Author: Jannette Matula, Mother of Two & Former Families First Volunteer
In August 2015, my boss came into my office to tell me my position was being eliminated effective immediately, and to please pack up my desk. I turned in my laptop, my keys and badge, and was escorted out of the office an hour later.
While I knew I would eventually find another job, I also knew it would take weeks, possibly months. And my next job would not likely pay as well as this one. Yikes!
While everyone’s financial realities are unique, the impact of abruptly losing an income is often the same for everyone – traumatic and scary. Will we be able to pay our bills? Will we be able to provide food for our family? Will we be able to pay our rent or mortgage?
Here are the things my family did to adjust to our new financial situation…
We came up with a game plan. First, my husband and I sat down to discuss our new budget and find ways to either eliminate or reduce all non-essential spending. This included eating out at restaurants, ordering in delivery (pizza, Chinese, etc.), going to the movies, and other things. We started evaluating every purchase….is this something we NEED (food on the table, gas in the car, electricity)? Or something we WANT (a new pair of shoes, the latest electronic gadget, a Pumpkin Spice latte from Starbucks)? Can I do this myself (fix the light switch, repair the washing machine, etc.) without having to pay someone else to do it?
We looked at ways to simplify. It sounds counter-intuitive, but when you have less money to spend on “stuff” and “extras”, it is easier to focus on basic human needs. These can be boiled down to simply: food, water, shelter, safety, love. There are a lot of articles and blogs that have great tips for how to simplify in many aspects of life. Here are a few I like:
Becoming Minimalist - http://www.becomingminimalist.com/the-10-most-important-things-to-simplify-in-your-life/
10 Simple Strategies - http://www.moneytalksnews.com/10-simple-strategies-simplify-your-life/
Mr. Money Mustache - http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/
We involved the whole family. Once the initial shock, anger and sadness started to fade, I decided to turn my situation into a teachable moment. How we adults respond to life pulling the rug out from under us sets an example for how our children will respond to similar disappointments in their lives. It was important for me to let my kids know we needed to make some changes, while also reassuring them that we would be fine. I also let them know that we are in this together as a family, and here are some ways they could help: do some extra (age appropriate) chores around the house (http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/chores-for-children), not ask for treats and extras, think of fun things we could do that do not require spending money (http://www.kiplinger.com/article/saving/T065-C011-S001-50-free-or-cheap-things-to-do-with-kids.html)
Ask for help. It is easy to let pride get in the way of caring for ourselves and being honest with others about hard times we are facing. I told my neighbors and parents of my kids’ friends what was going on. I asked those closest to us if they could watch my toddler if I had a job interview I had to drive to. I asked for clothing hand-me-downs for my kids. Any time I did have to make a non-standard expenditure (car repair, utility repair, etc.) I asked what discounts were available. 9 times out of 10, I was offered 5-10% off!
On December 23, about 4 months later, I accepted a new job paying much less than what I had been earning before. In the meantime, many of the changes my family had made while I was out of work became engrained into our lifestyle – our new, more minimalist reality. I still ask for discounts when making non-standard purchases, we still go to “kids eat free” nights at restaurants when we want to have dinner out as a family, and I still gratefully accept clothing hand-me-downs for my kids.
I have been “downsized” 3 times in 24 years of being in the workforce, which has taught me the importance of being prepared for it – emotionally and financially. My goal for myself and my children is financial security, and I believe most of us share this goal. With that in mind, I leave you with this list of values which I found in an article about a recent survey. The survey reveals these values as having likely contributed to the foundation of success for the wealthiest people in our society:
• Failure is not a bad thing.
• Some things are more important than money.
• Be a disciplined saver and an opportunistic buyer.
• Patience is a virtue.
• Be generous to those in need.
• Marriage is a life-long partnership.
Here is a link to the full article http://www.inc.com/marla-tabaka/want-your-kids-to-become-financially-secure-adults-parents-of-todays-wealthy-did.html
Parents, if you are between jobs and need support or advice, please call Families First at 877-695-7996. We are here to help!
For more great parenting tips, parenting resources, suggestions or support call the Families First Support Line at 877-695-7996 OR 866-527-3264 for Spanish-speaking parents. You can also e-mail SupportLine@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.