Friday, March 20, 2015

Thou Shalt Pay Bills: A Look At Our Transnational Budget

Before we left, I wrote a post about our family’s budget as we made various transitions (from one to two kids, from one to two parents in graduate school).  Now, I would like to share what our budget is like since we’ve been in the D.R.  Our income while we’re here includes my research fellowships and my partner’s part-time job. Our expenses include bills here in the D.R. as well as bills in the U.S.  One thing that has made this possible is that childcare is so much more affordable in the D.R. (about $900/month per kid in the U.S. vs. $70/month per kid in the DR).  

The combined total for bills in both countries is about $1800 per month. Notably, that does not include spending on groceries, household items, or entertainment.  I would estimate that we spend $450-500 per month on food for a family of four.  Here are our stats for a typical month (all prices are in US dollars):

DR Bills
Rent (3BR apt, suburbia): $550
Neighborhood fees: $40
Preschool/Daycare (private): $70/month per kid = $140 for 2 kids
Electricity: $40-50
Cleaning/Laundry Savior: $150
Phone/Internet/Cable: $55-60
Gas for the car: $50

Total – about $1035

US Bills
Car Payment: $350
Health Insurance: $250
Student Loans: $150

Total - $750 

Monday, March 9, 2015

A One-Way Ticket Back Home…and some feelings

We bought our plane tickets back to the U.S.! The official date is May 20th.  We’re still a few months out from leaving but we found tickets at a good price so we bought them---ahhhh!  Logistically, we planned on returning before the toddler turns 2 – children under 2 fly free and the little one turns 2 on June 9th. Most prices in early June were about $460, so out of curiosity, I started checking prices for each date going backwards, and the magic happened on May 20th: one-way tickets at $285 each….with no layover!

This is the miraculous part: there’s a direct flight from Punta Cana to Charlotte, NC.  Here’s why it’s miraculous:  We came here with 2 adults, 2 children, 9 pieces of luggage, 2 car seats, and a stroller. If there were layovers, we’d have to collect all our luggage in the connecting city, get everybody and everything through customs, and re-check it all for the next flight.  What in the entire world would that have been like? I don’t have to find out because we found a direct flight! Wepa!  Now, we live in La Romana which is about an hour away from Punta Cana, so we’ll have to get ourselves and our stuff to Punta Cana in a rental car or something similar. But I’d much rather do that than have two flights.

So, that’s certainly a load off…but now I’m back at the itchy place – transition. Emotionally, I’m everywhere. I’m happy to be heading back home. I’ve really missed it.  But I’m anxious about selling all our stuff (again…including a car this time) and there are a lot of uncertainties at this point (again) – my husband is looking for jobs so we’re still not sure where we’ll be living yet.  You would think I’d be more used to uncertainty, or that maybe it would bother me less…but I still hate it just as much as I did before!

Also, I’m sad to leave my people here. I’ll miss them dearly. They’ve let me into their lives and I feel an incredible responsibility to represent them accurately and appropriately.  I’m also sad because I will leave knowing that most of them don’t get a “happily ever after”. And I feel guilty because I am so ready to get back to my nice American life with its poverty neatly sequestered “over there”. Life is hard for my respondents and there doesn't seem to be much of a silver lining. I can escape back to my American life, but they have no escape.

I can only hope I do good work for them. As they say: Everything has a time and a season.  It’s time for me to get ready to come home.