Monday, May 3, 2010

Unemployment lessons

Last August, the government closed the bank/mortgage company my husband worked for. There was no notice, no severence package, they simply sent out an email announcing doors were closing at noon. That really sent us into a tailspin. We had some savings, a family of 6, and my teaching job. Now, let's be honest.... I make a decent living, but not enough to maintain our lifestyle. So, the cuts started that day.

Activities - The first thing to go were the kids activities. I allowed them (the older three) to stay in scouts because I run the troops, and the girls raise their own money through the endless cookie sales to participate in activities. Big Al played travel soccer, and her club gave her a scholarship - she was thankful. She also played school soccer which was free. T-Rex gave up archery (tough for her to do), but got to keep chorus (free). Blondie and Cheesie gave up Tennis.

Clothing - We bought no new clothes for the fall - this was really tough because T-Rex was growing, so I would buy her something new periodically, but the rest of the girls used the hand-me-downs we make use of anyway.

Obvious - We cut the obvious gym membership, etc. We never got as far as cutting the TV and internet, but I really thought the TV would just be great to get rid of anyway ( I think we would go through news withdrawl though, and if I had to choose between TV and internet, the TV would be out the door).

Electric-I started hanging my clothes to dry, and we layered through the winter. Bed linens were also layered, and no heat was used at night (in the south we get down to maybe 40 fahrenheit so it wasn't bad).

Shopping - I hate Walmart, but Brian bought groceries there as needed, but supplemented with produce from elsewhere. Christmas was on a serious shoestring, and we used a little savings for it, but it was on a much smaller scale than other years. I tried to do the coupon thing, but wasn't fanatic about it (and found that the bogo price at one supermarket was exactly the same as Walmart everyday - darn it-- I really hate that store). Last summer I had canned, and frozen a lot of fresh veggies, and stocked up on bogo meat sales, so that helped out for a long time.

Entertainment - Art museum is free on Sundays, state parks at $2.00 a car, while some hiking trails are free. We played board games, puzzles, went back to the library instead of buying books or movies, rediscovered our video games (which you can also get from the library).

So now, Brian has been back at work for about 6 weeks, and we are holding onto a lot of the changes. Ceiling fans are on instead of AC (although we are going to need to turn that on soon!), I still hang my clothes (why not? It was easy). I am about to have the long distance cut off (maybe even the whole landline). We still head for the library instead of buying books, I did join Netflix because we spend a bunch on the latest kid movies, and then end up keeping them "just-in-case" but I like the streaming movies, and it works off the Wii. I will be buying/ growing fresh fruit and veggies to can and freeze again, and will again stock up on meat for the longterm. If it had gone on much longer we may have had issues, but just as Brian's first round of Unemployment (a whopping 325 per week) ran out, he got his job. It did come with a noticable pay cut, so we aren't changing much of our habits.

We are still focused on paying off everything as fast as possible so we aren't in debt again. If we hadn't had two car payments, and a few other bills we would have been fine indefinitely. We were fans of Dave Ramsey before, but really are working toward the financial independence now. We continue to live as we did when he was out of work, and according to this article on the "new" frugality, we aren't alone. I think this was a good way for me to begin simplifying. When you have less money, you shop a lot less, and really we haven't missed much. We'll keep this up for awhile, and see how it goes.

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