Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Christmas rush

I guess most bloggers don't write much these days with everything going on in their lives. I'm no different, but I wanted to keep you updated to some important stuff.
Got paid last week $950 from my morning job. I paid the minimum payment on two credit cards and a scheduled payment on anothe credit card. So there was no money spend on the us.
From my regular salary I bought the girls their clothes and shoes (spent about $100 on that). The wife was upset because I didn't get her a blouse or shoes and has been reminding me of that every day. I remind her that I gave her money specifically for xmas stuff and she decided to spend it on something else. I told her that I didn't get myself anything and she said she didn't care about that. That I should've al least bought her a pair of shoes.
Our maid's mom got very ill, to the point where she herself is asking her relatives to prepare for her burial, so this week we don't have a  maid home. If my wife manages to survive this week without the maid I'll buy her the shoes.
Both jobs are going great. I'm sleeping one more hour since the girls are out of school this week until january. My morning boss told me to start looking at airfare for a trip to Phoenix on January or February. That would be great because I would work at least 8 hours every day for two weeks so I would do in two weeks what I normally do in a month here and would help pay off the credit cards.
Right now my plan is to get back on track with my regular minimum payments first which might take up the next two payments from my morning job.
Our company's coop is going to hand out dividends jan 5 and I'm the one that will get the most (since I have the biggest loan there). All that money will to paying credit card balance on the smallest balance.
I thank LG for her support , I think that mostly knowing that people understand my situation and wish me luck means a lot. I know they can't do much more, unless they can loan me money at 15% :-)  LOL.
MIT from "Jan Pedro Jula (slang for San Pedro Sula)" asked if I could consolidate my debt with a lower rate. Some of my credit cards are already on a payment schedule at a lower rate. I also talked to my mom about asking my dad for his extrafinancing line of credit again (the one I just finished paying). That would be a lower rate , something like 25 to 35% and it would probably cover enough to cancel one of the two cards I would like to cancel  that I can't at this moment. I will talk to dad tomorrow and feel him out. Then there's the actual calling the bank and see if they will lend him money again since all banks are changing their requirements.
I asked my brother too but his bank would lend him money at 42% which is high but still almost half of the credit card rate. However he only has about $3000 limit (which is the same amount that they would lend him on the extrafinancing) and doesn't know if they will lend him that money.
Kristi mentioned the snowball method and Dave Ramsey. I know him , I wished I knew him before! I'm doing the snowball method balancing with the rates on each debt. Now that I don't owe money to family or friends I have only credit card debt and arranged payments. They are mostly the same rate so I'm going to pay the smallest debts on those first. My cellphone credit card is the one i'm targeting now. Unfortunately I can't call that one because I would loose the cheaper cellphone family plan. but I did cut up that card so all I have to take care of is paying my cellphone bills and not let them get charged to the card.
Well that's the gist of it so far. I would like to say thank you to all that have left comments, or those that just read my blog and nod saying "yeah I'm feeling you man!" . May you all have a happy holiday.
Well at least this blog is free, it was a gift from Santa Claus or San Nicolas, or Colacho (slang for Nicolas).
Se que casi no escribo mucho en espaƱol, pero quiero agradecer a aquellos lectores de habla hispana e inglesa que leen mi blog en ingles. En realidad es muy dificil escribir un blog en dos idiomas. Lo he intentado y es mas esfuerzo y tiempo del que puedo darle para que tenga la calidad que deseo en ambos idiomas.
Por lo menos este blog es gratis, fue el regalo que me dejo San Nicolas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

