For so many issues in my life, I feel like I could write a book “How NOT to do Such and Such” using my bad decisions as an example. Unfortunately, when it comes to finances, this has also been the case. My husband and I were attending an expensive, private Christian university when the 2008 US housing bubble busted. Then, my husband graduated in the winter of 2009 with an almost worthless liberal arts degree, and we had both foolishly signed on the dotted line of one too many college loans. [Might I add that this is where college counseling was at its finest, “Oh honey, you’ll get a great job after you graduate, and that loan will pay itself off! Don’t worry.”]
Fast forward to 2013, with two littles in our brood and the loom of a layoff, we were desperate to find a secure financial landing pad. A sister of a coworker loved working in Beijing, and she had saved a significant amount of money while living here. We were intrigued, so we did what we could to make it happen to start over in these foreign lands. The major momentum of paying off our whopping USD 80,000 school debt didn’t really start until the beginning of last year, when we had settled in and I also began working full time. For this year, our goal is to have every penny paid by my birthday in December. Thus far, we’re on track to make that happen, with less than half of our debt remaining.
Other than having a dual income, which is the primary reason we’re able to pay off our debt, changing our lifestyle to think about what we’re able to live without has helped us to never miss a loan payment, even during times of extreme financial stress. We’ve also enjoyed being able to live a bit more creatively here, as we really don’t need a car in this bus-and-subway-connected city with the sometimes-large bike lanes. Since we’re foreigners and our friend circle is mostly local, we can also choose what cultural expectations we’re going to live up to. A confession is that I’m no Martha Stewart, though I hail from the Southern land of perfect, tidy homes, and I’m happy to be free from that cultural yoke.
We know many expats have come here to save money or to live well, and that challenge seems monumental when children are going to school, so we researched scholarship options available in the city (p27). This is the perfect month to pick cheaper outside options for playing as the weather begins to cool (p22). We asked parents about pocket change, which we hope prompts you to begin the money talk with your kids now before they’re making money mistakes they’ll regret later (p38). We’ve also highlighted a new business specifically run by parents (p11) possibly to encourage those entrepreneurial ideas we all get from time to time.
Whether you only have a trickle of renminbi or you’re swimming in those red bills, we hope this edition encourages you to stick to or even exceed your financial goals.
This article originally appeared on page 2 of the September 2016 Issue of beijingkids magazine. Click here for your free online copy. To find out how you can obtain a hard copy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Vanessa Jencks