A Budget Friendly Dog

PrincessHound Sunbathing

Recently one of my friends had a family emergency and I was watching their one-year old beautiful Golden Retriever for a week.

First 5 minutes of the lovely Golden in the house, she dashed outside and made a bee-line to the puddle in the yard, and started rolling and splashing around. My blood pressure went through the roof instantaneously. I then spent the rest of my lunch hour cleaning and drying her.

Mr. CodeJunkie wisely commentated this incident as “a reminder of what it is like to have a real dog in the house.”

PrincessHound Tali has been in my household for nearly 5 years now. And sometimes I forget that she’s there. Most of the time, you will find her sleeping on her own couch (yes, she has her own couch, the only furniture in the living room) and greeting passerby with the occasional ‘you-are-disturbing-my-nap’ gaze.

I suppose she is a rather low-maintenance dog, caveat the fact that when I first adopted her, she chewed up a couch, my bed, broke various glasses. At some point she ate a plastic water bottle. To this date, I’d still like to know, if it was tasty or just crunch? She also flooded the living room with cooking oil not too long ago. Woo, going on a rant over there.

Despite all of that! Here are the things retired racing greyhounds are unbeatable when compared with other popular breeds:

  • Low hair maintenance – short hair is so much better than long hair. No need to spend $$$ on grooming!
  • Barely barks – only bark when she absolutely needs to go to the bathroom, or you stepped on her foot.
  • Low anxiety level – sleeps 95% of the day away. It’s hard to stress out when you are sleeping.
  • Low walk maintenance – does not need to be walked. I think sometimes she gets tired just by looking outside, especially when it is raining.
  • Does not like to be wet – When the yard is wet, she tip-toes around the grass to get minimal contact to water. Easy to clean!
  • Wide variety – there is a large number of greyhounds retiring everyday. Whatever color, gender, and temperament (to a certain extent) you are looking for, you can find.
  • No puppy-phase – Greyhounds are generally adult dogs when they retire. You skip the puppy phase (which from what I heard could be nightmare-ish for this breed. Some call them “chainsaw with legs.”)
  • No training needed – Retired Racing Greyhound comes crate trained, house trained, leash trained. Cannot beat this.
  • Tracking – all racing greyhounds were microchipped when they were babies, so no need to pay for tracking devices.
  • Genetic Health – greyhounds were bred with rigorous rules and regulations (and incentives!) to produce the best performing puppies and prevent inbred. Therefore, they are pure bloods, but have very little genetic issues for large dogs such as hip displacement.
  • Conversation starter – I always get stopped whenever I bring Tali anywhere. People like to be confirmed they can correctly identify the breed of your dog. “Is that a GREYHOUND?” “yes, yes it is.” I once heard a little kid asking his mom if he could pet my pony.
  • No special treats – This may just be Tali but for some reason she really loves bananas. I have never bought dog treats for her. She is super happy eating bananas or leftover breakfast eggs for treats. 

All of this being said, of course, no dog is still cheaper than having a dog, even if it is a greyhound.

Here are the expenses PrincessHound has:

  • Dog food – I get the premium Walmart brand. $34.44 for 30 lbs. $1.15 per lb. This lasts about a month.
  • Rabies shot
  • Ticks and heart worm medicine – I used to not have to do this when we lived in California. Thanks Arkansas. I found a cheap generic brand from Sam’s Club for half the price.
  • A couch – also from Walmart ($176). Cheaper and fancier than a dog bed. I imagined Tali laying on this chaise lounge while other dog servant fed her grapes and entertained her with Greek plays.

Things PrincessHound doesn’t need:

  • Lots of dog toys
  • Expensive dog food and treats
  • Dog clothing
  • Lots of attention and time
  • Special treats

Of course, the time and comfort Tali has given to the family cannot be discounted by mere dollar signs. If you must have a dog like I do, but still want an easily maintained dog, greyhound might be a good option for you!

This is where I adopted Tali. The facility is in a rural area in San Diego. You can also do a quick search on google for the “nearest greyhound rescue center.”