rolling with the punches

The good (at least financially):
The maid said she is leaving on Dec 31st. I guess she heard so many of you wanting her to go that she is actually leaving, LOL. Didn't have to fire her and there won't be any more rationalizing to do :-)
After that my wife told me to buy lunch somewhere near work or come home for it because I left so early in the morning. It's going to affect her more that it will affect me. On second thought I guess I will have to help more around the house than now. Oh well, 3000 bolas is 3000 bolas!  
The bad (also financially):
I gave my wife 3,000 lps and told her that was money to spend on christmas stuff like clothes for her and my daughters and the materials for the tamales and stuffed chicken. She paid money to some people she owed money to. She bought gas, bought groceries, got her hair done, helped a friend who had her car stolen and gave her money, etc, etc. Nothing christmas related.
We got into a strong argument over the phone as to where the 3000 lps had gone. She had to buy the christmas food materials with the regular monthly money, and I now have to buy my girls jeans and shoes from some money that I was going to save. She is pissed off that i'm trying to track her expenses and I'm upset that I gave her money for one thing and she spends it for another thing and doesn't think it's "wrong" in any way. She says I didn't give her enough. In other times I would've just said "fine, I will get some more" but this time I talked to her some more, even as she was still upset.
I told her that I didn't really want to know the minute details of her spending but that the money was supposed to be spent on christmas stuff.Yeah I should've actually tracked down the spending but I could imagine the bigger arguments we would've had if I had done that. She would take it as a lack of trust.
In any case, in the end she felt bad about it and she is trying to make up for it by cutting down on the food she is preparing. I told her I would be ok with only tamales and no stuffed chickens. Instead of doing 6 chickens she cut it down to 3 chickens which I hope will last until new year's too!
The News
Today has been another financial-emotional roller-coaster day for me. Started bad with calls from my credit cards that I was past due on payments. I had the sinking feeling again that even with the new job I would only make enough to make minimum payments on all of them and just stay above water, not really a way to get out of debt. Then I got another call from another credit card in the afternoon
I was so fogged by the feelings of desperation about the thing that I just couldn't put the mimum payment numbers down on paper. I put them on a sticky note on my laptop and just stared at the big numbers. In between calls I had the argument with my wife as I mentioned above.
Eventually I realized that not all were due soon and I would probably be able to pay most of it with one "quincena's" pay from the morning job, leaving the other quincena to do some debt payment on the money I owe. Not as fast as I thought I would be repaying debt but I feel better now than I felt during the afternoon today.
Now that my dad is paid I'm going to focus as La Gringa says on the higher interest rate cards. Actually they all are abou the same rate and it's easy to see it since it's printed on every statement. I will check it again but i'm sure they are all pretty close so that leaves tackling the smallest debt first. Again LG was quick to figure out that I have my Cr2 card with the lowest balance and I plan to pay that one first if the interest rate difference isn't that big.
Morning job is doing ok. My boss there is very VERY happy with my work. I was able to clock about $952 that I will invoice tomorrow and will get paid for it probably next monday. That money will go to paying minimum payments and the rest (if there is left) will go to the Cr2 card.
I might even go back and ask my dad for another extrafinancing loan from his credit card. I hope he wants to help and doesn't ask me why I can't get one myself.
And yet today the secretary at the office was able to make me laugh because she was using a typewriter and making jokes about it and her younger years (she's in grandmother-age).
At least this blog is free. As are some of the best things in life.

One fight over. Many tough ones aheads

As you can see from my Debt sidebar I have paid my dad all the money that I owed him. I thought I was going to have to pay only $434, however that balance was due to the fact that the bank had put a couple of the payments on his credit card balance and I hadn't paid them completely. So to pay off the extrafinancing and his dollar balance I had to pay $593, just $7 less that the balance I had back in October!! Ouch. This is just a taste of things to come.

In any case the debt is paid and the $180 remaining I'm using them to pay the minimum payment on the next credit card I want to pay off.

I will keep this short since I think it's easier to read this way. Plus even though this battle is over I'm not feeling like talking about my debt mountain right now.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

4 debts, 3 dependants , 2 jobs and a partridge in a pear tree

A little christmasy tittle there for you :-)

Actually I don't have 4 debts, I have more!!! However I hope to have less soon and none eventually.

It's been a up and down cycle this thing of having two jobs. One day I get up at 6:30am feeling like I can do anything and the next day I feel very sick. Fortunately my cold is gone and some of those days that I feel sick it clears up by the time I'm driving back to the house from dropping off the girls.

About the maid. Many of you have stated that I should get rid of the maid and have my wife clean and cook. That would work if the plan was for my wife to stay at home. My and mostly her larger goal is for her to actually get a job.

So we can't look for a maid the day she gets a job because, as those of you who live in Honduras know, good cheap maids are hard to find. Even expensive good maids are hard to find.

We have a maid and my wife is looking for a job. She goes to job interviews every now and then. She is in a job placement agency. I look for jobs for her online. Now she's even gone to politics, she's doing voluntary work for a congressman seeking reelection.

She knows him from high school so we hope that eventually he will help her get a paying job somewhere. So she's had to go to rallies and meetings and just last Sunday we had primary elections here and she had to be all day out near a polling station handing out fliers to people. With so many congresspeople in the ballots the vast majority of people just voted for faces they recognized so fliers help.

He got to pass to the general elections now so there's some hope with that. However we are still looking for a job for her in the private sector. She has a college degree in business admin but her age and relative lack of experience work against her in most jobs. Usually they want someone younger or someone with experience. Her sort experience has been in human resources and she likes that but those positions are hard to find.

Anyway, that's the reason we have a maid. If my wife does find a job eventually it will be easier for her to start knowing that things at home are taken care of. I would feel relieved too. Plus my wife can't stand being alone so the maid is good company for her.

Yes my wife is a considerable source of the debts I have. However I don't totally blame her because I let her loose with a credit card and didn't supervise her shopping and she was used at my higher income and lower debt that I had on a previous job. That job I think was the starting point of my debt mountain.

Strangely though because that's when I earned the most. It was my lack of planning that caused it. She and I would spend on our credit cards knowing that I could pay them with my next check and months later it was too much to pay the whole balance, so I started carrying a balance. After that company closed it was hard to adjust to a much lower salary. Then one of my daughters started school. That was a big thing. Then I got a better job (this one) but still not as good at THE one I had at first. The bad habits had stayed with us and it was downhill from there. Life things happened around me and we were always helping people, housing people with us etc, etc. It was all stuff that meant more money spent than earned.

