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Archive for November, 2006

Update on $20 challenge for November

November 30th, 2006 at 10:12 pm

Total for November
Challenge statistics:
to discount from challenge this month:

Earned in September: $250.00

net for January: $12.15
net for February: $318.40
net for March:$380.00
net for April: $222.00
net for May:$336.86
Net for June: $32.50
Net for July: $210.00
Net for August: $835
Net for September: $430.00
Net for October: $434.00
Net for November: $250.00
Total ytd for 2006 (net):$3,460.95

TARGET: $4,000

$539.05/ 1 month to go!'s looking tough!...still, I really didn't expect to be able to make more than $2,000!

My needs vs wants vs reality this year-end!

November 30th, 2006 at 06:36 pm

my needs:

2 new tires for my car ~$70.00
debt ~$3,200*
Ale's bed $140.00
New sheets/bedcover for Ale ~$40
Nanny's Xmas bonus $60.00**

*don't fret, most of this is invested in the toys and will be reimbursed to me once we collect!
**MY part, sis gives her another $60

my wants:
pay off all my debt ~$13.4K (yeah, right!)

Ale's bed ~$450(will probably compromise between the very basic bed and the super mega bedroom set!)

Ale's bike $40-$75
bottle of parfum for me $50 (so NOT going to happen! I have about 100 better uses for $50!)
new bedcover for me! (I have 4, the newest one is 5 years old...definetely NOT a need!)
new towels (mine seem to have disappeared! all I ever find are Ale's!-- must ask nanny, she probably put them away someplace that seems 100% logical to her, but that wouldn't ever occur to me!)
[color=blue] new book for me this one WILL probably be my Xmas gift! yay!)
A book called la Economia explicada a mis hijos, for Ale...again, this one will be a Xmas gift)

A new cellphone (mine is ok...I just want a +gasp+ nicer one! all the ads are getting to me!, don't worry, I can beat this!)

stackable organizing bins - for Ale's toys in my room!...and also for our "work/play area" at home (a section of the living room divided off by a huge bookcase!)
new computer-- another thing that will have to least ours is back from the dead!

Not too bad...I can live with it! (or, rather, without it!)

$50 to add to the $20 challenge for Nov

November 29th, 2006 at 10:58 pm

got paid $50 today...this is still paying for admin services for July!

Had to buy lunch today....

November 28th, 2006 at 08:42 pm

we were supposed to have a "working lunch" to discuss the new fundraising for the community development thing, so I didn't bring lunch from home, but the managers got stuck in a meeting and, couldn't make it so the lunch got rescheduled! (the meeting was supposed to end at 11, and our lunch would run from 12 to 1...their meeting lasted until 1!)

Hate it!>..note to self: bring food from home even if there is a working lunch scheduled!

spoke with my cousin

November 28th, 2006 at 04:59 pm

we were discussing the potential earnings for the season and, at one point she mentioned she had "needs" and some "wants" she wanted to cover with these...she mentioned she "needs" to repaint her house...she later admitted this is not really a "need", but a "want"...but mentioned she will most certainly do it because all she needs is $25 for the paint...she also said she "wants" to upgrade her computer's memory....but that "needs" come this point I told her: Please tell me paying me is a "need" and not a "want" for this season...
She agreed and, has said she will pay me $500-$600 in December and the rest from the January school supply sale...

Hopefully, she'll stick to her committment...I really do hope she pays me the $600 in December...that would at least cover the remaining $400 that are still unpaid, so that would make a +$100 difference in my budget! ....since I've already paid for the rest, whatever else she gives me (above the $400) go towards's a plan!

Living costs in El Salvador (long!)

November 27th, 2006 at 07:30 pm

Sarah asked about living costs in El here it is!