In Searching for a Perfect Small Mountain Town

In light of the desperate desire to convince Mr. CodeJunkie to move to Colorado, we made a week long trip out there in January to see what it’s like to live next to the mountains. I have conducted a very caveman style experiment of comparing living expenses in Colorado vs. Bentonville.

I visited two grocery stores while in Colorado. One in Estes Park outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, and one in Colorado Springs (Old Colorado City King Sooper). Below are the results.

NW ArkansasEstes Park,
Coconut Milk$1.98$4.99152.02%
Jasmine Rice$17.48$27.9860.07%
Seltzer Water$3.38$4.9947.63%
Chicken Thighs$8.65$22.06154.96%
Ground Beef$13.97$10.83-22.51%
Shin Noodles$6.76$7.297.84%

Estes Park was noticeably higher than Bentonville (by 52% to be exact). We noticed it even before walking out of the store because a bag of groceries usually costing us about $50 at home were $105 that night. The only thing on this list that was cheaper than Bentonville was the ground beef, which actually isn’t very true because in Estes Park we only found 80% lean beef while we usually eat 93% lean at home (more expensive beef). 

NW ArkansasColorado Springs,
Dark Chocolate$3.18$2.99-5.97%
Barilla Pasta$1.28$1.4916.41%
Coconut Milk$1.98$2.3920.71%
Jasmine Rice$17.48$19.9914.36%

Colorado Springs was a lot more friendlier to my wallet than Estes Park. Some of the items are even cheaper than Bentonville, which is surprising considering Walmart pride themselves to be “the lowest price retailer.” 

Even though Colorado Springs is quite comparable to Northwest Arkansas in terms of groceries, real estate is a slightly different story. A 3 bedroom 2 bath usually costs about 220k in Bentonville will cost at least 300k in Colorado Springs. This alone will set us back for a good 80k (which is about 1.5 years) behind on our early retirement calculation. However, the impeccable location near the mountains, rock climbing areas, and many impressive hiking spots makes Colorado Springs an easy decision.

Colorado Springs is a great next-step city in the next 2 years. In the meantime, we plan on visiting Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, and Washington in hoping to find similar small economical mountain towns not too far away from a good airport. Comment below if you have any suggestions!

Exploration for the Soul

Photo by Fabrizio Conti on Unsplash

In 2006, I got accepted by a small liberal art college in America. I bought a one-way ticket flew from China to the U. S. with two biggest check-in suitcases the airline allowed, and settled in the Mid-West for four years.

The first trip is for adventure, a new life. Along the way, I learned the American culture, religions (mostly Christianity, some Muslim, Mormon, Buddhism). I earned dual degrees in Accounting and Philosophy (mainly because I couldn’t decide to either go with my passion or have a secure job).

I was hungry to learn every aspect of being an American, and what the American Dream really means to an immigrant. I made a lot of friends, who taught me how to drink, what ‘formal’ is, kept me on track with homework, and how to find a summer job.

Years later, I took a month to visit Europe. I packed everything I needed for a month in a backpack and visited London, Edinburgh, Paris, Florence, and Venice.

I was going through some emotional pains in my life and feeling some turmoils from my career. I decided to quit my job and say goodbye to my marriage. After the two big pillars of my life, marriage and career, crumbled to the ground, I wanted to put my own needs first. I didn’t know exactly what I need, but I thought it’d be cool to see Europe. I realized for the first time that I have been rather harsh with myself in the past, holding myself up to a ridiculous standard trying to be a great worker and a fantastic wife. As it turns out, I should care less about what others perceived of me, and treated myself with more kindness.

This trip taught me to look at myself from a loving friend’s perspective. In turn, I am more patient and understanding of other people’s turmoils in life, and I understood more on the importance of mental health. I learned to enjoy being alone with myself.

Over time, looking back on all the travels I have done, I have grown tired of visiting the famous sightseeings / instagram spots of the world. I started to appreciate the smaller things in life, the way people live in different parts of the world, sometimes by choice, sometimes in their own circumstances and limitations. In Japan and Europe, people living with minimal possessions, with more intentions; in Lesotho (Africa), people trying to survive only on eating local fruits and grains while struggling to find clean water; in China, people submerged in capitalism while desperately looking for the purpose of life; and in New Zealand, people who touches every tree, every patch of grass, completely immersed in nature. It is mind blowing to see that one culture’s taboo is another culture’s treasure.

