Money

Not with a Fizzle, But with a BANG!

This week has been pretty strange to say the least. Yesterday, marked weeks until the day that I get on the plane to leave for The Netherlands. I know, I can't believe it is that soon either! Today, I learned that my company is not going to keep me on board after I move to Europe. It's fine, but I was expecting for Loek and I to have that as extra income, and it would have been nice to know before a week and a half before my last day. So, it is a little shocking to suddenly not have a job, like I planned. I didn't mention the possibility before because, I didn't want to jinx it.

I could dwell on this, but I can't help but, be so excited for the time to really get to know my new country, before I can get a work permit for a Dutch company. In 20 days, I move to Europe, and in 21 days I get to be with the love of my life. It has been 6 months since we have seen each other, so needless to say, we are excited! Loek gets the keys to our new apartment a week from Friday. So, my time before I leave will be spent wondering what it will look like when he is done. I will have to help him move the bulk of his stuff the first weekend I am there. That will be interesting, we don't own a car. 

Anyways, I plan to spend my new found freedom, learning nederlands, making use of my museumkaart, cooking the verlo- dinner, and learning to ride my bike. I could not be more ready for the next phase of my life to begin. I plan on spending the next few weeks going out with a BANG! 

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Kindle, An Expat's Best Friend?

I really love to read, and I really love to own books. I think they are great conversations starters and I like for people to automatically know I am smarter and more obscure in my references that they are.( Please read sarcasm in that last statement) Which is why it surprised people when this bibliophile purchased an Amazon Kindle. I am in love with it now and I think they are great for expats to have. I chose the Kindle specifically for a few reasons. 

So, why did I buy an ereader? Well, I am moving to a foreign country where English is not the most widely spoke language, and I don't read in Dutch. Most books in English are imports so they are uber expensive. My Kindle with 3G allows me to download books globally. So, I could spend on average around 10.00 for a kindle book or a lot more for an import. Kindle also have a ton of free books, including 15,000 titles copy written before 1923. That means, I can read all those great Russian Novels, that I never got around to, for Free! They also have a ton of free new eBooks and other specials.

I bought the Kindle instead of another ereader for a variety of reasons. I have always been an Amazon person, so I went with what I knew. They are easy to use around the world, and I like that you can use it outside, with limited glare. Not too big of a deal in The Netherlands, but nice none the less. I really hate reading on the computer, but for some reason I have no problem with the Kindle. You can adjust the size and spacing of your text, and look up words if you are unsure. Plus, I found the accessories to be the best. I bought a euro plug so I am good to go.

There are of course, a few things I would change; instead of a list of the books you purchased, I wish you could see the image. And, I just really think  that organizing your titles could be a little better. You also have to get a special case with a light to be able to read at night. Which is fine, my light is powered by my Kindle.

All and all, I am extremely happy with my Kindle purchase and know that it will allow me to read more and cheaper than if I had to buy English books in The Netherlands. 

Do Your Research Or Your Budget Will Suffer.

When you are preparing to move some place new, especially abroad, it is important to do your research. Often, the idea of the city in your head is not going to match reality. Loek tried to tell me about Holland in the Summer. He told me all about how our home would not have AC and neither does his office. In my Southern mind, I could not imagine. I was convinced that I was going to die of heat exhaustion. I knew it was bound to be colder there than here. But no air, the Dutch must be insane. It was not until I found a 24 hour streaming webcam and saw that people were wearing jackets in Utrecht, in July.... That I realized, I don't have enough clothes that I can layer.

So what does this have to do with my budget? Well, because of my "oh shit, I'm going to freeze" epiphany, I started spending money on things like jackets. Two beautiful wool coats to be exact. Because in my mind, if the dollar is less than a euro, my clothes might be cheaper here. I also went scarf crazy! When making my original budget,  I didn't think about the fact that I will have to buy things like suitcases. Since I overestimated on the amount of money that I would spend in other areas, I will still come out pretty much on budget. 

Here is my new money saving tip: When trying to save money, it helps me to think about what I can't have if I go out to eat or buy that magazine. When you compare what you could do with the money as opposed to what you want to spend it on at the moment. The better thing will win, hands down. 

Image from Pinterest. I really need to learn the art of light layers. 

