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.


aighmeigh said...

I think the most important thing is to create a holiday budget and stick to it. Be realistic and as objective as possible. Of course your family will want to celebrate, but a long term goal of debt free living outweighs the momentary pleasure material things can bring. So, assess your finances, write down your priorities for the month (which you seem to have done already), and see how much you've got left over.

There seems to be much talk this year about getting back to the roots of Christmas and letting the material hoopla go. With the global economy in such a horrible state, that doesn't seem like a bad thing in the least.

Bien hecho y buena suerte! (I'm practicing my Spanish--I hope this was the right thing to say!!)

Cindy in California said...

I'm glad you are feeling better and that they are so happy with you at your second job. I'm sure the days are long and you are tired. You are making progress towards your goal of getting out of debt so it is worthwhile!!

I certainly understand your dilema. It's Christmas and your children expect something. As aighmeigh suggested you need to set a budget for everything related to Christmas and New Years and STICK TO IT. Stick to it when you are in the mall (where you really shouldn't be). Stick to it when the girls see something they want on TV. Stick to it when you want to go out to eat instead of celebrating at home.

Since you already said you can go without anything new, that's exactly what you should do. You said you could probably talk your wife into the same thing, so do it. You are both adults and understand that you are in a financial bind. Do the adult thing and forego ANY gifts.

This leaves your children and food. I'm sure your children are aware of your belt tightening. Remind them of it again. I know it's pretty normal for children in Honduras to get a new outfit for Christmas. Decide a reasonable (in view of your situations) amount to spend for this for each of them and then find something within this amount. Maybe your wife can invest TIME to shop around to find a bargain (only if she can resist other purchases) and help that way. Then decide a reasonable amount for one "fun" gift for each of them and get that, and limit it to this.

Then plan for the extra groceries you want/need to celebrate Christmas and New Years. Instead of going out to eat, do it at home. It's more work but it can save a ton of money and can be more special if you want it to be.

I know I said reward yourselves as each debt is paid off. In this case I would say the extra Christmas spending is your reward. The gifts for the girls and the food for the entire family. Do the gifts and food for the L5,000 left from your bonus (I think if you really, really want, you can do it for less.) Desperate times call for desperate measures!

At least take the $50 reward money you were planning to split with the family and put it toward debt. I know, I'm no fun but 5,000 lempiras for Christmas is for fun and rewarding. It is fun for you and your wife to watch your girls enjoy their gifts! For this year make that your gift to each other.

If things keep going well with your second job and if you go to Phoenix is there any chance you can negotiate for a higher hourly rate? They know they are getting a good deal and should be open to discussing it.

When you pay off your dad, I hope you can update the sidebar with your REDUCED debts...both in amount owed and the number of debts. Your readers want to see it and I'm sure you do as well.

KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! We're cheering you on!

La Gringa said...

Here I am again with "Yeah! What Cindy said!" ;-)

AJ, I know the culture is different, but what I would suggest in the way of holiday celebrations is to spend time with your family. Play some games together. (Have you ever played Uno? Our Honduran friends love it and it's cheap to buy.) Make some homemade Christmas decorations or decorate Christmas stockings. Bake some cookies or torrejas or even make a family project of planning and preparing your Christmas dinner together as a family. (You can find info and recipes on these type of projects on the internet.) Go on a picnic or visit a museum.

Those times can be so special and something that your kids will remember long after they've grown out of the clothes or tired of the cell phone or expensive toys.

Another thing you could do with the "bonus" money is to give each of your daughters, say $10 for them to buy a gift for each other and their parents. It won't be much but it will take some thought on their part and help to teach them a little about budgeting and the value of a dollar. It's important to know that it is the thought that counts, not the material things.

I hate hearing that you and your wife are arguing every day. This is hard enough -- you two need to be on the same team. Hopefully the budget will help her to see that it is just impossible to keep living the way that you have been.

What happens if you don't pay your debts in Honduras? Can they repossess anything that you have? Can you go to jail? I don't know, I'm just asking. If it is something severe like that, surely that should wake her up to the facts.

Frankly, I think you are rationalizing about the maid. I would ask how long your wife has been out of work and how many job interviews has she had in the past 2 months? You don't have to answer publicly, but I'm going to guess that the answers might point to rationalizing.

Hey, if you want to send her to me temporarily until your wife gets a job, I'll take her!

Holidays are the worst time for trying to stick to a budget and also the time when many people get into trouble financially by rationalizing. You can make it special without spending a lot of money. It just takes some creativity on the part of you and your family. Ask your family for ideas about what you all could do, too, without spending money.

I hope that helps a little.

AJ said...

I'll write more about it hopefully but it is customary in Honduras (at least in Tegus and all the towns I know) that families cook the Christmas meals. So there was never a thought of "going out" for a Christmas dinner. It's always cooking tamales, ham, etc.

I could do without the maid, but I don't think my wife would cope well with the isolation. I've seen her go thru that before and she has trouble with that situation.

I appreciate your comments and the though love. javascript:void(0)

Kristi said...

I enjoy reading your blog and I'm cheering for you. My husband and I were deep in debt about five years ago. We are completely out of debt now. It feels so so so much better than any purchase I have ever made (even better than having a maid). So stick with it! If your family is together...well, that is a Merry Christmas!