Net worth allocation 2019

I wrote this at the start of January 2020 but then SO MUCH STUFF happened (actually this whole financial picture just changed this week so doing this again in December will be interesting)!

Just to preface, I consider my financial health tied to T’s and our finances have been tied since 2018 and I don’t see the point separating them out. For transparency, I earn less and had/have less assets, both of us have had varying levels of privilege and financial help bestowed by our parents, and since living together we have both made decisions and sacrifices together to be on the same financial path.

Our approximate allocation by end of 2019 (household of 2):
Equity in PPOR real estate (value minus remaining mortgage): 26.9%
Cash offsetting PPOR mortgage: 23.8%
Equities in stock market: 29.5%
Cash gains (expected) from sale of IP: 5%
Cash: 0.4%
Superannuation: 14.4%
MINUS DEBT (HELP): 1.6%

PPOR: Principal place of residence
IP: Investment property
HELP: Higher Education Loan Program

Real estate: We sold one apartment (“mine”) because we didn’t see any benefits keeping it. It helped realise a good chunk of cash, which we need more than holding the asset and it sits in the mortgage offset. (The price did not go up, by the way, but it wasn’t unexpected.) We kept our eyes on landed real estate (we want a house in the suburbs to put down roots) all year but officially are in the market as of late November 2019… right around the time the market went to sleep for Christmas and New Years, haha. We are hoping to purchase in 2020, and honestly if it doesn’t happen in 2020 we may be in a predicament in 2021, financially (see next section).

Cash in offset: [The offset account, one of the safest tax-free “investment/saving” vehicles accompanying a mortgage. I believe this is fairly unique to Australian banking.] Our reasonable amount of cash in offset means our mortgage repayments are smashing through the loan’s principle amount. As we need cash for purchasing a house in 2020 (fingers crossed), funnelling money into the offset is the best and safest return on investment we can hope to achieve. Mortgage repayments are almost entirely paying principle now as the there is only a tiny bit of interest charged thanks to our cash offset almost equalling the outstanding loan. The tricky thing is our cash will likely equal the balance of the mortgage by mid/late 2020, so beyond that level, our cash will no longer be helping us and we will need to do something else with it instead of sitting around losing to inflation. This is why purchasing in 2020 will be the best timing.

Equities in stock market: T’s portfolio is over ten times mine and entirely Australia-weighted so it makes me very nervous. His portfolio’s reinvested dividends accounts for around one quarter of his taxable income so we are paying a lot of income tax on those reinvested dividends. We have actually switched dividend reinvestment off starting December 2019 to realise a bit more cash to help our borrowing capacity and increase cashflow for the next year or so (with the expectation of purchasing a house and using up a lot of cash). My much smaller portfolio contains some overseas exposure but I will need to lean a lot more heavily towards overseas markets as I try and rebalance with both portfolios in mind. I don’t see us adding to shares much, if at all, in 2020 as we need to keep as much cash as humanly possible for purchasing a house.

Cash gains from sale of investment real estate: I’m not sure how to classify this. In December we sold an investment apartment that we have partial stakes in. So this is the expected gains that we will see in cash at settlement in January factoring in some fees deducted (and then we will pay capital gains tax at the end of the financial year). My calculations could also be way off though…

Cash: I keep a tiny sliver of cash in my own account (I make sure to keep this low if it gets beyond a certain number, as this cash is not making any money unlike cash in offset) and there’s some cash in the Citibank account that provides us fee-free and near-global rate currency conversion for overseas travel. I did not empty the account after the last overseas trip and the number is not so high that I feel the need to move the money out. The cash in my own account is to pay for all our household expenditure and also there in case I ever encounter an urgent situation that required cash. Every time I receive my pay, I transfer a portion to T (savings to offset mortgage) and then the remainder I use to pay for all our living expenses. The portion I give to T actually covers the mortgage and more so essentially T’s entire wage becomes our “savings”.

Superannuation: (Australian retirement fund – employers must contribute a minimum 9.5% of employee’s salary on top of salary. In Australia, we commonly don’t label our wage to include superannuation and benefits.) I’ve been in a high growth portfolio for a few years and only managed to get T around to switching his strategy over at the end of the year (crying at all the lost gains – despite working more years than me and having been in a field that pays almost double the minimum superannuation, his balance is not significantly higher than mine). I feel there’s no worth staying in a balanced or conservative strategy at this age as the money is locked away until preservation age. At this time in our lives (need cash!!!) I am not considering concessional contributions a smart option.

Other: HELP “debt” is indexed to inflation and paid back based on salary, so I don’t consider this debt, since it is the cheapest money one can get (interest rate effectively 0%). I might have three or four more years to go. T paid his off a couple of years ago – he started working before me, earned more and took on less HELP debt overall.

Spending: Too high. Travelled overseas twice and I shopped a lot. We are travelling overseas twice again in 2020, but I expect that both will be cheaper and shopping will be kept lower this year.

Looking ahead to 2020: I mean, everything hinges on whether we can find and purchase the house that we want. We have some strict criteria and a “tight” budget so either we buy something we can barely afford or the real estate market will continue to price us out. If we can’t find anything within budget, we’re more likely to just continue living in the city rather than sacrificing more of our housing criteria, though an unpredictable timeline for purchasing a house makes it very difficult to make a plan for our cash as our apartment will effectively “paid off” by the end of 2020 (but we won’t technically pay it off as cash in offset is wonderfully liquid). Our plans with the current apartment are to sell it after buying a house as we won’t have enough cash if we reach our maximum house budget. If we find something below the maximum budget, we would consider keeping the apartment. I personally appreciate that the apartment is in a sort after building in a very prime location, making it one of the few decent apartments to actually hold.

Money Diary (Travel edition): #7 Weekend in Sydney

T had a conference in Sydney from Sunday (night) to Thursday a couple of weeks ago, so we both went up on Saturday morning and had a short Sydney 2-day weekend trip (he stayed on for work while I left on Sunday night). His flights and the hotel were paid for by his work. I don’t have time to organise photos (flying off soon and scheduling this post) but the Sydney Instagram stories are saved as highlights in my Instagram.

