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Saying No to Bank Fees

14 Nov

No, this isn’t related to current events in the U.S. Although, I am very happy to hear that Bank of America never went forward with their idea to charge $5 per month for using a debit card!

This is about how we get our money from the U.S. to our pockets in Buenos Aires paying zero bank fees. (These two suggestions apply just about anywhere in the world when coming from the U.S.)

This practical information is normally missing when we read other bloggers’ sites, so we thought we’d take a timeout from the photos and stories to share what we’ve learned about avoiding ATM and foreign transaction fees.

Getting Cash

If you’re not a resident of Buenos Aires, you can’t open a local bank account. So, if you want cash (you can only get pesos from the ATM) you have to withdraw it from your home checking account. Just like in the U.S., the fees for using another bank’s ATMs can add up. Right now in Buenos Aires they are about $4 per transaction.

Maggie and I don’t pay a penny in these fees, because we heeded the advice to open up a Charles Schwab brokerage account and investor checking account. You need the brokerage account in order to open the checking account, but you don’t have to use the brokerage account ever. Granted, to get money into your Schwab checking account you either have to mail in the checks or set up online transfers. We set up online transfers from our Bank of America checking account.

Once you have your Schwab account, use the debit card for cash withdraws only. Say yes to the ATM fee and on the last day of the month Charles Schwab will pay you back all the fees you incurred throughout the month.

Just don’t use that card for purchases. Chuck charges a foreign transaction fee for retail, restaurant and most other vendor purchases outside of the U.S., which leads us to the second suggestion.

Using Credit

We unknowingly signed up for an amazing credit card when we were married. At first, it was to help us earn points we could use to redeem for a flight. That turned out to be pretty amazing.

Since then, we’ve learned that with this credit card we don’t get charged foreign transaction fees. We didn’t even know such a thing existed, but it helps us keep what little money we have in our hands and not in the bank’s. Our credit card is no longer offered or I’d say get it. Just remember that your credit card matters. Only sign up for one that has no foreign transaction fees. You’ll thank me later.

Follow these two suggestions and you’ll save a decent chunk of change overtime. For us, if we’re going to make it in Buenos Aires, we need every bit of help we can get. This is one way we’re trying to keep money in our pockets.

**We owe a big “thank you” to all the helpful and knowledgeable expatriates at www.baexpats.com who have helped us figure this all out.**

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Bye, Bye Bayla

11 Oct

Meet Bayla.

She entered my life nine years ago when I lived in Tennessee. We’ve traveled long distances together having lived in Tennessee, Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles. Sadly, she won’t be making the trek to Buenos Aires with us. There are too many logistics involved to make it all worthwhile.

Bayla's adoptive owners, Ryan and Emily

Thankfully, we don’t have to give her up completely. Maggie’s sister, Emily, and her husband, Ryan, have graciously decided to take her in while we are away.

Bayla will certainly enjoy this phase of her life. She’s getting an upgrade in so many ways! Check out her new pad.

Bayla's new home.

Bayla in her new backyard.

Bayla watching for squirrels.

The only troubling aspect of this set up is that Emily is already trying to convert Bayla into an OSU Buckeye fan. I guess comprises often have to be made.

Bayla being abused. :)

Before we said good-bye, Maggie and I took Bayla on a long walk down the street to the coffee shop.

We did all the things we’ve been doing for the past nine years.

We walked.

Last walk with Bayla in a long time.

We sat.

Bayla and Stephen chillin' at the coffee shop.

And Bayla pooped. She still hasn’t learned any manners.

Bayla being rude.

Bye, bye, Bayla! We love you and we’ll miss you. Oh, and we’ll expect some Skype calls from time to time.

The Final Stretch: 4 Days Away

8 Oct

Almost a year in the making, we’re only 4 days from our big move to Buenos Aires, Argentina! We’ve done more thinking and planning for this move than we did for our wedding day.

As we make the turn into the final stretch there really isn’t too much more for us to do. I thought I’d recap some of the logistics of preparing for this move as well as what’s still to be done. This is certainly not a comprehensive list.