 

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The High Exchange Rate for Peace of Mind

I think I have mentioned a few times that I am a worrier. I am almost always in a panic about something. I don't want to be this way, I just am. So you can imagine what my blood pressure was like in the weeks leading up to the Debt Ceiling Deadline. That's right, full on panic tizzies about what Congress was going to do and how that would effect the exchange rate when I was ready to move. 

Being an always plan for the worse case scenario kind of gal, I began looking for solutions to change my money into Euros, before August 2nd. It also didn't help that the price for a Visa in The Netherlands went up more than 400 Euros in July. At first, I looked into getting a passport card from Travelex. A kind of pin card that you can pre-load with Euro's before you go. Apparently, I wanted to do too big of a transaction for the day, so my bank blocked my getting one. When I called to get it unlocked, the customer service rep recommended my calling my local branch and seeing what exchange rate they could offer me for buying Euros. I did, and it was a few pennies better in my favor. But, when you are talking a few thousands of dollars, those pennies add up. 

So, I emptied what was in my savings account and purchased Euros from my bank. It was pretty easy, except for that they didn't know to type in The European Union as opposed to The Netherlands in order for me to get Euros, not Guilders. Luckily, I caught the mistake. The Euros were then mailed to the bank and I could pick them up 2 days later. The fee was like $10.00, it was really so easy.

Was this a better exchange rate than if I had used the ATM in The Netherlands? Who's to say? But I feel at ease knowing that I have enough Euros available to pay for my Visa.

In this case, peace of mind trumps cost. I needed one less thing to worry about.

Flickr Image above by donaldtownsend

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I Have Been Remiss At My Duties

I have been remiss at my duties dear readers. I haven't been keeping you all as up to date in everything that is going on with my preparations of becoming an expat. I am sincerely sorry for this. Things have just been pretty hectic lately and work has been really stressing me out. You see, last week I changed positions and have been slowly transitioning my clients over to other people in preparation for my departure. It is absolutely necessary, but has really been taking its toll on me, because I allow myself to get too emotionally involved.

But enough excuses, in order to keep you all up to date on just what has been going on with my preparations to move to The Netherlands, I am going to write a post a day this whole week to get you caught up. That's right, I am making myself a post schedule and sticking to it. Here is what you can expect from me this week.

Tuesday- An update on Atti, booking him on my flight and all the prep that goes into taking a cat abroad. 

Wednesday- Buying Euros, and stock piling my visa funds. 

Thursday- An update on budgeting and what has me freaked enough to do some not like me shopping.

Friday- I've had a few tiny freak outs. I think this is probably totally normal. 

I hope you all have a fantastic week! 

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I Am No Longer a car owner- My second to last big thing before I move

I am no longer a car owner. Under normal circumstances, this would be a near impossible thing living in Metro Atlanta as I currently do.  But I am lucky enough to be able to carpool into work with my mom for my remaining work days. So, why you might ask am I so excited to no longer be a car owner? Because this means besides my student loan, I don't anyone a thing in this world. 

Now, instead of my money going towards a car payment, car insurance and gas, everything I make until I leave can go into a savings account. With the exception of a pair of TOMS wrap boots that I have had my eyes on for years. They aren't that expensive, I just never got around to ordering them. If you have never worn TOMS, this is my 7th pair because they are the most comfortable shoes on the planet. Rumor has it, there is a shop in Amsterdam that sells them. But this is a bit off topic. 

When I move to The Netherlands, the Verlo- and I won't have a car. Nor, do we need one. He doesn't drive and while it is shocking to my American friends, I have no intention of ever buying a car again. For one thing, I actually hate driving. For another, the cost of petrol is insane and public transportation is not like it is here, it actually gets you around. Perhaps my mind will change after a few soaked days waiting for the train. But right now, I could not be more excited to not be a car owner. 

(As a complete aside if you are looking for a car in Metro Atlanta, I recommend Auto Loan Finders in Marietta. Full disclosure, I do know the owners, but they really do go out of their way to get you a car you can be proud of. Just see there 300 positive reviews on their website. )

Image: nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

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I'll Be Missing You! Paycheck Edition

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1671

I feel like I have not been present this week on my blog nor twitter. This is mostly because, after two years of work for the company I work for, (being the 3rd person hired and growing it from infancy,) this has been the most challenging week ever. I don't know if it is the debt ceiling or what, but clients have been even pickier than normal. As trying as this week has been, I keep on reminding myself how little time I actually have left to bring in a steady paycheck.

