Thursday, 28 January 2010

Is internet really better substitute for books?

I came across a very interesting blog post this morning from a website that I have been following for some time because the owner always presents thought-provoking ideas about life and useful information in the world of technology.

The post was written in Indonesian, but basically it was talking about how the ease of finding information on the internet has made people have less interest and diligence in reading books. The concern of this issue was that information found on the internet is mostly not in the same depth of analysis or width of knowledge as books.

I have to say that I agree with this opinion, although, I have to put forward a slightly varying opinion too.

As a stay-at-home mother, I often feel that the need to find information about various things is more important than learning about one or two major things at a great depth. The reason for this is because the knowledge that I need to acquire is mostly for satisfying my children's curiousity about every thing they come across with every day.

Children's thirst for knowledge is so challenging these days that mothers like me can never turn away from any kind of information, while time constraint in any typical days makes it almost impossible to pursue any particular interest at great depth (it is even difficult to finish reading a book in-between daily routines).

One thing I luckily experience though, my husband likes to read and he forwards to me the important information from the books he reads and he highlights the important points throughout reading. That way, when I do have the time to open the book to search for any information at greater depth, I can do it much faster and right on the spot.

Reading books is VERY IMPORTANT, even in this era of advanced technology. What more important is the spirit of knowledge building and sharing, knowing that after receiving that little bit of information from the internet, we should have the curiousity like our children to always know more, and once we do have the knowledge, to share it with others.

Internet is a great starting point to find any kind of information we need to know at any point of time, even in the tiniest second a stay-at-home mother can spare, however, the process should not stop there. The thirst of learning and love for reading that we have developed from our younger years should be nurtured and passed down to our children.

I know that this is not an easy thing to do, considering the amount of interactivity the internet offers which attract us (and our children) more than books, plus, prices of books are much higher than monthly internet connection, but this is a challenge we need to overcome. One of the ways is by having a spirit of knowledge sharing, which we should start within our own family.

I believe this is really one dream worth fighting for.. :-)

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Girl films for boys??? Are you kidding???

Hmm.. I'm not!

This was a short conversation between Ariq and his classmates last year (when he was still in KG-B) during the home visit to our house..

"Everyone.. let's watch a film!" Ariq asked his friends to sit in front of the television.

"What is your favourite film?" One of his teacher asked.

"Do you have Ben10?" One of the boys asked.

"No, I don't." Ariq answered.

"What do you have?" One of the girls asked.

"Little Einsteins, My Little Ponies, Strawberry Shortcakes, Diego." Ariq answered again.

Then they decided to put 'Little Einsteins' on. The girls cheered, but of course half of the boys decided that the fish pond was more interesting.. ;-)

Of course this situation did not last forever.. about half a year after that, Ariq started to like Ben10, Transformers and other boys films..

About two weeks ago, he saw a trailer of 'Barbie and The Three Musketeers', and he asked me to buy the DVD for him, so I did.

It turned out that both Ariq and Aza like it.

I asked them why they like the movie, and they answered, "Four beautiful girls in pretty dresses, successfully taking down the bad guys!"

The impression that Aza had was even further, he was really touched with the scene when Corrine (Barbie) was hugging her mother before she left for Paris. During the scene, Aza suddenly hugged me.. :-)

I think back to the choices of girl films that I bought for Ariq, which he really liked.. 'Strawberry Shortcake: the episode when she went camping with her friends', 'Dora: the episode when she rescued the Prince', 'My Little Ponies: the episodes when the ponies helped the boy rescued the princess and the episode when they had to rescue some ponies from the evil circus'.. then I realised something, boys are boys no matter what, but as kids they need and want to see the whole picture of life..

Films like Ben10 and Transformers certainly interest boys with their 'power', 'heroic' and 'strength' sides of life, which are directly attached to all boys.. but, as human beings, boys need to see the other side of life too.. subconsciously, they want to see 'beauty', 'love' and 'colours' as part of their thinking and imagination process..

