Credit Card Post: September 2008 – Was it a big disaster or not?

After the modest spending of the last few months, I was greeted by a mighty thwack with September’s Bill. The damage was nearly NT$80,000! So what happened? How could it be so high?

Actually, most credit card statements tell a story: this was no exception. It’s a story of three parts.

Part 1: The business

We’ve been on an energy economy drive for the past four or five months, and the benefits are slowly beginning to pay off in lower electricity bills and lower carbon emissions. It’s staggering how little changes in behavior can have such significant effects: lighting choices, replacing older equipment, changing usage patterns, etc.. I don’t have complete stats for 2008, but I was surprised at how we’ve saved nearly 10% of our annual electricity bill, and there is still one major bill to go. Stay tuned!

Replacing A/Cs is perhaps the most notable way to cut energy use. Our oldest A/Cs are nearly 8 years old, and due for replacement, if nothing else because more modern A/Cs are comparatively more efficient. So after replacing one, we bit the bullet and replaced the one in the office (likely the single heaviest use appliance in the entire school). This month we replaced one that had been malfunctioning in the classroom ever since there was a power outage. It had just been blowing warm air, and wasting our money.

  • Damage: NT$48,800 plus installation NT$1450.

Was it worth it? Certainly. Will we save money in the long run? Likely enough to pay for the entire machine! Are our customers/staff happier? For sure.

Part 2: UK Trip

The second part of the story: my unexpected trip to the UK. It was late September when I decided to visit the UK to see my family and friends (an entirely social trip!) but long needed. Maintaining long distance relationships is at best very challenging, at worst almost impossible.

Though, this is the complete list of credit card expenses until September 19th, it was NOT the entire trip expenditure. Woops!

  • Phone Bill: NT$1154 – including national and roaming charges;
  • Nolita Restaurants: NT$6630 – a meal for my friends, Jane and Philip in Hatfield, which was surprisingly reasonable given the restaurant, but didn’t include much alcohol – one was exhausted and one was driving!
  • Boots and Asda: NT$1244 – daily expenses (esp. when I couldn’t cash my traveler’s checks);

Part 3: Online Related Expenses

I finally bought a ‘puter that I could put in my bag. One of the ironies though was that I bought a machine that was made by a Taiwanese company in Shanghai shipped to England and sold cheaper than you could buy in Taiwan at the time.

aspireone blue and white

Mine’s the blue one! Of course, not running Linpus. Sorry!

Enter the Acer AspireOne – Net Book. It’s proved very useful, and I’m seriously glad that I got it. I was able to make calls through SKYPE, surf the Net, listen to music and even do more than just rudimentary blogging on that little 8.9″ screen.

  • Damage: NT$17,310. Of course, being an overseas customer, I may be able to reclaim part of my tax (approx. NT$1800) making the deal even better value for me!

I also paid a writer who is helping me co-author a series of posts on the Dow Jones Indexed Companies. I also paid Google an AdWords activation fee.

  • Total cost for this: NT$1319.

And, finally, after earning points on the airconditioner purchases at Carrefour, bonus points on our credit card bonus points, we also earned a little cash back on some of my purchases: NT$-213.

  • I’m still not exactly sure what purchases triggered this, but still every little helps to reduce the total damage: NT$79,694.

There were no interest or penalties added to this month’s credit cards, and my secondary card had no outstanding purchases at all. oh, and I nearly forgot the NT$2000 life insurance premium that was paid.

It’s funny how credit card expenses can highlight the unfolding stories that compromise our lives. Have a look through your credit card statement? Can you see a story developing there?

  • Oh, and by the way: most frivolous expense trip – Hong Kong Airport Starbucks Americano and water bought with a credit card HK$39.00. Just silly.

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Tax Deadline Approaches: Uncompetitive tax regimes make my blood boil as they extract more than a pound of flesh!

Yes, even in Taiwan we all have to pay Taxes, and even here Death is certain, too! Just to dispel any rumours. However, tax deadline is much later than either the UK or the US. And that day is tomorrow, May 31st! F32in2

So, after spending hours fighting with the paperwork (actually just two or three!) and plugging the data into our ‘free’ (did I say, free!) software, provided by the Republic of China National Tax Administration (Thanks, guys! Good job!)! No Quicken or Intuit here! … we were able to complete this year’s tax paperwork.

We printed it off, and promptly forgot to go to the Post Office! So that’s what I’ll be doing first thing tomorrow! I don’t usually mention taxes on this blog for several reasons: the most important of which is that taxes are SO different from country to country – and so much lighter a part of the burden for individuals in some jurisdictions than others.

Suffice it to say, Western countries, like the UK or Germany have tax rates that are CRUSHINGLY high for most people: income taxes, house taxes, car taxes (gas, licensing, etc.), VAT (17.5% in the UK), taxes for this, taxes for that, taxes for the next, … When other countries (like Hong Kong, and Japan…) adopt UNCOMPETITIVE tax regimes (EU Tax commissioners words, not mine), I just want to shout, “Yes! That’s right!” But it’s not these NIC countries that are being UNCOMPETITIVE, it’s YOU, it’s YOU OLD EUROPEAN countries that want high taxes, to line your treasuries’ pockets, not your citizens’ pockets. Yes, you might create social benefits with the monies, but then yet again, you might spend it on creating and maintaining beaurocracies! Why not let your citizens decide what to do with THEIR money!?

Now, I know and freely admit that I’m not an expert on taxation issues; nor do I care about European taxes that much! But when tax authorities that operate under profligate governments who want to create little fiefdoms at the expense of individuals cry that other countries with low-tax regimes are UNCOMPETITIVE, it is a signal that things are not right.

Let’s put this on an individual level: Two neighbors live in an average priced housing area with similar incomes and similar general expenses. One of the neighbors, however, spends more on gardening, house renovation, has more children, goes on more expensive holidays, purchases more food; while the other seeks to rein in non-essential spending, preferring simpler decorations, … Do you think it makes sense the first neighbor goes around shouting: “Neighbor, you’re being uncompetitive! You need to spend more! Spend more like me! Then we can be good neighbors!”

Do you think you’re government is profligate or thrifty? Is your government a good neighbor or a bad neighbor? Does your government encourage fiscal responsibility or fiscal stupidity? Comments, please! Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I can weigh in on what tax competition means, too!

This posting is an entirely personal and unresearched opinion on TAX issues. I do not pretend to KNOW anything about taxes or principles of taxation, except as much as I need to to file my own taxes. As with any financial issues, you need to seek validated and professional advice from qualified and authorized sources!

Car parking: make money the easy Peasy way!

Living in a large city like London, Birmingham or Glasgow, if you are a driver can be a nightmare…! Where on earth do you park at an affordable price, and in a timely manner?

If you live in a city, e.g. London, and have unused parking space, perhaps because you gave up your car, and now use the Tube, public transport, or even a bicycle, how can you make the most of the resource you have, the empty car park?

Both these problems have now been solved by Peasy allows you to find and rent out parking spaces as well as allow customers to book online! Parking spaces for rent are available near train, tube, town centres and even sporting events, like the Saturday football game!

This could be a whole new income stream for you in the UK, without considerable outlay.

Car parks and convenience brought to you by