Our flight was with Virgin Australia and booked just over a month beforehand. I would personally never leave it so late because it gives me too much stress, but I had to wait for T to sort out his flight before booking mine. $294.63

Hotel was very central (near Town Hall and St James stations, and around the corner from QVB). It was located in a quieter street, in a hidden little building. The hotel was very basic but good value. T went against my choices and picked one half the price so as to use less of the group’s money, LOL. (Paid for by T’s boss; $141.74 (Saturday) + $103.89 (Sunday) = $245.63) (2 nights for 2 people)

We get up bright and early and drive to the airport. I discovered parking there for two days (with a company near the airport, not in the airport itself) would be cheaper than public transport. We arrive at the car park and then take a short shuttle bus to the airport. I will pay when I depart.

On arriving at Sydney airport, we take the Airport Link to St James station. We can use our credit card to tap! Melbourne doesn’t have a train system from the airport and our transport cards and readers are so bad. I’m jealous, Sydney! $17.39

After checking into the hotel, we walk for over an hour to lunch. It took a bit longer because we took a wrong turn and didn’t check our phone’s map for a while. Roads are very complicated in Sydney. We have lunch at Rara Ramen. T picked this one out of five ramen restaurants I shortlisted. The ramen was very average though. We each have a bowl of ramen, share gyoza and a yuzu ramume. $46.70

We were meant to have ramen with my friend but she missed her bus into the city. So we meet up at Koi Dessert Bar, my favourite dessert place! We have chocolate delight and yuzu mango desserts (my friend has some earl grey jar dessert). I’ve had the latter several times in both Sydney and Melbourne’s pop up. $21

We walk to an escape room I booked for T and I. Due to some circumstances, my friend only ended up being in Sydney due to not being able to fly out. I emailed the escape room ahead and they confirmed I could just bring her along and pay the difference when there, as I already paid online. As it turns out, she had already done that particular escape room (there are three), so we say our goodbyes there. $88 (two people)

We walk back to the hotel to chill for a bit. T’s knee is playing up again so we decide to take an Uber to dinner, although it’s only a 20-30 minute walk. $12.37 + $1 (tip) = $13.37

The first thing I did after booking my flight was booking dinner at Chaco Bar, which we came to last year. It is T’s favourite restaurant (ever) because he loves Japanese skewers and these guys’ skewer game is really strong. We get drinks and go straight into skewers. We order three rounds of skewers, including ordering four of one skewer. I also order a second drink, we try a non skewer dish, and finish with dessert. The verdict is to stick with skewers here. We stuff ourselves silly and it’s still not that expensive (considering we had three drinks and we ordered this fancy skewer twice at $24 each). I left a ~$15-20 tip and there must’ve been a small card surcharge. $182.48

T is feeling a little better after taking a break from all the walking, so we decide to slowly walk home.

The next day, we head to Bourke St Bakery (Barangaroo) and share a pie, quiche, croissant and danish for breakfast. $19

Because we “have” to play Pokemon Go Community Day for the next three hours, we decide to Uber to the Royal Botanical Gardens even though it’s only ~20 minutes away as I want to visit the Calyx again and we are running out of time. As it turns out, because of the Sydney marathon, the Uber driver drops us off like 15 minutes away, so we wasted time and money. I’m quite grumpy that the driver just drops us off with not much explanation and we still get charged the full ride as though we made it to our destination. $10.22

I spend about 5 minutes at The Calyx (T doesn’t join), which is beautiful. Entry is by donation. $4

It is really hot and I am dehydrated from walking around. We grab a 7 Eleven slurpee. $1

We have a late lunch at Home Thai, which seems to be highly rated on the Internet, but honestly is some of the worst Thai food I have ever had! We have a grilled pork dish, pad thai and a lemon lime bitters (still feeling dehydrated). $30.50

We grab two lattes at Coffee Pitt and walk back to the hotel. $7

I finish packing up and T gets ready to leave for his conference. I get confused about the trains and why I can’t find the train to get back to the airport. But as I have lots of spare time, I quickly walk down to Sephora to take advantage of the black and gold member 20% off sale. My Mum has expressed interest in a foundation brush so I grab her my favourite one. The shop is so packed I don’t stop to look at anything else. (She ends up insisting to pay me back the $24.80)

I get my luggage and go the train station. I discover the reason Google isn’t showing trains is because the Airport line is down for today. I could take a train and then a bus… but I decide to just Uber because I have no idea how much extra time it will take. $32.73 + $3 (tip) = $35.73

It is a breeze getting through at the airport and I am left with almost two hours! I sit down at a cafe and have a jaffle and ice tea (still trying to rehydrate!) while watching stuff on my phone. $15.10

My flight is delayed and my neighbouring passengers are really annoying and loud. They were clearly drunk getting on and were still allowed to purchase three whiskeys each, for a one-hour flight. I am really put off by Virgin’s behaviour. When I get to Melbourne, I call and find the shuttle bus to take me back to the car park. I pay for parking as I leave. $31.25

Two days in Sydney
Total actual spend: $817.37
(minus hotel as it was paid for by work)
Total actual cost for one person: 294.63 (flights) + $423.80 (everything else) = $718.43 (with hotel and food/drink/hotel/activity/transport costs divided if they covered two people)

Money Diary #6: A more typical week

This Money Diary follows on from the fairly abnormal week prior.

Monday

I pack my breakfast of a hard-boiled egg sandwiched in a slice of bread with sriracha. Lunch is a poke bowl inspired situation with rice, tuna, edamame, takuan, black beans, and baby spinach that I put together in the morning for T and myself (I cooked the rice and black beans the night before). I also take a banana.

I train to and from work.

