Monday, September 19, 2011

Frugal Life - is it really that dreary or a smart thing to do?

Why the Secret?

Shhh! Don't let on that we are frugal! Why the secrecy? It can be a good thing, you know. In fact be glad you know how to be frugal. Its the in thing right now.


Frugal! Once upon a time people would shy away from using such words to describe themselves. Today its just the reverse! With rapid rising cost of living, we have to use our common sense and wisdom to know how to live a quality lifestyle without too much unnecessary frivolous spending.

Of course we love to spend! Its how you spend that matters.

Of course we all do spend extravagantly once a while, depending on the occasion and our budget. To be frugal is smart and gives a sense of satisfaction.

Frugal living to me means spending wisely, on good quality products and fresh and tasty food. It does not mean eating scraps of old veggies bought from the discount corner. It does not mean buying overripe mangoes which cannot be eaten and bananas which should be delegated to the garbage bin the next day.

Waste not, Want not

It simply means knowing what to buy, where to buy and choosing your menu carefully. I used to overstock my pantry as I seldom have time to shop leisurely lately. Too much fresh perishable foods in the fridge may be wasted if we decided to eat out for a few meals.

Eating out can be great too

Sometimes eating out is great, a wonderful treat when we eat with family and friends. But there had been times where we felt regret for spending a lot of money for poor quality food. A whole bowl of noodles with a few scraps of chicken and 2 tiny prawns, some vegetables. That may cost up to RM13, excluding extra vegetables and drink. An average meal for 2 may cost between Rm20 to Rm30.

DQ Organic Chicken?

For Rm40 we can buy a small DQ organic chicken and some fresh vegetables. And that is enough for a simple meal for up to 4 - 5 persons. Just increase the variety with something cheap and nutritious like eggs or fried ikan bilis or a quick soup tofu veggie made from some bony parts of the chicken.

Eating Well

I had been reading on frugal cooking and realise the food can be as interesting and tasty as some expensive cuts of meat and exotic vegetables and fruits. I also learnt that its better to eat food grown locally as Allah has created food good for us within our own vicinity. He is Most Wise, Kind. Even needy folks can have healthy, tasty nutritious meals from their backyard. We have become so sophisticated that we end up paying lots of money for imported food that may not yield us maximum benefits.

Blessed with lots of great fruits and vegetables

Just think papayas, pineapple, mangoes, watermelon, yams, sweet potatoes and even local avocado and promegranates. Lime, starfruit, coconuts, mangosteen, guava, rambutan and pomelos are all rich in different nutrients. we do not have to travel the world to look for our vitamins and antioxidants.The problem is we usually do not have time or inclination to eat with discipline, wisdom and care.

Colourful Palette

A simple guideline is to look for a colourful palette when we choose our fruits. Every colour has its own special qualities. We can also enjoy sweetness with gula melaka.

Even local produced fruits and vegetables are no longer cheap so imported ones are even more so. Lots of fresh and raw live food and less meat and white products like refined white flours, rice, sugars etc. We cannot guarantee good health or long life but at least we can make an effort to care for ourselves and our loved ones on a daily basis.

Quality food and healthy cooking

Frugal also means choosing generally less expensive foods and products without sacrificing quality and enjoyment. Buying quality products that can last longer and provide more satisfaction .

How to

Good to steam, bake or stir fry our food. Soups and salads are easy and quick to prepare.

Cheap does not mean economical

Sometimes it is frugal to buy a more expensive product if it is of superior quality and within our budget. Just make sure we make good use of it and not let it collect dust in a corner.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Really hard to say 'no' to someone

Is it easy to refuse to help someone?

Is it easy to say 'no'? Does it give us a sense of power to refuse someone's request or appeal or cry for help? Having that power or ability is a heavy responsibility. It doesn't have to be something very important but if we have to make a decision it may mean responsibility and accountability in some cases.

Like when students appeal for scholarships, people who ask for credit because they need to put food on the table for their children, people who cannot pay for their car instalments though they need the car for their work.

Why do I accept this responsibility?

Some of us take on the challenge or rather, burden of accepting donations and zakat contributions from friends. They ask us to distribute them to genuine needy cases, people who do not know how to apply for help at official avenues, such as Bait ulmal or the local religions departments. We do this because we are seeking Allah's pleasure and rewards.

