Sydney Trains

Opal savings

If you live in Sydney and have to suffer public transport, you’ll probably have your fair share of grips about the recently-introduced Opal Card. Overall, it’s not a bad system from a technological perspective, being the same as the ones used in the much-lauded Singapore and Hong Kong PT systems, but it is expensive. Still, as always, there are ways to save if you know where to look: Use loopholes The Opal fare system contains incentives, such as the Daily and Weekly caps, which can be exploited to reduce your overall spend. For example, you can make substantial savings if […]

Pile of loyalty and rewards cards

Getting the best possible deal – Part 2

In Part 1, we looked some of the ways you could score a discount on purchases in cold, hard dollars. But if you really want to eke the utmost value from your purchase, you should also take into account the many indirect benefits that are available: Credit card reward points: most credit cards issuers offer rewards programs that give you points for spending, therefore paying via credit card is a great opportunity to gain extra value every time you make a purchase. However, this is only beneficial if you pay off your full credit card balance each month – interest […]

Australian $5 note being stretched by a pair of hands.

Getting the best possible deal – Part 1

We’re currently experiencing an interesting time in the economy, with the Australian Dollar losing around 20% value against the US Dollar after a sustained period of being close to parity. Big multinational businesses usually hedge money to smooth out small shifts, but the downturn has been persistent enough that many have moved to increase the prices of their products in response to the situation. What’s unusual however, is companies giving the market an early warning that prices are about to increase drastically. Apple did it towards the beginning of the year, much to the annoyance of its otherwise fiercely loyal […]


Give Foxtel the ‘flix

[Update, March 2015: although Netflix is now available in Australia, this method still applies to allow you to view content from different Netflix regions around the world. Since licensing deals are done on a region-by-region basis different countries have access to different content.] I don’t watch much TV,  partly because the ad-ridden free-to-air channels are never showing anything watching when I feel like watching it (and I don’t care to be a slave to their timetable), and partly because Pay TV services such as Foxtel are so ridiculously overpriced. In spite of this, I don’t condone pirating (illegally downloading) shows […]

Piazza D'oro logo

Piazza D’Oro L’OR EspressO Sublime range review

The Nespresso system is certainly divisive if nothing else. If you’re talking about value for money, the fans say how it’s cheaper than spending much less than the $3 – 4 each day for a decent cup of coffee, and the haters say how much more expensive the pre-packaged system is compared to DIY methods (and we’ll all just ignore that instant even exists…) In the convenience stakes though, it’s a clear winner. Well, at least until you find yourself without any pods. Nespresso only sell the pods directly, in their boutique stores or online, so if you need a […]

Nespresso pods with the coffee grounds removed using the Outpresso.


Last year I bought Jenny a Nespresso machine for her birthday. Whatever you may think of the brand, they do turn out a quality coffee quickly and easily. However, as a conscientious consumer I did take some issue with the pods: you use them once, and then you throw them away. I’ve tried reusing them, and unfortunately they are only good for one cup. Nespresso offers a return-to-base recycling program, but with stores few and far between, it was an inconvenience at best. Looking into the matter, I discovered that some folks in Switzerland (the home of the Nespresso and […]

Costco at Majura Park in the Canberra suburb of Majura, ACT

Counting the cost of Costco

I first wrote about Costco way back in August 2009, but I wasn’t brave enough to be part of the first rush of people to visit. But after the crush of early crowds died down, I finally got around to seeing first hand whether the fuss is justified. It’s not as if I haven’t been to one of these before; on a trip to Canada many years ago I visited a similar monstrosity, and brought back a box of Hershey’s Cookies and Cream chocolate bars that I doled out to my friends. It might be a revelation for Australia, but […]

Close-up of mattress with pillow top removed.

Picking apart a pillow-top mattress

Jenny and I have both been suffering from a number of muscular and back pain problems lately. We initially put it down to our lack of exercise and generally unhealthy lifestyle, and while that’s all too true, we eventually discovered that the mattress was the main culprit. The one that we have was the one we bought when we first got married, so we didn’t skimp, and got a fairly expensive model with a pillow top. This seemed like a good idea at first: it was comfortable, had good support, etc. Fast forward a few years and the pillow top […]

A few scattered coins

Buying yourself more time… literally!

Some things in life simply don’t make sense – for example I recently read that it’s possible to sail faster than the wind. Think about it: how can you go faster than the thing that’s pushing you without introducing an external force? Yes, it’s possible. Another counterintuition I’ve discovered, this time relevant to everyday life, is that money can buy time. I was brought up with Asian values, which is to say practicality trumps everything when it comes to finances. A perfect illustration of this is if one of your grandparents overseas died, and you don’t attend the funeral because […]

Stylised graphic of a train

Close to home

Not very long ago I worked in a job where it only took 15 minutes by car each way to and from work, door to door (and not just on a good day – I go against the traffic). Recently, I’ve been working in the city, and the commute is 45 minutes each way, door to door (and that’s if there isn’t some delay with the trains). In essence I’ve lost about an hour each day, an hour where I would previously have done my gardening or made dinner. That one extra hour per day, considering your average 8 hour […]