For dinner, I am intent to use up the last of the expiring milk so I make a blitzed potato soup for T and add milk but I severely underestimated how much milk was left. The soup is a lot more liquid-y than I had planned but T says it tastes fine. I bake some vegan patties we got to try and toast some slices of bread to make little sandwiches with baby spinach and cheese. They’re not spicy as labelled though, so I add some of T’s mum’s homemade chilli sauce and almost die. We also share out some stir-fried yam bean T’s mum gave us (I was introduced to it after meeting T’s family and love it sooo much so she always tries to make some/a lot for me). I also eat a slice of a roasted purple sweet potato instead of the potato soup. On the side, I cook some egg, potatoes and green beans so T can eat that with leftover rice and a beetroot soup in the freezer for dinner tomorrow. I am all about preparing ahead so we don’t eat out (and I know T tends to make less healthy meals when on his own). I enjoy cooking and he doesn’t so I’m happy to plan and make meals.

Tuesday

It’s tutoring day. I made sandwiches (it was super inconvenient having a tupperware lunch last week so from now on it’ll be sandwiches on Tuesdays) with baby spinach, egg, ham and cheese for us both. I also bring a banana and apple just in case. My breakfast is another hard-boiled egg sandwiched in a slice of bread.

I get to work and then leave at 11 for the university. I eat my sandwich without drama and tutor for three hours (12 to 3). I do leave my trusty water bottle behind though and the unit coordinator doesn’t see my message to locate it when all the workshops finish at 6pm. I’ve been using that bottle at work for like five years now and I’m quite sad. (I locate it in the same spot I left it at a week later – hurray!)

After I finish at 3, I drive to my parents’ house to work (they are roughly halfway between the university campus and the city). I eat dinner with mum – fried fish, japchae, stir-fried green beans and potato, and a tofu dish that is way too salty. She pays me back for the sim card and a phone holder for the car I got her, minus what she paid for some Costco goods I asked for. I set up the sim card for her but it is problematic and she ends up without a working sim for almost 24 hours. I pick up the two Sephora Favourites (skincare) boxes recently released that I shipped over to my parents (I despise that Sephora does not ship to parcel lockers) and am horrified by the size of the parcel box compared to the actual boxes of product, which themselves are enormous compared to the actual products inside. I give my Mum some of the products that I’ve already tried or don’t see myself using. I also order some gardening thing from Germany on eBay that my Dad tasked me to buy on a piece of paper. It’s about $200 and half of it is shipping, LOL.

Wednesday

I make an egg with two falafel balls to pack for breakfast and also bring a banana and apple. I make T the same sandwich as yesterday.

I train to and from work today.

Our department goes out to eat lunch because one of our members who works for us overseas is here for two weeks. I have a chicken and avocado toasted sandwich. $12

For dinner I make Malaysian-style udon (similar to hokkien mee except swapping the noodles) with chicken, green beans, carrot and a dark sauce concoction. I also roast cauliflower. With the leftovers, I pack three lunches with udon and cauliflower and another portion for dinner the next day!

Thursday

I noticed that avocado ripened quicker than expected. I pack a quarter of an avocado and some falafel balls for breakfast, the udon for lunch, an apple and a ruby raspberry Kit Kat.

I train to and from work.

It’s a super full on day and I pretty much have to eat my lunch in the middle of a meeting. We also have birthday cake for a colleague in the mid afternoon.

For dinner, we eat udon with cauliflower, finish that purple sweet potato which I roast up again, and have Korean soybean stew with wombok and zucchini (I add kimchi to mine). After I also eat an orange and the last green tea ice cream mochi. I also roast orange sweet potato and some falafels for lunch the next day.

Friday

I pack some crackers, cheese and a quarter of the avocado for breakfast. Lunch is a salad with sweet potato, the remainder of the baby spinach, half an avocado and falafels. I also pack a banana and a banana Kit Kat. T’s lunch is the last container of udon.

I train to and from work.

T’s parents invited us and his brother-in-law over for Ipoh Hor Fun, which is one of my favourite Malaysian dishes. There’s also curry puffs (I have one) and fried chicken (I pass), then fruit for dessert. Delicious!

Saturday


For brunch we go to Breakfast Thieves. I order the “fried rice” chilli scrambled eggs on toast, sambal, bacon, peas, corn, spring onion, parmesan, puffed rice ($21); T orders the crispy potato roesti, grilled smoked ham, sauerkraut, poached eggs, apple hollandaise; and we both get a latte (2 x $4). I am quite creeped out by my dish because the charred puffed rice looks like grubs. $51

For dinner we are invited over to T’s parents place again. Because T’s brother-in-law is back, they are going to town cooking Malaysian food. We usually don’t eat with them so often in a week! Tonight T’s mum is making another of my Malaysian favourites – po piah. We all fail at wrapping our po piah but who cares because it’s delicious. She reheats some of last night’s soup and we also have a small helping of Ipoh Hor Fun (with choose-what-you-want inside, so I only have soup, noodles and chives). We have fruit after dinner.

Sunday

In the morning, I take the train to the suburbs and meet my Mum and we drive to Chadstone for a spot of window shopping. I want to look for a new foundation. I have been trying for years to find a foundation as good as my discontinued favourite foundation. I get a bunch of samples from Lancome and YSL in David Jones. I am also looking for a new compact wallet and we check out the ones I’m interested in at Loewe, Dior and Louis Vuitton. I also hopefully walk into Celine just in case but of course there’s no OldCeline small leather goods (I found a handful of Old Celine wallets at Marais just one/two months ago but sadly none were in the size or combination I vaguely wanted).

I don’t even realise how hungry I am when we are about to leave. I didn’t have breakfast and it’s already passed lunch time! We have nachos and a taco each at Fonda and I pay. $32

We go back home and my Mum heads off to her singing club. Dad and I drive to my apartment because he is helping me to move two pieces of Ikea storage units that I want to keep and my parents will kindly hold onto for me. T drives to the apartment as well to help. Luckily we are able to fit one set of drawers in Dad’s car and the cabinet in our small car. As there’s room, Dad also takes the TV that I’m giving them. I hang around the apartment to take pictures of all the other furniture I want to sell.