Great Responsibility

It is such a heavy responsibility. It feels real bad to say no to someone when we do actually have some cash in our pocket for charity. If its for zakat we need to make sure its given to the eligible recepients or else we are guilty of misappropriating the funds. If its just normal charity then we can give to anybody, even those who are not yet Muslim. Or obvious non believers, in the hope it can alleviate their hardship and soften their hearts. Just any needy person.

A lot of tension in trying to say 'no'

The past few days I had been getting many sms from 2 particular persons. Among the many people we distributed zakat and seqedah, these two received the most, perhaps 4 times as much as some others. I gave them my own and my family's zakat and sedeqah. Since its my own contribution I felt free to give to whoever I want. I gave to them because I know them and really feel sorry for their difficult situation. As they do not earn much and have so many responsibilities, once is never enough.

Besides that I also gave when I received extra from friends. In Ramadhan both of them were recommended to receive zakat from a bank, via an ngo. They claimed they received only rm500 and not rm1000 which I was led to believe.

It is still a huge amount, considering most of the others received only perhaps rm200 for the whole of Ramadhan, except for the 10 or so people who probably all received rm500. This is certainly much more than one can ever hope for from Bait ulmal during Ramadhan. They have to give a lot more to many thousands of people.

A great deal of whining?

It sounds a lot of whining but what I am trying to say is its really stressful when these people keep on asking for more and more even through Shawal. They feel that they have a right to receive and so they are very persistent.

It is good to help whenever they genuinely need assistance but that is the duty of Bait ulmal, the official body that collects zakat from all over the country. We are just individuals who try to help out in a small way.

If we have only rm1000 for distribution, and there are 50 people out there, what can we do? RM100 cannot pay for much these days. I realise its not much help but its still a means to meeting some expenses. Even I have to juggle my own expenses each month and who do I go for help?

What reason do I need?

When I still have extra zakat and sedeqah in my purse, I feel I ought to give it to them because they genuinely need it. Yes, I can give it for that reason.

But what about the many others whom I just discovered? Many of them also have good reasons why they need the extra help. And they did not ask or bother their friends about their money problems.

A test from Allah

In Islam we are supposed to seek out such humble and dignified people and offer them help. They try their best not to burden others and are shy to put their hands out to receive. Alhamdulidllah! They still accept their hardship with patience and carry on working and striving to improve their livelihood. They know it is all a test from Allah to see who are best in their deeds and action.

Dignified in times of calamity

Dignified even in hardship. How I admire such patient people. May Allah help them and reward them.

Do I need to toughen myself up?

Should I say 'no' to those who insist on asking for more all the time? Should I think of their poor innocent kids and relent? Or should I toughen myself up and keep on saying 'no' so that I can extend a helping hand to some other brother and sister?

Giving In is easy

Or should I just give, because we are supposed to help anyone who asks for help? Do we want for our brother what we want for ourselves? If I can afford to have a proper meal daily, should I decide to deprive my brother the right? If I give it to A, am I fair to B and C and D?

I had to say 'no' to two people today

Today I had to say no to two persons. They had received the most zakat and sedeqah for the whole of Ramadhan. Including the bank zakat ,they must have received around Rm1500 each, not counting zakat from other ngos etc. Yet they are the only ones who are asking again and again in Shawal. I feel very disturbed and sad to say no but I am thinking of some stranger who is out there, crying to Allah and waiting for someone to stretch out his or her hand to help someone in need. It may be someone whom we can motivate and show that someone cares.

Different situations, different needs

Many women with children need help because the husband left them, or had fallen ill, or lost his job and business. Today a friend mentioned a lorry driver who lost his lorry and business suddenly. He has 5 children to support. Another lady has a useless and mean revert husband who beat her and ate from her earnings and yet did not appreciate her at all. Yet another revert is in depression because the husband is irresponsible. A revert brother who has 9 kids had been in hospital because of heart trouble. All these people need help too. if I try to help A, what about B, C and D?

Is helping people spoiling them? Don't we spoil our loved ones?

Is that the same? Or different?

