Living Overseas, Budgets, and Cash-flow

 I thought I would write this post to be of help to others who are thinking of moving overseas or who have moved overseas.  Managing money is very different over here.

First off, you need to figure out how can spend money.  I don’t know about you, but in the US, we used our credit card for everything.  Go to the store, pay with plastic.  Go get gas, pay with plastic.  Go get McDonald’s, pay with plastic.  Get a pop from the pop machine, bum a buck from a coworker because you don’t have cash.  Here, we can’t use plastic as readily as we could in the US.  At some of the larger stores, we can (and do), but most of the time we cannot.  This means we need a way to get money.

Our company pays us into a US bank account.  When we use our plastic to pay for things, it comes right out of the account (it is actually a debit card).  But, how can we get cash?  Well, ATMs are all over the place here.  We can use our card just as an ATM to get cash.  Our bank absorbs the first 10 ATM charges (after that, we have to pay); however, we still have to pay Visa’s 1% exchange fee.

That’s something else to look for.  If you decide to go this route, where will you get the best exchange rate?  For us, it doesn’t matter alot for the amounts of money we are talking about.  If I were to get out 2 or 3 thousand dollars, I’d make sure to look.  But, I won’t be doing that so it doesn’t really matter.

But then, once you have your cash, how are you going to spend it?  How are you going to do your budget?  You do budget right?  If not, go make one of those up.  Here are some basic amounts from our budget:

Utilities:  $200/month (electric, water, mobile, phone, etc….)
Internet:  $30/month
Food:  $400/month (includes eating out) 
Supplies:  $100 (diapers, wipes, cleaning supplies, etc….)

As always, YMMV (your mileage may vary).  You’ll have to work out some amounts for yourself.  But, once you have it, how do you track it?  That question plagued us for about 2-3 months.  We think we have a handle on it and that is the main point of this post.

We use MS Money (I know, I could–and should–use the free GNU Cash, but Cyndi is doing the computer side of this and is happy with money).  In the US, we just entered transactions as they happened, split them, and categorized them.  But here, we have 1 withdrawl every week or so…then we spend that cash.

Well, I set up a cash account in money.  When we get paid, the paycheck goes into the right account categorized like it needs to be.  When we withdraw money, we take it out of a generic Cash category.  We deposit the amount of the transaction into the cash account.  As we spend cash, we write that in a notebook we carry with us.  Every day, we write down what we spent.  Every week, we enter the amounts into the cash account in money.  We categorize them there.  We can then run the budget reports for several account (our checking, saving, and cash account) and see where we are across accounts (we transfer our extra utility money to savings every month to have for the winter).  That will let us see how we are doing. 

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