Boys most probably won't enjoy fairy tales like Cinderella or Snow White much, but they do enjoy other classics like Pinocchio. The same with current films, they might not like ALL Barbie, Strawberry Shortcake or My Little Ponies, but there are some ideas in those films that are not conveyed by boy films in general.

Some things that I notice from Ariq's questions make me sure that he needs to watch both types of movies.

These are some of his questions from watching Ben10:

"Mum, why Ben and Gwen are living with their grandpa instead of their own parents?"

"Mum, are Ben and Gwen friends or cousins? Why do they keep spilling ice cream on each others' head?"

These are some of his questions from watching Strawberry Shortcake:

"When we are camping, we don't need to be afraid, right Mum? Because the shadows are not ghosts.."

"Camping looks fun! Will I go on a camp one day?"

These are some of his questions from watching Barbie and The Three Musketeers:

"So, it's not only boys who can do moves like that, Mum?"

"Why wasn't she allowed to join the Musketeers? That's not fair!"

The ideas conveyed by each type of films are different and the objectives are different too..

I remember when I was younger, my sister and I used to watch boy films like Voltus-V, Kamen Rider, Power Rangers, etc. Watching those type of films gave us the motivation to be strong, and not afraid to face competition in life to become the best in what we liked to do.. also, we liked seeing the good-looking actors in the films (obviously..)

At the same time, we enjoyed watching the fairy tales too, because we liked how the princesses looked like, their dresses and their hairdo.. it all gave us the idea of how being beautiful, graceful and proper were supposed to be.

Yesterday I asked Ariq, "Do you tell your friends that you have the Barbie DVD at home?"

He answered, "The girls are excited, the boys are embarrassed, but I'm not worried! I like the movie."

Now, I can see that boys are just the same.. they can appreciate strength and beauty the same way at the same time if they are given the same chance to learn about both.. Moreover, I'm glad to see that Ariq is confident in doing what he likes despite his friends' opinions.. :-)

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Credit Card Tips (1)

"Oh no! The credit card statement is here again! I couldn't pay it in full last month, and now, it seems that my bill hasn't gone down a bit at all!"

That's right! This exact situation has happened to a lot of people. One of the common reason is a family member gets sick and needs immediate medical attention. Fortunately you have a credit card on your name so your unwell relative can receive the needed treatment without delay.

The scary thing is, as can be guessed, THE BILL!! Nothing about medical treatment is cheap these days and not everyone (especially in countries like Indonesia) is covered by medical insurance. It is almost like a death trap.. if you don't pay, you don't get treatment, but if you pay, you might have to live in debt for the rest of your life..

Anyway, most people WILL and DO choose to live in debt rather than live with an illness for most people believe that money can be found easier when we are healthy.. that is true!

So, don't panic if you are forced to use your credit card (or even max it out) to help yourself or your family member in the case of medical emergency. The important points you need to keep in mind is:

1. Discuss the patient situation with the doctor
A thorough doctor analysis will help a lot in giving a good idea on the treatment needed by the patient and the budget needed.

2. Discuss it with someone else
Another family member or a friend to talk to will be able to give you a different opinion or complete your plan. The more options you have, the better decision you will make.

Some of the options worth considering are the hospital fees, specific treatments (might need transfers to another hospital), the number of specialists needed by the patient, routine medicines, etc.

The other thing to consider is, how many family members are prepared to help out with the bill, both short-term and long term.

3. Make a calculation
Once you have the complete information about the patient's treatment needs and the available budget, then you can set a rough payment plan to present to the other family members.

~~ In the case of long-term illness, points 1 to 3 should take place BEFORE the patient is taken to hospital. However, in the case of sudden illness, points 1 to 3 might take place AFTER your credit card is scanned for billing by the hospital, otherwise the hospital will not accept the patient for treatment. ~~

4. Following up with the payments
Whatever you decide to do, you will still have the billed amount by your credit card to pay. Some credit cards offer installments while others don't. In the case that your credit card doesn't offer installments, you need to be ready to pay some portion of the bill each month to make sure that the bill goes down (and NOT UP) the next month.