Had I been spoiling the both of them for the past many years until they become so dependant ? I know they also received zakat from others but they cleverly kept quiet about it. Now they want more, sometimes for genuine reasons but the point is they did not plan wisely and save for their needs. Telling me to pity his two daughters because he could not pay their bus fare for sekolah agama is supposed to make me feel guilty. Yes, I do feel extremely guilty. He succeded the last time when I gave in to his demands.

He is repeating it again. Many people earn about the same and yet did not get any extra help from friends. They still managed. They survived and they did not have to resort to multiple sms requests and reminders to put money into their bank accounts via atm.

Yes, they do not even bother to come to ask. Its all via sms and telling us which bank to go to.All of them have different banks, and I have to accommodate. It never occurred to them that we are only volunteers and do not have the time to drive all over the place to find parking etc. I have two personal cheques that needs to be banked into my own account for weeks and I still have not found time to do it. Yet I have to do it for them on demand. Ironic isn't it?

Mental Strain

I do feel mentally tired by all this. To make it easy I guess I will just have to give the whole amount that's been entrusted to one single needy person and not bother to answer such sms demands for some time.

Sometimes someone may say things like their family situation is so bad, all the burden is on them, children are disobedient and husband manipulative, on and on. Whenever I say no they say they feel like ending their lives because they see no future or way out.

Like a vicious circle I have to advise them and hope they do not do anything really foolish or desperate. Reverts have no help or support. They do not know where else to go. I am just afraid if I did not respond I may have to answer for my lack of response. How am I going to live with that? A great challenge and test....

I need to take time out.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nice to be back!

Great to be back - been too distracted to blog

As Salam everyone! Phew! the days just flew by, so many activities, commitments, work and more work, trying to make it the best Ramadhan ever! Yes! We all do try and while we succeeded in some aspects, we still could not make our Ramadhan as good as we hoped.

Its the effort and intention that counts

Its the effort and niyyah that counts, I hope. Sometimes we were just too tired, trying to please so many people - just as they were trying to please others too. All for the sake of Allah, so no effort or kind thought was wasted insha Allah.

Alhamdulilllah! We completed Ramadhan

Alhamdulillah we were given the chance to complete our fasting and ibadah for the whole of Ramadhan. We do not know when our name would be called and its a great loss to miss out on the many blessings and rewards of Ramadhan. Anyway Allah knows best and He rewards whom He pleases.

Missing loved ones very much

This Ramadhan I especially missed my parents who have passed on, insha Allah relieved of their worldly pains and burdens. I miss my dear beloved sisters and friends who are no longer here with us. Their participation in our iftars, sharing their delicious home made food, their advice and worshiping Allah together, praying for peace, good health and forgiveness.

Kindness never forgotten

Though all our beloved family members and friends can never ever be with us again, their goodness and kindness. Their love and caring, their infectious joy and laughter can never be forgotten. What we experienced with them was also a blessing and gift from Allah, loaned to us for a borrowed time.

Give thanks all the time

Alhamdulillah, its good to give thanks and be grateful for the special moments shared than lamenting our loss. Soon we too will leave our beloved family and friends. Even when we are not ready. No one is ever quite ready to leave this worldly life.

Where will we go when we have to go?

Where will we be going? What kind of journey will we undergo? How to prepare ourselves so we can face our imminent journey with patience and great hope? Lets be strong and support each other though words of encouragement, support and love.

Forgive each other when we make some mistakes or were weak. Do not keep your anger as its harmful for all parties. Do not keep finding fault in others as that may lead to contempt and contempt may eventually lead to arrogance.

Let us depend on Allah's Mercy as all the good deeds of this world cannot guarantee our place in Jannah.

Humbly asking for your forgiveness

People should not feel shy or akward to ask for forgivness all the time. Sometimes we ask for forgivness not because we are guilty of any wrong doing but because we are afraid we have sinned without realising it or have been careless and weak. And sometimes because we had sinned knowingly and I not blame shaitan for that. It just feels good to ask to be forgiven sincerely as it will insha Allah improve the friendship and love between each other.

Forgive me my dear brothers and sisters for any mistakes or wrongdoings. Being human makes me weak and susceptible to making mistakes and sins all the time. I do need to clean my slate as much as possible.