My first impression of Amazon Australia

Taa daa! Amazon is finally here in Australia! This is probably THE biggest wait of the year for the eager Aussie online shoppers. Well I was in the queue to see the big landing too and have already been browsing on the site all day. I thought I’d share my first impression of it in case anyone is wondering.

Before Amazon announced its way to Australia, I have already shopped multiple times on Amazon US. I came out as a delightful customer most of the times, so I have high expectations for its Aussie domain. At first glance, I can already see that the layout of the Aussie site is different. It doesn’t offer bonus deals or holiday gift guides like the US domain normally does. But it does offer product recommendations based on your browsing history, which is quite useful and powerful.

So I randomly picked the women’s clothing section to go through. A lot of items they display on the first page excited me. Like this gorgeous smart casual dress from a brand I’ve never heard of before. It looks fairly good quality on the picture though, and I googled some product reviews from YouTube and Amazon US, they all sounds pretty positive. And the best part about it, it’s only $33.09?! I seriously haven’t seen any dress with that kind of price here in Australia. I dare say, if the product is genuinely good quality, it could easily be selling for $60+ at the stores here. So this dress is definitely in my shopping cart to buy and try. Some details I noticed and I’ll also comment:

  • The size selection is in S/M/L/XL, but the size chart only shows numbers, so I have to make an assumption here. I’m generally size 8 in Australia, so I’m guessing that’s an M?
  • No buyer reviews yet which is kind of expected as it’s still early days. But if you go to amazon.com and do a search on the item name, you’re likely to find the same product with US customer reviews.
  • None of the items are on Amazon Prime, yet.
  • Delivery for this item is expected to be 10th January 2018… !@#$%^&* Clearly this is not up to date with online shopping expectation nowadays. Hopefully Prime will be coming soon to expedite this.

Next I went through the toys section. Again, on the first page, I saw some pretty cool stuff which I haven’t seen in any stores here. Take this Marble Run Railway as example, it seems like the perfect Christmas gift my son. Again though, I’m not sure about the product brand. Based on googling reviews, it seems like a decent product.

I also looked through the LEGO collections because I was so keen to see how much they would be selling for on Amazon. We all know LEGOs in Australia, even after taking into account of exchange rates, they can still be 10%-20% more expensive than the US. The specific ones I looked for don’t seem to be on Amazon Australia yet, so I did a quick browse through what they do have available. This time I wasn’t too thrilled as there doesn’t seem to be much of a price advantage here. In fact, for some of the common series like LEGO City or Friends, I’m sure I’ve even seen them cheaper at our local department stores when they are on sale.

I then did a search for picture books, specifically one called Pumpkin Soup (it’s my son’s absolute favourite at the moment). While it’s nice to see that it is available, the price is again not too impressive. Book is something you can easily compare via Google, so that’s what I did. Book Depository sells it with free shipping for 20% less than the best price I could see on Amazon Australia.

Moving on to other things. I was hoping to find some of the popular items I’d constantly seen on YouTube, like gold paint sprays and marble contact papers. To my surprise as well, I couldn’t find much of a selection on Amazon Australia. Not sure if it’s because it’s still early days, I’m really hoping eventually product ranges here will be close to 100% similar with the US.

Later I went on to browse for some shoes. I was amazed to see some familiar brands here like Novo (if you’re in Australia you’d know this brand). However, based on my local shopping experience at Novo, I know they always have some sort of discount promotion going on like buy one get one free. I didn’t see any of this on Amazon, so I thought I’d probably score a better deal at my local Novo store.

Overall, my first impression of Amazon Australia is good, but not as good as I had anticipated. I’m glad it’s made its way to Australia to bring in more retail competition, but so far I don’t see too much of a price benefit for customers as most people have probably hoped for. Maybe things will change as it continues to expand its product ranges and as its operation stabilizes.

My top future expectations for Amazon Australia would be:

  • Amazon Prime – Please! One month wait for delivery, even with considerations for Christmas and New Year, is just not acceptable.
  • More product range with more competitive pricing.
  • Some Aussie buyer reviews would be nice to see.
  • Holiday deals and guides tailored to Aussies.
  • Standardize clothing and shoe size charts for Aussies too please.

In the end, would I recommend Amazon as a place to shop for Aussies? Definitely yes! Even if it’s purely another source to shop for more and different product varieties, it’s worth a wander. I will probably do another update on my shopping experience here after I’ve done a few.

