Thursday, July 30, 2009

More month at the end of the money?

I was just passing the time doing various quizzes on FB tonight, and one of them was on "What does your facial shape tell about you". And the result was :

+ Always work hard.
+ Handles financial problem smartly.
+ Has an outstanding will to succeed.
+ Has a clear plan for life.
+ Can be quite ego at times.

(Never mind the grammar lah ye? :))

As with most of the quizzes on FB, I had to ponder on whether any of the above actually rang true about me, and I have to say some of them are dead right, while some are fitnah semata-mata (but, I'm not going to say here which ones are which, okay?! Hehehe!) EXCEPT that in a way I somewhat agree with #2 (Well, at least NOT until about 5 years ago, that is). And I wouldn't say I'm 'smart' when it comes to handling financial problems or matters. Maybe 'prudent' would be a better way to describe me. So, bear with me when I share something with you all here, okay?

I'm also moved to share this after reading Meen's (JazzmaTazz :))post on her blog about how now she spends less on shopping as she becomes more contented with life :) And how all the unnecessary spending has dwindled down over the last couple of years. And I agree with her. When you're contented with what you have (doesn't have to be a material thing), you tend to shop less. And to add to that, I believe that once we shop less, we will be able to start saving systematically. And the result - we'll be more contented and happier with basically everything and everybody around us :)

I have to confess - before 2004, Ayah and I were not thrifty with our money at all. We never consciously saved our dosh, and we never kept track of where our money went. Whenever our salary came in, we would just withdraw whatever amount we wanted, signed our cheques freely, and we would just charge most of our shoppings to our credit cards. And normally, due to our free flow spending (of our chiput pay), most of the times we only managed to pay the minimum amount for the credit cards. And more often than not, there was "more-month-at-the-end-of-the-money" (rather than "more money-at-the-end-of-the-month" for us!) Ye lah kan...both of us kerja gomen, kan? So, you all can imagine how much interests we had to pay to the credit card companies on the never-ending outstanding amount! Scandalous, I tell you...

But, everything changed when we were in the UK in 2003-04, when we had to live on my meagre scholarship and on Ayah's pay as a fellow at a hospital in Middlesborough. There were six of us - we all anak beranak plus our helper, Cek Pi. We still received our basic pay in Malaysia at that time, but we decided not to touch our pay if we could help it.

I can't remember what actually happened which made us decide to start saving systematically, but, I think one of the reasons was that we realized that we had an opportunity to start saving seriously as we had a few sources of income then. And we set a target to settle all our outstanding credit card bills by the end of 2004. It was then, the "Demam Bajet" hit me :)

I actually went out to get a hardcover notebook one day, and started laying out the structure of our saving plans, and roughly decided to identify our two sources of income which we would have to live on while in the UK - my scholarship, and Ayah's fellowship pay.

And we started dividing allocations for our routine and recurring expenses between these two sources. I can't really remember the actual items, but roughly, for my own allowances and transportation costs, the rent, my study materials, and the utility bills - these would be paid with my monthly scholarship. And Ayah's pay would go towards payment of his petrol and toll money, his car maintenance, the groceries, clothings, anything that the children may need, for our travels, shopping, allowances for Cek Pi, and of course towards paying for the credit cards.

Whatever was left of my scholarship (which more often than not was nothing to shout about, as it would be gone even before I could shout), I would keep for myself, and normally that would cover all those petty miscellaneous expenses and shopping for me. And whatever left of Ayah's pay, we would transfer the money to our account in Malaysia.

So, throughout our stay in the UK, I kept a budget book, which I worked on at the end of each month, and also in the middle of the month (to modify our budget to accommodate any ad hoc expenses). And this was how I did it -

(1) I would look at how much money there was in each of our income sources for the month - my allowance/scholarship and Ayah's pay.
(2) Work on income source #1, and see how much balance would be left after all the compulsory expenses had been taken into account.
(3) Repeat Step 2 for income source #2.
(4) Set aside some amount for emergencies.
(5) The rest, we transferred to our Malaysian account and also to our UK Savings Account.
(6) We tried our best to stick to the budget.
(7) Failing #6, Step #4 would save us :)

Once we had got into the rhythm of saving, no matter how chiput the balance may be, we would save it. It just became a habit. And until now, I still keep a budget book with me all the time. The current one started with our December 2005 budget. So, you all can imagine how very the lunyai the book is now!

But, the division of expenses has changed somewhat since our UK days.

Now, MY pay goes to MY account.

