I moved to France having just graduated from a small, highly acclaimed Jesuit school (read expensive). I had a BA in French (read useless) and a certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language (read door opener into low paying jobs). I also had $8000 in credit card debt, and $60,000 in student loans (read broke). I found a yearlong teaching job that paid â‚¬1300 a month, which is quite a good salary for teaching, although I didn’t realize it at the time (read naive). My husband to be was a student, although he was receiving unemployment.
I guess our story is like so many others; we were broke and living above our means. No matter that we didn’t overspend a lot every month, we overspent. We bailed ourselves out using credit lines and cards, tax refunds, and the International Parents’ Bank. We promised ourselves and each other not to do it again but the siren’s song of vacations home and McDonalds and putting gas in the car shimmered sweetly in our ears.
We became parents in 2003 and then again in 2004. My husband went through several periods of unemployment, and I worked short term, hourly paid jobs. In October 2004 I got a permanent position that I ended up hating, and in February 2005 my husband found a permanent job at a company that he loves.
Then I got pregnant again, and went on maternity leave from the dreaded job three months before the baby was due. (Got to love France’s prenatal benefits!). I hope never to return. I’ll be on maternity leave until October 2008, when I hope to go back to school to get my Master’s degree. (Paid for by the State- got to love France’s education and job benefits!).
I started getting serious about our budget in September 2006. I created a budget spreadsheet by modifying one that I found on the Microsoft site. I tracked all our monthly income and expenses and found that we were spending more than we earned. So we took out a relatively low rate 4 year loan to pay off the 23% interest American credit card. We arranged a payment plan to pay back some of the student loans, and put the others into deferement and forebearance. We negotiated raises, and negotiated reductions, and still we were paying more than we earned. My husband’s salary has gone up, but mine has gone down because of staying home with the kids. I know where every cent of our money goes, but we still spend more than we earn.
Reversing the equation- that’s my next step.