Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Living on one income. $$$

I don't know about you stay at home mom's, but I have frequently been hit with questions like, "how the heck do you live off one income?" "does your husband work a lot of different jobs to support you?" "well you must have to sacrifice a lot" or "well he must have a really good job".
The answers? 1) very carefully. 2)no, he only works one. 3)yes, we do sacrifice. 4)he has an ok job, but he's not Donald Trump.

While I was pregnant with Eliana it became a very real question, to stay home or not to stay home? As a child I had always dreamed of being a wife and mommy, but then it turned out that I did pretty good in the big wide world of banking, who knew! I worked 6 days a week, and too many hours in my opinion. I moved my chair at my desk so the evening cleaning ladies could empty my trash if that gives you any idea. So, once I was pregnant and I looked into the price of daycare I kind of flipped! Almost $900 a month for the place near my work and that was if I picked the baby up by 6pm every day. Well, I pretty much never left work by 6. The biggest issue though was that every time I thought of putting my baby in daycare my heart would start racing and my chest felt tight and I wanted to cry. I felt desperate to not miss out on her childhood. I did the math. Just mortgage, utilities, and car payment, Craig's pay wasn't enough. This was a hard pill to swallow. We had been praying for a year for a raise for him or for something to happen and nothing happened. I was getting so discouraged. Everyone at work kept asking if I'd be coming back and I had to say the truth, "as far as I know, yes." Well, about a month before my due date Craig finally got a raise. And wow, it was just enough to cover our most basic bills and leave a few hundred for groceries and diapers. With our income literally cut in half I knew things would be tight, super tight actually. Pretty much no wiggle room. So, cut to Elly being born.....with her colic and acid reflux (more on that another time)there was just no way I could go back to work. What daycare would take a baby that screams all day??? I had a note from my doctor who was pretty emphatic that my child was not daycare eligible. I pretty much just think that God was making sure I would stay home with her :) Just before my 3 months of leave I officially gave my notice. I was in tears because I'm so responsible, always have been, and I felt really crappy leaving my coworkers hanging. But my family comes first and so it did.

I had sat down and worked through the numbers. We had just enough for basics. No home phone, no tv, no eating out, no buying coffee in the morning, no vacations, etc. Craig and I agreed it was worth it and we were both willing to make the sacrifices (that's the key ladies, you BOTH have to be on board!). And contrary to popular belief I am very low maintenance :) Haven't had a mani or pedi in two years :) Seemed we had it worked out and would give it a try.

WHAM!!!! Did you feel that? Um, that was the feeling of Craig getting laid off 1 month, yes 1 month!!! after I gave my notice. Are you freaking kidding me? So, we went from two incomes making good money if I'm being honest, to absolutely zero income with a new baby. Scary. Gladly I had put our tax refund in a liquid CD and we lived off that and the measly unemployment check that was left after Craig's child support payment was taken out (again, that's another story). We cut back, ate the stuff piling up in our cabinets, and quite frankly didn't have the energy to go out to eat. And like many new parents will tell you, going to a movie? What is that?! Anyway, 9 weeks later, he was able to go back to work, Praise the Lord. 9 weeks doesn't sound so bad, but when I look at the lost wages, it is bad.

So, how do you live on one income? You cut back, you budget, and you spend carefully. I admit this is difficult. I love to shop as much as the next girl, but I also know how to say no. In fact, this is almost a fault for me. For instance, I bought a $25 washer/dryer set at a yard sale a month before Craig and I got married. I totally thought I would replace them within a year as they were from the 70's and rusting (ewww, rust on clothes). Did I replace them? Um, no. I kept them for 3 1/2 years until I had a soapy load in the washing machine and it just quit working. That caused a frantic search for a new washer and dryer which I scored with an online coupon, price match discount, and some other discount that I forgot for the amazing deal of just over $700 for front loading Whirlpool Duet (the set). Ok, that was a tangent (I love a deal!!!). My point was that I let things go. I hate to spend money on stuff. My underwear has holes (don't tell anyone), my shoes are ripped, my jeans are 4 years old, and I haven't colored my hair in a year. So maybe I should spend more money.....but in my defense, it really does take sacrifice to live off one income and not have racked up home equity lines of credit, credit cards, personal lines of credit, etc. Trust me. I did this for a living. It was shocking to see the hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt that people would accrue. And for what? New tv's? A new Coach purse (I have one I got at an outlet 3 years ago :))?, mani/pedi's? Cable tv in every room? Brand new cars?