This is a Salvadoran is the national currency, but it was phased out when we went to the Dollar in 2001. 1 USD = 8.75 SVC

Minimum salary has just been increased from $ 5.28 per day to $ 5.81 per day (yes, that is not a typo, it’s $5.81 PER DAY or about $175/month! – pretax!), -- this means my salary is about 4.8 times a minimum salary…We pay nanny $175, no discounts….the other maids in the neighborhood hate her because she only works Mon-Fri, from 9am until I come home from work, and gets holidays off! (a typical “full time” maid stays in your house, works from 6am through 8pm and, gets 1.5 days off every two weeks!...making anywhere from $100-$200/month, depending on the neighborhood!)

The textile industry minimum salary went from $5.04 per day to $5.24 per day.
Agricultural worker’s minimum salary went from $ 2.47 to $ 2.72. Coffee pickers were making $3.57 and now will be earning $3.93 per day.

If you earn more than $225/month, taxes are discounted monthly from your salary and paid directly by our employers to the Government – 10% to 20%, depending on your salary….I pay 20%. At the beginning of the next fiscal year, we submit our tax report to see whether we get a refund of whether we get to pay more! a salaried person, I can deduct up to $571/year for medical expenses and up to $571/year/family for schooling!...(if you have 1 child, you can deduct $571, if you have 10 children, you get to deduct the same $571!)...that's about all I can deduct...If you are in sales and are not given a company car, you can deduct gas and car-maintenance expenses...Different deductions apply for business owners or independent professionals, depending on their line of work...

Value Added Tax is paid on all services and/or goods, and the rate is 13%, by law, prices have to be posted including taxes (which is why I get surprised in the US when the total amount to be paid is always higher than what I have calculated...I always forget to add the tax!)

We speak of “collective transportation” rather than public transportation because the government gives special permits to different transport (bus) companies to operate specific routes. Inter-urban bus fare is $0.25 --payable every time you board a bus …that means if you are lucky and only need to take 1 bus to go to your job, you pay $0.50/day on transport….There is an initiative to force all buses over 25 years to be eliminated. To this effect the Government gave all bus owners very low-interest long-term credits, + $5,000 per unit delivered as “downpayment”….believe it or not, some bus owners still didn’t take advantage of it and some really old buses are still running ….the government has said it will not renew permits for such units, so, as the permits expire, bus owners are forced to change the units, relinquish the permits to other bus owners with newer units…The next phase of this project contemplates elimination of buses over 15 years ….but this is opposed at the National Assembly (mainly by some “diputados” –congressmen—who are bus owners!)….There have been many accidents in the past few years that involved old buses that were not properly serviced!...That’s why, provided you have the means to buy yourself even a small, old car, you will sacrifice to do so instead of using the buses!...gas prices are $3.04 for premium and $2.80 for regular right now….

As for housing costs, it all depends of course on the area of town in which you want to live…a small house in a lower-middle class neighborhood might cost you $75-$100 if rented and between $100-$125 if owned (monthly mortgage payments)…if you want an upper middle class neighborhood, you’ll pay anywhere between $300-$700 rent for that same house or, if you want a nicer house, $700- $1,500 rent…to buy a house in an upper-middle class neighborhood, you need a combined household income of $2,000 - $5,000 per month, and 10% of the house’s price as a downpayment…

We rent in an upper middle class neighborhood…the smaller houses in the area, and we pay $315/month between my sister and I….there are real mansions in our area, too, going for $1,200 a month –rent….we live near the American Embassy and the newest shopping malls….we could afford a larger house in another neighborhood, but, living near the American Embassy means security is VERY good!...and we are willing to pay for it!...

