The Basics of Accounting Part Two

In an earlier post on accounting, I described one of the four basic accounting statements, the balance sheet, and the terminology of an asset, a liability, and owner’s equity. I also included an example of buying a car (well not just buying any car, but a 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Coupe!!) to illustrate the difference between an asset and owner’s equity. This time I want to expand on that example a bit to help illustrate how accounting can help one make smarter financial decisions. These decisions might not be what the heart wants, but it will be what the pocketbook can afford!!

First a quick recap: the actual goal of accounting is to help you realize and correctly determine out of the many things and claims you have for and against you what is an asset, what is a liability, and what is owner’s equity. You’re using the accounting statement to help clearly visualize each category and to help quickly determine the best financial option given your current financial situation. This is the balance sheet’s primary purpose. There are three other accounting statements- the income statement, the cash flow statement, and the statement of owner’s equity that comprise current accounting principles.

We will still concern ourselves mainly with the balance sheet, but we’ll talk briefly about the income statement in this post. So what is an income statement? Wikipedia has a great article on the specifics of what an income statement is which goes into far greater detail than we’re currently interested in, but it’s worth a look if your curious. If you only want the quick bare bones summary, an income statement is a statement generated to help an individual determine his top line revenue, all associated costs incurred to earn that revenue, and the final residual income (or loss!!) associated with the aforementioned revenue activity. For individuals, the income statement is pretty straight forward. You have your job’s earnings at the top, you then subtract of all mandatory expenses needed to perform the aforementioned job (i.e. taxes, gasoline costs required to get to and from work, car maintenance, etc.), and then you’re left with the residual income which you can then use at your discretion (hopefully, though, food, clothing, and shelter are at the top of that discretionary budget). For our purpose we’re not really going to explore the ins and outs of the income statement; we’re only going to borrow a single line item from it- the expense line. We’ll need this to help track our overall expenses we incur from buying that Lamborghini with a loan.

We’ll also be making some assumptions that we’ll try and hold throughout the example- car loans are financed at 4.67% new, 5.02% used for a 60 month loan, which was found from Bankrate.com, you can invest money in a 5 yr CD at 1.55%, and that a cars’ intrinsic value is fairly constant over a five year time span. This would mean that five years from now that 2010 Lamborghini should be priced in equivalent dollars to a 2005 (or currently 5 year old) used Lamborghini would be priced right now. While we are playing a little fast and loose with model changes and possible issues with inflation (or deflation), hopefully they’re relatively static across all cars and these issues represent only a small amount of error in the calculations. We could try and find sales data for the same model over five years, but that would be a lot of work that probably isn’t worth the effort. With these assumptions out of the way, let’s look at our car example again. Using a new car loan to purchase our Lamborghini we can see that the monthly car payments would be $3,706.64.

At the start of the purchase our Balance Sheet would look like:

The expense line item would be $0.00.

We’ve just bought our care signed up for a car loan and added the car to our balance sheet. We’ll be paying $3706.64 per month and track the value of the Gallardo on the balance sheet. Let’s assume that we make our payments diligently for three years. We’d like to see how we’re doing at this point. Our total expenses (for three years of payments) is $133,439.04. We also want to know how much the car is currently worth. To figure this out we’ll estimate the value of our Lamborghini Gallardo by seeing how much 3 year old Gallardo’s go for.  Using AutoTrader.com I found a used 2008 Gallardo with 4,700 miles on it selling for $155,000. Assuming we actually drive our car a bit, we’ll conservatively assume that our Lamborghini will sell for $145,000. So our new Balance Sheet would look like this:

On the left side, the asset side, we have the market value of the Lamborghini Gallardo ($150,000.00). On the left side we’ve estimated the remainder of the car loan on a linear scale (which is 2/5 of the original balance). We’ve done this because we’re assuming we’ll pay of the entire car loan on time without missing a payment or refinancing. In reality it’s a bit more, since interest is paid upfront and not principal.