Here's the bottom line folks; if you don't have it, don't spend it. I know that's a crazy idea to comprehend and maybe someone oughtta pass that along to our government.....(I'm just saying!). If you think you really want it, put it on a wishlist. Think about it for a while, price shop (I love amazon, ebay, target, tj maxx). Make sure you're getting the best deal. If that seems like too much work, then you really shouldn't be buying that item that you "can't live without".

I have a Word document that has all of our bills and monthly expenses on it (including savings and tithe). If we spent it, it's on here. This is where our money is allocated. It's especially helpful if I feel like, "there's no money! how can I pay the bills!" If that's the case then it means I spent money where I shouldn't have. Tighten up the belt!

Don't get me wrong, I know things happen. Trust me, I know that. That's why you need a savings. I think at least 10% of your pay is ideal, but Craig and I are currently doing 5%, it's all we can and it's better than nothing. I do have credit cards, one with a small balance ($3,000) that I am working on paying off. I NEVER had a balance, but things changed a little with both of us not working and still having a mortgage, car payment, child support, medical bills (another story),etc. Credit cards are for emergencies and that sort of thing. Not because you want to go to Tahiti.

On a side note, if your credit is trashed, you need to fix it. When I met Craig his credit score was shocking. I read the number and thought it was a typo; unpaid medical bills, a Sprint account his ex had started and never paid as a one Miss Sara Frazier( um, they were never married, what a hack!), a video this same ex rented in Nevada and never returned (seriously??? um, yes). I spent a solid year before we were married fixing his credit (ask me for help and how to do it!). I believe at this point his credit is better than mine. How does that happen? :) Diligence. Your credit is your future. Cliche, but true. We're talking the difference of thousands of dollars on a mortgage, car loan, etc. Over 700 should be your goal. The closer you are to 800 the better. NEVER be late on a credit card payment. Speaking in general terms, there is no grace period on credit card payments. If you are even 1 day late you will get a late fee and could see your rate rise to the default level (which is usually over 20%). Never miss a mortgage payment or car payment. That being said, mortgage payments and car payments typically have a 15 day grace period. Check with your institution for specifics. Also, I don't recommend using that grace period on a regular basis. You may get used to that later payment date and when something happens and you actually need that 2 weeks, you won't have it. If you miss payments you'll pay for it later in terms of crappy credit agreements with high interest rates. www.annualcreditreport.com is a great resource for pulling your credit reports for free. Pull one from each bureau (transunion, equifax, and experian) as things are reported slightly different among the bureaus. Annoying yes but it's a fact. Take out a highlighter and go through them. Look for anything you don't recognize. Mark the heck out of them with notes on what stuff is and if you need to call and follow up on stuff. You can't fix it if you're not willing to take a good hard look at the mess. Ok, I can give more help....just ask!

Back to living on one income! I think, speaking in very general terms, we want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to spend all day with our children but also eat at the Melting Pot every weekend and have a new wardrobe each season. I hate to say it, but unless your spouse has been blessed with a megabucks job, you're gonna have to choose. I think a lot more women could stay home if they were willing to cut coupons, stay home instead of be out spending money, etc. I don't mean to point fingers here, I know that some people literally have no choice and I empathize for you. I know this can be a heated debate. If you feel like I'm stepping on toes here, maybe think about why you're feeling that way. I just really and truly feel that anyone that can raise their children...should. Think about it.

I am definitely not perfect in the financial area, but I am really trying. Could I really use a vacation? Yes. Do I miss just simply spending money? Yes. Am I SO glad I'm home with my daughter and raising her myself? YES!!! If you are walking this fine line ladies, let me just encourage you to take a leap, cut back on your spending, and spend time with your children. If you can't, but you want to, pray about it. Really really pray about it. I know that it can be easy to get our identity from our jobs. I get this, I was good at my job! But just maybe God wants you to find your identity in being His daughter; beloved and perfect to him. It's not about achieving or even earning and spending. It's about doing His will and being obedient. For the first time in years I feel like I am doing God's will in my life. This brings so much peace and happiness and I wish that for all of you. I wish for you to be present and experiencing all of your child's firsts and being your spouse's best friend and most important, living in the center of God's will for your life.

Goodnight everyone. I hope I have maybe challenged your priorities and if I've made you mad and that made you think....then I'm glad :)

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