September 11, 2007

It's all about money, honey!

(This article is my entry to the online competition on IHM, an Orkut community. The topic this week is "Provide 5 money management/saving tips".)

Every Indian comes to the US with the hope of saving dollars and then returning to his homeland to live a luxurious life. With a little bit of saving and planning, this dream can become a reality. How much to spend and how much to save also depends on how long you will stay in US. If you are planning to settle here, then you don't need to be too conscious of your spending habits. But, if you want to return back to pay off your home loans, then saving is crucial. Here are five money management/saving tips:

  1. Deals: Websites offer deals on everything - travel, electronics, clothes, grocery. Keep looking for deals on websites such as Deals2buy. They come in handy if you have to buy electronic items for personal use or gift someone. For travel deals, Orbitz is the best website. It offers deals on airline tickets, car rentals, and hotel stays. Walgreens and similar shops have deals on grocery items. Once a week, they sell milk at a low price. Look out for such deals and inquire about them to your local friends.
  2. Coupons: Many people harp on benefits of using coupons, but being a vegetarian, I don't find them very useful. Websites such as Coolsavings offer grocery and restaurant coupons. offers an extremely useful coupon book. They provide coupons for restaurants, movies, travel, and grocery too. Just enter your zip code and details and they ship you the book for around 25$. Coupons are also placed near discounted items in malls such as Kroger and Meijer. If you get a coupon, don't discard it. We have placed a box in the house where we keep all coupons. Whenever we feel like ordering pizza, we check the box:)

  3. Maintaining an Excel sheet of expenses: We maintain an Excel sheet of our monthly expenses and write down the details of every dollar we spend. This may seem nerdish or living in a meagre way, but it helps in knowing how much is going where. We create worksheets for each month and have columns such as Date, Where, and Amount. We enter common details such as Rent, Electricity and water bills, car insurance details and then keep adding as and when we spend. We have also fixed certain budget for eating out and movies. At the end of the month, we add up all expenses and highlight the figure in bold.

  4. Making conscious use of appliances: This is not only for saving money, but also for being aware of global warming. Don't keep the lights on when you are not in the room. Don't waste water - close the tap while brushing, applying soap to utensils, or when not in need. If you want to keep your electricity bill really low, use moving fans instead of AC. Keep your car windows open; don't use AC.

  5. Think before you spend: Do I need another ice-cream tub? Do I need so many vegetables? Ask yourself questions every time you feel you are buying something that is not required. Earlier, we used to buy loads of vegetables. They used to rot and end up in garbage. But now we have stopped doing that. Buy only what is required.

We don't think twice to go on a trip. We like to explore places. But, by keeping a few things in mind, we try to increase our savings. I am not saying our bank balance is impressive, but we sure don't spend frivolously.

September 5, 2007

One year completed

It's been exactly a year since I set foot in the US. I still remember all the details of my journey. I was completely tired with change of flights, countries, and time. The Mumbai-Paris flight was quite peaceful. After enjoying a hearty meal, I had fallen into a deep sleep and later watched Malamaal Weekly for dearth of anything else. I again fell asleep at the Paris airport, where I was surrounded by a group of Indians.

The Paris-Atlanta flight was a different story. Never in my life have I been so bored. There was some problem in the entertainment system which meant no TV, music, flight information was displayed in the entire 9 hour flight. I didn't read anything for fear of getting headache. I had an aisle seat in front of the toilet, which meant that everytime anyone went to answer nature's call, they would collide with my arm. Beside me were seated two ladies who did not speak/understand English, and I had no idea what language they were speaking. I did nothing else but stare here and there for the entire journey. Just when I was bored enought to jump out of the flight, the pilot announced that we had 5 hrs before landing. Urggggggggggghhhhhhhhh..I wanted to scream in frustration.

Finally, we landed at Atlanta and after the Immigration and other formalities, I went and sat at the gate. I had 5 hrs to kill. My husband had told me to explore the airport, but I sat at the gate as I didn't want to be lost anywhere. I remember watching the news of Steve Irwin's death on the TV. I slept again. The Atlanta-Louisville flight was short and sweet. I was smiling to myself at the prospect of meeting my husband after 40 long days.

This past year has been pretty good. I have learnt and seen so much after coming here. I was feel like writing more about my experiences and life in the US. Somehow, never find the motivation to write. Hopefully, after this one year completion article, I will write more about life in the US. Over and out!