On the bottom right side (liabilities) you’ll see that we have a value of $150,000 also. This has to equal the value of the asset (Gallardo). To figure out the owner’s equity we just subtract the loan amount from the liability balance; our current equity in the car is $70,800. That’s not too bad. The last item we need to remember is our expense line item, which is $133,439.04. This just reminds us that we’ve paid approximately $133k to have a car worth $70k. Owning a Lamborghini for three years has reduced our net worth by $63k. This happened even though we only “lost” $48k on the face value of the Gallardo (from $198k brand new to $150k used). Loan expenses ate away another $15k. This is important to calculate and remind ourselves.

Hopefully this example helps show the usefulness of basic account (which isn’t too involved). I know I didn’t explain how I came up with the monthly payment for the Lamborghini, but I don’t know if that’s overtly necessary to know. Bankrate.com has a great free calculator that you could use at anytime to find that number and maybe, if there’s interest, I’ll show the formula I used (which gives the same result). Next time I’ll expand this example by showing an alternative investment option.

Mario.

How knead-able Are Our Children?

Recently I have had several exchanges in interesting parenting articles and thoughts with couple of my mom friends on facebook.  The three of us all came from similar background.  We went to the same college, belong to the same ethnicity group, and have been financial responsible for all of our adult life.  We are all raising our first child, finding our ways through the labyrinth of parenting wisdom and knowledge.  Just like most moms, we all dedicate much of our time and energy in our children and have high hopes that someday they would grow up to be respected individuals.  Our intentions are the same, but our parenting styles and choices are slightly different.

The question came up over and over again in my mind: just how knead-able are our children?  How much of what we do really result in them being better than otherwise?  What difference does it make if we choose one path over another?  Surely, we all love our children and want to provide them with the best we can possibly afford, from food to living environment, from influence to education, from disciplines to wisdom and guidance…  We all possess the ability to provide all (within reason) that they need.  But how much of it does it matter?  What difference does it make if I don’t breastfeed, or I don’t become a stay at home mom, or I don’t choose to discipline my child to bend to my will?

I want to express my thoughts on this topic.  I am no expert and I don’t profess to be right in anything I say in this post.  I would love to hear from you if you have a different opinion.  I believe that children are not as knead-able as must of us think.  I believe their potential has mostly being determined at birth and what we try to do afterward don’t make a huge difference.  Ever since I became a mom, I have paid extra attention to all the parenting information I came across.  Here are some of them.

Before birth, genetics have determined half of the baby’s potential:

1.  There’s evidence that intelligent parents are more likely to produce intelligent children.  No surprise there.

2.  Large difference between parents in genetic make up also gives advantage to their children.  For example, children of mixed heritage have higher genetic strength than others.

3.  Studies also have shown that the first born are more likely to be sucessful than subsequent children of the same parentage.  This makes sense as they are likely to receive more of his/her parents attention and resources.

The other half of the equation in determining a child’s success is mostly influenced by environment the child lives in after birth.

1.  There are some studies that showed breastfeeding is good for infant’s brain/body development, and there are some that showed the opposite.  So I think it is hard to conclude in this case.

2.  There are articles that says talking  to children early on helps them develop speech better.  There are moms (or researches) that says reading to children from early age can help them develop better learning ability and stimulate their brain development.

3.  Researches had negatively correlated kids’ GPA with number of hours of television watched in a day.

4.  I once read an article about positive correlation between time spent with dad and success level of a child.  This makes sense as with presence of a dad, the child is getting twice as much care and guidance than with mother alone.

Are these studies trustworthy?  So what about reading to ones child from 3 months of age verses much older?  Going to $1500/month daycare versus grandma care?  Learn to play piano at age of 4 instead of free band lessons in junior high?  Just what can we do to make our children smarter?  Maybe what we do just don’t matter that much. I have some theories.  If good health and genetics contribute to a smarter baby at birth, then that same genetics which fuels the lifestyle of parents will influence the child after birth.  Highly intelligent parents are likely to have intelligent children, their intelligence which translates into their decisions and actions in daily life benefit their children as well…  The point here is that what contributes to a high potential child at birth continue on to influence the child after birth.  Other than that, what we as parents can do is minimum.  With a good core foundation the child can build on it with his/her own creativity and passion.  With proper stimulation (without the high price tag and extra stress), the child can develop his/her intellect and reach his/her potential.