Back at my parents place, we wait for my Mum then go out to dinner at Koi Ramen Sushi Don. We share gyoza and a soft shell crab roll, Mum has udon, Dad has a beef bento, T has a pork katsu bento and I have una don. We pay because my parents paid for the last meal we ate out together. $79

Time for our weekly grocery shop. We buy: broccoli ($2.54 at $3.50/kg), cauliflower ($2), mushrooms ($6.86 at $12/kg), 450g tomatoes ($2), 200g cherry tomatoes ($3), 120g baby spinach ($3), bananas ($0.65 at $3.90/kg), 20-pack L’or coffee capsules ($8), 95g canned tuna ($1), ham ($4.03), 700g sliced bread ($3.40), 1L ice cream ($5), 2 packs of 500g sausages ($14 at $7 each). $55.48

Total spend: $229.48 (joint account)

Money Diary #5: An atypical week

I did two back-to-back money diary weeks and this is the first (highly atypical) week because I auction my apartment and we eat out so much.

Monday

I wake up at 6am with a sore throat and email work to say I will work from home unless I get more sick. I sleep for a few more hours.

Working away. I make a spinach and ham omelette and coffee for breakfast. I also pay off one of our credit cards.

I realise the prepaid 12-month sim I wanted to buy is sold out since it got discounted last week ($300 to $200). What a rookie mistake. I decide to drive out to the shops and get carrots (because they were over $2/kg at Coles when we did our grocery shop the night before and I know they are $1.20/kg at Woolworths, hmph!) and to get the other 12-month prepaid sim that is on sale this week that my Mum wants to switch to. Prepaid sims are ridiculously competitive now!

The sim card is sold out at the one supermarket I try. I walk passed a Tattslotto and cash in a winning ticket (T’s family sporadically buys us lottery tickets and I am wondering if it is their way of worrying about our finances, haha). (+$13 gift). I also get 3 1kg bags of carrots ($3.60) and another zucchini because they look so nice and are on sale $3.90/kg), even though I bought two the day before. After 5% discount using prepaid gift cards, $5.11

Back home, I heat up the hokkien mee I had packed for today’s lunch.

Around 4, I start cooking Japanese curry (I always used Curry House roux) with beef chuck, potatoes, carrots and mushrooms. I get it finished up to the point of boiling (sans roux) at about 6 (at which point I had stress-eaten a bag of delicious Japanese gummies), when T gets home to drop off his bag. Then we take a tram and walk to my real estate agent for a catch up before Wednesday night’s auction of my apartment. It’s a little depressing because he is not expecting any active bidders on the night, but it is what it is and I trust his next strategies.

We get back home and I finish off the curry. I started the rice before we left. I also make a clear soup with wombok and zucchini on the side. There’s heaps of curry leftover so we put the whole pot in the fridge. I also eat a green tea ice cream mochi which T agrees is good – he can’t even tell it’s vegan.

T’s parents source that sim card that my Mum wants for me – legends. They drop it off. It cost $140 and I’ll pay them back later when I have cash ready.

Tuesday

I get up and feel much the same as yesterday morning. I want to get in early today so my alarm is set earlier than usual. I make an egg with some zucchini and pack it for breakfast. I also take hokkien mee for lunch. I drive to work because I am also heading to my first session as a teaching associate further away at a university campus. Last week I drove there for a meeting and it took me 1 hour.

I leave work at 11 to get to the University campus, where I use the parking permits I was given. I go to the teaching lounge to catch up with the other tutors and unit coordinators, and eat my lunch with a fork I find in the kitchen drawer because my fork fell into a dark abyss in the car.

I’m taking two workshop sessions (12:00-1:30 and 13:30-3:00) in group teaching style (120 students in a large teaching room and each tutor is assigned three small groups to alternate between). I’m really glad I took this on because it’ll be a great experience, I enjoy teaching, and the money is so SO good. It is totally going to be worth putting in some extra hours for my normal job. I almost wonder if I should have just agreed to do all four workshops over six hours since the commute is pretty long for me to and from the city.

I make the long drive back home. My usual plan is going to be driving to my parents’ house and working there and then having dinner with my Mum every Tuesday, since it’s halfway between campus and the city and I don’t have to struggle with peak traffic. However today I have dinner plans in the city. It takes me over an hour to get home and I work two more hours. I stress-eat the rest of a packet of spicy Korean chips (not that good).

It’s T’s dad’s birthday and we go out for dinner at SPQR. His Mum pays. We go back home for cake (pear tart from Le Petite Gateau) and give him his birthday present.

Wednesday

I set my alarm early again (gotta make up those hours slowly), but I have bad cramps all early morning and don’t sleep well. I decide to just let myself sleep a bit longer. After getting up, I make an egg with spinach and zucchini to pack for breakfast. I also cut up a nashi pear and pack the last of the hokkien mee for lunch, a banana, and some Chinese rice cracker snacks.

I train to work.

I eat the banana just before leaving work and hope I won’t be too starving tonight. I train back into the city and head to my real estate agency office. My apartment is going on auction tonight at an in-office auction (last of three lined up). I have a quick chat with my agent and sign my reserve price. He is not expecting any bidding today. Afterwards we sit with the crowd and watch the first two auctions. There are (non-alcoholic) drinks and snacks. I take a lollipop for later but don’t feel like eating anything. When my property gets auctioned, I leave the room and sit in a private office.

Surprisingly one person is bidding (against himself… such is the auction process in Australia!). It passes in under reserve and my agent spends the next hour and a half negotiating. I totally didn’t expect it to happen but the buyer ends up agreeing to my final counter offer. It works out similar to if I had gotten my actual asking price because he does not get a subject-to-finance cooling off period and he wants a short settlement period. It’s not a great result, but I’m at peace and relieved it is over.

It’s passed 8:30 when we leave the offices and T convinces me it is too late to eat at home and we should “celebrate”. We settle on going to a nearby ramen place but eating their side dishes instead (the full side dishes menu starts at 8:30 so we’ve never actually been able to before). We order some homemade citrus sake, oden, fried mackerel, gyoza and a seaweed salad. $52.90

Thursday

I make egg, spinach and zucchini and pack it for breakfast, make a coffee to bring, take rice and curry for lunch, and a banana.

