Loose change is money too, you know!


What annoys me about this news bit is the fact that I understand why the 2 stores declined to accept loose change as payment and yet a part of me rebels the “policies” most big chain stores set out in regards to the form of payment they are willing to accept. My split take on this news is upsetting me.


Sure, the check out would like to complete transactions as fast as they can but the purpose of check-out counters is to accept payments from customers. At least, that’s what I’ve known since I was a kid.

Obviously paying loose change is going to slow down our money from getting into their registers, but have the businesses redefined the purpose of check-out counters to accept payments in lightning speed?

Up until I moved to a “first world” country, I had witnessed people pay for a big grocery trip partly with loose change. They group same denominations together, wrap in paper, tape it close and write the total amount on the wrapping.

Image from ehow.com

Some check out counter folks count every little piece, some trust the customers and accept without counting, some measure against the height of another wrapped loose change in the same denomination. So if you’re in a hurry, better look for another counter; but the customer will not be denied the completion of that transaction. There was no question in my mind about using loose change as payment. All I could think of as a young child was how heavy it must be to lug around with loose change in their purses!

And by the way, why does a customer need to pay for converting their loose change for notes???

I’m starting to believe that those big corporations don’t see the value of loose change and forget that they are actually money! Have we, the customers, given the businesses a reason for re-aligning/defining their payment process because majority of us use cards now?

I would say, YES. As a business, they need to keep up with customers’ needs to stay relevant and appealing. Thanks to scanners, checking out is a breeze now. What used to be the majority is now a minority, and we all know they don’t generally get the best representation.

And so I conclude this post with a bit more understanding of both sides and feeling better about myself. 🙂

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Chinook book for $10, minus the book


I found out about it when I attempted (and succeeded) to update my Chinook Book coupons on my iPhone.

I’ve decided since summer to get next year’s book when I found out it was only $20. Our first book was a Welcome-to-PDX! present from a friend. We saved good money using Chinook Book and we’re all for supporting local businesses.

So, that’s $10 used on my Visa that must be paid as soon as it appears in the account. I have OCD — I check my bank accounts online every day. I take pride in knowing how much is left in the bank on a daily basis.

The first coupon ($5 off) was used yesterday when we bought Hotlips Pizza for a couple of neighborhood kids that we invited over to play with our tot. There are plenty of coupons in the pack that I know we’ll not use so if you have any particular product or service you’re after, let me know. I can gift coupons via email.

Orange, x.

First Zipcar experience


Alright, our family has enjoyed Zipcar so far. We have done 2 short trips and 1 out-of-town trip, and here’s what we think.

Accessibility

We live a block away from one Zipcar, 3 blocks from another, 6 blocks from another, and 8 or so blocks from many more. What we like a lot is our proximity to their hybrid cars. We love hybrids! We used to own one.

Range of cars

For the out-of-town trip, we chose a Subaru and I was wary about the mileage because it has been years since we used a non-hybrid car. We got it with gas a little over half full and arrived in Cannon Beach, Oregon with plenty more to last us. We filled it up the next day and when we arrived in Portland, it still had 75% gas. I was impressed about that. From Cannon Beach, we headed up to Warrenton for the night, drove to Astoria, crossed the state line to Washington, and back to Oregon via Highway 30.

I definitely feel that I have all of these different cars for our use! No need to worry about being limited. It’s cool not to think about that. It’s like owning many cars! The cars we’ve rented are clean and were returned on time, which makes us all the more considerate.

Price

The Subaru was rented for 2 days at $83/day including gas. Hybrids cost $71/day I think. We also wonder why a Honda Insight rents for a bit more than a Toyota Prius for their hourly rate. Prius costs more on the market than an Insight would. Just a thought.

What we didn’t like about the rates is having each member of a group pay annual and application fees. I’m the primary account holder and got my application discounted for using the Chinook Book, but my husband paid for $25 application fee and a pro-rated membership fee of $58. Obviously both of us would be paying for annual fees, albeit on different rates.

He looked at getting his own account through his employer, which he was able to and they credited back the $25 and $58 in my account. He also found out that rental rates through his own account is cheaper than a regular account, which I have.

