What Is Your Dream Life?

“Right now, I have no further aspirations other than finishing my project until 2014″ I said solemnly to my friend.

We were having coffee at one of my favorite joints outside town. I’ve just finished my work, while he was on one of his treasured “mental health day” – both of us taking the rare opportunity to meet outside our work hours.

He was just telling me about his perfect life plans. He plans to get married next year. He is accumulating his project experiences to obtain his professional license in two years. He has already invested in property.

I was overwhelmed by his confidence in his life plans when I blurted out how aimless my life is.

Or, is it?

I know what it means to have plans. I had a 2-, 5, and 10-year plan before I graduated: to get published, to live overseas, to get a Master’s degree, to work in environmental and sustainability policy areas, to rise to a managerial position, etc.

I achieved most of them, and in consequent order – but I’m left with searching for more. Over time, I came to learn a life carefully planned isn’t necessarily a meaningful one.

“Put what, why, and who you love ahead of what, why, and who you don’t, and your roadmap will begin to write itself.” – Umair Haque

I worried if the steps I was taking were going to lead me to where I want to be. I fretted about whether I’m doing things right. I wondered if I’m connecting with the right people. I was scared if I didn’t talk to someone I like today I would lose my chance at happily ever after. It’s tiring.

One day, I thought to myself: sod it. Albert Einstein said “we cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them“.

I have tried the school handbook to being successful, but I am not exactly happy, am I?

Why not, for once, I let go and stop planning?

I came to a realisation that perhaps I don’t really want to do my PhD, after all. I thought with a shudder about committing my hard-earned savings on a new car which I don’t really care about.

Instead of planning to move for a more stable job, I plan for my overland trip instead.

Last weekend I went on a hike up north, going through six river crossings before reaching the top waterfalls with two of my good friends. I came home to receive a new family of cats rescued from a nearby factory, and spending the rest of the weekend setting up the place for them and familiarising them with my cats.

By the end of it, I was exhausted. But I felt good. I felt at peace, like I’m at the right place.

What is you dream life?

Saving Money on Books

How much do you spend on books every year?

I don’t really have a budget for books. I am roughly guided by the allowance for personal tax relief for book purchase of RM1,000 per year, which I believe is a sensible amount.

So far, my spending on Books (RM690.33) comes third after Pets (RM1,913.20) and Travel (RM1,034.55), while leading ahead of Personal Care (RM499.34), Clothing (RM283.00) and Entertainment (RM200.60).

Thankfully, as much as I love books, I am a slow reader and tend to read books I love repeatedly over the years.

I don’t usually shop for books like there’s no tomorrow. Even though there are times when I go into a bookstore and start piling paperbacks ferociously – I tend to ration myself and put them back again (it’s a great exercise for self-restraint!).

Growing up, my parents took my brothers and I to the bookstore every school holiday, and each of us getting ourselves 2-3 books to last us until the next trip – I believe the experience rubbed off on me in a good way.

Over time, I also have found different ways to make my money stretch further when it comes to book shopping:

#1 Use CIMB Credit Card at MPH*

I didn’t realise it until after I had applied for the CIMB Petronas Mastercard. Basically, for every RM50 spent on books, you will get RM5 voucher – that’s 10% rebate!.

Since MPH Bookstores is one of the most prominent bookstores in Malaysia, there is a good chance 3 out of 4 shopping trips I make is at MPH, so why not save money while at it?

#2 Big Bad Wolf Book Sale*

End-of-year sale when I can camp 24/7 and buy new books at 1/4 of its actual price. Range of titles may be limited, but it’s a good time to stock on those chick-lit paperbacks I’ve been dying to read but not willing to pay the full price for.

#3 Book Depository

Realistically, spending money on books in Malaysia doesn’t stretch as far as you would in the UK or the US. While paperbacks may cost you mere $9.90 in the US, it’s RM42.90 in Malaysia.

Nevertheless, I was content to pay the full amount for what they are worth. Of late, I have taken to ordering books online from MPH (free delivery) or Kinokuniya (RM8.00 delivery charge) to save on time and commuting, until my friend recommended Book Depository, an online UK bookstore offering free shipping worldwide.

Not only that, their price are also 5-10% off the recommended retail price. Deciding to give it a try, I ordered the same books I had sitting in the cart of my Kinokuniya account, and end up with more than RM60.00 in savings. Score!

 What are your money-saving tricks when it comes to spending for your hobby (although I may contend reading is not exactly a hobby, but a need and a basic human right…)?