If you’re an Aussie reading this post, let me know in the comments what your first impression of Amazon is like. Do you think you will try it out or continue to shop there? What are your expectations of it?

Happy Christmas shopping!

Shan

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5 things to declutter for a healthier life

I’ve been decluttering like crazy for the last couple of weeks. Like all the other times I declutter, it amazes me how much stuff we can hoard over time, and how much we can be emotionally attached to them, including those that are clearly useless.

Decluttering is a rising global movement. More and more people start to be aware and appreciate the benefits of minimalistic lifestyle, including hoarders like me. Not only do clutters create space crisis, they also stir up feelings of anxiety and stress as our eyes roll over the crowded mess.

Economies of the developed countries are mostly driven by consumption nowadays. The more we consume, the better it is for the GDP. As such, excess consumption becomes a personal choice, as well as an encouraged lifestyle. The more we produce, the more we buy, the more we accumulate. Slowly and surely, we are surrounded by stuff that may have temporarily satisfied our desires, but clutters as junk in the long run.

Clutters don’t just exist in the physical space, they also exist in the digital world. In almost any case, the process to acquire things have been thoughtful made easier and easier as businesses compete with each other to win users and customers. As I enjoy the convenience of obtaining things, I also start to feel the pain and frustrations of its underlying effects:
– Extra space needed to store things.
– Extra time needed to sort through messes.
– More frustration accumulated

It’s easy to mistaken wants as needs, though everybody’s definition of wants and needs is different. I’m not going to comment too detailed on what should be kept as needs and what can be thrown away. But as I was entering adulthood, starting to build a career and a family too, I found certain things are definitely worth being gone for life’s greater good.

Junk food

It’s hard to give up snacks, I know. My son has reached the age of snack obsession. Chocolate, cookies, chips… he could easily eat them all day. When I look at how satisfying he is when he eats them, I start to realise our cravings for snacks is actually a joy that comes from the childhood. If parents are loose about them, snack consumption becomes a habit; if they are restricted, then they are a surprise every time we get some. Either way, it’s hard to break that addiction.

But as we get older, our body will start to lose the ability to process all the excess sugar, sodium, fat and preservatives in the snacks. This can cause excess calories being stored up in our body, leading to obesity and other health issues. In addition, our body will have limited capacity to absorb the healthy nutritions we really need once it’s overloaded with ‘junk’.

I find the best way to break off this addiction is to actually force yourself not seeing them. Stop buying them, and also declutter any you have stored up in your pantry. Not only is this good for our own health, it’s also a good habit to start building for the kids (if you have any like me). The earlier you help them to start self disciplining, the easier it will be for them to master as they grow up.

Video games

We have a lot of video games at home, Playstation, Xbox, Wii, Nintendo, etc. The video gaming industry was booming when the Millennials grew up and it soon became a big part of our daily entertainment. It provides virtual experience to fantasy worlds that we cannot, and will probably never, experience in the real world. This type of experience is thrilling, especially for some of us who might want to escape the reality. It also provides instantaneous results and response to our actions which in the real world may take years to obtain (for example, gaining coins straight away after defeating the enemies). This is satisfying because we don’t have to wait, like we need to in the real world for the goals we’re really trying to achieve.

But in the long run, indulging in video games is very harmful because:
– It diverts our focus from the real life, our goals and issues that we have to deal with.
– It takes our time and energy away from the important things we need to do in real life.
It’s easy to overspend time in the games, therefore the virtual gains we obtain are actually at the expense of losing in real life.

Again, the best way I find to stop playing is to force ourselves not seeing them. If decluttering by packing them away doesn’t do the job, and you still find yourself constantly reaching for the boxes, it’s better to give them away or sell them. This will ensure you’re stopping future time losses on the games. Selling them may also help you earn or recoup some of the money you have spent on them.

YouTube subscriptions

YouTube is steadily gaining popularity these days. More and more people are starting their own channels and gaining thousands and millions of subscribers. The more shocking facts are:
–  YouTube gets over 30 million visitors per day.
–  Almost 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day.
–  The total number of hours of video watched on YouTube each month is 3.25 billion.