I train to and from work.

For dinner, I make some pasta sauce with chicken, spinach and carrot but I don’t eat it because there’s one more serving of curry left so I eat that on its own. T’s dinner is pasta with my pasta sauce. I pack the same for him for lunch. I pack the remaining pasta sauce with zoodles for my lunch. We also have some clear soup with wombok and enoki. After dinner I eat another green tea ice cream mochi!

Friday

I make an egg with zucchini and a slice of ham to take for breakfast, take a coffee, my zoodles and pasta sauce, and a banana. I train to and from work.

I wish I had cut the zoodles because they are infinitely long and difficult to eat. Lesson learned. I also don’t end up eating the banana and have to take it back home!

T is going to Sydney for almost a week for a conference in mid-September. I decide to also head up with him for the weekend for the free accommodation. I buy expensive return flights with Virgin (why did he have to leave it so late?!) so it is the same flight departing from Melbourne. With the reimbursed accommodation and his reimbursed flights, it’ll still be worth it. $294.63

For dinner, I roast a broccoli and a purple sweet potato, and make non-spicy tteok-bokki with pork, fish cake and wombok. I had some leftover pasta from last night and make T a quick pasta salad (just added ham and Kewpie mayo) to eat while I’m making all of the above. In the end the sweet potato takes too long and we are pretty full so we cut off only two end segments of the sweet potato to continue roasting to eat. T finishes that banana I brought back home because I think it’s turning black. I eat an orange instead and another green tea ice cream mochi.

Saturday




We are taking T’s parents and his grandmother to lunch. We head out to Chadstone Shopping Centre, where parking is a nightmare, for lunch at Shanghai Red. Luckily they got the last free table and we don’t need to queue. We get kao fu, xiao long bao, Shanghai fried noodles, sheng jian bao, stir-fried beans with olive leaf, and fried barramundi. $83.80

We go for coffee/something sweet next. It takes ages to find a table in the food court. T heads off for three coffees (for himself, his mum and grandma) from Little Sparrow ($12.60) and I get an iced sencha with matcha syrup and pearls (for myself; $5.50) and a matcha and houjicha swirl ice cream (for T’s dad; $4.30) from Kyo Tea House ($10.80). $24.40

We stop by the amazing fresh food market in Chadstone for daikon, sweet potato (orange and purple) and fresh udon noodles. $8.73

T also runs off when he sees an ATM to get us some cash and to pay back his parents for that $140 sim.

We had back into the city and I make a small coffee at home.

For dinner we eat galettes at Roule Galette. $35.50

We aren’t really full and Roule Galette is closing so we can’t have sweet crepes there. We get a chocolate fondant and a pear and raspberry cake from Brunetti ($16.70), then one of the new caramel dougnuts from Krispy Kreme ($3.60). $20.30

We go home and watch a movie and episodes of The Black List. I end up unable to even eat one third of the desserts, sigh.

Sunday


We are meeting my cousin and her partner for lunch. We are a bit early so detour to one of our favourite Asian grocers. T grumbles because he finds a new Japanese Kit Kat flavour (peach and mint). $6.95

We eat at Krimper. We are celebrating my cousin finishing her last assessment for her Master’s she’s been doing part time, and to have a good planning session for their upcoming Japan trip. I have been drafting and revising their itinerary and this is a face-to-face session to continue revising it. I have the salmon scramble (pretty blah), the others have burgers and bacon and waffles. Four coffees are ordered. We pay. $93.84

We head home and drive out to do our grocery shop. I’ve activated an offer to received $10 worth of points back for spending over $50, but it really means we are aiming for $60 in order to get two Coles Mini collectables that I am collecting, haha. T is in charge of the shopping tally. We buy: 4 apples ($2.52 at $4/kg), 2 oranges ($1.63 at $2.90/kg), 5 bananas ($3.64 at $3.50/kg), 2 pears ($1.79 at $2.90/kg), 1 avocado ($1.90 – so cheap!), 500g green beans ($2.50), 120g baby spinach ($3), 700g eggs ($3.95), 425g tin tuna ($4.50), 95g tin smoked tuna ($1.15), flat tissue pack (for the car; $1.20), 2kg dishwashing powder ($18), chicken wings on clearance ($2.99; in the freezer and can’t read the sticker but it was probably half to a kg) and chicken thighs ($13.07 at $12/kg). $61.84 (and getting $10 worth of points back)

We have dinner with T’s parents and his brother-in-law who has just flown back for a month (wedding and work). We’re having hot pot at their home. There is way too much food and even fruit for dessert. I take home a big loot of Coles Mini collectables from the Aunty network (T’s mum’s friends).

Total spend: $688 (joint account)

Money Diary (Japan travel edition): #4 What we spent during 9 days in Japan (Tokyo and Tohoku region)

We spent about 9 full days in Japan (plus the morning of our flight out). This trip was significantly more in peak season that I am used to, as it coincided with the Tohoku region’s cherry blossom forecast. As always, we buy too many souvenirs from Japan.

We exchanged some cash beforehand at AU$1 : ¥78.5139. We withdrew cash in Japan to top up, from 7 Eleven ATMs, which were the second ATM I tried with our Citibank debit card (one of the two most popular debit cards in Australia for overseas ATMs). Mizuho Bank ATM quoted me ~8% worse value than 7 Eleven, which came out ~1% within the global market rate so I just relied on 7 Eleven ATMs from thereon, since they’re everywhere anyway.

All costs in ¥ or the exact AU$ charged (or both), for TWO PEOPLE.