180 miles a day

That’s the daily limit or you could be paying 45c/mile on top of it. It just means that we can’t really go very far with it. I don’t think it’s that kind of rental car anyway. If you’re looking for long-term rental, Zipcar may not be the right one for you.

Overall

It’s good for the niche it is serving. It fits our need for a car, which is not on a daily basis. We are going for a week of road trip this summer and we’ll look at renting a Zipcar for 7 days. We believe we can undoubtedly rent one for 4 days, so we’ll see if we can be accommodated for a week. If not, we’ll just have to rent a Prius from Toyota. Having this kind of service available to us gives us no reason to buy a car just yet. Every rent we make is a conscious decision and we’re quite lucky that we don’t feel the need to own a car to prevent us from enjoying a rental.

Eats: Koi Fusion and Pho PDX


As you may have already figured out, I’m Asian, but I’m not drawn to eating Asian food when I’m going to dine out. My mom used to say: You might as well eat at home if you’re going to eat the same thing.

So that got stuck in my brain somehow.

And so, part of my exploration of Portland is to learn about food carts. I must say, I truly enjoy this aspect of the city. Yeah, give those posh restaurants some competition! 🙂 I’m not new to food carts. They are everywhere in Asia, but seeing them in western countries has its novelty value.

This post is a about the food and not about a food cart.

Anywho, I went to this little food court on SW 2nd, between Taylor and Yamhill, and intended to buy food from Pho PDX to try another menu after eating from them the day before. The wait appeared to be a long one and I was hungry. So, admittedly, feeling defeated I decided to try Koi Fusion. I know, Pho is Asian but I suffered from PMS craving the week I discovered these 2 awesomeness.

I had the rice bowl as pictured on the left. I was very surprised by the actualized concept (Korean and Mexican fusion? Really?) and how well they combined the flavors to make this little bowl of rice, meat, fresh vegetables, kimchi and a special signature red sauce into a spectacular lunch!

The bowl’s size serves my desired lunch portion. Pho’s serving was twice as Koi’s, if not more. Pricewise, both Koi and Pho justify them. Both cost $7, but their serving sizes are not the same. Why is that? Maybe because I chose beef for my Koi rice bowl and chicken for Pho’s? Not sure, but this could be the reason that Pho always has a queue. If you want a wait of 10 minutes or less, be at Pho’s by 11.30am.

Despite Pho’s big serving, I managed to finish it. The heat was good for the onset of cold. The lemongrass’ scent and taste were missing though, but it could be due to the level 2 hotness that I chose.

Overall, I’m happy about these 2 places. I will try them again when I’m not too worried about calories. 🙂

I’m trying to lose weight, by the way.

How to move across the world


Leave the non-essentials behind.

As you might know, or not know yet, our family moved from New Zealand to USA and we did it in about 6 months.

It was a process in which the bulk of the hard work was crunched in 2 months. The rest of it was in preparation and in relaxation of some sort.

The decision to pack up and move across the world requires work no less. I’d say most of it, about 70% is emotional work. Imagine not having the funds to bring all of your stuff with you and to just buy tickets, quit jobs, and land in a new city. What can we do?

So, the next step was to plan. We got quite lucky. My husband and I first made the decision in August 2010 to move and, hopefully, be in Portland by March 2011. Planning could only get us so far, and we knew it, but we were prepared to make some sacrifices. Keep the eye on the prize. It works.

The first big thing was to sell the house. Our house was in good shape but it wasn’t great. It still had its quirky 50s look and feel to it. We didn’t have a lot of money to outsource all the improvements we wanted, and so another big decision had to be made. We asked my parents to look after our child to free up daycare money of $1,000/month that we could use on house improvements. They said YES. Jonno and I are not the DIY types but we know something, so we started with what we knew and learned more on the way. You don’t have to be skilled at something before you jump on it. Just do it! Your goal to accomplish a task will guide you in making decisions along the way.

And so I flew to another country to take the kiddo there to live with them for at least 5 months. This proved to be the hardest and, apparently, the ONLY emotional decision of it all. This was the 70% emotional part.

I flew back after 3 weeks to a home that my husband had already begun work on. For the next 4 weeks, our time after work and weekends were spent on stripping paint, cleaning up, selling things online, giving away things on Freecycle, and finding our dynamic as a couple again. The decision was unilateral at first–my husband’s–which became ours in August 2010.

