For many years I had a pretty good budget system in the United States, but, unfortunately, it all fell apart when I moved to Vietnam. One major difference in day to day life here is that not many places accept debit/credit cards, which was how I tracked my old expenses. Vietnam is really, really into getting cash for goods and services.

Here’s my first attempt at getting back on track: keeping tabs on my spending and rediscovering my inner fiscally-responsible self (however deep he’s buried in street food!).

Once I started voicing my frustrations, it seemed like everyone around me had an idea on the best way to proceed. I was clearly not alone.

One teacher flatly endorsed a simple “200k/day” situation, with the daily remainder being socked away in savings. This sounded pretty good initially, but there are expenses every week, for ‘bigger ticket’ purchases or government fees or just me sending money home, that complicate this structure. Also, I’m not allowed to simply deposit any money I have laying around into my bank account (and therefore remit it to the US) – all my bank money has to come from a verified direct deposit. Only my salary can live there.

Another suggested using my VN bank card for everything and track it that way. This does, however, lead to some problems where not all expenses are truly accounted for – cash is king. I don’t want to track two separate types of transactions – all cash or no cash would be preferable to me.

In this weekly column, I’m going to document my bills and purchases for a few months in an attempt to restore some kind of fiscal sanity to my world! Join me as I figure out exactly where all this money I’m making is going…

In order to get the most accurate picture possible, I’m going to document every transaction 500 VND and up – see the ferry on Wednesday! It’s easy to discount that .05 cents, but, eventually things add up. Because I want to paint as complete a portrait as possible of what it means, financially, to teach abroad in HCMC, I’m going to strive to document every outgoing transaction. Let’s see if I can do it!

First up, let’s look at where my money went last week, and the cost in VND and USD:

NOTE: This whole ’embedding a doc’ thing is an experiment – might change it. Bear with me.