Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Starbucks Plans To Close 61 Of Its 84 Coffee Shops In Australia

Announcing its plans yesterday, Starbucks has committed to keeping just 23 stores open in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, meaning that the ACT, South Australia, and Tasmania are likely to lose all of their Starbucks. The closures would see the loss of at least 14 other stores in the states it will maintain operations in.

To be honest this is no big deal to the average Aussie, Starbucks coffee is rubbish. We have such a great history of good coffee here anyway, thanks to the mass immigration of Greeks and Italians after the Second World War.

It was quite funny to see all the Americans here for the Olympics in 2000 bringing their Starbucks coffee with them, at least it kept them out of our decent coffee shops so we could still get one.

Guess that’s the latte factor hitting them big time?

Subscribe in a reader or Subscribe via email

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

I Love My Posh Garden Centre

Why on earth am I spending regular time at my local posh, ‘used for photo shoots by major publications’ garden centre, I'm supposed to be saving money right?

The main reason is I just love it there. Living in an apartment, I have limited outdoor space and this centre is huge. Half of the place is the nursery where you can buy all manner of plants and pots etc, but it’s also got a huge display garden with different styles of gardens to wander round and enjoy, everything from ultra modern rock gardens to an organic vegetable garden, complete with chooks! (Chooks = chickens for the non Aussies)

Second, they have an art gallery, and a cafe that does great coffee and food. Sitting out on the terrace with a latte and my buddy looking over the gardens is a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning. Often her almost two year old joins us to ‘play ladies’, and the sight of her hooking into her baby-cino with such gusto never ceases to make me laugh.

Third, that coffee we have? It’s FREE! The centre has a club you can join (also FREE) which entitles you to a complimentary coffee each month – nice huh? The art gallery is also free, as are the gardens to wander around in at your leisure.

Last but not least is the newest and now most powerful attraction I discovered on my last visit. They have an allotment garden for the local community! They have 6 spaces available to members to put their names down for and when it’s your turn you get 3 months to grow things in your plot. I have of course put my name on the list to get my own plot, it’s very exciting!

There was a lovely old man watering his plot last time we were there and he was telling us he and his wife had recently downsized to an apartment after always living in a house, so this was an ideal solution for him to continue to enjoy gardening without having too much to manage on his own.

Yes it’s only 3 months when I eventually get one (unless no one else has their name down for the next session), but I still think with the right research and careful plant selection I should be able to produce some great veg, and enjoy every minute of getting my hands dirty.

Subscribe in a reader or Subscribe via email

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Work Perks – Free Food And Entertainment

We often joke in my team at work that you can eat for free at Monday to Friday if you play your cards right, and this week seems to be no exception.

There are over 300 people on my floor so there seems to be a birthday at least once a week or so, sometime more, so that equals free birthday cake. There are 3 scheduled this week alone. One of the perks of having Marketing and Sales on the same floor, I've no doubt; there’s always money for cake!

If there’s a launch of a new plan or product that equals a launch party so there’s at least cake, but the last couple of launches provided not only cake but hot food as well! If it's a bigger launch we'll usually get free chocolate bars or cupcakes as well.

Yesterday we had our monthly treat delivered to our desks, which were small packets of biscuits (cookies for the non-Aussies). In previous months it’s been instant soups, nuts and raisins, and fancy instant coffees (yuck, I don’t do instant).

There’s always free Twinings tea available in the kitchens on every floor, both Irish Breakfast (the CEO is Irish - coincidence?) and Green varieties.

I've got a team lunch today as our product was just voted the best in Australia (yay us), so the big boss is taking us all out for lunch at a local steak house, so free lunch (steak at that!) today.

Tomorrow I've off to a free screening of the new Batman movie The Dark Knight, at the cinema that’s right across the road from where I live, which also includes free choc tops, popcorn and drinks, a huge saving from an entertainment perspective.

I won a bet with my boss about how well a campaign would perform, so that’s another free lunch tomorrow for me – hurrah!

On Friday we've got a team off site that’s fully catered, so that’s a total of three free lunches this week, and better ones than I’d have packed for myself, so I've got to be happy with that.

Last week we had the top four dancers from So You Think You Can Dance come to the campus and put on a show ahead of their tour around Australia.

Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch!

Subscribe in a reader or Subscribe via email

Friday, 18 July 2008

A Great Night Out

I seem to have fallen into a new routine. Once a fortnight, I head to my favourite library to return books I've borrowed. I then stock up on new books to read and take myself out to dinner.

I keep a running list of the books I come across in reviews, best seller lists, on Amazon, books of my interest of the moment (currently it’s the devaluing of luxury brands due to mass consumer access to them, or at least fakes of them), then print it out on library night.

In a previous life I would have bought a lot of these books, so it’s saving me a fortune!

My favourite library? I call it that as my closest one isn't that great. It’s an annex of the main library, which also isn't that great. My favourite one is much larger and always seems to have a much better book selection (their interlibrary group is much better than my local too if they don’t have something I’m after).

The food court upstairs from the library (it's in a shopping mall - classy!) is open until late as there’s a cinema complex on the level above that. It doesn't have chain fast food places in it, it’s full of excellent and cheap Chinese, Malaysian, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese and Indian options, plus one of the best yum cha places in Sydney. The local area has a huge Hong Kong Chinese expat community and the food court is always buzzing, so I see that as an indication of the quality of the food on offer.

My regular haunt seems to be the Malaysian. They make great Laksas for only $8, and the lady who works the counter greets me like an old friend. So I sit myself down, enjoy my Laksa, crack open one of my new books, and take in the ‘atmosphere’.

