Friday, May 2, 2014

How to use credit cards and earn not just reward points but real money

We all, okay, at least a lot of us use credit cards and I'm assuming most of us know how it is beneficial. It is so much more convenient to pay bills, buy goods, convert large purchases to EMIs etc. all on credit - money that's loaned to us. And most credit cards offer a 52 day or so rolling credit. What this essentially means is that the bank is offering you an interest free loan for 52 days. Of course, that doesn't actually translate to 52 days if you make your purchase on the last day of your billing cycle, but if you do schedule your purchases during the first 15 days of your billing cycle, it offers quite an opportunity to not only save money but earn more out of it.
There are dime a dozen articles and blog posts out there explaining why you should pay off your credit card debt in full every billing cycle and I'm not going to go into it. In a nutshell, if you pay off your credit card bill every month/cycle in full, you essentially pay zero interest. Now, keeping this in mind, consider the following scenario
Let us assume you get your salary on the first day of the month. Now, let us assume that your credit card billing cycle is from the 11th of the current month to the 10th of the next month. This means that you receive your credit card bill on the 10th of every month and the due date for which (assuming a 52 day rolling credit) is 30th of every month. 
This being the case, you have money lying in your savings bank account earning a measly 4% (average SB interest rates in most banks today) until you pay off your card. Obviously, paying off your Credit card bill immediately is foolish. Even if that money sits in a regular savings bank account, it is earning interest for you, albeit at a lower interest than it can. So, ideally, the best thing would be to pay off your card 3-4 days before the last day, because the transaction takes 3 days to get processed and hence, this would make sure that it gets processed before the due date and you aren't held responsible if there's a delay in processing because of system issues. Our goal is to make the money sitting in our SB account work harder between the 10th and the 30th of every month. 
Now that we have the boring facts out of the way, here's the life hack to make more money. If you don't already have an account in State bank of India, get one immediately, for it is the only bank (that I know of at the time of writing this post) that makes this hack super simple and extremely convenient. Read further to know more.
Okay, so, now you've gotten an account in SBI, assuming you've got your internet banking setup and are able to login, view transactions etc. and also your PAN associated with the account (this is mandatory for many transactions that you will need to do and be the good citizen and not evade tax), let's see how to make some extra money. This may not be a lot of money, but any money is good money and for a small effort from your side, it offers a lot of advantages. 
In case you have your salary being deposited in SBI already, good. If not, it's alright. We have the power of NEFT/IMPS. As soon as your salary gets credited to your account, using one of the two methods, transfer the money that you think you would owe the credit card company when the bill for the current cycle gets generated. You must have a fair idea of this. If not, you have bigger problems to worry about. In our example, on the 1st of the month, I transfer the money (that I think would be the bill for this month) to the SBI account. NEFT/IMPS would charge me a service fee for this transfer. It doesn't matter. We'll be making much more money than this. I prefer IMPS because it is available 24x7 even on holidays and charges are similar to NEFT's. 
Now comes the best part. SBI offers a product called online term deposit (eTDR). We need to open this account using the money that we transferred. Now, the minimum duration of this account is 7 days. SBI is the only bank that offers this. All other banks offer much higher minimum durations and the interest rates are better than a regular SB account only for accounts greater than a year, which makes all other banks TDs unattractive for our purpose. 
So, open an eTDR account and choose 7 days as the duration. Choose "Autorenew principal and repay interest" option. It'll give you an option to choose the duration for reinvestment. Choose 7 days in that too. So, what this essentially does is that it credits the interest earned by this account to your SB account every 7 days and the original principal is reinvested for a further 7 days. What makes this very attractive is the fact that this account offers a 7.5% interest v/s a mere 4% that SB offers at the time of writing this post. The interest is credited immediately and not quarterly like in a regular SB account. Also, in a regular SB account, the interest is calculated on a daily balance basis, and hence if the amount is withdrawn in between, you lose the interest for those days. Since this is almost like a fixed deposit account, you can't take the money out without premature closure.

And 3-4 days before your due date for credit card payment, you can close this account and the amount including the interest as on that day minus the penalty for pre-closure (only for the last 7-day cycle), is immediately credited to the SB account associated with this account. You can then pay off your credit card using this money. And if you are using HDFC card, use this link to pay the card directly from the SBI account and avoid any NEFT charges again to transfer to the HDFC account.

Pro tip: If any of your friends owe you money and you have a HDFC credit card, you can ask them to use the link above to pay your card directly with the amount they owe instead of paying you cash. This will save them NEFT charges as well.

