Newbie Week: Budgeting at Your Permanent Site

I’m devoting this week’s posts to useful information for the next group of Kosovo volunteers, who are starting to get their acceptance letters for the Peace Corps. –April

I wrote a previous post about money during pre-service training. Now that I am at permanent site, I have decided to keep an Excel spreadsheet to track my expenses.

Back when I was still living in Chicago, we had a conference call with the Kosovo Peace Corps staff to address any lingering questions. One of mine was: “How much is our living allowance?” for which I received a cagey response: “It’ll be enough to live on.” Hahahaha. So funny, Peace Corps.

Well, I am going to tell you exactly how much we get paid here in Peace Corps Kosovo: $353 Euro per month. (A full-time teacher here in Kosovo earns $500 Euro per month.)

Peace Corps directly deposits the money into the Kosovo bank accounts they set up for us. From that, we are responsible for paying our host families. The minimum amount we can pay them is $130 for rent, and then we negotiate the cost of food with them (some people, like me, eat the majority of meals with their families. Other people buy their own groceries and don’t eat with their families at all.) This past month, I gave my host family $50 Euro for groceries, which is the average amount most of us who eat with our families pay.

After paying $180 to my host family, that left me with $173 Euro to spend however I wanted. You can see my spreadsheet of expenses here: october-2016-peace-corps-budget-sheet (6)

Money

“The best things in life are free
But you can keep ’em for the birds and bees
Now give me money (that’s what I want)” — The Beatles, Money (That’s What I Want)

So … money in the Peace Corps. There isn’t any. The end.

No, just kidding. Oh, not about the no-money part. That’s true. I just meant I have a little more to say about it …

I mentioned I am in PST (pre-service training) for the Peace Corps. Here’s how the money situation works right now. The Peace Corps gives me:

  1. Rent money, which they give directly to me, and which I give to my host family. This is to cover the cost of my expenses (feeding me three times per day, water and electricity I use, etc.).
  2. Transportation money (I take a taxi to training every day, 1 Euro each way)
  3. And … 2 Euro per day as “walking around money,” which I receive as a monthly lump sum.

I know! 2 Euro per day doesn’t sound like much, does it? But let’s break down the cost of some common things I buy:

  1. Macchiato — 50 cents
  2. Chocolate croissant — 40 cents
  3. Piece of pizza — 40 cents
  4. Chicken sandwich from our favorite chicken sandwich place — $1.50 Euro
  5. Postage to the United States (per item) — about $2.50, depending on what it is
  6. Package of gum — 40 cents
  7. Pack of travel tissue — 9 cents (Seriously, when was the last time you bought anything for 9 cents? Never?)

Here is a receipt from lunch at a nice restaurant. The total cost was 7 Euro for 3 people. We all had a bottle of water. Charlie and I each got a hamburger and fries, while Sierra got a margarita pizza. (This sounds like the beginning of a textbook math problem, but I promise, no math is involved.)

IMG_2842

For those of you who are all like, “I can’t visit you in Kosovo. It’s so expensive!” My response is: “Yes, it’s expensive to get over here, but once you’re here, you can live like a king!”

Think about it.