My wife and I acquired a business out of an article 9 sale and have been quite busy with many of the management duties. She has been meeting with vendors and signing contracts, while I have been spending evenings paying bills and tracking the finances worrying about having enough money every 2 weeks to make payroll.
All told, we are probably spending about 20 hours per week between the two of us. Now it has slowed down a bit recently. January and February were quite busy setting up many of the new systems, dealing with health insurance etc so we were spending even more time (up to 30 hours in a week some weeks). We are hoping that establishing some patterns will free up some time so that it can trim down to about 10 hours. We should start tracking it more closely in April so that we know for sure.
But I can’t help but think of the prior owner and all the extra non-revenue producing activity that had to be spent just to keep a small business with two other employees going. I have a feeling that might be one of the reasons that the business ended up in some financial difficulty. Now that my wife and I are assuming this burden, more time has been freed up for the site manager to go out and solicit business.
I think that is why January was one of the top 10 months for revenue in the past 15 years. February was what seemed like a lot slower, but it was in reality about an average month. We should still be able to keep the doors open with a month like February. And now March has picked up again and new orders in the first 7 business days are 80% of February’s total.
“If You Stop Tracking, You Start Slacking”
This is a quote from my personal trainer. I starting tracking everything I eat and have been shooting for about 2,000 calories per day. Simply watching it so closely has helped me to lose weight already.
The same can be said for finances (or anything in life). Because I am tracking the finances of the business so closely, I can minimize expenses and allow the manager to maximize revenue and sales. I really think that freeing his mind of all the business worries has allowed him to be more productive and have a better attitude in order to feel motivated to make sales. I really doubt that the economy has been that much stronger this year than last.
Well because I have been focused on this business, my blogging has slowed dramatically. I noticed that I didn’t even post a single article for the month of February. Forgive me for that, but I really think that my efforts are better spent elsewhere. This is actually the first time I have had a small block of uninterrupted or unobligated time since I was stranded in Chicago’s Midway Airport in January trying to get out on a golf trip. Now it is snowing again, so my golf season will have to wait a bit longer.
As always, thanks for reading.
If you have been reading the blog for a while, you know that I have been trying to get 200,000 miles out of my Montana mini-van. It is a 2004 model year and had been paid off for some time now. Mostly, I had been doing regular maintenance type activities. The only major repair was a new transmission at 108,000 miles although it did require $650 for a new radiator and thermostat a year ago.
Well this past weekend, it started overheating quite quickly. My boys were traveling home from practice and called me to let me know that they had stopped on the side of the highway. They let the engine cool down and got about 5 more miles before having to call it quits again. Their sister went and picked them up and later my wife and I got it and were able to limp to the repair shop near our house.
On Monday, we got the great news that it had a blown head gasket. The repair was estimated to be $3000. I took the vehicle home and now am in mourning while I figure out what to do.
Options for dealing with mini-van.
1. I figure the first option is to spend the money and get it fixed. That is a big cost to keep a vehicle running that probably isn’t even worth that much in the first place. When I went to the Kelley Blue Book Value website, it looks like it is worth between $2000 and $4000 but I assume that is before a blown head gasket. Still I would be spending about the entire value of the car to get it fixed. And who knows when the transmission will go again. It looks like I am spending roughly $2000 per year on average to keep it on the road ($166/month) in repairs above routine maintenance.
2. Try to list in on Craigslist as a mechanic special. I might be able to get about $800 for it. It still ran well until the most recent problem. Someone with the knowledge and skill to change the head gasket could get a decent vehicle for not much money plus some do-it-yourself effort.
3. Sell it for junk. If I took this route, I would try to see if I could get $500 for it. The rear tires are only 6 weeks old so the 4 tires themselves should be worth about $200. Then the rest of the van could be used for parts. It has never been in an accident and the body seems to be in good shape. This might be a fairly quick transaction and would give me some quick cash.
I am leaning toward number 3 as I am starting to spend a fair amount to keep it on the road. Plus dealing with Craigslist and having strangers coming over to case my place sounds a little spooky. I could donate the vehicle and take a tax deduction, but dealing with the IRS doesn’t sound fun either.
Now About Transportation
Next, I have to figure out how I am to get back and forth to work. Right now, I will be able to get by through most of the summer. But my options during the winter aren’t that great with the vehicle I will be using. So I am thinking I have a couple of possibilities.