Houses in ES do NOT have warm water as a “standard” feature…nor clothes washers and dryers…dishwashers are almost unheard of….but, then, almost anyone has a maid….coming at least a few times a week… in houses where there are no clothes washers, the maids do the laundry by hand….so every house has a “lavadero”, or a place to wash!...(we use it to wash mops, and to bathe Fiona, mostly!)…we do have a clothes washer at home…my family has had one for as long as I can remember…(my mother’s family was wealthy, but in typical fashion, 1 generation made the money, the next one managed to keep it and the third one –my mom and her siblings—managed to spend it all!)…. I was surprised the other day to learn that the most common fuel used in El Salvador was still wood…but, thinking about the composition of the population, it makes sense….people in rural areas still use wood stoves and most have no electricity or water in their houses…Even in the cities, you’ll find places with little or no access to water…

Public schools in ES are for the very poor…anyone making 2 minimum salaries or more will try to pay for a private school for their children, or at least a parochial school….costs for education can go anywhere from $15/month to $600/month for Kindergarten (think parochial school vs the poshest bilingual school!)….The poorest public schools don’t even have bathrooms, or even chairs and tables for the children… Sis sent her children to a school that does not offer the best education, but offers you the best possible “connections” outside the bilingual school circle and paid $125/month for her daughter….I chose to send Ale to a bilingual school, I still don’t know how good the overall education is, but their English program is VERY good and am paying $137/month….figure it’s worth it if I don’t have to pay any additional English lessons!... My unit at work has chosen to sponsor a public school as our community development program…we raised money to replace the roof (children had to move their desks around during rainy season so as to sit in dry spots and not under leaks!!) and fix the bathrooms…we also repainted the classrooms…we are also teaching English to the top 5 students in the 8th and 9th grades and, have decided to start a scholarship program for the top 2 students in the 9th grade, so they can continue with their high school studies… The school principal is very active and has managed to get a computer center built and furnished, as well as equipped through the Ministry of Education and other private institutions…so the outlook for our little school is good….If you want to learn more about it go to:

If we talk about groceries, the cost varies depending on where you buy (market vs supermarket), but, eggs are $2.75 a carton of 30, beans are $0.57/lb, rice is .40/lb, a loaf of bread is $1.27, tomatoes are $0.67/lb….these are supermarket prices, you might be able to find slightly lower prices at the market…I buy most of my groceries at the supermarket and go to the market only for the veggies, fruit and fresh cheese…chicken is cheaper at the market, but, it sits on an un-refrigerated counter most of the day (they only put it in the fridge for storing during the night), so I’d rather not risk it….likewise with the meat!...Meat at the supermarket is about $2-$3 per lb, depending on the meat you buy, chicken is about $1.70-$2/lb and fish is $4.40/lb…a 400gm bag of powdered milk costs $2.32…a lb of ham is $2.74-$4, depending on the ham you like… a can of soda is $0.40…shampoo is about $2.35- $6.00, again, depending on the brand…a 1.5Kg of detergent is $2.60-$5.00—local brands…a gallon of water is $0.63, but, if you buy the 5 gallon bottle you pay only $1.25-$1.60… a lb of unrefined iodized salt is $0.07... combined expenses for groceries, including toiletries and cleaning supplies for our house is about $340/month (we are working on it!)…As you can imagine, most Salvadorans do not eat much beef or fish (except for coastal towns or villages near lakes and rivers!)….and for some even chicken is a luxury!... We are meat eaters at our house...

We pay about $10 for water (there is a subsidy if you spend less than X of m2 per month), and about $40 for electricity…. We also pay $9/month on municipal taxes (includes garbage disposal and a “sweeper” – there’s a nice old man and a younger woman in our neighborhood, that come to sweep the streets 3x a week!)…technically, we don’t live in San Salvador, but in Antiguo Cuscatlan…the mayoress has been elected for 7 successive periods or something like that….Antiguo Cuscatlan is the wealthiest municipality in the country…In contrast, a friend who lives in San Salvador (in one of the poshest neighborhoods, too!) says she pays about $23/month in municipal taxes and the garbage collector comes only 1 a week….and she has to sweep her own street!....