AM advised that I let my wife handle the house finances. I did thought she would be better at handling my money that I was, so for several months during that period I gave her all the money I earned and she was supposed to pay the bills and buy groceries etc. It didn't work at all. She eventually gave up on that and we had a big argument about that.

Now that I'm being frugal we have mini-arguments about money almost every day. It's almost like a crusade.
I now see the error of my ways. I know a couple of friends that acted in a wiser way and kept living a similar lifestyle after getting the good job and when we were all laid off they struggled too but not as much as I did.

I'm keeping a record of my spending for this month and I guess that will help me build a budget for next month. Jeremy, aighmeigh, LG and other commenters wrote about it several times so I'm writing down where my money goes for this month and I'll let you know next month, or many next "quincena". At least the fuel has gone down a lot so that's less pressure on my finances but most of the other stuff is still at the same price as before or higher. I'll let you know.

Well today is my fourth week with the second job. My boss there says I'm doing a great job and is planning on flying me over to Phoenix to do some on site work that I definitely can't do from here. There's about 15 PC's that have different problems and need fixing. I can't do that from here and they think I could just go there for a week or two and fix as many as I can since they are all the same model. Also I would get to know the rest of the equipment and the team to which I talk to every morning at 9am on our daily meeting. That's how happy he is with my work and obviously with my pay-rate. My friend in MO and I agree that he probably couldn't find an part time IT support guy for $1600/month . Specially since i'm basically a contractor so the company doesn't have to give me medical insurance, working space, utilities, Sick time, vacation time, etc. They only pay for the hours I actually spend working for them.
Monday I sent my bill for the previous 15 days. It was coincidentally $800. I'm expecting to have that money on my account here in Honduras tomorrow. I've had to keep my wife mostly in the dark about how much I make with this job since she knows my rate but not the total hours worked. This is to keep her from tempting me to spend money on the house or on us.

Out of the 800 I know that my dad's balance is about $450 so I will pay that and avoid the 22% interest rate on that extra financing. The other thing I want to kill with that is the fact that it's a dollar-based line of credit. I've managed to convert my other debts to lempiras and so if the lempira to dollar rate goes up (more lempiras to buy one dollar) it will actually be easier for me to pay them. I have some other dollar debt but I will get to that soon too.
With the $450 spend on paying the money I owe to my dad I would have $350 left. I will put $300 towards my calling credit card (Also known as Credit Card Cr2). The final $50 I will split it between me, wife and the girls for having paid one debt.

Health-wise I'm doing OK. My cold is totally gone, I just have some cough left but it's flushing out too. I took my 7-days of antibiotics since I had already started when some people online and here in Tegus told me about remedies for my sore throat. My twitching eye is gone but yesterday I had a tiny muscle above my lip that would twitch uncontrollably for a few seconds every hour or so. My wife is a bit concerned so later tonight I'm going to a clinic to get a doctor's opinion about it.

My "day" job just credited my account with my Christmas bonus. Most of it is going to paying my girl's school since I had made an arrangement with the school to do that. my bonus is 45,000 lps and the total I owe for school tuition for my two daughters is about 40,000 lps up to December. They have good grades on a school that I know is teaching them well in English and Spanish. If there's anything I can pass on to them is the education and the values. I give them the values and the school educates them. So even though it's a lot of money I think it's money well spent. Besides, with the 15% alumni discount I get there and the payment arrangements it would be difficult for me to find another bilingual school that would be cheaper even if it's a lower quality of education.

I know I could put the other 5,000lps towards debt. But it's December and I know my wife and my girls will want at least something for us to spend on celebrating Xmas, a nice dinner at least, one set of new clothes for each. Lucky for me most of my friends and family don't expect presents from me and even if they did I am not buying any this year. I didn't get any last year either.

Personally I would have NO problem not buying anything Christmas-related. Actually we already spend a few lempiras buying Christmas lights. But we reused the tree and the ornaments from last year. I could spend Christmas eating the same beans and rice I eat every day (OK chicken too). I could wear the same pants and shirts that I wear every day. I presume I could convince my wife of doing something similar. However, how do I tell my daughters that they won't get presents this years or even new clothes?

So here's a question? how frugal do I have to be on the holidays? Maybe you have ideas on how to not spend money and still have a nice dinner and make my girls happy.

I feel that either not spending any money or splurging it all is bad. But where could I find that middle ground ?
I hope you let me know what you think. I read all your comments and I know you give me though love because you do want me to pay back all that money that I owe and over come my debt. It takes me a couple of readings of one of those hard comments to swallow it but they are all well received.

Thanks and I hope you remember to be careful with your own spending on these holidays.

Well at least I know I don't spend money on this blog, because it's free.