I believe in the American style of education, which allows our children to freely choose what they like to learn and how to learn it.  I am against forcing our children to study day and night, and fill their days with various “good for them” activities or learning.  I believe this will encourage them to be creative and innovative, allow them to build their own character and be happy at the same time.  And that’s more important to me than anything else.

So maybe we should all relax for a little, and not worry about if we are able to breastfeed our child (an issue I’ll be facing in May), not willing to read/speak/grow teeth/walk later than average, watch couple of hours of television, or not sending our kids to the best daycare…  We worry so much already, don’t you think?!

-Flo.

Reference Articles:

Why Rich Parents Don’t Matter

Breastfeeding Studies Raises Doubts Over Guidelines

Chinese Moms vs. Western Moms: Is There a Mother Superior?

Closing The Achievement Gap with Baby Talk

Ravi Not Eating…

Last weekend was one of the scariest weekends I’ve had in a while.  For total of six meals during those two days, Ravi only ate modest amount for two of them!  I went through all sorts of emotions: sad, mad, worried… and so were my parents that spent the weekend watching over us.

This started Saturday morning.  Ravi only drank three ounces of milk and refused to eat his apple sauce and rice cereal combo.  I thought this was due me waking him up early so I dump the food, loaded him up in the car, and  headed to my parents place.  Once we got there, I was able to get him to eat breakfast around 10AM.  I thought, not problem, everything’s okay.  I then dragged him across town for three hours to shop for hardwood floor and tiles.  When we finally got back around 1:30PM, he refused to eat his lunch.  I was extremely patient.  I even turned on cartoons to distract him.  But he wouldn’t take a single bite.  I sat with him for at least 40 minutes, tried and tried again, but he wouldn’t let the spoon get close to his mouth.  I thought, maybe he is tired.  He would be more comfortable and hungry at dinner time.  So I took him to nap.  When dinner came around, he still refused to eat a single bite.  I had one yogurt (his absolute favorite food) left and after much coercing, he finished it.  That’s the only thing he ate that day apart from his breakfast.  The next morning he was equally difficult and refused to eat his breakfast.  At this point, I was getting really worried.  I tried to force feed him a bite, hoping he would remember how much he normally loved this food, but he cried and cried.  I had to abandon attempts to go any further.  That was his third meal without food.  Comes around lunch time, my mom helped me prepared couple of different dishes, hoping that a change of taste would open his appetite.  But he still refused to eat.  I was really mad at this point and refused his plead to hold him.  My mom freshly squeezed some orange juice, and Ravi gobbled that down happily.  After our nap we headed home.  I handed Ravi over to his daddy and told him about his refusal to eat.  That night, his daddy was able to feed him a yogurt and a can of baby food.  I didn’t complain about the canned food.  That’s the biggest meal Ravi had the whole weekend.

Thank god Monday came and we sent Ravi back to day care.  One thing for sure is he would eat at day care because all the other kids do.  When we went to pick him up that night, the day care lady assured us that he did eat good amount during each meal time.  Dare I think he’s back to normal?!

Ravi’s not eating bothered me very much.  I kept thinking back to see if there were any sign of something out of ordinary.  I do remember that when I woke him up on Saturday, I touched his forehead and thought that he was a little warm.  Mario had a cold last week, so maybe Ravi caught it from him.  Ravi didn’t show any symptom of illness, but he did sleep total of thirteen hours on Saturday.  That would explain why he didn’t want to eat and wanted to be held all the time.  Since the weekend, he showed more interest in eating adult food, like the chicken bao and BBQ pork pastry we got from dim sum.  He even properly chewed his food.  I am hoping he would continue to try new things and some day gain a little more weight.

-Flo.

How I spent $10k in Three Hours

I used to be a super saver, now I am a home debtor owner.  The concept of spending large sums of money is foreign to me.  Before Ravi was born, I was so thrifty that I used to even scrutinize purchases over $30 by enforcing a “consideration period” of at least a week to determine if I really needed what I wanted to buy.  This method had cut down a lot of my spending.  Now that I have a home, suddenly spending large sums of money seem to be the norm.  There’s of course the mortgage, property tax, renovation, utility bills, upkeep…etc.  Sometimes I question if we made the right choice to purchase a home.  Surely, living in an apartment allowed us to save so much more, but to have a nice environment is essential in raising a family though it comes with a hefty price tag.  $10k is a large sum of money, but for home renovation, it is only a drop in the bucket.   This is the the story of how I spent $10k in just three hours.