Keep in mind that this interest earned is NOT tax-free. You will have to include all this interest earned when you calculate your taxable salary for the year and pay the tax on it according to the slab you fall under. Despite this, this is a good method to make your money work harder for you while still keeping it fairly liquid.

So, that's how you make your credit card usage earn you real money! Leave a comment and let me know if you know of better ways that you've come across or implement yourself.  Also, let me know if there are other banks that offer better interest rates with the same safety guarantee (in terms of trust) that SBI offers.

Until next time... Happy investing!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Transformers

Cinema. Yes, the almost omnipresent medium that arguably contributes to the majority of impressions, prejudices and philosophies through its  rhetoric on young minds especially during their impressionable ages. At least on me - it did. Cinema coupled with the preconceived notions on society, on the rights and wrongs and consequently our behaviour toward the existence of such deeds, of our parents, make us who we are, but does it end there? The making of a gentleman or a lady?
There comes the age at which nothing is taken at face value. Everything is questioned. Everything is viewed with a sense of  scepticism. Every single thing urging us to rebel against the system. To bring about a change, but change isn't always necessarily good, is it? Not until the realisation, that some things are better left unchanged, dawns upon us. The old adage of "If it ain't broke don't fix it" proving to be the solution to most problems.
And then comes the age of a higher aspiration. An aspiration to become a better human being, a better person, a better role model to the next generation. To not be a burden on this earth. To contribute something meaningful and make someone else's life a little bit more easier, a little bit more comfortable, a little bit less harsh at the very least.
What brings about this transformation? Who is the transformer? Is it just cinema alone? Is it my parents whom I want to make proud? Is it the girl I want to impress through my chivalry? Am I natively chivalrous or am I doing it only for others' eyes? Is it the next door neighbours' kids who I want to look up to me? Is it my earning capacity that has put me in touch with the slightly more affluent society where things considered taboo earlier in my middle class upbringing are no more so?
Why do my perspectives change? Why do my belief systems change? Who am I trying to be? Why do I put on a show? Is it all just a play? Am I taking others' opinions too seriously? or am I just not caring at all?

Are these what make one a person who they are?
Food for thought.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Bombay bug

For all the glory of being christened the silicon valley of India, for all the hustle and bustle and activity, for all the unplanned development, for all the traffic snarls, for all the lack of infrastructure, for all the insufficient public transport systems, For all the low-rise buildings,  the "Swalpa adjust maadi" city of Bangalore, despite all this, is still very laid back compared to Bombay, or should I be saying Mumbai?

Just a 1000KM away and yet a world of difference. For starters.. there are just SO MUCH MORE PEOPLE! A city that's smothered by a haze of smoke is in direct contrast to the people living in it. The warmth of the people and their penchant to follow the rules can be seen when the Autorickshaws charge not a penny more than the meter and the Taxis cost only incrementally more than the Autos. From the amazingly lip-smacking yet cheap street food to the swanky Palladium mall, I wanted to take it all in.

Yes, I was bitten by the Bombay bug. The city as a way of seeping into your senses, crawl into your vein and before you know it, you're a Mumbaikar too! A thousand posts before this would've talked about this beautiful, yet polluted city. A million different posts would've talked about the woes that bog it down. And an equal number that call it "Slumbai". So, I am not going to talk about any of those. What I AM going to talk about instead is the kind of bug that bit me. The travel bug!

I've been in Bangalore all my life. I used to joke, once upon a time, about how the northern most part of India that I've been to was Tirupati. Yeah. That held true for a very long time in my life. *Hangs head down in shame* Although I was the adventurous kind, I never was given the opportunity or permission to venture out anywhere on my own. And when I didn't need the permission, I still hadn't saved up enough to afford to just pack my bags and leave. As a result, I am yet (yes, to date *Hangs head in shame again*) to visit a lot of places even around Bangalore. The first time I really was on my own in another city was when I was sent to Germany on work. What a beautiful experience that was! but that's for another post, another time. Moving on...
So, when I got to know that I'm being sent to Bombay, I promised myself to break out of my shell and not sit on my backside just warming my seat. Since I didn't know if, a very BIG IF or when next I'll ever be going back to Mumbai, I decided to make the best possible use of my time to explore both the city and all that was humanly possible around it. BOY! was I in for a surprise. Suddenly the time on hand was terribly insufficient to cover all the places I wanted to see.

I got out of the city every chance that I got and explored as much as I could given the money and time I could spare. The travel bug had finally caught me after me being elusive to it for all these years when in Bangalore. Bombay made me realise how there is SO MUCH to explore even in and around Bangalore. The city did change something fundamentally about me. It gave a whole new perspective. So, I've decided to continue my adventures even after I returned. After a whole month of settling down back in Bangalore, now I can pay heed to my travel urge. (Honestly, I was just procrastinating but shhhh...). I'm planning to kick it off with a bike trip to Lepakshi tomorrow. All going well, this plan should come to fruition. Let's see. I'll update this post with pics from that trip if it happens, or may be a whole new post for it altogether.

