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Stewardship of Money and Living in London on a Student Budget

September 30, 2014 1 comment

It’s that time of the year when sunny days get colder and the student hordes throng the streets of London. I’ve had a good time meeting the first arrivals, urging them to make the most of their few years abroad.

rocket, fig, proscuitto, mozzarella salad with linseed vinaigretteIt’ll be a sad thing if all they had to show at the end of their degree was, erm, a degree, selfies in front of tourist attractions, signed menus from Michelin restaurants, and a life partner to eat in said restaurants with. There’s much more to life, boys and girls! Away from the usual societal crutches of home, this is the perfect opportunity to think carefully and independently about life – to investigate properly what truth is and so set valid life goals according to that truth. After thorough investigation, Christian claims, as set out in the Bible, seemed overwhelmingly true:

  1. the deadly problem we all face is that we are all under the wrath of God for failing to acknowledge him;
  2. nothing we can ever do or say will be able to turn away God’s wrath on the Last Day;
  3. but God sent his Son Jesus to save us from this – if we trust that what God promised is true – ie. that Jesus’ death is sufficient to save us from the consequences of our sin.

Because this is such an important thing for this life and the next, I would highly recommend everyone to research this for themselves. A Christianity Explored course is a great place to start! And London universities are well served by good churches like St. Helen’s Bishopsgate and Euston Church.

While the important stuff gets sorted, there are also daily necessities to consider. (Ah but, really, who ultimately provides us with money to buy food with, enables food to grow as they should, regulates the seasons, gives us breath?) As a student at a Bible course, living off my own savings, I had to be careful about spending, but also not let frugality be an idol; to be so able to work the budget as still to be generously hospitable about housing and feeding people. We usually think that “good stewardship” of God-given money consists merely of avoiding conspicuous consumption, but miserliness too fails to properly invest God’s money for his work.

Food
Because the United Kingdom produces its own food and local food is more likely to be less expensive, it is best to eat the season.

Street markets are your best bet for fresh food. I don’t mean the organic hipster places but the “ethnic” sort in East London – for example, along Whitechapel or in Shadwell. Vegetables are usually sold by the bowl – £1 for whatever is in the bowl. And I have managed to bargain for more to be stuffed in the same bowl…

Check London Farmers Markets for more English/continental produce. Although basics are on the whole more expensive, this is for you if you care about provenance. And there are some bargains at closing time or on things that don’t usually figure in the modern London kitchen – like duck hearts, other offal, pork bones for ramen bases. Even the more posh farmers’ markets are worth checking out: I’ve gotten good bags of pesticide-free fruit and vegetables for £1 each at the Marylebone Farmers’ Market and chicken carcasses for stock (but with enough flesh left on it for a meal for one or two) for 25p each at Borough Market.

It’s also worth being a regular at your local butcher and fishmonger who may throw in stuff for free once they get to know you.

wild blackberries wild blackberry tart

Foraging has saved me a bundle on fruit and herbs. But obviously you need to be sure not to poison yourself, especially with the mushrooms. Check out recipes and advice at Forage London.

Marked Down GroceriesIf you really need to use a supermarket, you can compare prices at mysupermarket.co.uk. There isn’t a particularly generally cheap(er) mainstream supermarket: Tesco and Sainsbury’s might sell different goods more cheaply. Lidl, Aldi, and ASDA, although not known to be upmarket, have own-brand products that stand up to more expensive own-brands: like olive oil and charcuterie. Check for Great Taste Awards as well. There are also treasures in Lidl’s wine bins (eg. Bordeaux second growths).

Waitrose does really deep discounts on well-kept but expiring food. I usually snap these up for the freezer – good for lazy evenings and unexpected guests. It’s also worth signing up to be a Waitrose member for free coffee (espresso, cappuccino, latte) and tea daily, additional discounts, and a free well-written magazine every month.
Marked Down Groceries Marked Down GroceriesThe other great thing about Waitrose is that it applies original bulk-buy discounts to stickered items. In this instance, Waitrose technically paid me £0.11 to buy 18 sausages off them!

Marked Down Groceries Marked Down Groceries
Marked Down Groceries Marked Down Groceries
Marked Down Groceries Marked Down Groceries

Marks & Spencer stores tend to clear out their bakery sections at a good yellow-stickered discount about 6.00 p.m. (store-dependent) every day so you can get proper bread/pastry your dinner/breakfast there. The city center stores are also good for discounts on dairy items like milk and cheese.