Pre-trip

Airfares – Royal Brunei Airlines: 2 x $739.31 = $1478.62
JR Tohoku pass (choose 5 days): (¥19,000 when purchased outside Japan, but realistically the travel agents will set the price themselves). 2 x $244 = $488
Data SIM for 30 days: 2 x $39 = $78
Hotel – The Knot Tokyo Shinjuku (3 nights): $545.41
Hotel – Hotel Vista Sendai (2 nights): $208.49
Hotel – Montein Hotel Kitakami (2 nights): ¥16,600 = $214.78
Hotel – Art Hotel Hirosaki City (1 night): ¥38,880
Hotel – Hotel Ryumeikan Tokyo (1 night): ¥23,000 = $294.23
(Total cashback for four hotels except Hirosaki = $46.36)
Tickets for Teamlab Borderless: 2 x ¥3,200 = ¥6,400 = $80.73

The hotel and price in Sendai is more typical of what I am used to in terms of excellent location, compact yet clean rooms and price. The Shinjuku hotel was excellent but a bit far from the station. I would trade the size of the room for better location in an instant, but April is peak season so I had to make do and pay a bit more than I am used to for Tokyo and slightly worse location. It wasn’t bad though, and I’d prefer this location in Shinjuku than to not be near Shinjuku. The Hirosaki hotel was right next to the station but absurdly expensive. Welcome to the sakura festival in one of the top sakura locations in Japan! It was the most stressful finding a hotel in Hirosaki. The city is not that big and populous. The hotels there are on the old side and not too tourist-friendly (difficult to find smoke-free hotels). I would not have considered this hotel given its ratings if it wasn’t the only non-smoking option left in the city. The price was still ouch though.

Some transport prices may not be exact as I noticed sometimes IC cards gave ¥1-5 discounts on actual actual fares. All fares were retrospectively calculated. I’ve tried to categorise souvenirs clearly as things we bought to bring back for ourselves or other people (although this gets muddy because we did bring lots of snacks from convenience stores back home for ourselves/others). We are used to doubling or tripling our luggage with shopping because we buy so much in Japan! I think our luggage weight at least doubled.

Day 1 (Tokyo and Takao-san) *JR Tohoku pass*
Narita Express to Shinjuku: covered with JR pass
Lunch (tempura soba and tendon at Tenya Tendon): ¥1,440
Vending machine (drink): ¥150
Train to Takao-san: covered with JR pass except one stop, 2 x ¥130 = ¥260
Cablecar roundtrip: 2 x ¥930 = ¥1860
Tickets for Monkey Park: 2 x ¥420 = ¥840
Goshuin: ¥300
Vending machine (drink): ¥170
Train to Shinjuku: covered with JR pass except one stop, 2 x ¥130 = ¥260
Dinner (skewers izakaya at Kushiyaki Bistro Fukumimi): ¥6,778
Drugstore (lip balm): ¥306
Convenience store (salad, fruit, snacks): ¥678
Total: ¥13,042

We started our time in Japan around midday by the time we’d got into the city from the airport and dropped off our luggage at the hotel. We had a quick lunch at a chain restaurant before heading off to Takaosan. I got my first goshuin of the trip and had to pick up a lip balm from the drugstore back in Shinjuku because I lost mine on the flight. Every night we go on a conbini crawl as I try to stock up on vegetables/fruit and T tries to eat as much ice cream and junk food as possible (not that I don’t also join the junk food party). Typically a non-snacker, he turns into a different person in Japan! The other category that I spend a lot in is goshuin (also here), which I will categorise separately.

Day 2 (Tokyo and Kamakura)
Vending machine (drink): ¥140
Train to Kamakura: 2 x ¥920 = ¥1840
Convenience store (onigiri): ¥120
Bakery (2 breads): ¥480 (?)
Taxi: ¥1000
Tickets for Hokokuji: 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Goshuin: ¥300
New goshuin-chou + goshuin = ¥2200
Tickets for Hokai-ji: 2 x ¥200 = ¥400
Goshuin (3): 3 x ¥300 = ¥900
Sakura mochi: ¥200
Lunch (soba at Fukuyu Soba Bar): ¥1836
Tickets for Hase-dera: 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Goshuin: ¥300
Tickets for Kotoku-in: 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Goshuin: ¥300
Souvenirs (2 small face towels): ¥1200
Goshuin: ¥300
Vending machine (drink): ¥130
Train to Shinjuku: 2 x ¥920 = ¥1840
Reserving Narita Express for airport: 2 x ¥3210: ¥6440
Dinner (skewers izakaya at Yakitori Nanbantei): ¥7123
Souvenir (2 alcohols from Bic Camera): ¥2364
Drink (alcohol from Bic Camera): 2 x ¥110 = ¥220
Souvenir (T-shirt from Uniqlo): ¥1065
Souvenir (insulated Tiger drink mug from Bic Camera): ¥1998
Convenience store (snacks): ¥588
Convenience store (ice cream): ¥500 (?)
Total: ¥35,584

We started our day an hour later than I had hoped, so I decided we would take a taxi to the first site in Kamakura instead of walking to help make up some time. It is such a temple and shrine town that we had to not visit many temples and shrines (and not get goshuin) so we could actually complete the itinerary. We like walking everywhere and visiting ALL THE TEMPLES AND SHRINES so this one day ended up not being enough time for us, since shrines and temples can start closing around 4pm. We will need to revisit. For lunch we had Yamagata soba, which T loved but I didn’t. I got my second goshuin-chou (book) at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu because the book was so pretty and I only had a few pages left in my old book, so I bit the bullet. I later realised the book is slightly bigger and in retrospect I would have preferred all my books to be the same size. Goshuin at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu also cost a premium – ¥500. Back in Tokyo, we picked up some alcohol to bring back. I also picked up the Tiger mug that was on my shopping list (half the price of what it would cost me in Australia/online). I think we both discovered the Haagen Dazs crispy ice cream sandwiches that night – they’re amazing.

Day 3 (Tokyo)
Vending machine (drink): ¥140
Goshuin: ¥300
Lunch (okonomiyaki at Kotegaeshi Okonomiyaki): ¥2764
Goshuin: ¥300
Metro: 2 x ¥200 = ¥400
Souvenirs (2 plush toys and 1 toilet cover (LOL) from Pokemon Centre DX): ¥6900 (tax-free)
Metro and train: 2 x ¥500 = ¥1000
Dinner (tonkatsu at Tonkatsu Wako): ¥3150
Tickets for teamlab Borderless: pre-purchased
Train and metro: 2 x ¥580 = ¥1160
Convenience store (cake, ice cream, chips, drink): ¥667
Convenience store (Kit Kat, purin): ¥313
Convenience store (sweets): ¥103
Total: ¥17,197

We just wondered around for most of the day. I checked out like ten consignment stores and then we spontaneously decided to go to the Pokemon Centre DX in Nihonbashi before heading to Odaiba for an early dinner. I heard Borderless is least busy around dinnertime so I was aiming for 6pm. When we returned to our hotel, we went on a conbini crawl for snacks for that night and to eat on the shinkansen the next day.

