14 Aug

Even though I live in one of the most economically fortunate countries in the world (in many ways), saving money is not easy. Growing up I never wanted for the necessities and even had enough extra for vacations, air conditioning, restaurant dinners-pretty much anything. I had never really thought about the planning and saving that my parents did in order to make that kind of lifestyle possible. Now I know.

My husband is from rural Mexico. There were times growing up where he had no shoes. His family is thankful for a meal of beans and tortillas. Sometimes for weeks on end that is was all they ate.

As you can imagine, the challenge of coming to an agreement with our own personal finances is tremendous. I have certain expectations with respect to lifestyle, I want to plan for the financial future. I suspect that my husband feels guilty spending money on things, imaging how his family in Mexico has (and likely still is) suffering to put beans on the table. The idea that you can put money aside, with no intended purpose or need, is foreign to him.

Antonio Aguilar, an iconic Mexican singer and actor, wrote a well-known song, Un Puño De Tierra. It could be my husband’s credo. The chorus of the song goes like this:

El día que yo me muera (The day I die)

No voy a llevarme nada (I won’t take anything with me)
Hay darle gusto al gusto (You have to give into life’s pleasures)
La vida pronto se acaba (Life soon ends)

Lo que paso en este mundo (Whatever happens in this world)
Nomas los recuerdos quedan (Only memories are left)
Ya muerto voy a llevarme (I won’t take anything with me in death)
Nomas un puño de tierra (Only a handful of dirt)

So, I was fascinated to find out that in his region of Mexico, it is common to particpate in a Tanda, which is a grass-roots savings/credit plan. Here is how it works:

Say you need $400 right now for whatever reason (home repair, medical reason, a burial). You get 3 other people to each participate in a Tanda, person A, person B, person C and person D. Each person agrees to put in $100 each week for 4 weeks. In week one person A receives the Tanda, thereby receiving $300, plus their own $100. In week two person B receives the Tanda and in week three person C receives and so on until everyone is paid back.

I know, I know. Your brain is thinking “What’s the incentive? Shouldn’t people be paid back $110?” But this is the beauty of it! A Tanda is created out of need, not greed and the spirit is truly one of generosity and cooperation within the community.

Creative and resourceful, huh?  A Tanda could be created with any number of people, any length of time and any dollar amount. Default probably isn’t a big issue in a small town where you would be hounded relentlessly if you didn’t follow through with your end of the deal.

So what do you think? Anyone up for a Tanda?

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Posted by on August 14, 2012 in Culture, Música, Spanish


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