AYAH's pay goes to OUR joint account. ;)

MY pay would go towards paying for -

* Our monthly grocery spendings (fixed)
* My own petrol/toll/meals allowances (fixed)
* The household utility bills (Tenaga, Syabas, Astro, TM, Maxis) - depends on usage
* My Kembara Car Loan (fixed)
* Standing Instruction for our Unit Trusts (fixed)
* The Home Guard Service (fixed)
* The Kids Piano Fees (fixed)
* The Kids School Allowances (fixed)
* The monthly contributions to my Abah and Mommy (minimum amount fixed, and insya Allah kalau rezqi lebih, will tambah accordingly :))

And whatever balance from there, depending on my mood - I would either put them in the savings account, OR spend it like there's no tomorrow! Hahaha! And let me tell you here - more often than not, it would be the latter ;)

As for AYAH'S pay, it goes towards the following -

* SD House Loan (fixed)
* BJ House Loan (fixed)
* His Naza Car Loan (fixed)
* His Accord Car Loan (fixed)
* His own petrol/toll/meals allowances (Yup! Fixed, too! Kesian kan? I ration his food!)
* Family outings (fixed)
* Shopping money (flexible :))
* All the credit cards (The amount depends on whether the wife goes mental during The Sales or not...)
* Monthly premiums for all the insurance policies we took up.
* Kids fees for Mengaji, Traditional Dance, Chess, Swimming, Guitar, Tuitions (fixed)
* Spending for various contingency/emergencies (fixed)

And whatever balance left, we would transfer to our Savings on the day our monthly pay is credited into our accounts. This is so that our fresh pay is not 'mixed' with the balance :) And if ada rezqi lebih, we will top up the kids' savings, insya Allah.

So, as you can see - yang had besaq-besaq punya belanja semua cheq pass kat dia.... Cerdik naaa?! :)

And this has been our practice for the last 5 years. And I still do it twice a month - the original budget at the end of the month, and the review in the middle of the month - to take into account any unforeseen expenses which may crop up for that particular month, and modify the budget accordingly.

And we make a point to pay our credit card bills in full every month as we don't want to fork out the unnecessary extras to pay for the interests! To do that, we REALLY have to discipline ourselves to spend within our means.

And syukur alhamdulillah, nowadays we see more-money-at-the-end-of-the-month, than more-month-at-the-end-of-the-money, insya Allah. Tak banyak, sikit pun - it is still our savings :)

Please don't get me wrong. My niat is just to share our system of saving money however little it may be, with you all, which works for us, and if you guys would want to experiment with it to see if the system may work for you all, too (IF you still have not found an effective system for you). And also, if you guys may also want to share your system here with us here :)

Personally, I feel that the things that we should always bear in mind are :

* We should always be looking out for any opportunities which come our way which may help us save more.
* We should always spend ONLY within our means.
* Do not mix the previous month's salary with the current one - ALWAYS save whatever balance you have IMMEDIATELY.
* We can splurge every now and then (but only when you feel that with whatever savings you've done, you deserve to splurge :))
* Jangan terlampau save duit sampai jadi kedekut, and tak spend on yourselves, your loved ones, and your friends, and of course bersedekah.

AND Yang paling penting for us para isteri - bila kita belanjakan duit gaji kita untuk perbelanjaan yang seharusnya ditanggung oleh suami kita, kita MESTI IKHLAS, SEIKHLAS-IKHLASNYA... Jangan ada rasa resentment walau sedikit pun. Insya Allah, rezqi kita sekeluarga murah... :)

Anyway, I thought I'd share with you how my Budget Book looks like here -

Nampak macam belacan, kan? ;)

Tapi belacan yang banyak berjasa ni... Hehehe!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Is it hard being a Mom...?

This has been the longest hiatus this blog has gone into, and I guess a few friends were beginning to get worried by my long silence.

Ibu left a comment on my FB - "What happened to you? Sonyap jo..."

Bella SMSd me yesterday - "...Lama tak nampak u update. I hope all is well..."

And even Ayah has been asking me a few times - "You've not updated your blog?"

Thank you for your concerns, my dear friends and hubby :)

I am fine, syukur alhamdulillah. Just that life (if it wasn't already hectic before) had been MORE hectic in the last few weeks.

For a start, the Uni's new Academic Year started early this month, and we had been busy briefing new students as to what the Department has to offer, etc. Instead of the usual congregation of all the new students at the Faculty's biggest Lecture Hall where all the departments take turns to brief the newbies, this year, due to the H1N1 threat, the freshies were not allowed to go to the main campus, and instead we had to go to all the residential colleges for the briefings. So, you can just imagine giving the same presentation over and over again, but to different sets of students? Aiyoooo...mentally exhausting, I tell you. Even though I was not doing the talk myself, going to the residential colleges, and listening to all the briefings itself was quite draining.

And of course, when class started, yours truly had to organize the tutorial groups, etc. And it didn't help when you've come up with the list of students for each group, and allocated the Tutorial topics for each of them, but, every couple of days, a few would come to you and inform that they either just joined the group, or that they had just dropped the course, and you would have to RE-ORGANIZE and RE-ALLOCATE the Topics all over again. And that went on until end of last week. Thank God, I only have a total of 76 students this Semester...