Last weekend marked the end of the third week of our home renovation.  Our contractor, Mr. Li, and his crew completed demolition with lightning speed.  The entire house interior was down to its sub floors within the first week.  The next two weeks went much slower to an outsider’s eye, routing pipes, building up frames, putting up dry walls, setting up hook ups for lights and plugs, take down walls…etc.  Mario and I were itching to see when he would start actually building things.  Finally last week, Mr. Li told me he is ready to move onto the next step.  It is now time to do some serious shopping.

So we met up on Saturday, with my dad as my second pair of eyes (he has sharp eyes for materials and I trust his judgment more than I trust Mario’s), and Ravi tagging along for the fun.  During our last trip to the hardwood flooring vendor, we really liked the engineered Santos Mahogany.  However when we got there Saturday morning, we were told it was all sold out and new stock won’t come in till end of February.  Suddenly I felt lost and left without a backup plan.  Since Mr. Li’s favorite hardwood flooring distributor is in the neighborhood, we decided to give it a try even though it was very likely they would be closed on the weekend.  When we arrived, we found the office door open and one car parked out front.  What luck!  We cautiously approach and found the person inside is actually Mr. Li’s contact!  Double luck!  We quickly scanned through all their offerings and the one that we liked the best was still Santos Mahogany.  When we inquired about it, there’s enough inventory that day.  Triple luck!  Mr. Li’s contact was kind enough to pull out a couple of boxes of the material for us to take a look at.  The quality of material is definitely superior and probably better than the other vendor since the color variation is not nearly as large.  When we inquired about the cost, it was about ten cents higher than our last vendor.  After half an hour of hard core negotiation, the distributor finally agreed to drop the price to ten cents below his competition!  Scored!  We made the purchase right on the spot to lock in the price.  Total time spent shopping, two hours; total for this bill, ~$8,000.

Our next stop was the tile store.  I got to admit, picking tiles was the hardest thing I’ve done during this project.  Finding different tiles and liners combination I like for three bathrooms at a really good price is not a easy thing to do.  It is so easy to cave in and end up with much higher priced tiles, which would have double or triple our budget.  But with my parents’ help, we held firm to our ultra low budget and found the best priced and quality tiles at Discount Flooring Outlet.  After much consideration, we finalized on the tiles.  I as also able to negotiate a 10% off on total price too.  Scored again!  Total time spent shopping, one hour; total for this bill, $2,000.

During this whole time, my dad and I took turns to hold/babysit Ravi while the other work on various aspect of buying materials.  I got to say it was a really tough trip for both of us.  Even though we had the ambition of going to other stores, we were so tired after three hours of shopping that we decided to head home.

So this is the story of how I spent $10k in three hours.  What an adventure!  What I learned through this trip is how to negotiate and push the boundary.  I was able to save over $500, that’s more than 5%!  But the bigger bills are yet to come, so stick around for more adventures.

-Flo.

Stick to A-Pa like Glue

I can only guess that Ravi looks forward to visiting his grandpa every weekends, since he couldn’t really tell me yet.  I am guessing this because he calls out “A-Pa” (Ravi’s name for grandpa) all the time when he practices his “talking.”  Every Saturday morning when I finally pull into my parents’ driveway, Ravi would get really excited, especially when he sees grandpa coming out to greet him.  He literally couldn’t contain his excitement, giggles and wiggles in his seat till A-Pa comes and “rescue” him.  Then he would spend the next half an hour lay motionless on top of A-Pa’s shoulder while A-Pa walks him around.  If anyone comes near him, he would try to slap them away.  It is his way of saying: A-Pa is mine, hands off!

Ravi at A-Pa's shoulder

Mind you, A-Pa is approaching seventy years old.  Holding a twenty-five pound kid for long durations is some serious exercise for him.  I worry all the time if he could really hold Ravi for that long and not damage his back, but he has never refused Ravi’s request to be held.