Day 4 (Sendai) *JR Tohoku pass*
Convenience store (breads and onigiri): ¥386
Shinkansen to Sendai: covered with JR pass
Lunch (gyutan at Rikyu): ¥3564
Goshuin (2): 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Souvenirs (mug and tumbler from Starbucks): ¥4104
Dinner (izakaya at Aburiyajubey): ¥6166
Snack (?): ¥432
Snack (Hyotan-age): ¥250
Snack (shu-pie at Papa Beard): ¥170
Snack (mochi): ¥200
Snack (Hokkaido milk cake): ¥290
Coin laundry (wash then dry): ¥300 + ¥300 = ¥600
Convenience store (2 ice creams and bananas): ¥1002
Total: ¥17,764

We had the afternoon to wander around Sendai after checking in and trying gyutan (ox tongue) at the famous Sendai chain, Rikyu. I didn’t really like thick cut gyutan the way it’s done in Sendai, so we didn’t eat any more during our stay. I picked up the Sendai Starbucks mug in the new design (I absolutely prefer the old design for regional tumblers – the new series is kind of awful, but I’ve never been to Sendai so I can’t get the old ones anymore…) and the new Starbucks “Japan” mug because it’s so pretty. After dinner (our only bad meal for the whole trip), we ate a bunch of cool food in the train station and went back to do laundry at the hotel (with ice cream, of course).

Day 5 (Sendai and Matsushima)
Train to Matsushima: 2 x ¥410 = ¥820
Snack (curry bread at Pensee): ¥300
Matushima Bay ferry (with upgrade to green car): 2 x (1500 + 600) = ¥4200
Lunch (Seafood at Nanbuya): ¥5700
Tickets to Zuigan-ji: 2 x ¥700 = ¥1400
Goshuin: ¥300
Tickets to Entsu-in: 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Goshuin: ¥300
Snack (fishpaste skewer): ¥200
Souvenir (grilled garlic): ¥540
Snack (regional sakuranbo Hi-CHEW): ¥150
Toll for crossing to Fukuua Island: 2 x ¥200 = ¥400
Train to Sendai: 2 x ¥410 = ¥820
Dinner (ramen at Misoichi): ¥2100
Souvenir (regional gyutan Pretz): ¥600
Souvenirs (amazake dango, 2 umeshu): ¥1016
Snack (sakura doughnut at Mister Donut): ¥129
Souvenir (lightning cable from Tokyu Hands): ¥1836
Souvenirs (stainless steel Tiger drink mug and soup/food mug from Yodobashi Camera): ¥4670
Convenience store (ice creams and fruit liqueur): ¥1030
Vending machine (drink): ¥110
Total: ¥27,221

I was informed by the Internet that upgrading to green/first class on the ferry of Matsushima Bay would be worth it as you are able to go outside on the deck. I found a Hi-CHEW I’d never seen before and T managed to sneak in a packet of grilled garlic because he is a garlic monster (the verdict is he wishes he brought back ten more packs…). Back in Sendai, we started getting serious about souvenir shopping. T says he got the lightning cable despite it being expensive because he has for years been particular about a certain cable length and will try any that he stumbles on in a quest to find a good quality one. I picked up a second Tiger mug and also a soup/food thermos even though I don’t need one (I prefer this one and have been using it though).

Day 6 (Sendai, Yamadera, Kitakami) *JR Tohoku pass*
Convenient store (2 breads and 2 onigiri): ¥493
Train to Yamadera: covered with JR pass
Goshuin (3): 3 x ¥300 = ¥900
Tickets for Yamadera: 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Goshuin (8): 8 x ¥300 = ¥2400
Lunch (soba at Enzou): ¥2780
Souvenir (wooden plate): ¥700
Train to Sendai: covered with JR pass
Souvenirs (2 boxes of seafood senbei): ¥2376
Souvenir (lotion toner from Matsumoto Kiyoshi): ¥799
Souvenir (tamagoyaki pan from Tokyu Hands): ¥4622
Souvenir (T-shirt from Comme des Garcons): ¥7344
Dinner (tonkatsu at Saboten): ¥3881
Convenience store (drink): ¥129
Shinkansen to Kitakami: covered with JR pass
Shuttle bus to hotel: complementary
Convenience store (ice cream, purin, bananas, Starbucks coffee, onigiri, bananas): ¥1023
Total: ¥28,047

We got an absolute tonne of goshuin at Yamadera!!! I picked up a cute leaf-shaped wooden tray/plate made in Takaoka to hold trinkets in. We returned to Sendai for a few hours of speed shopping because we still hadn’t really made a dent in our souvenir shopping. We picked up these impressive seafood senbei for family and I finally decided on a tamagoyaki pan, which was on my shopping list. After arriving at our hotel in Kitakami, we immediately set out to find the nearest conbini!

Day 7 (Kitakami)
Laundry (wash then dry): ¥500
Goshuin (2): 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Lunch (takoyaki and yakisoba): ¥1070
Dinner (shabu shabu at Porco Blu): ¥6480
Convenience store (bread and drink): ¥491
Convenience store (onigiri, ice cream, drink, warabimochi): ¥558
Total: ¥9,699

We had a late start and also did laundry since it was raining heavily. The town was smaller and quieter than I expected and there was almost no option for lunch so we had a quick lunch in a tiny cafe that seated four people and the store-lady literally made one serve of food ready for customers. She actually couldn’t give me what I ordered because she didn’t have enough takoyaki, haha. We were able to enjoy one of the top cherry blossom spots in Tohoku all afternoon. After some difficulty finding somewhere for dinner, we ended up at a shabu shabu restaurant. It was super fancy and we had a huge private booth to ourselves. The food was great and we were stuffed! THat doesn’t mean we didn’t do a conbini crawl for more snacks and stuff to eat during transport the next morning.