When you receive your credit card statement, you need to have a look at three things:
* Total of the bill
* Minimum payment
* Finance charge

Then, there are a few things you need to remember:

1. NEVER pay for minimum payment amount only, unless you are planning to pay the total bill in full BEFORE the bill due date!

2. ALWAYS pay before the bill due date

The reason for the first two tips is because any amount of the bill that is left unpaid after the bill due date WILL be charged an interest or finance charge in the next bill on top of your usage. These interest and charges will very quickly build up into your total bill amount.

3. You can USE THIS simple calculation to help you bring down your next bill (credit card interest in Indonesia is approximately 2.5%-3.5% per month, with cash withdrawal and late payment fees approximately 4%-6% per month):

First, add your minimum payment and finance charge (which most probably come up to around 15% of your total bill).

Second, add some portion of remaining bill to make up for an amount that is roughly around 20%-25% of your total bill (the more portion you can pay each time, the better).

Do this calculation for a few billing periods until you can see the downward pattern of your bill.

4. Try not to use your credit card until you have successfully brought down your total bill to a reasonable level (similar amounts to your regular bills -without the emergency case-). If you really have to use your credit card for some extra expenses, you need to be sure that you can pay these additional expense in full in the next bill (on top of the remaining bill).

These simple tips should help you from suffering a long-term and building up credit card bill as a result of an emergency spending.

I am not giving any tips in 'real' accounting calculations on purpose. I am only trying to share from past experience.. based on a little part of my education :-) .. In any case you would like a complete calculation or you need to set a payment schedule, you need to see a finance expert/finance manager to help you with it.

If you have any suggestions or advice to add, you are more than welcome to put it in the comment form..

Have a nice day!

Family Finance Tips

I have always meant to put simple family finance tips in this blog but so far I haven't and that is very bad of me.. So now, I will try to do the 'right thing'.. :-)

One of my excuses was that I was waiting for the 'more knowledgeable' author to start posting about finance in this blog, but as he is still swamped with other assignments (the real ones from work), I have to stay patient about his involved in this blog..

My other excuse is that I don't know how far I can help you, since my knowledge is widely based on personal experience, as I am not a finance practitioner -although I do have an accounting degree.

Anyway.. trying to help is always better than doing nothing, and I am confident that you will consult more than one party/source in the process of making a fully-informed decision so, here it comes.. my first family finance tips.. (more will be coming in the future).

Have a nice day!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Learning to Save at Timezone

What??? Learning to save from Timezone?? Are you joking??? The only thing happens in gaming arcade is spending money, not saving!

Calm down, parents.. :-)

First of all, I didn't say "Let's save at Timezone".. because obviously it's impossible! I only said "Learning to Save at Timezone".. why?? Because it is the perfect place to teach our children the concept of saving in the logic that children understand.

Second, I'm not trying to teach you anything, I'm writing this post mainly to share my own experience with my sons, Ariq and Aza. So far, I don't have any 'problems' with Timezone.. In fact, I sort of enjoy the place myself too.. ;-)

Now let me explain more clearly..

When I came back from Yemen with Ariq, the reality for me was, I was 3-month pregnant, away from my husband and I didn't drive! So, when any one of Ariq's grandparents was available, I could take him to the zoo, the beach, etc., but when I took Ariq out by myself, the mall was the safest option for me (close to home, easy access to transportation, variety of choices of food and kids' entertainment).

Ariq was 3 years old at that time..

After our first trip to the mall (and Timezone), I started thinking.. If I could not control Ariq's spending in the gaming arcade, and soon he wouldn't be my only child, it would become hard to keep up with 'family entertainment cost'!

Then, I noticed something interesting when we went to the mall during school holiday, at Timezone's entrance there was a big banner saying "100% credit on purchase over Rp 60.000,00" (about US$7.00). I found an idea that I really hope Ariq could understand.

