Baby Family Finance, Part Two

What says “grown up” more than a joint budgeting system?  Pretty much nothing!

Our plan is to eventually use the yours-mine-ours system, but until I get a job the “mine” account (the $1,500-$2,000 in my checking account) will not be doing very much.

So we’ve set our budget based on one income – his.  We plan to follow the Warren/Tyagi 50-30-20 budget.

Our first step is finding an apartment that will work with our 50 percent needs allocation.  It turns out unfurnished apartments in South Africa come with absolutely nothing – not even a refrigerator – so we’re going for a furnished place.  My partner, already in Joburg, hit the pavement last week and found a couple of nice places in our range. We hope to sign a lease this week, which will lock in a big part of our one-income budget (We’re making sure my name is on the lease for a number of reasons, not least of which is the difficulty in getting a bank account in South Africa as a foreigner without an iron clad proof of residence).

Despite the lack of public transportation and crime concerns in Johannesburg, we’ll be starting out with one car.  I’ll be dropping my partner off and picking him up at work on days I need the car (for all of those job interviews!), getting rides from family and friends, and biking and walking within areas considered safe, which are unfortunately not very widespread.  Once I’m employed, the car will become his, I will take out my first car loan for a used car and join the legions of commuters in Johannesburg’s truly awful traffic.

For the rest of our needs, the far lower medical insurance costs in South Africa will help us along the way as will the lower cost of food.  Unfortunately, cars are demonically expensive, as are clothes and many other consumer goods, which are mostly imported.

Is the cost of living higher or lower in Johannesburg?  It’s hard to say.  One blogger compared costs in London to Johannesburg and found Johannesburg more expensive (extremely low healthcare costs in the UK played a role).  The 2012 Mercer cost of living survey ranks Johannesburg the 154th most expensive city for expats out of 214 cities. Cities in the U.S. northeast, my stomping ground, range from 33rd most expensive (New York) to 107th most expensive (Washington, D.C.). It looks like it might be a wash for me overall, but inflation, exchange rates and a host of other factors might swing things one way or the other.

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