When the curiosity bug bits Ravi and he finally decent from A-Pa’s shoulder, he generally opt to do something dangerous or mischievous, like climbing up to places too high for him to be, or playing with something he has no business playing with.  A-Pa always stays not more than an inch away to make sure he’s not harmed.  So the weekend goes on with Ravi constantly calls out to his A-Pa, running and giggling, following by A-Pa close behind.

I hope someday when Ravi is older he would still remember the joy and love of his early relationship with his A-Pa.

-Flo.

Wooden Floor

For a while I was obsessed with finding the right wooden floor for our new home.  So while I went home to see my parents on the weekend, I secretly solicited their help in finding a better choice for wooden floor.  Actually, I showed my parents the sample of wooden floor Mario picked out and they weren’t impressed, and decided to take me to shop some more.  Either way, I wasn’t happy with that quick decision anyway, so I couldn’t wait to get my parents’ perspective on wooden floors.

They took me to a store with great showrooms.  My dad has great eyes for beautiful flooring and was immediately drawn to Santos Mahogany with clear stain.  He was right, it was absolutely beautiful.  I loved the color, a bit of reddish honey.  The clear stain allowed the wood grain to show through beautifully.  Of course it is a more expensive material, it would add a couple of thousand dollars to my budget.

Santos Mahogany on Show Room Floor

An alternative and a look alike is Brazilian Cherry.  When comparing them side by side, the color and texture of Brazilian Cherry is no match for the Santos Mahogany, but price is much lower.

Brazilian Cherry on Show Room Floor

One day while I was researching on line, I came across something called Janka harness rating, which measures the hardness of wood.  According to Janka, Brazilian Cherry is rated 2350, Santos Mahogany is  2200, and White Oak is 1360.  My parents have white oak and it is beautiful.  It was definitely one of the wood type I considered.  However, I noticed some little craters on it when I put my nose closer to the floor, probably caused by Ravi dropping his toys. It is only half year old and already taking damages.  With two boys in the household (one right now, one coming soon), I am thinking of removing white oak as a choice.

I still have not made any decisions on which wood to go with, but through the little experience I have accumulated, here are some tips I can offer to those that are in similar situation:

1.  Beware of color variations in a particular type of wood.  Do try to go to showrooms where they have it installed on the floor in a large enough square footage.  Individual samples cannot give you an idea of color variations.  In fact, I’ve looked at 2×5 feet areas of samples where the color look gorgeous and homogeneous, but when you see it on the floor of a large room you find huge contrast in colors that you may not have anticipated.

2.  Beware of hardness index.  Softer wood can take damage easily.  It is okay for my parents who don’t drop things onto the floor, but if you have young kids you may want to consider harder materials.

3.  Don’t rush, look and look again till you find the one you really like.

4.  Take pictures of floor in the showroom for reference at a later date.

There are many more items on my list to tackle.  Next stop, vanities!

-Flo.

Welcoming Surprise

We closed on our new home on December 30th.  It took six days longer than our initial agreement with the seller’s agent, so with penalty of $100 a day, we had to pay an extra $600.  It was a little bit of a downer for the holiday season.  Mario, Ravi, and I decided not to care and spent the new years with my parents.  On January 2nd, my dad proposed that we go and take a look at our new home for the first time as home owners.  At the same time, we can talk about some renovation ideas.  So we all squeezed into a car and drove 40 miles toward the coast.

This was the first time Ravi has ever been to the house and he seemed to be very excited and got himself all dirty touching things and crawling on the floor.  The house looked as decrepit as we last saw it, but we were all fueled with optimism while brainstorming up all kinds of ideas for renovation.  Our plan was to fix the inside first so we will have a livable space, then we will slowly improve the landscape.  Our large deck off of the second floor living room offers a great bird’s eye view of the backyard.  Even though it was still the winter, the grass was lush green and the old kumquat tree was full of fruits.  In the middle there, I saw a speck of yellow in the grass.  I headed down to take a closer look.  What a surprise!  It was a little daffodil thriving and blossoming at a place and a time where no one expected it to.  What a wonderful welcoming surprise to our new home!