Approved Food has a bit of a niche selling food near or past its best before date at good reductions.

Coffee
Brewing your own probably gives you a better cup and saves you loads off Costa lattes. Worth checking out online coffee companies for promotional discounts – eg. Pact Coffee delivers your first order for only £1.

Clothes
By the fact that everyone can tell me a mile away by my clothes, it is clear that I don’t really have much experience in this area. But for fig leaves that don’t look too cheap, TK Maxx has good stuff. There are loads of charity shops around. Also look out for clothes swaps.

For camping/hiking/walking clothes, footwear, and accessories, try the Army Surplus Store

Hair Cuts
Get them free by being a real live model for hairdressing students or juniors. Have a look at this Time Out article for details.

Cookware, homeware and home electricals
Check first if anyone has anything to give away on London Freecycle or Gumtree or a whole list of alternatives on the Guardian Green Living Blog or on the London Re-use Network. Otherwise, compare prices at:
Robert Dyas
Argos
Lakeland
Poundland, 99p shop, 98p shop…

Reuse, Reuse, Reuse
Reuse jars as cups and for storage. Reuse can and coffee cups as pen and pencil holders. Reuse fruit crates for shelves. Reuse wine cases for bookshelves.

Transportation
Cycling around London is free, though you’ll need to acquire a bicycle and an all-important bicycle lock.

Bicycles
Freecycle, Gumtree, . Or ReCycling and other sites listed on Bike Hub. Cycle training, if you live in Tower Hamlets, is free.

bicycle maintenance club bicycle repair and maintenance tools

You’ll want to keep your ride in good shape, so pop down to the free bicycle maintenance workshops.

Trains
The Man on Seat 61 has good advice about this.

Leisure Activities
It helps to live in areas that the government thinks need a leg up. In Tower Hamlets, for example, there is free tennis and relatively cheap admission to swimming pools.

For theatre, opera, concerts, check out the TKTS website for discounts, or (if appropriate) hunt for student standby tickets or platform seats.

Lots more tips at moneysavingexpert.com.

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Singapore Yacht Show 2012, Chen KeZhan’s Gathering Clouds, Stewardship of Money

May 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa CoveDropped by the Singapore Yacht Show. Calmer feel without the thumping music and yelling children underfoot of Boat Asia 2012. My entry to both shows were complimentary but i think the fee for Boat Asia would have been S$20 and S$50 for SYS.

Lamborghini, Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove

Loads of people in requisite sailor stripes that’s quite the fashion in stores nowadays. Instead of Audi, the luxury car sponsors were BMW (featuring the nice new BMW M5) and Lamborghini. Not sure why the Chaparral 310 Signature was indoors.

Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa CoveIf only Jetsurf would let us have a spin on their jet propelled surf-board and Xtreme Machines had trials for the can-am Spyder and Seadoo!

Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove P428Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove3520
Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove
Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove
Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove
Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove
Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove
Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove

On water exhibits included vessels from Riva (SportRiva 56), the Singaporean Megaway Engineering (Megaway), Feadship (MY Helix), Palmer Johnson (MY Vantage), Westport (yeah, it’s MY Sea Bear again), Aegean Yachts (SY Montigne – loved the little floating platform with enough space for a folding chair), Lagoon (Lagoon 450 and 620), Azimut (Azimut 45 and 53, and MY Hye Seas II). A good number from brokers Northrop and Johnson and Simpson Marine were on hand.

Wasn’t terribly taken by the vessels on offer. Too much dependence on electronics, too much heavy wood, unnecessarily heavy beds and ceramic basins, why were things on the deck placed so that they were not within easy reach or would clutter up the space too easily?, urgh maintenance of timber decks etc.

Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove
Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove

After a bit of grumping while checking out the Beneteau Oceanis 37 and Beneteau Sense 50, a patient broker from Simpson Marine diagnosed my problem:”You’re looking for a performance racing boat, but here they are all luxury boats.” Oh yeah, good point. My bad. But it’s got to be something i can use as a live-on-board houseboat too.

Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove

The trim size of Tartan YachtsDream looked promising but didn’t manage to speak to anyone.

Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa CoveStandout pretty powerboats were ones from Donzi and J Craft (La Bambola was at a private event for Rolls Royce).

Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove
Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove Singapore Yacht Show, One Degree 15 Marina, Sentosa Cove

So, a pleasant stroll to check out the resident boats and facilities.

Chen KeZhan, Gathering Clouds exhibition, Fund-raising for Visual Arts @ Temenggong Residency ProgrammeThen back to mainland to chope a few pieces from Chen KeZhan’s gathering clouds… exhibition at Visual Arts @ Temenggong (VAAT) (Hse 28, 20 and 18, Temenggong Road, Singapore 098775). The artwork was said to “evoke scenes from nature, inspired by the artist’s travels along the Mekong River.” All proceeds from the sale of works were to go towards “funding the Visual Arts @ Temenggong’s international artists in residence programmes that aim to inspire artists from South East Asia and beyond through their experiences of Singapore and its culture. Through their work, they in turn inspire Singaporean artists and enrich the local arts culture.” Happily for the fund, many of his Letters To Myself series had been red dot sticker-ed.

[insert invisible photo here]

28 Temenggong Road had a lovely commanding view of the Harbourfront area, but no photos were allowed within the venue or of the venue “for security reasons”.

(“Art Enclave at Mount Faber”, Business Times, 20 April 2012)

Over the same weekend, someone pointed me to a The Straits Times me & my money feature on Dr. Tan Chi Chiu, mistaking him for my ex-sports doctor, Dr. Ben Tan, of roughly the same era. The Dr. Tan in question stated his belief that money and the means to make money were gifts from God and they ultimately belonged to God. “The Bible instructs Christians to tithe 10 per cent. of their pre-tax income to the Church for the good works of the Church on God’s behalf.”

Not quite what the Scripture seems to say perhaps? Tithing was specifically required of the Israelites in the Old Testament, not of Christians. The reason for tithing was the upkeep of the tribe of Levi (the Levites) who had not been given any land as inheritance in the Promised Land because they were to serve the rest of Israel in the Tent of Meeting (so that the Israelites would not come near the Tent of Meeting, bear sin and die (Numbers 18)) and the tithes were to be their inheritance (Numbers 18:21, Numbers 18:24) instead. Tithes were also to be given to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, “so that they may eat within your towns and be filled” (Deuteronomy 26) because the fruit of the good land had been given to them by God and this was what he wanted to be done with the fruit.

White Rabbit, Beige Rabbit, Aranzi Aronzo, "The Cute Book"So in addition to the physical material good that the tithes wrought, they were also symbolic of one’s worship of God (cf Hebrews 7) by acknowledging that everything came from him and that the best should go to him. They were to say as they laid the first fruits of the agricultural produce that were the subject of tithes in those days before the Levite,”…behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O Lord, have given me.” And this was why the Levites themselves were to tithe the best of the tithes to God (Numbers 18:26). Not too sure about the ten per cent. or making one’s calculation before tax.

When we get to the New Testament era, it is ultimately Jesus who intercedes for us with God. Therefore there is no longer the need for the office of priest. However, we are to pay pastors and other full-time workers as we would feed the ox and cattle that plow or a labourer who works the field (1 Corinthians 9:3-11, 1 Timothy 5:15-18). And while charity work is well and good, what God is concerned with is really full obedience to him in matters, inter alia, of justice, mercy and faithfulness to God (Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42).

However, the point is taken that all we need for life (and any excess!) comes from God. So not just a percentage is due to him. Rather, everything is his and we should only be taking our living expenses. Just like T.T. Durai, the former CEO of the National Kidney Foundation, was not to have allotted only a percentage of NKF funds on kidney patients and spent the rest on gold taps, first class travel and chauffeured cars, so we can’t

So when someone else was expressing his thanks to God for giving him a pay raise and i was alarmed to realise that his new monthly take-home would be equal to my monthly tax payments, it became rather obvious to me that i hadn’t been a good steward of the money God had entrusted to me.

Excess money is quite a responsibility and thus a bit of a burden. And so being a bit of a shirker, i wouldn’t wish for more than my daily bread. If plans go well, perhaps i might have the opposite temptation to sin, since both poverty and riches offer different challenges to loving God, so the inspired Agur prayed:

‘Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
8 keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonour the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9)

But there is still the responsibility, even if given just enough to live on, to feed pastors and sponsor the theological education of future churchworkers and help the poor etc. And then there would also be the temptation to self-righteousness and to idolise spreadsheets of one’s savings.

Alas, sinful mind!

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