So you can have your fancy dining experiences (which of course have their place in the dining spectrum). I’m always amused but no longer surprised that I can get such good food in a place where the tables are bolted to the tiled floor.

Note: It occurred to me that not everyone would know what a Laksa is, so I've included some recipes!

Subscribe in a reader or Subscribe via email

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Big Wins - Third Credit Card Bites The Dust!

I’m proud to be able to say I paid off my third credit card since starting my debt diet today!

Only more 4 to go from here, and only 1 more to meet one of my 2008 goals of paying off 4 of my 7 cards by December 31, 2008.

Credit Card 6 - $0. Paid in Full 15/07/2008

I decided to use my extra pay from my pay rise to get rid of it, so the UK Fund won’t get a boost until next month now, and I’m OK with that.

I now have a $600 payment to snowball onto my next focus debt, Credit Card 3 which is now my smallest debt, but still quite substantial at $5,597.

I've crunched my numbers, and with some small tweaks I’m confident I’ll be able to get it paid off before the end of the year. I wasn't that sure even two weeks ago, but I've found a way.

Onwards and downwards!

Subscribe in a reader or Subscribe via email

Monday, 14 July 2008

Employee Of The Month – Me!

We had our monthly team meeting last week, and I was awarded employee of the month for leadership and work I’d done of a couple of projects. Go me!

The award gives you $150 to spend on anything you’d like, and you then expense it back to work. I thought it best to not spend the lot on flavoured Absolut, might send the boss the wrong message when he approves the expense claim! *lol*

What to do with it then? I spent some time over the weekend trying to think of something to buy with it and it was the weirdest thing, I couldn't think of anything I want!

I can’t take in a credit card statement and expense $150 of it even if I wanted to, it has to be on something. I did think of that one though.

I was thinking I might splash out on a haircut and colour at a posh salon, but I’m perfectly happy colouring my own hair and just getting the haircut wherever is convenient (I have a very simple haircut).

I could spend it on books, but I’m trying to get rid of all the books I already have and don’t read as it is, and I have an excellent library I go to where I can get everything I want to read for free, so that’s out.

Possibly a new pair of sneakers to jump start my health and fitness efforts? Since I cancelled my never used gym membership a while back I've been meaning to get more walking into my daily routine.

I also wouldn't mind a thermal walled coffee press. As I live on my own, being able to make two cups at a time and keeping that second cup hot would come in handy, especially on weekends.

Maybe new bed linen once I get my new bedroom suite?

Go extreme and take myself off to BridgeClimb? Not too much fun to go on your own though, that's a shared experience I reckon.

What do you think? I’m open to suggestions on what should I spend this windfall on, it was given as a reward for my efforts, so I’d like it to be worth it, but not waste it on clutter.

Subscribe in a reader or Subscribe via email

Friday, 11 July 2008

The Wait Is Over – 3G iPhone On Sale In Australia

I break from my usual debt related posting to announce that the first 3G iPhone has been sold in Australia or even the southern hemisphere according to reports. It's actually quite surreal to see all these people I work with every day on the online video.

Yup, I happen to work for the company that sold it, and the last few weeks have been a frenzy of getting everything sorted out for the launch last night. I've been with the company a long time and I've never seen that level of activity around a new product launch before.

I’m really happy for all involved that it went well, especially as it was so cold in Sydney last night (in Sydney terms, no smart remarks from the Canadians saying they’d wear a bikini at 8 degrees Celsius.)

I confess I don’t actually want one, even I could get one free through work if I wanted, crazy right. I send a lot of text messages though, and the lack of keypad or keyboard is a real turnoff for me.

That said, it's only my thoughts, I know there’s a lot of people very happy it’s finally here, and it's a stunning looking phone, so enjoy it!

Subscribe in a reader or Subscribe via email

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The Ugly Truth - Day 305

The Ugly Truth


  • Personal Loan: -$21,600
  • Credit Card 1: -$6,680
  • Credit Card 2: -$8,657
  • Credit Card 3: -$5,597
  • Credit Card 4: -$11,000
  • Credit Card 5: (paid in full)
  • Credit Card 6: -$900 So close!
  • Credit Card 7: (paid in full)


  • Emergency Fund: +$2,010 – Sorted!
  • Car Fund (Maintenance & Registration): +$252
  • Short Term Goal Fund: +$1,004 (Current goal is new bedroom furniture)
  • Home Deposit Fund ($60,000 Goal): +$1,004
  • UK Tour Fund ($10,000 Goal): +$502

Total: -$54,434
Debt reduced from last month: +$3,646 – check it out!
Debt reduced from Sep 2007: +$2,338 – YAY!

Now you may not have noticed but there’s a dramatic change to my numbers this month, in more ways than one. Who doesn't love an annual bonus?

First, I'm back under $56,772 (the amount of debt I had when I started this blog). Woohoo!

Second, and more importantly (to me anyway), I’m no longer reporting my debt total by including my Emergency, Car and Short Term goal amounts in the final number, and it’s still less than when I started, plus there’s money in the bank! If I did run the numbers using the old way, the numbers would look even better still, but wouldn't be clearly outlining my situation.

I have $4,772 in available cash should I need it, but it’s all allocated for a purpose (other than the emergency fund of course), so I don’t think it will be going anywhere other than where it’s supposed to.

I’m really re-energised about improving my finances after making such a dent this month, my next target is that pesky $900 on Credit Card 6, I want it gone by August 1. I did waver about making a double payment on my personal loan this month, but it’s got the highest interest rate so felt it was worth waiting the extra month to pay off Credit Card 6.

Roll on payday – and my payrise!

Subscribe in a reader or Subscribe via email