Wednesday, April 22, 2009

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Avoiding Impulse Spending

Answer these questions truthfully:

1.) Does your spouse or partner complain that you spend too much money?

2.) Are you surprised each month when your credit card bill arrives at how much more you charged than you thought you had?

3.) Do you have more shoes and clothes in your closet than you could ever possibly wear?

4.) Do you own every new gadget before it has time to collect dust on a retailer’s shelf?

5.) Do you buy things you didn’t know you wanted until you saw them on display in a store?

If you answered “yes” to any two of the above questions, you are an impulse spender and indulge yourself in retail therapy.

This is not a good thing. It will prevent you from saving for the important things like a house, a new car, a vacation or retirement. You must set some financial goals and resist spending money on items that really don’t matter in the long run.

Impulse spending will not only put a strain on your finances but your relationships, as well. To overcome the problem, the first thing to do is learn to separate your needs from your wants.

Advertisers blitz us hawking their products at us 24/7. The trick is to give yourself a cooling-off period before you buy anything that you have not planned for.

When you go shopping, make a list and take only enough cash to pay for what you have planned to buy. Leave your credit cards at home.

If you see something you think you really need, give yourself two weeks to decide if it is really something you need or something you can easily do without. By following this simple solution, you will mend your financial fences and your relationships.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

You know you're an Australian when...

In many respects, the conventions of Australians and Americans, both in behavior (behaviour) and speech, align with similarities. This is even more clear, for instance, when an Australian newspaper made reference to the Mile High Club. And here I was all this time calling it the 1.6 Kilometer Club. No wonder I've struggled with membership.

Anyway, on the subject of cultural comparison, I've long noticed a Facebook group called "You know you're an Australian when . . ." -- which I've of course not yet joined, because it lists 50 measurements for membership, and you need to be painfully bored to read 50-item account of insanity.

Today, though, I was bored. So I took the test, pasted below (with my answers following). I decided to join the group only if I scored 25/50 or better.

1. You're familiar with Neighbours, Home and Away, Playschool, A Country Practice, Norman Gunston, Barry Humphries, Blue Heelers, Ray Martin, Bert Newton, Lisa McCune, Jon Burgess, Number 96, Molly Meldrum, Kerry O'Brien, and of course, Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch.

• Only three of these proper nouns ring a bell, perhaps the first handicap of life without television. Granted, one of these three is my boss's boss's boss's boss. But until I meet him, or ride on his private Gulfstream, there's no partial credit. (0/1)

2. You know that Burger King doesn't exist. It's Hungry Jacks.

• Bingo. For proof, see 13-Oct blog reference. ( Never eaten there, though. (1/2)

3. You know that snow is a memorable and freakish occurrence. Sometimes it's even fake.

• Easy. And what is this, Dubai? Most Sydneysiders don't own jackets. (2/3)

4. You know the difference between thongs and a G-banger

• Note to self: find out what a G-banger is. (2/4)

5. You know that "stubbies" are either short shorts or small beer bottles, a "gimp", "bogan" or "geezer" is a random idiot, someone in trouble is in "strife" and you're liable to burst out laughing whenever you hear of Americans "rooting" for something.

• Only the bogan reference eluded me, so I'm counting this. Rooting is the key. Say you're "rooting" here, and people will get the mental picture of nudity and orifices. I was warned about this long before departing for Australian soil. Thank you, Reg (3/5)

6. You know that some people pronounce "Australia" like "Strayla" and that's OK.

• Sure. You hear this especially out in the bush. Or on domestic-made country albums. (4/6)

7. You know that while we call our friends 'mates, we don't use terms like "shiela" and "shrimp on the barbie", contrary to popular belief.

• I've learned this, too. In fact, the whole notion that Australians know barbecue is a dangerous lie. Anybody who's dined here would agree. (5/7)

8. You know that none of us actually drink Fosters beer because it tastes like s--t. But we let the world think we do. Because we can.

• I agree with the smack-talk on Fosters. Problem is, other Aussie lagers taste quite the same. (6/8)

9. You know how to abbreviate every word, all of which usually end in -o: arvo, combo, garbo, kero, lezzo, metho, milko, muso, rego, servo, smoko, righto etc.