1. Buy a junker. When I look for what I can get around $3000, it seems that most cars are from the late to mid-90’s with over 100,000 miles on them. If I wanted that type of scenario, I could fix my own junker for $3000.
2. Save up $8000-$10,000 this summer and buy a used vehicle in the fall. There seem to be a fair number of vehicles in this price range with mileage running between 40,000 miles and 60,000 miles. There are lots of PT Cruisers. I suppose if I could get about 80,000 miles out of it, that would be 4 years at 20,000 miles per year for a purchase cost of $2500 per year or just over $200 per month.
3. Buy a new car. Again, I have to assume that I can get at least 120,000 miles out of the vehicle. At the same rate of 20,000 miles per year, I could 6 years out of the vehicle and possibly 7 which would be comparable to scenario number 2 above. It looks like there are some decent (not too small) cars available for about $18,000. I am looking at the Mazda 3 and like the looks of it right now. Divided over 6 years, the cost would become $3000 per year of usage or $500 more per year than buying used.
The question then becomes what are the pros and cons for that difference in cost. That doesn’t consider taxes, which in the state of Indiana depend on age and type of vehicle, nor insurance. So the actual cost would be higher.
Past Experience Can Cloud Future Judgement
So maybe cloud is a bit strong, but I know that sometimes past experience with definitely have an influence. Growing up, my father would purchase used cars at times, and it seemed like half the time it would work out while the other half would be a real pain with lots of unexpected repairs. Now I am not the most mechanically inclined, but I know enough to get around and could get a car to limp along with a few basic tools and duct tape so I wouldn’t end up stranded.
But my fear regarding used cars is that I don’t want my 16 year old daughter to find herself in the same predicament. I don’t mind the adventure, but would hate to put her through that. So I am tending to lean toward spending the extra money and getting a car that is new, and presumably, reliable with the thinking that my daughter’s safety is worth an extra $80 per month in the long run.
This is just one of the issues that I have been facing recently. Isn’t life fun?
One of the first things you properly ask to know as an expat when you move to a new country is, ‘Is it going to be expensive?’ If this country is Qatar, there are perks that will help keep your expenses down.
Cost of living
Thanks to high revenues from the oil and gas industry, the Government can subsidize the cost of water and electricity heavily, allowing you to keep household expenses down easier. This works out well when it comes to buying household goods, electronics and furniture, which tends to be a little more expensive in Qatar but cheaper than importing them.
Non- nationals in Qatar can buy a property for 99 years in specific areas of Qatar and can extend this for another 99 years. They will be granted permanent residence and can also transfer the property to their heirs.
If you want to buy a property, you can apply for a home loan in Qatar from HSBC to finance the purchase. The good news is that you won’t be subject to property tax, making it easier to pay loan costs, interest rates or other expenses associated with buying a home. Prices in the more popular locations tend to be higher and the waiting lists are longer, so you may wish to consider somewhere slightly less popular. The cost of petrol in Qatar is inexpensive, however, making it cheaper to use the car to get out and about.
Working in Qatar
Have you been lucky enough to secure a job in the wealthiest little country in the world? Expats who have been relocated to Qatar to work normally have a senior role and earn a better salary. Your employer will also help you to secure your work visa and residence visa (yes, you need them!), which saves you a lot of hassle, and they will be your sponsor while you’re in Qatar.
Much better than all of this, you are not subject to income tax to the Qatari Government. You may, however, be subject to taxes in your home country.
Maybe you’re worried about the cost of healthcare while you’re out in Qatar. Don’t worry, for whether you have a job or otherwise, this is relatively inexpensive because the Qatari Government heavily subsidizes welfare services. Besides, most employers who have hired expats will normally have arranged health care provision for them.
If, however, you don’t have an employer or your employer hasn’t taken care of health care provision for you, you can apply for a HamadCard. This will entitle you to highly subsidized health care and dental care at Hamad Health Corporation.
Shopping for Bargains
While you’re out shopping, at some point you’ll probably have to, or wish to, haggle as part of the culture! You can negotiate yourself a bargain, but once you do so avoid paying for it by credit card. This way, you stop yourself from paying possible surcharges and undoing all that hard bargaining!
So now you can pack your bags, knowing the perks you can look forward to while you’re out in Qatar: affordable health care, fuel and utilities, tax-free income and the chance of permanent residence. Oh, and don’t forget about the weather, of course!