Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The money struggles continue

I don't mean to make it sound like we are totally destitute, but cashflow has consumed our thoughts lately and I've never had such a hard time generating income before.

Granted, it's been a hot minute since I have waited tables, but I do have 10 years of restaurant experience in a country that doesn't pay a living wage, so I know what it means to provide excellent customer service and hustle for my money. You'd think that would make me more attractive to all the managers at all the restaurants I've applied to since the end of September (my last count was 12). Nope.

I'm very thankful for the job with the catering company that I've found, and our new friends here have been so incredibly helpful with keeping an ear out for any open positions that Tyler and I could step into. Because of our connections, Tyler has found two part time jobs. If it hadn't been for those connections, he wouldn't have any income, despite applying to at least 10 different jobs.

What's really confusing is how expensive it is to find a job here! I know the old saying "You've got to spend money to make money," and I get that, but why does it cost so much money to get a simple part time job here?!

Here's the breakdown of how much we have spent to get any form of income in this country (and this total is all before we worked a single shift). All costs are in Australian dollars unless otherwise noted.

To get a job in a restaurant--

If I want to work at a restaurant that serves alcohol, I have to get an RSA (responsible service of alcohol) certification. Essentially it's a course teaching me how to recognize when someone has been over-served and how to diffuse a situation if a drunk patron gets upset when cut off. This is not unusual, I've had to take similar courses in the States, but the fee has always been paid by the restaurant hiring me. I couldn't even apply for a job at a restaurant until I'd gotten my RSA, so the cost was on me. I also got a RSF (responsible food handling...I know the initials don't match the name of the certificate) certification.

Cost for certificates: $80 

Once I got hired I had to buy 98% of my uniform and tools like a wine key (they call them "waiter's friend" here) because the catering company only provides the apron. That means I had to buy two button-down shirts, shoes, a black tie, and black pants. I already had the black pants, but everything else was NOT cheap! I looked at several stores for a black shirt, and ended up finding some in my size at Target for $30 a piece.

Cost for uniform: $150

Total cost for catering job: $230

*It's interesting to note that if I'd wanted to apply for jobs at a coffee shop, I would have to take a barista course to learn how to make coffee and do those fancy latte art designs you see on hipster instagram accounts. They take coffee very seriously in this city, and the barista course would have cost me another $45.

To get a job at not-a-restaurant--

Thanks to a friend, Tyler has found a job working for an outdoor program with the YMCA which is awesome because he'll be able to work with kids and add something to his resume. Again, super grateful for the opportunity, but this job also comes with a cost. Because he's responsible for the safety of kids, he has to get first aid, CPR, and lifeguard certified. Not unreasonable, and the YMCA has already covered the CPR and lifeguarding certificates, but the first aid course is coming out of our pocket.

Cost for first aid course: $160

Cost for YMCA job: $160

*Huge thanks to our friend Jason who went out of his way to ask if Ty could get the first aid course covered, too. It was worth the effort.

That makes a total of almost $400 for part time jobs that are helping us pay the rent, but The Goal is to get back into teaching which means we have to get certified in Victoria.

To get a job teaching (even substitute teaching)--

In theory that's not a hard task, but one requirement of the application is to show a police report from all of the countries we have lived in for the past 10 years. I've already addressed how complicated that task is for us, and the whole process has been REALLY expensive.

For the background checks we have to send in our fingerprints, which requires an appointment with a specific division of the police department here.

Cost for fingerprint reports: $45 per report, one report per background check request (of which there were 2) = $180

Cost for background check from Kuwait: $108 per request, of which there were 2 = $216

Convenience fee from the post office for getting the money orders required by Kuwait: $8 per money order = $16

Cost of a background check from the FBI: US$18 per request = US$36 (~AUD52)

Cost of mailing everything to the FBI with delivery tracking: $32 per envelope, of which there were 2 = $64

That is $528 before we've even applied to register with the Victoria Institute of Teaching. We're still waiting for the FBI check to come in and our background check from Kuwait expires in February. There is an application fee, of course.

Cost of VIT registration application: $146 per application, of which there are 2 = $292

That brings us to the grand total of $820 spent on a teaching job and we can't even approach a school for an interview until after our application has been approved. That is equivalent to almost 3 full paid days of substitute teaching.

That means, before we have even worked a single hour, we have spent $1210.

For $1210, we could buy three and a half round trip flights from Melbourne to Sydney. We could book a stay at a resort in Bali. That is more than half the cost of one person to take this awesome Outback pub crawl we found where you fly to all the pubs on a chartered plane.


The interesting thing about living in a country with a living wage (minimum wage nationwide is $17.29 an hour) means that we get paid a lot per hour but our employers are stingy with the paid hours. When I was waiting tables in high school making $2.13 an hour, I would work a 10 to 12 hour shift with no break (because I didn't want one) and could make as much as $300 in a shift at my diner job. That rounds out to roughly $25 an hour and there was no opposition from my manager. Here I am lucky to squeak out 7 paid hours at $16.30 after taxes have been taken out. If both of us were able to work our maximum 20 hours per week when school is in session we would be able to make ends meet easily. But because our employers are shelling out so much per hour, it's tough to convince them to let us work 20 hours a week.

I wish I had known all of this before we moved here when we were saving up our dinars in Kuwait.

Vicariously yours,

1 comment:

  1. Ugh! Thats a really interesting perspective. I always wondered what the differences would be if minimum wage was raised significantly. I'm so sorry lady. Job hunting sucks...real hard.