Thankful, Cautious, Shrewd, and Charitable

“Be happy when you work, thankful when you earn, cautious when you spend, shrewd when you save, and charitable when you give.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo

This is a quote we live by…our mantra for financial security and happiness.
We leave for Uruguay and Argentina next week, so I have to prepare for our house sitter, which includes paying bills and planning ahead financially.

It is always a good time for me to report on our monthly expenses because I have receipts and bills spread out on my kitchen table. This time, I am dividing our financial “happiness” into four categories. Let me explain how this works for us. But, first a breakdown of February 2018 expenses.

Total February 2018 expenses = $1,467 Plus, $31 a month for SKY TV.  I forgot to include SKY when I made the pie graph because it is the only bill we pay with our credit card and I didn’t want to make a new pie chart.

My children’s library topped our expenses this month because I gave my librarian a raise and put him on a yearly salary including health insurance. Then, our internet provider GGnet, graciously provided my library with free internet if I would purchase the equipment.  The dish, cable, router, special surge protector, and installation was $500…but well worth the expense to open the door to the world of education through technology for the teachers and students.

The utilities include water ($3), electric ($58), internet ($115), phone plan ($52), and SKY satellite TV ($31).

The monthly university tuition for our goddaughter is $100. That includes her food, lodging, and books and materials she needs. She is starting her third year of university in March. She is a communication and theater major in Leon and we are so proud of her.

Our property taxes are due once a year. If we pay before March 15th, we get a 10% discount. $39 for two houses and 2 1/2 acres of beach front property on the lake. Not bad, huh?

Miscellaneous includes a bottle of propane, gas for the motorcycle, and emergency money for our house sitter.

Four categories of financial happiness

I. Thankful when we earn

We are both retired teachers. We moved here with our teaching pensions, and now we collect Social Security. Our expenses are generally 1/4 of our monthly income, for which we are very grateful. And our cost of living is approximately 1/4 of the cost of living in the states.

II. Cautious when we spend

It could be our German heritage, or the fact that our parents were raised during the depression, yet we are very cautious spenders…and have been all of our lives. We rarely buy new, always recycle, and search for the bargains. Our lifestyles have not changed in moving abroad. We are probably more creative in that we make what we can’t find…like PVC pipe screen doors, lampshades made of jicaro gourds, and fences and gates made from PVC pipes. We love PVC pipe construction.

III. Shrewd when we save

We invested when we were working, saved a percentage of our earnings, and never touched our investments. We borrow lightly ( only in the past with mortgages for houses and loans for cars) and save heavily. We pay off monthly credit cards and live debt free.

Our mothers told us,” Never a borrower or a lender be.” We followed that advice in most cases, but when we moved abroad…something changed, and not for the better. Living in a developing world, we became targets for unscrupulous borrowers, local and expat friends borrowed money from us all the time…and we happily lent them the money. BIG MISTAKE! I don’t know why our attitudes changed. We never borrowed money in the states from friends or family and we rarely lent money except in extreme cases when we knew our family or friends were suffering. And they always paid us back.

Not here! We were warned! We didn’t listen. We’ve learned not to lend money with the expectation that it will be returned. We’ve cut the cords of our purse strings along with the relationships of dishonest and untrustworthy expats and a few locals as well.

IV. Charitable when you give

If you look at our monthly expenses, you will see that a large percentage of our expenses are charitable…my library and our goddaughter’s university tuition are two examples. Compared to the states, we can give more of a percentage of our earnings because our expenses are much less.

V. Happiness when we fulfill passions for travel

We are grateful that with our earnings, because the cost of living is low, we can fulfill our passions for travel without using our investments or savings. We usually start planning our trips six months in advance. We purchase our airline tickets, Airbnbs, hotels, and other transportation with our credit cards and pay the bill off monthly. Then, when we are ready to leave on our trip, almost everything is prepaid except for food, entertainment, and other small expenses.

For example, our trip to Uruguay and Argentina includes 3 round trips on airlines to Uruguay, Iguazu Falls, and Mendoza, Argentina…paid in full. We booked 3 Airbnbs and 4 guest houses and hotels…paid in full. It is almost like taking free vacations because we were able to prepay for the big expenses months in advance.

We are truly thankful, cautious, shrewd, charitable, and happy in the financial choices we have made for our lives.

What mantra do you live by to ensure financial success in your lives? 




14 thoughts on “Thankful, Cautious, Shrewd, and Charitable

  1. Be carefull in Uruguay….Delegation of friends…actually United Nations members from Caribbean got robbed in daylight….when men ripped a gold chain right off the neck of one man….stupid to wear gold jewellery when travelling….common type of theft there..

  2. An excellent quote and one to which we subscribe as well, although living in the States, our expenses are much higher. We’re debt-free as well and plan to stay that way until we buy our next/final retirement house…and then we plan to get back that way as soon as possible.


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