Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Hi. We're broke.

Yeah, hell of a way to start a blog post. I had no other idea what direction to go with this introduction.

As some of you may already know, I am unemployed. I lost my job the beginning of last September. I've been on unemployment, which has been keeping us afloat; my original unemployment claim ended last spring and I was granted an extension. Now, as far as I understand it, there are currently no other extensions to be granted (unless Congress votes otherwise soon... I believe they're voting on Tuesday? I'm not sure), and I am expecting to run out of my extended benefits... very soon. I'm not sure exactly when, because I get a little confused when I try to navigate the world of unemployment benefits. I suspect they make it deliberately confusing so no one questions them. Not that it matters, because they don't answer their phone anyway; if you REALLY wanted to go and question them, you'd have to go sit in their hellhole of an office all day and wait to talk to someone who doesn't actually have answers for you anyway. Not my idea of a good time.

But if I read the website right, I will be running out either after this week's check or after the following check, and the following check (if I get one) may only be for one week's benefits, not two, because my starting check was only for one week. This is all conjecture, I really don't know. That's what I'm guessing at though.

Back when I lost my job, we looked at our budget to determine if we would be able to live on OJ's salary alone, if ever it came down to that. At that time, it was tight but manageable. We would have had to give up pretty much every expenditure that even resembled excess, and I might have had to scramble to bring in a couple hundred bucks a month from home somehow, but that seemed like something we could deal with if that ever came to pass.

Well, since it appeared that WOULD be coming to pass soon, we sat down last week to take another look at our budget. Everything and nothing has changed since last September, when I lost my job. We got a 'new' (to us) car. We went on a large vacation that we absolutely could not afford, and borrowed / charged most of it. I'm sure we charged other things. We intended to pay off most of our debt with my unemployment money, since we were no longer paying for daily childcare, and instead somehow we managed to not only NOT get out of debt, we incurred more. We went through a very traumatic time where it looked like our marriage was going to dissolve. We're still dealing with the emotional consequences of that and every other stressor in our lives as well. The short of it is, LIFE happened. We didn't manage a lot of things well at all. And somehow, when we sat down and looked at our budget last week, that couple hundred dollars I would have needed to bring in each month had blossomed. Grown into a massive BEASTLY intimidating number.

Somehow, we ended up over $1600 short each month. Or rather, we will be as soon as my unemployment officially ends.

Quite frankly, I've been sick since we discovered that number. Reeling. In shock. Completely and utterly stressed out. Pretty much panicking.

There is no telling if I will even be able to find a job in this market, at this point, where it's been almost a year. And if I DO, am I likely to make what I was making before? I'm guessing not. When I was working before, after we paid our childcare, we had only about $1600 a month left over. Some of it, obviously, was used to pay the rest of our expenses beyond OJ's check. Some went to debt repayment (and a fat lot of good that did). Most of it got blown on living beyond our means. A LOT got blown on food; groceries and eating out are two of our biggest expenses. Or WERE. We obviously can't do that anymore. (By the by, that "$1600 over" does NOT include going out to eat at ALL, and only allows us a $400 grocery budget each month. I was trying to live on a $300 budget the past few months and failing miserably, so we upped it a little. We may not have ANY money for groceries though, if I can't come up with that money, so it might be irrelevant! I just wanted to point out that we didn't BUDGET for extraneous living.) Assuming I even find a job, I'll be paying for childcare and working and STILL might not clear what we need each month just to pay the bills. That thought is incredibly depressing.

What happened in the past, the details of it, don't so much matter now. What matters is that we made irresponsible decisions, we counted on our future selves to clean up the mess we were steadily making, and our once-future, present selves are paying a heavy price right now. Oh, how we are paying. Or will be.