And the kids were ever so busy with all the activities Tok Nenek under the sun, kan? The last 4-5 weekends had not been true weekends for us because of that. I found myself driving the kids here and there for all their extra lessons and social activities throughout most of the Saturdays and Sundays.

And it didn't help when both Hasya and Hilman fell sick at the end of last week.

It started off with Hilman having a bad cough on Thursday, and I had to bring him to see Dr. Mu*a on Friday. He had to go on the nebulizer, and was prescibed with Tussidex, Prednisolone and of course his 4-hourly Ventolin puffs. Thank God, he was not having any temperature.

Come Sunday morning, his cough was not getting better, and Hasya was starting to have flu-like symptoms, and by Sunday evening her temperature went up to 38.4, and she had started coughing, too!

Monday morning, I had to bring both the kids to see Dr. Mu*a again. Hilman had to go on the nebulizer again, and Hasya was asked to take the 4-hourly Ventolin puffs, too, together with Tussidex cough syrup. She was also given a course of antibiotics (Augmentin), but ONLY to be taken if her fever didn't subside by the third day.

Monday night - her temperature was hovering above 38.4 throughout the night, and I was up almost half of the night, waking up every hour or so, checking on her, and spongeing her down. At one point, her temperature shot up to 39.7! We decided to just start her on the Augmentin and not wait for another 2 days.

I had classes until 6p.m on Tuesday, but, Hasya was keeping me in the loop on her temperature. She would call me every hour to give me an update of the thermometer reading. The Augmentin must have helped, as she recorded temperatures of between 37.3 to 37.6 through the day. BUT, Hilman's cough, on the other hand, was NOT getting better at all. In fact it was getting worse. His cough sounded so hollow and so coarse, and I could just feel how soar his throat was just by listening to his coughs!

Wednesday morning, Hasya's temperature went up to 38.1, and I decided to bring them to see Dr. Mu*a again. That was the third visit within 6 days. Those who are familiar with Dr. Mu*a's clinic would know that every visit would mean that half of your day would be gone. However, Dr. Mu*a, upon seeing us in his waiting room, immediately asked us to go to his room - no need to ikut nombor. He was quite happy with Hasya's progress - even though her temperature had not gone down to the normal level, she was getting better and was advised to just continue with whatever medications she was on.

However, after checking Hilman, he ordered for an X-Ray to be done on him, and lo and behold, it showed that Hilman had a lung infection and he was immediately put on a course of Klacid antibiotics.

Both kids were given MC until today.

So, you guys, the last one week had been quite a stressful time for me. What with the lack of sleep, my Florence Nightingale shifts, the running around, the start of my Lectures and Tutorial classes, and the rest of the unsettled stuff at the office. And it didn't help when I was getting the constant, "Are you going to work today, Mommy?!" or "What time are you coming back today, Mommy", or "Do you HAVE to go to the office today, Mommy?"!, either to my face or through the phone. And I was putting on my remote control mode from the office and kept on calling home to make sure the kids were getting their medications on time, and also to make sure that Dar was in fact giving them the RIGHT medication at the right time. And with them being sick and all, eating out or even tapau-ing food from outside would be a BIG No-No! So, that meant I had been doing the cooking myself for the last week or so, too.

It didn't help that we also had some problems with the piping of our nextdoor neighbour's aircond which led to quite a bad leakage in our Master bedroom and onto the plaster ceiling and wall of our living room. And Ayah had also been pretty busy at work in the last month or so, and have been coming back late most nights. But, being busy at the hospital is good for Ayah nowadays, so, I can't complain, can I?

Anyway, it must have shown on my face - the strain, because, while I was driving the kids home from the hospital that day, Hilman asked me what my schedule was after sending them home. Hasya was, by that time, already asleep on the backseat of the car. And I lined up my plans for the day, and said to him -

"First, I have to go back to the office as I have yet to clock in for the day, and I have to settle a few matters at work. Then, I'll be meeting Ayah for lunch. Then, I would be going back to the office to do some work. Then, I would be fetching Kak Long from school at 5:30p.m. Then, I would be sending Kak Long to Wan's house, where she would get ready for her piano lesson. Then, I would be sending Kak Long to her piano lesson, and I would wait for her to finish. (Hasya and Hilman were supposed to have their piano lessons at the same time, too, but this week they're excused) Then, I would be sending Qa*sa*a (his cousin) back to Wan's house (she also goes for piano lessons at the same place and time as the kids) And THEN only I would be making my way home to SD with Kak Long, and cook dinner for you and your sisters".

I said all that to him without a pause.

And after all that, Hilman looked at me and said,

"Is it hard being a Mom, Mommy?"