You can read more about YouTube stats on this site here. Imagine if all these hours go towards doing something productive. Now I’m not saying all these are wasted hours, some people I’m sure are genuinely on YouTube to solve a problem or learn a new skill. But if you find yourself in a situation like I do sometimes, that I just watch things to chill time, stop! Unless you’re doing that to get a mental break from work, YouTube would just become another place to waste time and lose productivity.

Scrolling down my subscription list, I could clearly see so many that I now just click to chill time, like TV shows. They do trigger inspirations, but if inspirations don’t turn into some sort of action and output, they just become waste like any other things that grab our time.

Store memberships

Don’t we all just say “yes” to that question when we visit any shop – “Would you like to join our free membership?” Whether it’s the bricks and mortar or online stores, I’ve probably joined at least a thousand of them. Every day I receive tonnes of emails informing me of new sales or new collections in store. I have to admit, they do make me spend money that I wouldn’t if I hadn’t seen the ads.

Now I’m going through the emails I have received from each store and unsubscribing from most of them. I know by doing this I would not only save money to my pocket, I’d also be saving time to go through all the emails and emotional conflicts of deciding whether I should buy them or not. Without these distractions, I can focus a lot more on saving and earning money, instead of the other way.

Credit cards

I’m sure at some stage in everyone’s life, we just sign up to any credit card deals the banks are willing to offer us. When I was younger, it even felt pretty cool to have multiple credit cards in the wallet. It seriously made me feel rich to think that I had all these cards I could swipe, as if they were truly my own money.

Until I got into debt stress, I had to borrow money from family to repay back my credit card bills, I realised it’s not cool at all. I’ve since consolidated all my credit cards into one big personal loan, and have slowly paid it off over time. Now I only keep one credit card with sufficient limit for every day use and to earn rewards points. I find this is a much smarter way to use credit cards. Instead of being bulked down by debt, I feel a lot more confident and in control of my personal finance.

Whatever you’re thinking of decluttering, I’m sure it’s because you’ve felt the pain and frustrations of having too much. It’s like having a big meal that you can’t digest, so you just end up with stomachaches. It’s easy to have too much these days because every source is trying to feed us and ‘help’ us to consume. Knowing our limit becomes extra important when there is no end to what we can have. Sometimes indeed, the less we have, the more we gain.

Let me know if you have any thoughts or suggestions of any other things we should declutter to have a healthier life.
Keep calm and declutter on!

Shan

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10 things to do now to enjoy a happy stress-free Christmas

Hi guys! I can’t believe Christmas is just a month away now! From social media to my local department stores, the spirit of Christmas is already everywhere in the air. This is my (and I’m sure most people’s) favourite time of the year, but it can be quite hectic. And the last thing we want at this time of love, joy and peace is stress and frustrations from last minute preparations. Below are what I’m doing now to avoid them:

Make a list of who to send greetings to and buy gifts for

Some names are already floating in my head as I think about this. I’m writing them down so I don’t end up forgetting. I’m also going through my phone comtacts and social media friends list to add people to this list. It can be as long as you’d like depending on how you’d like to maintain these relationships. I also do separate lists for family/friends with gifts, family/friends I will send individual messages to, and others that I will send a general greetings.

Get the Christmas cards/e-cards and wrapping paper

Once I have my lists, I count the names so I know how many cards I’ll need and how many presents to wrap. These numbers serve as a guide so I won’t buy too much more than what I need. Of course, if you have left over cards and wrapping paper from previous years, you can certainly use them too as long as there’s enough for everyone.

Don’t miss the sales!

Many sale ads are starting to pop in my emails and those gigantic signs are everywhere in the stores. As a customer, I certainly wouldn’t want to miss these sales to save some money on holiday shopping and the presents I want to buy. Having a list is again handy, so I know exactly how many presents I need to buy and set a budget. If you have ample budget, it’s a good idea to individualize the presents based on who you’re giving them to. But if you have a limited budget and a long list of people to buy presents for, what I would do in this case is further divide my present list into ‘for him’, ‘for her’ and ‘for kids’, so I can roughly work out how much to spend on each group and get ideas from the stores themselves. A lot of stores have pre-packed gift packages for a range of budgets, and they are usually high standards nowadays too.

Start wrapping

As I buy my presents, I usually start wrapping them straight away (unless I’m not 100% sure about the present themselves). This is a good idea especially if you have a long list of people to give presents to. I sometimes prioritize them based on who I will be seeing and giving first. The whole point is to avoid last minute rushes. As we all know, there will be plenty to do when Christmas is here!