Friends offered help, which we accepted. Not only that eased up work, but it strengthened friendships that started years ago. I got to know them more and now care for them more than I expected I would.

We put a deadline on when to put the house on the market, and we did it. That deadline was a guide and put us in action. We didn’t spend time on finding the right realtor. They are nobody’s friend. We decided to contact the realtor who sold us the house and signed her up. She even gave us a discount for repeat business. I haggled and she freed up another $500 off her commission. Haggling works.

Jonno gets a job offer. We get the first offer on the house the same week. We eventually accepted it after we got him to the price range we wanted. Our goal was to sell, and not to make profit. The market was still not good last year. We managed to get something like $2k, so not bad.

The house was officially sold after a few days of my husband flying to Portland. I stayed behind to tidy up life. Sell more, give away more. Strip down to the essentials, i.e. clothes that I and my son need. My husband brought with him everything he needed. Friends and I did a garage sale. Good decision but requires preparation, so spend at least 1 or 2 hours a day putting stuff you want to sell in one area of your house.

Christmas time came and I relaxed. I wasn’t sad. We are moving forward. This was the downside of the plan, but it’s temporary. We are all in good shape, albeit being on different parts of the world.

Jonno stayed with a friend, initially for 3 weeks but they told him that it didn’t make sense for him to move to a temporary rental and move to a more permanent one for our family. He stayed with them for free! I had a co-worker who was in-between tenants and offered to me his studio apartment in town, within minutes to my work, for $200/week including utilities. My timing, apparently, worked for him because Christmas time is a downtime for renting out a place.

I submitted my resignation after New Year’s. Oops, the car isn’t sold yet. I started to worry! But my husband tried other channels to sell the car, and we got a buyer from one of those channels. He’s so brilliant! Our arrangement was that I tidy up NZ life, he preps Portland life. We each focused on our local priorities.

A close friend of his offered their house that would not sell. It has been a tough property market, eh? We told them our budget was $1,300/month. They took it. Their house could’ve rented for almost $2k/month but they didn’t want to go through the process of finding the right tenants. Being friends with your best friend’s sister makes all the difference. 🙂

A month later I flew to Portland with 4 luggages. Believe it or not, I brought our beautiful set of pots and pans. I knew that I wouldn’t get them for the same price that I got them for. If I sold them, I wouldn’t be able to do it quick enough and at a price I would be okay with. So what if I paid a few hundred dollars on over baggage fees? I would’ve paid the same to get new pots and pants, and a few new clothes. It’s better than spending thousands shipping stuff to a new country. It was my choice, I knew that would happen, I got over it as soon as I checked in.

I started job hunting the next day. When I don’t have a job, I make it a job to get one. My son’s ticket to Portland was purchased and he was arriving a month later. Everything was going as planned, but it still felt as though a night under the stars imagining a life in Portland was actually happening!

I get a job offer for a contract role for only 3 months in less than a month. It pays well. You know, almost $50/hour. I didn’t need benefits, my husband’s job got us covered. Five weeks later, I got offered an extension of 6 more months from the end of my contract. Nine months guaranteed work and income! The work doesn’t need too much from me, but maybe because I know how to use my strengths effectively that I don’t go around a new workplace like a headless chicken.

We buy the essentials. We cook, we eat properly and healthily. This also meant eating less. We don’t plan to have a car yet. For one, Trimet is great! For another, we don’t want to take out a loan. We want to pay for it in cash and we want a hybrid, just like our previous one.

Now in Portland, we are complete and enjoying life together again. We could’ve chosen another city or state, but the point is: WE DID IT.

Yes, we did. My fear of the unknown held me for awhile. I was afraid of the discomfort it would bring, but I managed. I didn’t go hungry, nor was I homeless in the process. Anything better than that is good. I realized so many things about myself and what my true priorities are.

And now we are happy and have more confidence in what we can achieve as a family. I’m less of a worry wart now. I’ve been through what I thought was difficult, but we are all naturally agile. We had the determination, had minimal funds, and had the gift of knowing what we wanted. Friends said to us: “Mission accomplished!!!” when a date was set for the kiddo’s arrival. It still makes me smile.

What’s your story?