Telephone service is billed as follows: you pay a flat rate of $9.82 just to have a line, and that includes 100 “free” local minutes….any additional use is charged according to where you are calling….our typical phone bill is about $30/month….and we do not make international phone calls!...we are working on this, too…but we have a teenager in the house!...You can get a cellphone for about $29 (currently there's a special, you can get a Sagem for $15!) and depending on the company, you pay anywhere from $0.10-$0.25 per minute...a lot of people in ES own cellphones...even some of the people that sell at the marketplace own cellphones! don't pay for incoming calls, just for outgoing ones!...I have managed to maintain an average expense of $12/month for cellphone use this year!

We pay $30/month for internet service…if we wanted to add cable TV we would pay about $16 more per month….cost/benefit ratio says it would be ridiculous to do this!...sis, niece and myself have about 2 hours max time to watch TV everyday…so Ale would be the only one with enough time to watch tv and really take advantage of it....since I am more than happy that Ale doesn’t really like watching TV all that much….makes no sense to pay for cable….especially not with our current financial situation!

Interest on personal loans is anywhere between 7-13%/year, depending on your credit history and, most banks will require a co-signor (unless you get paid via direct deposit at the bank from which you borrow!) cards charge anywhere between 25-47%/year interest...savings accounts pay about 2-3% per year (my company coop pays 4%!)...

budget vs reality 2006

November 24th, 2006 at 07:52 pm far, at least...I can tell you budget is pure fiction!!!! has nothing to do with what REALLY happens to my $$$...

I'm trying to do better for the last months of 2006 and, hopefully, can apply all that hard-earned knowledge into my budget vs reality for 2007...I mean, with my current level of debt/income/expenses, I would need to make $1,300 per month, after taxes to break even....(I'm currently making about $1,100 PRE tax...and that is taking into account additional income sources, like translations, admin services, English lessons, sales...)

The plan at this point is to pay off as much debt as possible during this toy sale season and, then apply whatever earnings from the school supply sale in early January to debt as well...that should help, but, I still wouldn't be too "healthy", financially speaking...

Still, it seems like I'm going to be in a better place, financially, as I was this year....

I was just checking and the amount of money I have used (expenses/debt) vs the amount I've earned (net) from my salary for these past 7 months is $426 higher than my $20 challenge....which makes sense, as this could be the tax return + the vacation bonus...I didn't really track income this year....(but have included it into my spreadsheet for 2007!)

Ale's new bed

November 23rd, 2006 at 07:37 pm

still searching for this one...however, there's a new development...since my cousin needs to buy a new bed for her spare bedroom (to rent it out), then we will go together and try to get a special discount because: "We are buying 2!"...can't hurt to try!...

$80 for the $20 challenge in November

November 23rd, 2006 at 07:03 pm

got paid $40 on Sunday and another $40 yesterday...


November 23rd, 2006 at 04:32 pm

Slowl but steady progress!...they want them ready by end of day today...((sigh))

Need to buy a new sweater for Ale

November 23rd, 2006 at 03:16 pm

we are having a cold wave and it's COLD in San Salvador....this means temperatures are about 12 degrees (C)....and, YES, we consider that COLD...freezing, almost!!....

Now, I DID buy her a perfect sweater, navy blue, to wear with her uniform....she wore it to school ONCE and doesn't know where she left it...I've checked at both schools...not there....I've checked with the transport lady...not, I let her wear her purple sweater with ponies on it two days ago....GONE!...she doesn't know where she left it...If I were my father, I'd let her go without a sweater so she learns to take better care of her things...I probably would do it, except that she'd get sick and then I'd feel guilty!

And, in case you are wondering, it IS difficult to find sweaters in San Salvador...(seeing that we normally don't need them, few stores carry them...generally European or American Benett0n, Zara or Mimo...which means they are EXPENSIVE!!!)...

I've commissioned my cousin to try to find a "generic" one downtown!...

$$$ in my future!!

November 22nd, 2006 at 07:06 pm

I just received a request for a 27-page translation from HR!!!...that's $364.50 after taxes!!!...wooo-hooo!!! (of course, they take about a month to pay, but....still!!)