Doubling My Income By Accident
No, it wasn’t a train wreck, but, it was a nice collision of a lot of dollars and cents with my pocketbook. I have never been one who had to have designer label pocketbooks or clothes. Nor have I tried to keep up with the Joneses by buying things I didn’t need or could not afford. I was just trying to keep up with my family’s bills and keeping the budget balanced. I got there most times. However, I never seemed to have a lot of discretionary income. Whenever I managed to put some funds aside for a rainy day, thunderstorms would come… soon and all too often.
Then, one day, the sun began to shine brightly for me—both metaphorically and literally. I suddenly had spending money. This wonderful thing happened when I moved to sunny Belize.
Do I miss some things that are readily available in the States? Yes… at times. Do I miss paying the price for them? No, never! Do I miss seeing close friends and family on a regular basis? Most definitely. Do I miss going to my favorite stateside restaurants? Sometimes, when I’m hungry. But it was time for me to get out of my comfort zone, expand my horizons a bit, and get with a more diverse program.
There are more than 7 billion people on planet Earth. I like meeting new people. I expect that I could make a few new friends somewhere along my way. I’m no math genius, but I figured out that, with more discretionary income at my disposal, I could afford to travel more. My minivacations would allow me to meet up with family and friends somewhere out in the world.
The decision to move wasn’t quick or easy for me to make. I gave it a lot of serious thought. My way still seemed a little cloudy… until I looked at my balance sheet. Suddenly the choice became a whole lot clearer.
I also began to realize that I had been born and raised not only in the same state, but in the same city for most of my life—and the same country all of my life. If I were ever to try to live a more carefree life, I would have to make some changes and soon.
When I moved to Belize, it seemed almost like cheating because it’s an English-speaking country. Even the sign language taught in the deaf community in Belize is American Sign Language. It doesn’t take a master linguist to fit in here… and I couldn’t afford to keep waiting to try something different.
Although I was told that US$1 was equal to BZ$2 (always—the currency is pegged to the dollar 2:1), it didn’t really hit me right away. When I landed in Belize and I used my U.S. ATM card in a local ATM to withdraw US$100, forgetting about the exchange difference. The machine dispensed BZ$100, but my receipt happily showed only US$50 was withdrawn from my U.S. bank account. It took me a minute or two, maybe even three. Then, when I realized that this BZ$100 would go as far as my US$100 would have (further, even), I smiled wider than I had in a while. I said to myself, “This might actually work.” And it has…
Belize is a beautiful and friendly developing country. Many locals are self-sufficient—they have farms and grow their own fruits and vegetables. Many sell them in town at the markets, others have stores where you can purchase the produce and other small groceries and necessities. The prices are usually less than I would have paid in the States. Of course, certain products are not as plentiful as in the States, so I substitute or compromise. Now I eat more mangos, apples, bananas, and other locally grown fruit. It helps that these fruit grow on the property where I live.
Housing comes in many varieties in Belize, as do modern amenities. Many residences are rather inexpensive, but, come at a different price, and you’ll need to make lifestyle compromise. You need to think carefully about how and where you want to live. You may prefer to live in town where there’s a lot going on… or prefer a little further from town with more seclusion. An unfurnished house outside of town could rent for as little as BZ$400 (US$200) per month. But your neighbor there could be a little farm next door, where a rooster would make sure you knew when it was first light every morning. Lifestyle choices.
Expenses for utilities don’t take up much of my budget. A heating bill is nonexistent. My electricity bills have been a quarter of what I paid in the United States. It helps that I don’t turn on the air conditioner and seldom use the ceiling fans. I don’t have to. The breezes from the Corozal Bay bring me much comfort. I enjoy the services of a weekly housekeeper who cleans my entire apartment, including changing my bed, for US$6. She even washes my clothes for a little more. But, I prefer to take my laundry out to be washed, fluffed, and folded for only US$1 per pound. Having these services done for me so cheaply frees up more time for me to serve out in the community, like with the Red Cross.
Until I decide to buy a car, I use the many taxis that are available. To go to most places around town, the cost is only BZ$5 (US$2.50). I’ve been told that automobile insurance is about BZ$400 (US$200) per year—definitely a bargain compared to what I used to pay.
Still, some may say that I do not have all of the things that I would have if I were still in the States. And this is true. If I were still Stateside, I would have a whole lot more bills to pay than I do now. Sure, I would have all of the luxuries of a highly developed nation… and all that comes with it. And bet your life, my discretionary income would be gone before I knew it.