I slowly said to Ariq, "Honey, Timezone is having a discount because it's school holiday."

Ariq looked excited, "Wow! That's good then. Can I play?"

I nodded, "Of course! I also have an idea. If I buy a lot of credit today, you can play here a few times without having to buy anymore for a long time."

Ariq looked confused, "How? How can I play without buying credit?"

I thought, Yesss! This is my chance! And I said to him, "If you obey me when I say that your credit for today is up, we will have enough credit to come here again next time."

Ariq did not totally understand, but I didn't want to confuse him more, so I made a quick calculation in my mind (each machine costs around Rp 2.500,00 -about US$0.20), 10 games would cost around Rp 25.000,00 and said to him, "You can play 10 games each time we come here."

He quickly agreed. Well, he was still very young at that time and there were very limited choice of games that he could play, so 10 games were enough to entertain him.

I started the 'alarm' once he had played 7 games, so he started choosing the ones he really, really liked. Then, we stopped and I started exiting the arcade. I took a quick chance to show him the credit reading (at the credit checking machine) and explained to him the balance. By then, he understood what I tried to explain to him when we entered the arcade.

Was the process complete just like that?

Of course not!

Kids are not computer program.. They are so much smarter than any AI!

The next time we went to Timezone, he negotiated after the 10th game, so I had to put a limit on the negotiation (I usually gave 1 or 2 extra, but no more that that!). There was also a couple of times when he was being difficult because he was already getting tired and sleepy, but being a child he insisted on playing instead of going home.. So, I had to be consistent and I got him home and later on made him promise not to behave like that again.

Once Ariq was older (about 5 years old), he also started to understand the concept of game tickets (the tickets he earned for playing games on the machines). He exchanged them for drinks and snacks after he was finished playing and kept the rest until he could exchange them for something else; school stationery or toys.

Ariq is now almost 7 years old and Aza is 3.5 years old. I don't have to struggle teaching Aza the concept of saving when we go to Timezone, Ariq has been telling Aza when they have to leave the arcade because their credit for the day is up. And of course, since Ariq is speaking in 'children language', his explanation is much easier for Aza to understand.. ;-)

When my husband came home and we went to Timezone together, he was worried about how much we would spend there. He almost fainted when I told him how much credit I purchased because there was a discount.. I asked him to watch the children after their 10th game.. and he was very surprised!

Ariq calmly asked me, "Credit for today is up?"

I nodded and answered, "Yes. Get your brother, please."

Ariq nodded and turned to Aza, "Aza, today's credit is up! Let's go!" And Aza followed Ariq out of the arcade.

My husband asked me, "How did you do that?"

When I told him my experience with Ariq four years ago, he asked me, "Wow! They understand it!"

I smiled and said to him, "Don't underestimate children! They are people, humans, just in smaller body.."

One little tip for parents when going to Timezone.. Play with your kids on the machines! One or two, if not all..
When they see you play, and you say that it's enough entertainment for you, it sort of gives them an idea that the same amount of entertainment should be enough for them too, or at least a signal that the end of their playing time at the arcade is coming up very soon.. I find this more effective in teaching my children not the be addicted to gaming arcade (rather than giving a strict time limit while watching them play).
Some options for parents: street basketball, rowing, hit the mouse, deer hunting, table-hockey, soft-play area (with younger children, where available).
So many things around us these days, which can either help or harm us, and it all depends on us how to perceive it. I used to come to Timezone with Ariq and found myself as the only mother playing there, but lately, I saw more and more mothers play with their kids there. I see it as a good thing (as a stay-at-home mother, I find playing with my kids at a gaming arcade is one good alternative of refreshing activity when we don't have much time to plan a proper outdoor/other activities).
What you need is a little calculation of how much you would like to spend in the arcade and how often you plan on going there. Then, discuss the concept with your spouse and children.
Don't forget to watch out for discount banners or offers from your credit cards or other sources.
Timezone is there to provide family entertainment, not to add to family stress.. :-P