Day 8 (Hirosaki) *JR Tohoku pass*
Shinkansen and train to Hirosaki: covered with JR pass
Bus: 2 x ¥100 = ¥200
Chicken skewers: ¥500
Squid skewer and pork skewer: ¥1100
Sanshoku dango: ¥200
Goshuin: ¥300
Tickets for Hirosaki castle: 2 x ¥310 = ¥620
Souvenir (Hirosaki castle postcards): ¥424
Bus: 2 x ¥100 = ¥200
Dinner (izakaya at Izakaya Tsugaru’s Liquor Worm Watami): ¥5108
Souvenirs (face cleansers, oil cleansers, face masks, mascara, lotion toner from a supermarket/drugstore): ¥19965
Convenience store (pickles, drink, ice cream, Hi-CHEW): ¥571
Total: ¥29,188

Hirosaki was crazy busy! We headed straight for the park and ate some overpriced (and not very good) skewers from the food stalls, and a not-quite-defrosted dango (I was terribly sad by this). We went into the Hirosaki Castle keep, which was priced unusually. I don’t think I’ve ever paid for a temple, shrine, castle, garden etc that wasn’t a denominator of 100 in Japan. We had a fantastic dinner at an izakaya, trying a bunch of local (Aomori) specialty cuisines. We definitely over-ordered and it was still so cheap! Since it was still early, I convinced T to go to Mega, which I saw was a huge drugstore/supermarket. I went to town on face masks (for myself and my Mum) and stocked up on longtime favourites that I usually pay two or three times more for. I only bought three or four of each item but I bought out the stock for each product! To end the night, I wanted pickles and T wanted ice cream, and while I was at it I also found a Hi-CHEW I’ve never seen before.

Day 9 (Hirosaki, Tokyo) *JR Tohoku pass*
Tickets for Saisho-in: 2 x ¥300 = ¥600
Goshuin: ¥300
Souvenir (2 alcohols): ¥1080
Bus: 2 x ¥100 = ¥200
Convenience store (2 breads): ¥273
Snack (hanami dango): ¥140
Convenience store (onigiri): ¥140
Lunch (2 ekiben): ¥1810
Vending machine (2 drinks): ¥320
Train and shinkansen to Tokyo: covered with JR pass
Souvenir (stovetop grill toaster from Tokyu Hands): ¥2462
Souvenirs (3 different packs of Tokyo Bananas): ¥2541
Souvenirs (6 different packs from Kit Kat Chocolatory): ¥4266
Dinner (Beer Hall): ¥3596
Convenience store (sweets): ¥103
Convenience store (lollies, chocolates, ice cream): ¥625
Total: ¥18,456

We walked around the city and visited over 20 or 30 temples. Sadly I was only able to get a goshuin at one major one. By the time it was midday, we were near Hirosaki Park again. We went to the visitor centre to use the bathroom but also left with two bottles of ringo-shu/apple liqueur (Aomori is famous for its apples). Back at the station, I found hanami dango that I was really craving after the terrible one from the previous day (it was divine!). We’d decided to have a late lunch on the shinkansen so we picked up two ekiben to share. Back in Tokyo at 6pm, we checked into our hotel and started a night of frantic shopping by 6:30pm. We had a lot of stores we needed to visit before they closed in a few hours. I found a stovetop grill toaster (on my shopping list) and T decided to pick up a box of Tokyo Banana to share at work and we got two small packs in different flavours for ourselves. We also visited the Kit Kat Chocolatory since T is serious about collecting his Japanese Kit Kats. The Chocolatory is incredibly premium these days. You can pay some $20 for small box of containing three small sticks of single origin volcanic something-or-another chocolates. That’s so different to a few years ago when the Chocolatory first started! He got some Kit Kats to share at work, and picked up three things that he didn’t already have. After a late dinner, we tried to run down our IC cards on snacks and ice cream so the balance would be closer to 0. I’ve kept my IC cards for many years (for subsequent trip) but I prefer to keep a minimal balance on them in case I lose them or they become nonfunctional.

Day 10 (airport day)
Convenience store (drink, bread, banana): ¥378
Convenience store (2 onigiri, Kit Kats): ¥400 (?)
Narita Express to airport: reserved and purchased on day 2
Souvenirs (2 tumblers from Starbucks): ¥3596
Souvenirs (2 eyeliners and 2 stockings from Matsumoto Kiyoshi): ¥3500 (tax-free)
Souvenirs (3 different packs of Kit kats): ¥3680 (tax-free)
Total: ¥11,556

We had a late morning flight and got up super early. On arriving at the airport, I popped into the Starbucks and found an airport exclusive tumbler, and the new series Hiroshima tumbler, which is incredibly beautiful and I couldn’t not have it! Once through customs, I finally found one of my favourite eyeliners at Matsukiyo. I saw the brand of stockings I’ve been buying on every Japan trip but they had different lines. I grabbed two to try as I figured they must not make my exact one anymore. Unfortunately we found more Kit Kats T didn’t have at another souvenir store and had to buy them (including the premium Tokyo Banana with Feuilletine Kit Kats!).


*JPY estimates are based on 1 AUD : 78.5 JPY for simplicity

Sightseeing is relatively cheap in Japan for exploring nature and temples/shrines. The majority of the sightseeing costs we had were the Matsushima ferry and Teamlab tickets. Once again, food was the real winner. Despite eating all the food and drinking every night, eating out and snacking only cost ~¥4500 or ~AU$58 per person per day. The real cost would probably be lower as we really didn’t need to eat that much convenience store junk food, and some of it might technically be “souvenirs” as I brought them home. Unsurprisingly, we spent a lot on goshuin and shopping/souvenirs – 18%! Here’s everything we hauled back… *hides*