We can choose to live however we want despite the society and the people around us. It is hard when you are the abnormal one in comparison, but it’s a choice you make. Do you design the life you want to live, or let others tell you what a perfect life is suppose to look like? What is the way you want to live?

For me, the exploration of different ways to live a life never stops.

How I Quit the Big 4

Photo by Simone Hutsch on Unsplash

February 2020 marks three years since my last day at the largest professional services firm in Los Angeles. In spring 2017, I told myself that I will no longer be working for consulting companies. I quit the Big 4 and packed everything I had and moved to a small town in Arkansas.

I thought I would miss being in the Big 4. After all, there were some great, brilliant, and damn inspiring people working there. When I was searching for jobs outside of the Big 4, I was also reading online articles about people quitting consulting for a smidgen of validation. I was scared to see what my life would be like in the industry. Scared that I may make the wrong choice, that I have to go(crawl) back to the big 4 because I miss the money, the status, the flight & hotel points, the vast amount of exciting projects, and awesome opportunities to run into Hollywood stars once in a year (PwC audited Oscar). How can I leave all of that behind and still be happy? Surely I would be missing the bougie office and the prestige of working at THE biggest professional service firm in the world. What if I don’t like industry? What if all my coworkers are dumb, inefficient, incoherent, backward, bible-thumping conservatives living in the deep south?

I took the leap. Honestly, to this day, I don’t know what made me finally change my mind and accept this job offer but I did. As it turns out, after I quit, I never looked back (for at least 3 years until I started writing this article!)

It’s understandable that people want to go into the Big 4. There is a lot of fantastic career experience to be had and to put on your resume. If someone coming straight out of college asks me whether they should go into the Big 4 or industry, I’d still recommend going into the Big 4 first. It is almost another schooling system except you also get paid (low-paying slavery). You learn some hard stuff, like how to work with the manager who micro-manages everything, how to work under pressure (because the client must have it NOW and it’s always an emergency), how to learn an industry quickly and be able to bullshit some stories back to your client. You learn some other stuff that you probably won’t need, like a snobby taste for coffee (because EVERYONE talks about it), wine, and food, constant competition with your coworkers on who has the most hotel/flight points and highest status of the privilege of living in a fancier tiny box-sized room for days on end, and all the fancy watch brand you’ve never heard of. You love the font Georgia and you spell out numbers under 10.

In the midst of all that, passing the CPA exam, and wondering whether you’ve completely lost your soul along with the will to live, your client calls (yet again) for ‘follow up questions’ on the report you sent over, life has sped up and passed you by. Oh sure, the firms tell you that there is “work-life integration” (they don’t call it work-life balance anymore because there IS NO balance.). They showcase single moms rocking a partner position while feeding their 2-year-old baby, with a subtitle “the firm is so flexible with me through all my life stages.” You drink the cool-aid and dream about one day becoming a partner at the firm. How fabulous and glorious would that moment be?

Quitting PwC gave me another opportunity to see the world from a different perspective, one that is not completely driven by fame and status. I started to discover my own meaning of life, something that’s other than how much money I make, my staff level, whether I’ve been put on an international project, and where have I gone on exotic vacation resorts.

Life started for me after the Big 4. Since quitting, I’ve bought a small house, planted five fruit trees, ran three marathons, learned how to rock climb, and hiked & camped outside multiple days in a row. I have renovated my fixer-upper, learned how to paint, how to use chisels and planers, and even a circular saw! I had no idea that any of these were waiting for me at the end of the tunnel outside of the Big 4.

If you are still in the Big 4 and wanting to quit, you are burned out and felt there is nowhere to turn, it is time to take action. The worst that could happen is you spend a year in the industry and hate it. You can always go back (proven by my friend who went back to PwC Ireland that had a better work-life balance). But trust me, you probably will never look back.