First spring flower found in the backyard of our new home

First spring flower found in the backyard of our new home

Speed Shopping for Granite and Flooring

Two weeks ago, Mario and I took the day off to meet up with our contractor, Mr. Li, to shop for materials for our new home.  We began the day with a Speed Dim Sum at New Capital Restaurant.  We needed the calories, as we spent the next three and half hours going through seven different stores.  That’s half an hour per store including travel time!  I’d say it is a new record.

First we visited a tile store.  This is the third tile store we’ve visited.  My parents just went through an extensive renovation mid last year and they were kind enough to show us two tile stores they liked the most.  We found the prices in this store to be more expensive than the previous ones we visited.  So in about twenty minutes, we decided to move on to the next store.

Down the street is a granite store.  I am not sure if it can be considered a “store”, it may be more of a distribution center/stock storage kind of place.  There weren’t any store front for display and nice sales people to greet you with, there were just slabs of granite stacked against each other and some conveniently lay slanted against the wall for displace.  We didn’t mind.  Hopefully this means we can get direct pricing and save ton of money.  We particularly checked out the pre-fab’ed granite pieces, since they are cheaper and less labor cost afterward to fit into our kitchen.  Unfortunately we didn’t instantly fall in love with any of the granites.  I got to say I was disappointed.  My mom told me that granites are so beautiful and are filled with the colors of the sky.  That comment had my head spinning with all kinds of design ideas, and may have set my expectation too high.  Mr. Li may have sensed my disappointment and promptly ushered us to the next store.

For a change of pace, we visited a hardwood flooring distributor off of their distribution office.  It is definitely nice to have connection on the inside, especially when it comes to hefty discounts.  We introduced ourselves to Mr. Li’s contact there and chatted for a few minutes before I headed to the bathroom.  By the time I came out, Mario happily announced to me that he had already picked a material, a stained white oak, and Mr. Li has already negotiated the price.  I was surprised, as I haven’t looked at any of their samples yet.  But since Mario has already decided, okay!  So left the store in ten minutes, with Mr. Li gave his contact the secret hand shake and promised to send him the final footage soon.

With decision made on the wooden floor, Mario was on a roll and was determined to finalize the granite material as well before the end of this trip.  So we visited four more granite stores.  We saw probably close to a hundred different granite materials, and we learned:

1. Stop looking at the large un-processed slabs no matter how wonderful they look!  Some of those large ones look like beautiful paintings.  If I had lots of money, I wouldn’t mind buying a few to mount them onto my walls so I can stare at them all day.  They are truly beautiful, with embedded sparkly crystals imitating the milky way, or exotic colors appear as rivers running through some fantastic landscape.  Mr. Li educated me that once they get cut down to the sizes we needed for the kitchen, the complex pattern will leave each area look starkly different from the next.  That would not be a good idea.

2.  Granite is a hard material.  That being said, there are harder granite and softer ones.  According to Mr. Li, you can identify the soft ones by looking on the back of the slab.  Those that have a mesh adhere to the granite are softer granites, the mesh is meant to hold the piece together.  This can create some difficulties when cutting the material.  Unfortunately, several of the softer ones are the ones I liked the most.  The harder granites are not nearly as nice looking.

3.  It is very tempting to use marble as a counter top material.  Don’t!  They are way too soft and their porous quality make them stain easily.

4.  It is best to bring a cabinet swatch with you when shopping for granite.  I was amazed at how a wonderful looking granite counter top can look so badly with certain colors of the cabinetry.  Some combination just don’t work.

5.  Always take pictures of the granite pieces you like.  After looking at so many different granite pieces, our heads were about to explode.  We couldn’t recall much about that last piece we liked.  Remember also to take picture with the name of the granite with it too.

Here are some pictures of granites we saw.

Desert Gold. Contains small shinny crystals in it.

Can't recall the name on this one.

Bosa Nova. Against ginger colored cabinetry.

Imperial Gold

Orlando Gold

We were mentally exhausted at the end and hastily picked a granite and called it a day.  It was a fun trip, but I don’t think I quite liked our choices of granite and wooden floor.  We ended our day by 1:30PM, had a great Korean Tofu meal to cheer ourselves up and headed home for a nap.