Start writing the greetings messages

I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t like writing cliched messages, so I like to plan ahead. For the people I will be sending individual messages to, I like to add in personal elements that make them more special. For the general greetings, I tend to keep them shorter and just include wish wells. If you have a lot of people to write to like me, it’s a good idea to start jotting the messages down in your smartphone as you think of them, so again there won’t be stressful last minute rushes.

Plan the holiday activities

We like to celebrate Christmas by gatherings with family and friends. This year we’ll be inviting close networks to our house and also go to theirs. We usually don’t like going away during Christmas because it‘s super crowded everywhere. But if you do plan to go away for few days, you should definitely be booking in accommodations and flights if you’re going far. Airbnb is a good resort for last minute accommodation bookings as hotels and motels tend to be full way in advance of Christmas.

Plan the meals

Since we’ll be hosting Christmas at our place this year, it’s time to think of the menu too. Once the guest list is confirmed, I can decide the dishes to make. There are plenty of online resources for Christmas meal inspirations, I personally like to go to Pinterest. I also like to prepare a main menu and a side menu with some easy to make dishes, just in case on the day, there isn’t enough food to serve.

Make a grocery shopping list

My menu is done, now it’s time to make a shopping list. I wouldn’t start buying all the ingredients just yet for freshness purpose. But there will probably be non-fresh items you can start buying. It’s also a good idea to start clearing the fridge if you haven’t started already. I like to do this because I want to make sure there will be plenty of room in the fridge to store all the items for the big day.

Clean the house

This is probably not Christmas specific, but I like to make the house a bit extra tidy and neat during holiday season for all the gatherings we’ll be having. Plus, I believe a clean environment is generally good for the mood.

Get the Christmas decors up!

Last but not least, it’s time to put up the Christmas tree and all the decorations! I have a whole section in my home storage dedicated to Christmas decors, so it’s not a big hassle to look and search for things. If you’re not doing this already, this is a good way to keep them organized for future usage. It is, after all, something we do every year, right? If you decide to buy new decorations this year, it’s a good idea to catch them on sale when you go present shopping.

Now I think we’re ready for the holiday season. Cheers to the spirit of Christmas!

Shan

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Why are there so many frustrations?

As a Millennial living in Australia, I think we are a very fortunate generation.

My grandparents grew up during World War 2 and the civil war in China, and my parents grew up during the dire period of Culture Revolution. One aspect in common between those periods of time in China is the scarcity of materials – food, clothing, shelter, etc.

The economy only picked up after years of post war development. When my parents reached adulthood, they were literally forced to leave home, and moved to work at the farms. That’s what happened to most people in my parents’ generation in China. As they described, the young generation felt they were not just materialistically deprived, but have utterly lost hope.

Luckily by the time I was born, China’s social system was rebuilt, and most urban families have earned all the basic living necessities so my generation never had to worry about them. After my family migrated to Australia, living conditions became even better, and I’m immensely grateful to have all the goods and opportunities made available to me.

If materialistic needs were the only desires in life, the Millennials would be the happiest generation ever. But reality is, we’re not. Ironic it may seem, the better we are materialistically, the more frustrated we seem to become. Below are my thoughts on why there seems to be more frustrations today for us Millennials.

1. Too many changes to keep up

The world changes fast, we all know that. But what we might not notice sometimes is the effect of these changes on our minds and emotions. I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying, we are creatures of habits. This means we love things and doing things that are familiar to us, which become part of our comfort zone. When something is changing, we effectively need to break off a habit and start a new one. Building a new habit takes time, and building it to a point where we can do it with our eyes closed takes lots and lots of effort and practice. In other words, we need to burn mental fuel every time we try to adapt to a new change. The bigger the change, the more fuel required. If this is only required a few times a year, we might not feel anything. But if a few times a month, the stress will kick in. And if we’re not adapting to changes properly, frustrations also come with facing issues and failure.

2. Doing too many things at once

More often than ever, and not just by our choice either, we seem to be doing a million things at once. This is part of the new norm in life that we have to adapt in order to keep up with everything that is going on around us. We have to put in extra effort to stand out in our jobs; we have to sacrifice spare time to do courses and keep up skilling ourselves; we have to forgo personal interest and hobbies to stay connected with our social networks… Simply put, time is just not enough anymore when we try to do everything that we have to do and want to do. As a result, we have to do many things at the same time, but allocate less time for each. This not only keeps us very busy all the time, but doing things with limited time creates more pressure and stress. When this happens, we might find that we’re not enjoying the things we want to do, and we’d hate the things we have to do, and that is very frustrating.