I'm not sure how to make up a $1600+ difference from home each month. I'm really, quite frankly, completely overwhelmed at the thought. I have a lot of ideas. I've gleaned some pearls of wisdom from friends, and of course OJ and I have been putting our heads together over it too. Despite how it may sound, that budget really doesn't have much by way of entertainment expenses in it. There's not much else we can cut. We downsized our cell phone plan as much as possible. We don't have a land line. We don't have cable TV. (We have an $8 a month Netflix account and we do streaming video and Hulu and ripped movies pretty much exclusively.) Internet is non-negotiable, until I'm living in a box, heh. (Not just for fun, but because most of the ways I CAN earn money from home are internet-related, as is any job hunting; it's kind of a necessity.) After that, it's mortgage, utilities, groceries, household and child items, pet expenses, vehicle expenses. We did throw in $100 a month each for OJ and I for 'mad money' - that covers ANYTHING extra we'd like to do. For ourselves, for the kids, as a family, with friends. And if I can't somehow make up the $1600 a month, it's the first thing that gets cut. We just threw it in as a wish list budget item, because it's awfully hard to live without SOME outlet, occasionally. The last big chunk of our monthly expenses, obviously, is debt repayment. We spend $850 a month on debt repayment. The only item I kept separate from that is our mortgage because even though it's debt, it's in the 'way long term debt pay off' category for me. So that's just credit cards and vehicle payments. We both have student loans that aren't even INCLUDED in that monthly payment number because we keep deferring them.

In other words, we're just a big financial mess here.

We've been talking about getting out of debt for a LONG while, and we even made headway a time or two in the past, but we've really dug ourselves into a fine old hole here now. We're screwed. I don't know what to do.

As I mentioned, I have ideas, and I have made a pledge to myself to not only work on putting these ideas into play every day (some of them, at least), but also to write about how the day went each night. To talk about what worked for me, what didn't, and share any gems I may uncover on the way.

My husband makes a decent amount of money. We're well above the poverty line. He has a full time job, we have insurance (thank goodness, especially with my diabetes). Thanks to our insurance, we can afford my monthly medications, doctor visits, and even therapist visits to help me manage my stress (MEGA overload here! heh). And yet we might not be able to afford things like groceries. We can't refinance our mortgage because it's upside-down since the market turned bad. With our debt load (total owed is around $28,000) we are extra screwed, but even if we didn't have that debt we'd still be about $800 a month short. Without many extraneous expenses. If we spent NOTHING on fun ever and just did our best to keep our house, pay the bills, and put food on the table, we'd be about $600 a month short (without debt).

So is this the plight of the... what do they call us? Am I middle class? I've always just assumed I was, but I really don't know what the parameters of middle class are. Let's assume I am. The middle-class poor? Is that what we are? Too poor too afford to live, too 'privileged' to get any aid from the government, forgotten and left to flounder? Maybe that sounds dramatic. I'm certainly not one to run to welfare the second the chips are down. But it's not even an option for me anyway. We're too 'rich' for welfare.

So what do you do, in a situation like this? What is the answer? Maybe I'll find it. Maybe some of you have it. The answer, my friends, is - no I'm not going to say 'blowin' in the wind'. The answer is DIFFERENT for all of us, because different people are willing to do different things, and even when the similarities are eerie, your situation is still going to be unique. Each of our financial crises are personal to us and our set of circumstances. But I'd love to hear what you have done to save yourself from financial ruin, if you've ever faced anything like this. I'd love to know what sorts of things you've done to make money from home. I will be sharing what *I* do to both shave money off our expenses AND make money from home. Maybe it will be enough. Maybe my experiences will help someone else out there, someone who is stressed and crying themselves to sleep just like me. Maybe I'll  make changes and clean everything up and serve as a good example to others who find themselves in the same boat.

And you know what they say... if I find that I'm not able to be a good example, perhaps my purpose was merely to serve as a horrible warning. DON'T LIVE BEYOND YOUR MEANS, KIDS. Eventually you really DO have to pay the piper. Save those pennies for a rainy day. All that stuff they told us back when we were kids that we ignored.

Being an adult sucks pretty bad sometimes.

image repost from Stardust and Peanut Butter

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