• I know the language, but don't speak it. Hey, the Multisyllabics gotta have some groupies, too. (6/9)

10. You resent people who succeed over others. Everyone should do the same thing, so we all get a "fair go"; a kind of 'American-dream' in reverse. This is why we actively like not liking Americans.

• Woah -- where did this hostility come from? Australians have this saying that parallels the sentiments above: something about cutting down the tallest trees among us. This culture abhors pretension, which is good. But it leads to a strange shame regarding great achievement, and you get this population overload around the median. I don't understand. (6/10)

11. You've seen Gallipoli, Crocodile Dundee, Young Einstein, Muriel's Wedding, The Castle, Beneath Clouds, Strictly Ballroom, 40,000 Horsemen, and maybe even Wolf Creek.

• No. No. And more no. No regrets losing this point, either. (6/11)

12. It makes you happy when someone in Hollywood is actually Australian. . . Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Russle Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Baz Luhrman, Elle MacPherson, Olivia Newton-John, Midnight Oil, ACDC, INXS, Greg Norman, Cathy Freeman, Dawn Fraser, Pat Rafter, Ian Thorpe. . .

• Heart just isn't in it. (6/12)

13. One word: Skippy.

• Not peanut butter, evidently. (6/13)

14. You know that Sydney 2000 was one of our proudest moments in history. We just rock.

• No mention here, though, that tens of thousands of prescient Sydneysiders took three-week vacations during the Olympics to escape the mayhem. (7/14)

15. You know that you are not going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases (remote Aboriginal communities are a different matter).

• Been sick twice here, or more than I'd been in the last three years combined. The ol' immune system has been thrown by the antipodal bacteria. (7/15)

16. You know our country has never been conquered by a foreign nation (you don't count 1788).

• Clearly. Only conqueror here is named Rupert. (8/16)

17. We know that the Metric system will always be better than anything inches, feet, pounds and farenheit will ever offer.

• Disagree, and I will note the linguistic dexterity of "mile" as evidence. There is no metric equivalent, for instance, to gas mileage. No equivalent to the high-flyin' club, either. (8/17)

18. You drive on the left-hand side of the road.

• While feeling simultaneously at ease and bad a--. (9/18)

19. If you're a pedestrian and cars are stopped at a red light, you will fearlessly cross the street in front of them.

• Took awhile, but I'm comfortable now. (10/19)

20. You think of Australia as being somewhat out of place within the Asia-Pacific region; surrounded by unstable ex-colonial nations who regard you as racist, imperialist, and unfairly wealthy.

• True, but at least we've stolen their food. (11/20)

21. You know that New Zealanders are basically our naive country cousins, who have a weird fush-and-chups accent, and for some bizarre reason, think that they invented pavlova. Bastards. They are to be pitied and laughed at. They have no hope of gaining the upper hand in the endless sporting rivalry between our two nations.

• Australia : New Zealand :: US : Canada. (12/21)

22. You know that you can't eat Fantales alone. . . Otherwise who will you play the "Who am I..." game with when you're reading the wrapper?

• Huh? (12/22)

23. You know that Sydney should be the capital because Canberra is a hole.

• Canberra is like Harrisburg, but worse, because it doesn't have this guy. (13/23)

24. You know that Americans think we're all Steve Irwin clones. And crickey, they couldn't be more wrong.

• Confirmed. Australians don't wear those outdoorsy beige vests. (14/24)

25. You know that Lawyers wear wigs and gowns. And we make it look good.

• Documented by G'DFT, 1-Nov. (15/25)

26. You have some time in your life slept with Aeroguard on in the summer. Maybe even as perfume.

• Never. Not on the Bucket List, either. (15/26)

27. You feel obliged to spread salty black stuff that looks like congealed motor oil on bread. . . and actually grow to like it. You've also squeeze Vegemite through Vita Wheats to make little Vegemite worms.

• Vile quasi-food yeast residue should never be an obligation. (15/27)

28. You believe that democracy means the freedom to draw caricatures of good ol' Johnny Howard

• Funny thing about John Howard. He was Australia's PM for 12 years -- or slightly longer, if you believe everything to read here. But in my months living here, I've come to identify a curious quality that I feel certain contributed to Howard's appeal. A shocking portion of Australians between ages 50-65 look almost identical to Howard. Especially when jogging in the morning. They look healthy but well-fed. Generally of pleasant disposition. They are bald and round-faced. They are probably wearing New Balance shoes, with socks pulled up midway to the knees. My theory, basically, is that John Howard got a lot of votes because a lot of voters looked like John Howard. (16/28)

29. You think footballers dressing up in drag on TV is funny (but your son being gay isn't).

• Dear reference, meet the air above my head. (16/29)

30. You have the ability to compress several words into one -- ie g'day' and d'reckn?. This allows more space for profanities.

