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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Day Of Deliveries!

Today, the exchange rate is oh, so dismal! I've been trying to hold out for a better one but the $19.30 rate has been hanging around for a week. Today is February the first, the start of a new month and soon people will be stopping by our door for their due. So it's off to the money house (cambio) to exchange our Social Security dollars for Pesos. The Cambio house offers a better rate than the bank does. We might get 5 to 10 cents more per dollar through them or  $19.35 or $19.40 this month . It makes a difference!

A good exchange rate, say like the one in November, of $19.80 can mean a project or two can be accomplished around the Glass house. Hey, a good exchange rate can even add a night out at a restaurant or a Pizza, although I like the pizzas Wally makes at home with his greek olives and feta cheese!

I mentioned people stopping by our door for payment. You might not know this but the health insurance company sends a person to your house each month to collect the premiums in person. The person or in our case a lady named Miriam arrives early in the month with our monthly preprinted health cards. She knocks on your door and waits for you to answer, she carries change. They never call first! They just assume you'll be home! In the 3 years we have lived here, I've only missed her 3 times. I had to go to the clinic the first time and get her cell phone number, call her and rearrange for her to swing by the next day. So each month you have to get a new health card to show you've paid. I just thought you like to know that tid bit.

In the midst of my financial musings I got a pleasant surprise! A package was delivered to me from a childhood school chum of mine named Jennie. Jennie and I went to the same Junior high school in our youth  and later the same High School. We were on the same swim team in High School and had many of the same classes and yet we never really knew each other as friends back then. Rather, when I first joined Facebook, on a lark, I looked up some classmates names and friended her. It's funny how living here, a continent and a half away, if you count Central America as the half, I'm closer to Jennie now than I was when we spent 6 hours a day together in the same school!

Jennie is a new, up and coming photographer. She has taken classes, joined clubs and entered several competitions and won! While checking out her Facebook albums and photos I saw a print of hers that I feel in love with. It is of some palm trees on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I love graphic quality photos, so this one, having been not only photographed by her but also computer manipulated by her as well, really struck a chord with me. It reminded me of my Southern California, Pacific coast upbringing. I gave her a thumbs up and mentioned how much I liked that photo of hers. Well, what a surprise I got when she offered to send a signed and matted copy of it to me all the way down here to Uruguay. What a sweet and amazing offer! I said Yes, Yes, Yes!

It arrived today! Her matting the 11x14 print (I so loved) made it an impressive 16x20"  picture. She also surprised me by including two other beach themed photos! Another, 11x14 one, matted as well and a fantastic pelican print, now a matted 8x10 size. All photos were taken by her!

This being a blog about Uruguay you might be interested to know that the 19x24 1/2" box (6 inch deep) packaged up through her local UPS store arrived safely and was delivered through our post office to our door. In addition to the matting costs and whatever the UPS store charged her, It cost her $40 US dollars just in postage to send it down here from California, USA. It took a month to arrive. She mailed it December 27th (after Christmas) and it arrived today Feb. 1st. I just thought you blog readers, who like to know the price of mundane things, would like to know how long it took to arrive and the cost to ship such a package. Because the package was light in weight, it was able to be delivered to my door by post. I have heard horror stories of larger packages having to go through customs and being picked up in downtown Montevideo at the port. A 60% custom charge is accessed on what customs thinks the item is worth.

I wasn't charged anything today and got the pleasant surprise of not one but three photos! So I am including Jennie Duncan's photo site and a second site at  so you can look at her photos. So in the midst of my fretting over the poor exchange rate today and how poor I would be this month, I was suddenly made rich! Rich in beauty and warm feelings of friendship!!! Thank you so much Jennie! You are as beautiful a person in spirit as your photos will be on my wall!

I got a second delivery today, my first firewood order of the year. Every year, I tell myself, we will start ordering wood in the summer for our winter usage but we often spend the money borrowing it for other projects. Well, I finally held some money back and we bought and received a ton today. I tried looking around for a better price but the $2700 peso price ordered from the same guy as last year (Eduardo) was the best I could get. Expats call each other with news on various prices and while I was told to look up this guy or that guy and to go here and there, the reality was that everyone I contacted had a different issue making my purchase difficult. So, I settled back on last year's guy. Back in 2009 we paid $1900 Pesos a ton or Mil but he got out of the business last year. Still, we called him just in case. No, he still was not in business. Last year, I felt I was taken advantage of by a price of $2800 pesos because some pieces of wood were too large to burn safely in my wood-stove.

So I went looking and wandering last year and found Eduardo. This year I tried a few new places first. One guy said that no wood would be available (of the size we needed) until the end of February as he was too busy selling wood for BBQ or Asado which is smaller. One guy wanted $2900 Pesos a ton and he said he would not stack the wood nor come onto your property but would just dump it in front of your house for that price.