 
COMPLETED

General
– Move from LA to Columbus (because when we return, we’ll stay in the Midwest)
Find a way to make money
– Prepare Maggie’s resume in English and Spanish
– Cancel U.S. mobile phone plans
Find an apartment in BA for the first month
– Find a place for Bayla, our dog (a future post to come)

Cars
– Leave Maggie’s car with my parents in Las Vegas
– Repair my car from a previous accident
– Leave my car with Maggie’s mom in Columbus
– Get cheaper car insurance

Banks & Money
– Save, save, save! We’re not at our goal, but there’s no turning back now!
– Get a year of forbearance on student loans
– Open new personal accounts that have zero international and ATM fees (more on this in a future post)
– Open business bank account
– Change to paperless option and set up online transfers between all accounts

Packing
– Buy hygiene products now
– Buy any and all clothes we’ll need (because clothes cost more in BA)
– Photo copies of Passports

 
STILL TO DO

– Find two more suitcases
– Get my car registered in Ohio
– One last oil change for my car
– Cancel California car insurance
– PACK!

 
We’re basically ready to go! It helps calm our nerves that we’ve done so much planning. Our main nervousness concerns finances. We’re not just visiting Buenos Aires, we’re moving there. We have to be successful. My hope is that I can find a place to sit down and work on the Internet most of the day without distraction. Maggie’s hope is that she can find a decent job (tutoring or teaching) early on. Time will tell. We’re hopeful.

A Ton of Stuff

10 Sep

If you’ve moved across the country before, you know it isn’t cheap. Since we’re on a tight budget, we looked into a few options for moving our stuff from Los Angeles to Columbus.

Option #1: The most obvious option is to rent a truck. A truck was estimated at $1800. Not too bad, but the need for a car hitch, increased fuel cost, very little room for our dog on the journey, and slower driving made us search out the other options.

Option #2: The whole Pods idea where a company drops off a container and delivers it door-to-door cost the most. The quotes we received were circling $3000.

Option #3: Then a friend, Tom Borland, suggested we build a crate ourselves and ship it through a freight service. I made a few phone calls to freight companies and found that it was hard to find companies that would ship household items. Some who did quoted us at about $1600. That was promising. Then I happened to call Pacific Atlantic Freight who gave us a quote for 2200 lbs for $1143. That included home delivery for $50 in Columbus!

Our search was over, we were going to ship our ton of stuff by freight. Now, we only needed to build the crates. Seeing as I have zero construction skills, Tom offered to help me build the crates. Later, Gerson Bonilla volunteered to help as well.

Tom’s generosity saved us from spending money on renting tools and buying nails and screws. The wood cost $254.

Some of the wood.

Gerson Bonilla cutting the wood to size.

Tom Borland also cutting on one of his many tools in his very manly garage.

A mostly finished crate.

We built three crates in about 4 hours. They were about 7′ (long) x 4′ (wide) x 4′ (tall). After assembling them at Tom’s house, we loaded two in a U-Haul we rented for about $123 and one in Tom’s pick-up. We drove over to our storage facility and loaded the crates. Here again, Tom’s experience in loading trucks for movie studios proved invaluable. We had to buy about $101 worth of moving blankets so our furniture didn’t get scratched up.

Filling the crate.

Screwing the lids on the crates in the rental truck.

The freight terminal we shipped from.

After a long day of building and packing (on one of the hottest days of the summer), Maggie and I drove the crates down to the freight terminal. Immediately, a guy drove over to us in a forklift and started unloading the crates. It was a good feeling.

Unloading our crates at the terminal.

On the other end in Columbus, we thought there might be trouble receiving the crates at the house. They had said the crates were a bit big for a lift gate, but it all worked out rather easily. It’s nice to have our stuff safely in Columbus now. We are so thankful to Tom and Gerson for their help.

In the end, we spent a grand total of about $1621. That includes even the tape we bought. Not bad for a cross-country move.

If you’re looking to move across the country, find a friend who knows how to build a solid crate and call Jeremy at PAF Shipping, (805) 523-7295. He’ll take care of you.