• Yeah, I've picked up on this. (17/30)

31. You've ever used the words - tops, ripper, sick, mad, rad, sweet - to mean good. And then you place "bloody" in front of it when you REALLY mean it.

• I say reckon, but not bloody. (17/31)

32. You know that the barbeque is a political arena; the person holding the tongs is always the boss and usually a man. And the women make the salad.

• Before we can start with all this Ralph-conch talk, first I gotta meet a man who knows his barbecue. Still waiting. (17/32)

33. The private lives of footy and cricket players become more important than local and national news stories.

• Sometimes, I even write these stories. (18/33)

34. You say "no worries" quite often, whether you realise it or not.

• If it sounds repetitive to others, I can't say I'm worried. (19/34)

35. You know what fairy bread tastes like, and you can't imagine your childhood without it.

• Back in the day, my parents enacted strict regulations on Nintendo and television viewing and sugary cereal, and I'm sure if our grocery store carried anything called fairy bread, it would have faced similar tariffs. (19/35)

36. You know the first verse to the national anthem, but still don't know what "girt" means. And you're OK with that.

• Couldn't recite it verbatim. Even when spotted the mystery word. (19/36)

37. You've drank your tea/coffee/milo through a tim tam.

• Never. But I'm picky about coffee. (19/37)

38. You know that backyard cricket is a nice way to bond with family and the rubbish bin. And the 'one bounce, one hand' rule always applies.

• I've covered cricket, but never played. (19/38)

39. You know that we are home to the just about all of the world's deadliest of animals. That's why if anybody messes with us we'll get some funnel webs on their a--es.

• It's amazing I've survived long enough to answer this question. (20/39)

40. You see people walking bare-foot on the sidewalk and don't scorn... because you're doing it too.

• Frankly, I never see bare feet. I do notice about 90-percent of the population wearing these. (20/40)

41. You know what trop-fest is and it makes you happy.

• Ignorance. (20/41). Please note, by the way, that I picked the 25/50 target without pre-reading these items, and by pure happenstance, I've been dancing just above and just below the 50 percent line. Serendipitous drama, I know.

42. Sausage rolls and meat pies. End of story.

• I've gorged on meat pies this year. Had one yesterday afternoon, for that matter, and the guy who served it to me even mentioned, "I don't know how these haven't caught on in America." Amen. (21/42)

43. You firmly believe that in the end, everything will be ok and have offered advice that included the words, "she'll be right, mate."

• I'd say, "She'll be alright, mate." Technicality costs a point. (21/43)

44. You have a story that somehow involves an excessive consumption of goon. . . but you can't remember.

• If only. Blog would be richer for it. (21/44)

45. You own a Bond's chesty. In several different colours.

• This is a chesty, which I do not own, if only because of residual stigmatisms formed from watching reruns of "Cops." I do, however, own some Bonds boxer briefs. (21/45)

46. You've ordered a steak the size as your head and only paid $5 at your local RSL

• I see signs advertising as much every day. And I keep walking. (21/46)

47. You know that Italy should never have been granted that fateful kick in the 2006 Soccer World Cup.

• Soccer? World Cup details? I'm feeling Pickler-clueless here. (21/47)

48. You know how to slip, slop, slap like it's nobody's business.

• "Budapest? I never even heard of that." (21/48)

49. You've heard the Prime Minister dismiss anyone who disagrees with him simply as "un-Australian," and that's enough to make us sit down and shut up.

• Un-Australian is the Aussie ace card, able to rationalize any behavior. I've seen it first hand. Many nights, it's been the reason to stay at the pub for one more. (22/49)

50. You know that the value of a public holiday is measured in terms of alcohol. God bless the queen and her 4-day birthday.

• Tomorrow is a public holiday, but for once, the pubs are closed. Good Friday ain't good for the Aussies. (23/50) Oh, and 46 percent won't make me an Aussie. Which is fine, frankly. There's no point in declaring full allegiance to a country that hasn't yet released the new DBT album.