 Eduardo said he would charge me $2800 Pesos but I talked him down. I left Wally waiting in the car as he is not as willing to bargain as I am. So $2700 pesos was decided on and that included the free delivery, coming onto the property and neatly stacking the wood in my wood storage area. One ton of cut wood generally takes a pickup size trucks's bed and a small trailer full, as seen in the above picture. All my orders of a ton of wood from the many different companies all hauled in the little trailer and the pickup full of wood. So that insight might help you judge your order's worth. Astillas is the Spanish word you need for the cut open type of wood versus the word Rolos for the cut log type of wood. I always get the person to write out the price we have settled on, on a piece of paper. It helps get clearly in my head and theirs what the price was in the midst of delivery day.

Since Eduardo remembered last year's routine he remarked how quick the delivery and stacking went this year. Still in looking back over last year's post the cost went up $200 Pesos. I paid Eduardo $2500 per ton last year. As we pay our bills this month we hope to have some more money left over for a second wood order. A better exchange rate would have changed the wording "we hope to" in that sentence to "we will".

We have space now to store 3 tons of wood covered. I added the 3rd storage area while Wally was in California. We use no more than 5 tons per winter and we had about 3/4 of a ton left over from winter.

 I've said it before, Uruguay is not a cheap place to live in and the prices keep going up! My health insurance went up from $1494 Pesos in June of 2011 to $1587 Pesos in the month of January, 2012. I don't know if it will be more this month. I'll have to wait for her knock. Still, richness and beauty in life can be found if you keep an eye out for it and are willing to say yes to it's delivery.


Anonymous said...

Hello Denise,
It would be fair to say that somehow expats are contributing to increase the cost of living in Uruguay?
As we also have the intention to settle in Uruguay in the years to come, we have been following the evolution of the cost of living in this country for some time… and there is no doubt that it is skyrocketing.
We live in France, where life is quite expensive... and we are from Brazil, where the cost of living is one of the highest in the world these days. However, the case of Brazil can easily be explained by its booming economy, which places that country among the biggest economies in the world… so people are consuming too much.
What else could explain this cost of living increasing in Uruguay?
Have a nice week!

Wally said...

Geraldo- I am sure Denise has her own ideas, but I don't think expats are contributing to the rise in cost of living here. Possibly the rise in cost of property, yes, but general cost of living (utilities, food, etc)- I don't think so. I am sure that as prices increase in Argentina and Brazil, that Uruguay gets squeezed, as well. Also, increased fuel costs worldwide increases costs of shipping, etc. I think everything is going up, up and away, not in Uruguay, alone.

gypsygirl1925 said...

Hi Denise,
I have Medica Uruguaya health insurance and was paying my premium at the clinic in Atlantida each month. This could be inconvenient as the girl wasn't always there when I came to pay and no one else could take the money. Then I was told I could pay at the cambio, and have been doing that ever since. They give you a receipt, which I keep until the next month. I pay my water, electric and cable there also, one-stop spending agrees with me!
Candy, Las Toscas

Jennifer said...

Hello! Long time reader, first time to post. We are planning to retire in approx 2 years to Uruguay. Have explored (via internet) MANY other options and we keep coming back to Uruguay being our ideal location. Wondering what you truly think it costs, on average, each month for the two of you. Having read your blog from 1st post to most recent I beleive our standards for living would be very similiar. I realize this is a very personal question but (as you know) it's difficult to really assess what a reasonable amount of money per month would be. Any and all advice/info is welcome! Thanks!!

Denise said...

Dear Jennifer,
Glad to hear from you!
Wally and I are the "poorist" of the expats living here so our budget is too small and sad to mention. We manage because we own our home outright. We pay no mortgage or rent. We have a used very old car so our
yearly taxes are low. We cook and eat at home and don't travel much. So you really don't want to base your monthly income on our 2 bits. Instead a more well to do expat mentioned that he gets by on $2500 a month payments. He also owns his own home and has some farm income so he really makes more. I wouldn't move on less than $1200 to $2500 a month guaranteed income with no rent or mortgage payments using that up. Also, remember that inflation and the exchange rate can adversely effect your monthly income. Can it be done on less? Yes but NOT RECOMMENDED!!!

Seamus said...

Denise, good for you regarding your quest for less expensive wood. I've mentioned before that I've felt that those of us from the USA are lacking in price negotiation skills. And the first step in price negotiation is market research to find out what the prevailing prices and availability are.

My sister once had a good laugh when she found 20 bars of bath soap in my linen closet but as I told her, those bars were usually $1 each and I got them for $0.50. Even if it takes 3 years to use it, that would be 17% annual savings. And I don't know of any bank or cambio that will give you 17% on your money. As long as the stuff will not spoil or get wasted, often times your money is much better stored as goods in your closet or food in your fridge.

Tell Wally to look at it that way and think of himself as a financier and he won't find bargaining to be niggling or chiseling. He'll see it as high finance and get much more into it.