I know I've made you wait this long to know where all I had been to and what all I had seen and done in Maharashtra (if you've not been following me on Google+ or instagram or Facebook). So, without any further ado... 

Here are the pics: 

I'm yet to compile the older photos from Elephanta and Mumbai itself. So, I'll update this post once it is done. 

And finally, a BIG thanks to Google search and maps for helping me figure out and get my facts checked before venturing out blind. Who knows, I would've probably ended up being mugged somewhere or worse, if not for being armed with prior info. So terribly grateful for that not happening :D 

Until the next adventure then (hopefully soon)...

Happy travelling!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Proverbial Retrospection: 2013 and Thanksgiving

I'm going to do away with the pleasantries and dive right in as I suspect this is going to be a long post. You've been warned.

Last year ended with quite a bang with me attending a Carnatic kutcheri and a (large scale) music concert (that too ARR's) for the first time in my life. What an experience that was! So, naturally this year had a lot to do to outdo last year. 

It started off slowly... work-wise.. same old project continuing from last year, some friends moving to other cities... +Apoorva Sripathi Don't forget us ;) and some friends from other cities moving in to Bangalore +Ashwini Poovaiah Hello, madam. And some wayfarers +vishesh unni raghunathan. New groups were formed, both physically and on (dreads mentioning the name for the fear of another deluge of spam) whatsapp. New friendships made :) And some lost :( More people from twitter met. Chennai visits put. Festivals celebrated. And being forbidden from celebrating any more for a year because of a death in the family. You know... the routine stuff.
Except... I started to learn French! No, not the swear words that we ask to be pardoned as french. Actual French. Française! Oui. À l'Alliance Française de Bangalore. 

This was totally unexpected. After trying to enrol for German course and failing because of underestimating the demand for it and the limited number of seats, I was contemplating to not wait another 6 months and enrol for French in the meanwhile.After I heard that +Malvika Iyer was also going to enrol in the Chennai branch of AF, she induced more enthusiasm and contemplation turned into a decision and I didn't waste another moment. The very next day, I went to Alliance Française's office and enrolled myself. One of the best decisions this year. Although, later I got to know that +Malvika Iyer dropped the idea because she didn't get the time-slot that she wanted. Here's hoping she gets to join the next time around. This was a weekend course and I had set myself up for no weekend-getaways for the next 6 months. Not that I was a travelling all the time even otherwise but was planning to start. Never found the time, company or the money for it. Meh.
The spontaneous Coimbatore visit gave some impulse to rethink some of my priorities. Though the purpose of that visit wasn't fulfilled, it didn't matter. 

Despite my bloody boring non-drinking, non-dancing life that one might think I'm leading, I had a pretty good time. After all, what are friends for. The numerous movies that we went to. The numerous meets. The couple of game-nights that I had with them. Oh what FUN! Really good times indeed! And the numerous instances of random tweetups. +Vinay Kumaar, +Benjamin Jeevanraj+ershad kaleebullah+Ranjani Krishnakumar, the other +Ranjani S ,+Sreedhar Panaman+Aravind AM+preethi Sundararaman , +Harish V, +Viju R+Gopal Padmanabhan Thanks guys for the memories created for a lifetime!
I also got to know a birthday sharer +Neeraja Nagarajan *Hi5*.

Special mention - My chaddi buddy +Madana Prathap for being condescending as ever and pulling me back to earth when I floated away into the clouds. +Vinod E for the numerous attestations (Thanks to your Dad), for instances where I made you the driver. I owe you big time, brother. +Vinny Wilfred Though I've not seen you in a long time, here's to say that I still remember you :P All the best in the upcoming year, man :)
And how can I forget this crazy fellow +Rajagopalan Venkataraman. Thanks for the free accommodation that night, lifesaver. Welcome back to Bangalore. Here's to more good times. 
One extra-special mention to my new NRI acquaintance who's now become a friend +divya Shivaram. Such a darling she was to carry my lightsabers all the way from UK and hand-delivered to me. Nandri hai very much. Can't wait to see you when you land soon :)

Three weddings from the twitter world were attended - one +Mirnalini Venkatraman's  and the other +Madhumitha Ramachandran's and another +Gopal Padmanabhan's . Wishing you the best in this second innings of your life, guys maamis and maamaa :P

Big thanks to Twitter for helping me getting to know so many wonderful people. 