When I leave my job in September, there are potentially a few freelance gigs here and there, but basically, that is it for the money to come in. For first time since the age of 16, that I will have nothing that I have to go to. during the week.How do you cure an American of her workaholic tendencies? I get a lot of self satisfaction in my work ethic.The unknown scares me a little, (okay a lot.) From all I can tell, finding a job as an expat can be a challenge, especially after some new E.U sanctions. 

It is time to really investigate what it is that I want to do with my life. Why is it that when you have plenty of time to do fun things, you have no money to do them? The future hubs and I will be fine financially, as long as we stick to a budget. i.e. no retail therapy. I think the bigger adjustment for me ,more so then moving to a whole new country, is going to be not bringing in the bacon and not have something to fill up my time. Very thankful for a Museumkaart!

I don't want you to worry though, because I have a grand plan. It will just take awhile to execute. 

Image: Kittikun Atsawintarangkul / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Preparation Tuesdays, only slightly less painful than Preparation H!

I realize that a lot of people are interested in just how one moves to Europe from the States. This is a difficult task if you are not in the military, have a job that few in the world can do, or you are not in love with a European who is willing to sponsor you. Even meeting one of these simple requirements makes the task of moving your entire life across the Atlantic Ocean difficult. Each Tuesday, I plan to discuss the ways I have prepared to take this big step:
 
 
 
They say best things in life are free, but they wont move you to Europe. That’s right kids, you need money. For me, I needed money for my visa, about 1300 US. Money for my plane ticket about 1200 US, because of my adorable cat Atti, I needed to fly only certain airlines and I wanted a non stop flight. Money for Atticus’ vet bills. Enough savings for my insurance there for about 6 month and enough to continue paying off my student loans for 6 months. You see, with the type of visa I have, I can’t work until my residency visa is approved so my poor fiancee is stuck supporting my ass, 1950’s style for about 3 months, or longer until I can find a job. Any additional money I can save in my time here will go towards buying a new bed in Holland, trust me, we need it; and paying for our wedding, which will happen at some point in 2012. (Don’t rush me, one life changing step at a time). I will also need a new winters coat.

I just really started saving for my move in mid April. I had some other expenses I had to pay down first. I am really lucky that I have very little in the way of bills, about 500 a month, including my current car payment. Right before I went to Holland in Aprik, I moved back in with my mom, so that was almost an entire paycheck a month going back in my pocket. I am very lucky that my mom has been allowing me to live scott-free because she knows how much I miss Loek and the sooner we are together the better.

I have thee pieces of finical advise that have worked wonders for me. Even if you aren’t planning a transcontinental move, I think they can work for everyone. Here are my suggestions.

1. Know where your money goes. Write down all your spending for a month. I mean everything. I have a magazine obsession as well as a redbox dependency that I kicked to the curb after seeing how much money I was spending. Did you know that you can easily waste over $100.00 dollars in just eating your lunch out? Find out where you are hemorrhaging money and put a stop to it. Look for better alternatives, for example: I now check out magazines for free from my local library. A big place that you are spending money is probably where you live. If you are renting, do you really need a place that big? Probably not, just wait until I post pics of the size of my new apartment in Holland!

2. Pay yourself first, or out of sight out of mind. If you are like me, and you pay different amounts out of different paychecks, it might not work for you to have an amount directly deposited into a savings account each month. What I do instead, is work out a budget for each paycheck as to my expenses, some free just in case money and finally the amount I would like to save. I then schedule a transfer for the day I get paid so that the money will go into my savings account.
 

3. Have something you are planning for. You are not going to save nearly as much money if you start savings account just because you feel you should. For me, being able to be with Loek everyday is more important than a new pair of shoes or a few beers out at a restaurant. Have something in mind and you will be amazed at how easy tiny sacrifices can be to make.

What are some of the ways you save money? Leave a comment, seriously I would love some input here.

 

Image: graur codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 
 
 
 
 
 

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