And suddenly I felt a lump in my throat, and my eyes were getting blurred by the tears welling up in them when all the built-up strain and stress seemed to be rushing in and hit the core of me in those few moments...

I was trying to compose myself, and after a few seconds, I said to him -

"Yes, It IS hard sometimes, Hilman, to be a Mom. But, you know what? I wouldn't change it for the world...NOT EVER."

And with that, all the stress and strain that I was feeling throughout the week, just evaporated away as I held his hand in mine throughout the rest of the journey back to SD...

Friday, July 3, 2009


I went back to my MIL's house this afternoon to fetch and send Hilman to school. He was all ready, sitting on the bench in front of the house, complete with the surgical mask on him.

I went in to have a drink first, and saw some leftovers of the Do*inoes Pizzas which Hasya brought back from her Do*inoes school excursion yesterday. I did not expect any leftovers from yesterday as I knew just how much Hilman loved pizzas, so I asked Dar if she had served Hilman with the pizzas. And this was what she told me -

Dar : Sudah, buk...Tadinya sememangnya tinggal 3 keping, jadi saya sudah hidangkan dan suruh Hilman habiskan kesemuanya. Tapi, Hilman 'ngabiskannya satu saja. Tinggalnya dua. Dia bilang sama saya - "Makcik jangan makan ni, okay? Saya tinggal satu untuk Kak Ngah. Lagi satu untuk Kak Long..."

I just smiled as I felt all warm inside thinking how thoughtful my boy was!

After sending Hilman, I fetched Hasya and sent her back to my MIL's place, where Dar served her the pizzas on top of the rice and lauk-pauk. I told Hasya how thoughtful Hilman was to have tinggalkan one pizza each for his sisters, and she just smiled.

I went up to solat Zohor, and fifteen minutes later, I went down.

The pizza plate was empty.

Kak Ngah had finished both pizzas, without leaving anything for her Kak Long...


I didn't scold her of course, because benda makan, kan? Dah masuk perut dah pun. And further more her Kak Long was not expecting to have pizzas today anyway.

But still...a bit terkilan coz' niat Hilman was for his Kak Long to have one of the pizzas... Nampak gayanya, this weekend nak kena order pizza again. I ni tak boleh lah benda-benda macam ni...Rasa macam ada benda tak settled. You know what I mean?

Pelik ke?


Hanna's school had its Open Day on Wednesday. The plan was for both Ayah and I to go and see her Class Teacher to discuss her performance for her Mid-Year, but, alas, at the last minute, Ayah had to perform a procedure, so Mommy had to go alone.

Hanna warned me that there would be a huge drop in her position this time as the school has changed its ranking system this year. If before, students were ranked and streamed according to their total marks and percentages, this year it is based on their CGPAs.

For her Final Exam last year, Hanna got 3rd in class and 7th in the whole form, but, her Mid-Year this time, she dropped by quite a number of placings as she didn't get 4 flat.

Kesian Hanna...Her marks were not bad at all. All her A's were very high A's, but she got 2 B's (both missing the A's by only a few marks!), and because of that, she lost out to some of her friends who got all or more A's than her even though her total marks were much higher than theirs...

Anyway, I guess it is a good strategy and system the school is adopting because at the end of the day, it is how many A's one gets that counts when it comes to PMR and SPM, and not one's total marks, kan?

I told Hanna to improve on all her subjects, especially her BM and Sejarah, which gave her the B's. Because to me, as long as she aims high, and as long as she does her best, insya Allah she'll improve and get all A's at the end of the day anyway. But, I tell you...the competition kat that school....oh my...REALLY tough!

Hanna ni, selalunya Mid-Year Exam memang selalu gives us heart-attacks, but, when it comes to the Finals she always excels, insya Allah. This - since Primary School lagi :)

We can only do'akan the kids... The rest would all depend on their own efforts to better themselves, insya Allah.


A bit on the kids' sports activities - Hasya is now training for her school netball team. Tak tau lagi if she will be selected, or not, but she has been going for training for the last one month or so. She's praying that she'll be chosen!

Hanna pulak will be representing her school in Taekwon-do for MSSD this month. She has been a red-black belter since she was 11 and had not sat for her black belt grading as she has to wait until she's 15 to do that. She stopped going for classes when she was in her UPSR year, and only started again this year. According to her Master, next year she can straight away sit for her 2nd Dan Black Belt grading, insya Allah. So, we're quite excited about that!

Hilman pulak seems to exhibit some talent in playing badminton, and we're thinking of sending him for a structured lesson in the game, insya Allah. He enjoys playing with his Ayah and Mommy more than with his Kak Ngah, coz' his sister asyik tak dapat return serve ajer....So, their game together tak smooth sangat.

This was what he told his Kak Ngah -

"Kak Ngah, I play better with professionals..."


Sekian... :)