I think the trip was not a complete disaster.  We did gain a lot of knowledge and experience during this trip, and that will benefit us greatly next time we come out.  This trip helped Mario and I understand our likes and dislikes in various materials, which will allow us to make better choices in the future.  Right now, I am calling this trip a success, and I can’t wait to do this again real soon.

-Flo.

Introducing… Our New Home!

The new year kicked off the renovation of our new home!  Right now the little ugly duckling looks like this:

Our new home, before renovation.

Yep, it needs a lot of help.  And you think this looks bad, wait till you step inside.  Your first instinct may tell you to run as fast as your legs can carry you.  I am not kidding.  I spent at least a week not able to sleep at night dreading how am I going to fix this dump.  Even if I pour all my money into it, it may still look like a dump.  Scary thought, ain’t it.  I confess during moments of weakness I have honestly doubted our decision to buy this piece of property.  Remember the movie “Money Pit”, anyone?  That could be me, but less good looking.

But I am already on the pirate ship and the only thing we could do is to see it through.  We began our journey to recovery by getting quotes from two contractors.  The first one we really liked.  Good communication and open to all sorts of wacky ideas we had, but the price was WAAAAYYY out of our budget.  I again didn’t sleep for a week, thinking all night how I was going to pay for this renovation and still be able to live through the next few years.  Eventually I realized that we couldn’t hire them even it is our last hope to have a decent home.  So we turned to contractor number 2.  He renovated my parents house and it was more extensive of a job than our home.  His price is very reasonable, which will allows me to buy a few high end product.  There are some small flaws to the work he does, but if I watch his team like a hawk,  I can identify the issues right away and have them correct it on the spot.  At least that’s my plan.  I intend to execute accordingly, but we’ll see how it will turn out.

I sense this project is the toughest I’ve ever come across, and I have survived some that were more painful than giving birth!  I know my priority should be on it at all times, but will I be able to juggle kid, work, and renovation at the same time?  Stay with me and we’ll find out together.

-Flo.

Ravi’s Weekend Outfit

I’ve given up on looking good since Ravi was born.  Between a high maintenance toddler such as Ravi and keeping a full-time job, there’s little time in left to groom myself regularly.  Heck, I am over my twenties, I am done looking good.  Nowadays, It is more important to make my baby look good!

There’s no question my favorite place to shop for Ravi is Baby Gap.  Why?  Cheap cloth, of course.  I know this is anti-intuitive, since Gap is a highly desirable brand and most people don’t associate it with the word “cheap.”  I guess I also need to expand that to cheap and high quality.  There are of course lower priced baby garments, but most of them loose their shape and texture after a few washes.  But not Baby Gap cloth.  The construction is great, the style is fabulous, and they last and last.  In a way, I am glad I am having another boy since we can re-use all Ravi’s old cloth again.

Since I have been shopping at Baby Gap for a while now, I have kind of figured out their sales pattern.  They have semi-annual sales in May and November, usually you can score a 30% off coupon for any item in the store.  If you were to use these coupons to buy items in the “sales” section then you may end up saving much more than half the price.   Just so you know, the lowest price shirt I bought from Baby Gap cost only $1.59, and that’s off of regular price of $15.  I’ve also signed up at local Baby Gap stores and on line to receive all their sales information.  Occasionally, they would have promotions such as 40% off on sales items, 30% off on regular priced items, and half off on sleepwear.  It is definitely a great way of saving money.  I generally buy from Baby Gap at these special sales events only and do not bother to visit if there’s not a sale.  During a big sales event, I would also stock up on off season cloth (which usually have the highest markdown to reduce inventory) and save it for next year.

Ravi's weekend outfit

I scored this cool one piece from Baby Gap during last November’s semi-annual sale.  It was from the sales rack for $18 and I had a 30% off coupon.  That worked out to be $12.60 without tax.  Considering this piece takes the place of a pair of pants and a top, it is a really good price.  Also the material is actually thick cotton sweats, it feels very comfortable to the touch at the same time kept its shape well even after couple of washes.  This piece is still little too big for Ravi, but he will grow into it in no time.  And when Ravi is done with it, his little brother will be able to use it for another winter.

-Flo.