime”? If it’s an attractive guy right in front of your nose (probably drunk, but attractive), and he’s into you, will you? Now, what if this attractive guy happens to be one of your best buddies whose darkness you know well enough? Will you?

I don’t indulge myself in extreme craziness, but then again, the question of “extreme” is very subjective. I don’t walk around showing my tits as I please. If anything, I embrace both my good nature and my “ugly” (sexy) side. I embrace the guilt and the pleasure altogether. 2014, 38 going on 39, comfortable in my own skin, and I keep juggling for balance in my waking, sober hours.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!