Friday, March 06, 2009

File this one under: Unexpected Life Changes

For a long time we were happy know, Double-Income-No-Kids. We took trips, I bought shoes, DH bought a lovely but completely impractical sports car and we saved. Every month we saved. Mostly we saved so that we could purchase the above mentioned luxuries, but we also kept some back as a “nest egg” or emergency fund.

Then we moved to Chicago and bought a house about a month before the market really started to slump (read: we owe more now than the house is worth—not by much, but enough to piss me off). Things were good though, even with a crushing mortgage payment. We took a couple more trips, I bought some more shoes and a Coach purse or three, and then we decided to start our family. So the saving went into high gear and I tried to curtail the shopping a bit. We saved enough to pay for all our medical expenses and for me to take 6 wks unpaid leave with only minimal expenses on the credit card.

Since then, between the mortgage (still crushing) and the daycare (more than the mortgage on my first house 6 yrs ago!) we’ve struggled to save—to adjust our discretionary spending to accommodate the addition of daycare and diapers and formula. We kept up the wine club, the dinners out, Christmas gifts, and um, maybe some new shoes, too. We still put a little bit away every month, but not as much as we had been.

Since I came back to work 7 short months ago, the economy started its tight spiral into the shitter. Both my company and DH’s started to have round after round of layoffs and we started to really take a look at our spending. But we’re both high performers at work and have both been promoted recently—DH as recently as January—so we felt pretty safe. And so there were still talks of trips, of landscaping projects, of remodeling projects for this summer. In fact, 2 wks ago I was planning a 3 day get-away to Vegas for the two of us, ditching (I mean, tearfully leaving) DS at his Omi and Opa’s house.

Well, it’s all on hold now. Everything is on hold and I’m trying hard not to scream inside my head, because one week ago DH was laid off. His company let a third of Chicago office go and gave him 2 days notice. Called him in on Thursday and said we need you to bring everything back in (laptop, etc.) on Monday and Good Luck.


I’m so, so thankful that, literally one week prior to this, I called and got things rolling on a mortgage refinance which will save us $400/month. Needless to say we’re keeping our mouths shut until we sign the new loan papers. And thank God, this allows us to skip a mortgage payment. Now, everything I look at is calculated in terms of how many months can we pay the mortgage, car payment, and keep the Carpet Monkey in daycare (because in order to find a job, DH must be free to LOOK for a job, so CM stays in daycare).

Needless to say, we’ve really dialed back the spending. Things that were total luxuries all got cancelled on Tuesday. We made a list of the nice-to-haves we aren’t quite ready to give up, but which are next on the ax-list, depending on how long DH’s unemployment stretches out. I nearly had an anxiety attack on Wednesday when a coworker asked me to join him for lunch to Subway and I had to spend $5.46 on lunch.
I keep telling myself, we’re NOT poor. I have a good job, with a great salary and for the moment I don’t think I’m in danger of losing my job. (Of course, I need to wrap up this blog post and get back to it, but hopefully I’ll be able to focus better once all this is out of my system. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) My salary will cover the mortgage and the daycare, by far our two biggest expenses, and we have enough savings to get us through several months of the rest of our living expenses.

My biggest battle right now is with fear. I struggle to banish thoughts of food stamps and my beautiful baby boy running around smeared with dirt and diaper-less and ratty clothes and…Desperation. Hunger. Bankruptcy. Foreclosure. These are the demons that tug at me, and we are so not there yet. Not even close. But unbidden images of hobos and lines outside soup kitchens from the Great Depression try to sneak into my brain and it takes a conscious effort to kick them the hell out.

I called my grandmother right after I found out and she prayed with me about it all. It’s the first time I’ve really prayed in a long, long time. But it felt good and I’ve kept it up this past week. We talked about how paralyzing fear can be, and what a giant energy drainer it is. So for right now, that’s my focus—keeping fear at bay.

Fear has no place in my life, in my family, in my home.

Please keep us in your prayers. We just need the right opportunity to open up for DH, and for it to not take too long to appear. Please also pray for an easy adjustment to our new, frugal way of life. It’s a good lesson to learn, regardless, so I’m trying very hard to simply embrace it and welcome the changes as they come.