3. Wanting too many things

Can we maybe just try to do less things at once and be less frustrated? Theoretically yes, but realistically, very difficult. Our desires have expanded with the richness of the material world. The media is filled with content that draws our eyes and lures our hearts. It hard not to be tempted, and it’s easy to fall into marketing traps to believe that we need something more than we really do. In addition, remember all the heroic movies and comics we grew up with? If there is one thing the Millennials are ever good at, is never stop dreaming to be “the one” stepping in to save the world (as if there is really some sort of crisis besides our hyperactive ego). Thanks to modern technology, we are and we love being empowered to fulfill that childhood dream of ours. So we just keep wearing more hats, to try and be someone perhaps more than who we are born to be. When reality tells us that we actually can’t be anyone we want to be, and we can’t have everything we want to possess, life becomes frustrating.

4. Lack of resilience

Resilience is the mental stamina against adversity. Ironic enough, we dream to be the savior of a crisis, but because we haven’t actually lived through real crises such as the war, we don’t always withstand the test of resilience. When there is a choice available, our inner nature almost always chooses to go down the easier path. Resilience doesn’t grow this way. So at times when we face problems outside of our comfort zone, they may seem bigger than they really are. And we can easily become frustrated because there isn’t enough resilience to cope with the stress.

5. Lack of belief

Despite not having lived through physical crises like war, the real crisis for the Millennials today is perhaps the loss of belief. Belief is something that takes great time to build, weak to sustain and effortless to destroy. The world is full of voices these days, with everybody trying to express their opinion and exercising influence on other people. In such environment, truth is often obscured or distorted. Without sufficient experience to make our own judgment, we can feel confused, lost, and frustrated with all the different views and opinions around us.

Understanding why is first step to resolve the issue no matter what we’re frustrated at. Some issues are perhaps beyond our abilities to tackle, but nonetheless, how we deal with personal emotion is a choice and I strongly believe there is always a positive way to handle any frustration. The choices we make are what will help us to become happier and more positive.

What do you think are the reasons behind your biggest frustrations? Lets explore them together and help each other.

Cheers,

Shan

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What are Millennials frustrated about?

I found this article that I read earlier in the year.

It’s a survey and analysis done by Deloitte, which outlines some of the things Aussie Millennials are most frustrated about. To some extent, they probably reflect the greater Millennial population around the globe.

Top frustration or concern is terrorism. Not very surprising is it? Every now and then, the media headline will report some sort of terrorist attack in the world. The events themselves are frightening, the frequency of these events are also very distressing. It certainly feels like peace is shattering, and world war 3 is on its way.

Other frustrations for Millennials are:
● environment and climate change, and
● income inequality and distribution of wealth

While I’m not as sensitive about the environment and climate change, I can certainly relate to income and distribution of wealth. I don’t know about other countries, but cost of living in Australia, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, is insanely high! We see price jump every single year on most of the things we buy, while salary income is crawling at snail pace. Not to mention the housing affordability issue, it’s almost impossible for our generation to own a place called home now without ‘the bank of mum and dad.’

To make the scene worse, according to the same study, unemployment rate among young people is twice as high as the general population, and 20% out of those working are wanting to work more. I have mixed feelings when I read about this. Technically, I should consider myself lucky among my Millennial peers in Australia. I work in a bank, in a full time stable position (though there are recent announcements that the organisation will lay off a few thousand positions over the next 3 years or so). For now at least, I earn enough to pay my debts and general living expense. Yet, I also feel like I should be working more to earn more. Perhaps the drive comes from raising kids. I have 2 young kids. Though the cost of raising them now is hardly an issue, the thought of their future education expenses does make me wake at night. My husband Tim has already taken on two jobs and a side business. He spends 15 hours of his daily time on them. The only reason I haven’t gone to get a second job is because of the kids. I have to admit, being compelled to work more because of rising cost of living is frustrating and distressing.

If any fellow Millennials out there is reading this post, I’d love to hear from you. What are your biggest living concerns and frustrations?

Chin up.

Shan

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