What was different this year, though was toward the tail-end. As the last quarter of the year rolled in, it ushered in some new enthusiasm and hope about exciting times ahead and Boy! was it exciting. I was asked to come here to Bombay by my office as a leave replacement for a guy at the client's site. He was apparently going on leave for a month for his wedding. I wonder what he will do for that long.. won't he get bored? Anyway, I digress. After my old project came to an end in August and being on the metaphorical "Bench"ever since, I jumped at this opportunity. If you know me, you'll also know how much I wanted to experience staying alone independently. This was all expenses paid, company sponsored grant of my wish.

Before I started to Bombay, I promised myself that I'll not be my lazy self and explore Bombay and its surroundings as much as possible and I was keeping up that promise until I fell ill a couple of days ago, but I'm still satisfied with all the places and more importantly food that I got to cover in this trip. Made full use of the opportunity. I thank +Mirnalini Venkatraman and my French classmate Puja for being my virtual tour guides. Thanks a tonne for all the suggestions. Would've never been able to cover all those places if you hadn't mentioned it. If you follow me on facebook/twitter/instagram, you'd have seen all the spam photos from me. If any of you got annoyed by it, Sorry. There were people curiously asking about where all I'd been to and what all I had eaten. Fans, you see. :D Can't disappoint them, can you? I'm very happy with this new me who gets off his ass and goes places. Hoping this continues after I return to Bangalore too, although, there it'll be on my own money, not on-site allowance :( 

Work here is a support based project which is mostly repeated stuff along with some documentation. Yeeeaah... you know the regular. Nothing very exciting, but it is serving  me my bread & butter, or should I say Vada & Pav :P, so a shoutout to work - Yay! :D 

Given my poor memory, I might've forgotten so many other incidents of significance. Please forgive me if you were the "turbines" behind those instances. :P  (Started out as a retrospection and turned into a Thanksgiving post, so edited the title too. )
This year passed real quick like a flutter of a butterfly wing and it is coming to a close, and so is my Bombay trip. I'll be back to base.. to Bangalore in the first week of next year. Hoping to cover a few more places before that, if time permits. Unlikely, considering I'm working all days, including New year's and the following Saturday, but let's see. So, until then... have a super end to this year and let the next one be the best you've had so far!

Thanks for being so patient to read until this point. 

A bientôt! Je t'embrasse. 
Au revoir.

P.S. Yeah, I've actually been learning French. Not just for show off :P

P.P.S. Nothing to see here. You can hit the close button, now. Bye.

Or you can share this on the interwebz.

Still here? Are you that bored? Okay, leave a comment then. :)

That's all.

Really. The End. Now, Go. :)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Badhusha - Deepavali Special

For 15 Badhushas of medium size:
1. Dalda - 1 cup (Davara)
2. Maida - 3 cups
3. Cooking soda - A pinch
4. Sugar - 1.5 cups (depending on the intensity of a sweet tooth you have, you can reduce or increase this quantity)
5. Curd - 1/2 cup
6. Water - 1/4 cup (for sugar syrup)
Take 3 cups of Maida in a basin, mix the 1 cup of Dalda with this flour. DO NOT ADD ANY WATER. This will remain mostly dry for now.

Take a pinch of cooking soda in a small cup. Add a couple of teaspoons full of curd and beat them well together until the soda dissolves.

Add the above Soda+Curd mixture to the Maida dough mixed earlier and pour the rest of the curd too, into it. Mix all of this together until it comes to a consistency of soft Chapathi dough. The curd gives the wetness to form the dough. DO NOT ADD ANY WATER. Keep this dough covered and let it rest for a few minutes. About 5.

Sugar syrup:
Take the 1.5cups sugar in a heavy bottomed vessel. I used a pressure cooker without its lid.

Pour the 1/4th cup of water into this vessel. Dissolve the sugar in the water and  bring it to a boil.

Boil only until it becomes slightly sticky. Do not boil it too much or the sugar will not soak into the dough and will only crystallize on the surface. As shown in the picture below, the syrup should slowly drip.

Badhusha - Final Steps:
Boil oil in another wide open vessel to deep fry the dough.

Take a lemon-sized amount of dough, make it into a ball and then flatten it.

Press with your thumb in the middle of the circular dough and then poke a few holes on its surface all around, using a sharp object like a pin.

Now deep-fry these cakes on a medium flame, until it turns golden brown which indicates that it's fully cooked.

Strain the oil and dunk these fried Badhusha cakes into the sugar syrup. Let it rest for the sugar to soak in.

Serve the sweet to yearning souls. Happy Eating! :-)