After 11 years as a broadcast journalist at a legendary station in my hometown of Dallas, Texas, I had nothing to show for it, financially speaking. Not a dime in the bank. Ok we had a few dimes, but nothing considerable. I was making very good money as a radio news anchor, as was (and is) the husband, but we spent it as fast as we made it. And then the layoff. Just like that. Game over. And talk about a bittersweet experience. The layoff came just 5 weeks after the birth of my second son. So here we were with an almost two-year-old and a 5 week old.
How would we pay for everything? How would we make it on the husband’s salary alone when all along we thought our lives depended on me working? I knew that the financial aspect of this nightmare was going to be topic number one at home, above any other feelings related to the actual layoff.
I married a sheriff’s deputy with almost 30 years law enforcement experience. We view money differently. It’s not good or bad, just different. There was never any urgency to save money. He’d say he could work a part time job and earn enough money to pay for whatever it was we wanted. And we usually wanted stuff. I set aside my desire to stash a giant pile of money in the bank because the flow seemed so endless. Plus, we really liked all our stuff.
I have one of those cool back-up cameras in my new mommy SUV. My sweet, amazing, perfect baby boys look very stylish in it. I have a remote-controlled XM radio in there, too. Top of the line, my husband says. A flashy Christmas present. He also picked up the latest GPS thingy for me. I hate technology and have no need for this but he lives for new technology and really wanted me to have it. We live in a very pretty, new, three bedroom home with wood floors, a pool, jacuzzi and a 2 car garage. We can barely squeeze my SUV into that garage because of all the junk crammed in there. Stuff we’ll never use. Like the upside down hangy-thingy my husband bought. Turns out, humans don’t regularly hang upside down like bats for a reason. But it was just $100, so he figured he’d try it. We have one of those super easy coffee makers…just pop in the pod and you’re done (I do love it). We also have a top-of-the-line grind and brew coffee maker and we have the latest commercial, industrial, juice-anything, up-to-and-quite-possibly-including-tree-bark, juicer. We have two refrigerators. Oh and we have three artificial Christmas trees. Three. (By the way, that looks even worse on paper than it sounds in my head!)
We used to shop and spend and eat out all the time. And a few times a week I’d be forced to transfer funds from savings into checking because I had just received one of those lovely “low balance” emails from the bank.
We had spent ourselves silly. And all the while, we thought that if we lost my income we would lose it all. Now it was becoming all too real. So far, however, we have managed to keep the house thanks to my unemployment check.
So for me, for now, this new life means I can’t just have whatever I want whenever I want it. That is a very humbling feeling. It means, for example, having to cook at home. I know, it sounds pathetic. I get it. But it’s true. We ate out a LOT. Plus the hubby isn’t home for dinner 4 nights out of the week. It also means having to clean my own home. Again, I know how pathetic this sounds. The housekeeper came only every other week, but my GOODNESS what a difference it makes not having her around. It also means the hubby has to mow the lawn. It means no more trips to stores to just kill time and shop for the sake of shopping because we couldn’t figure out how else to spend our time together. The list goes on and on…and I’m still adding things to it. And don’t even get me started on my trips to the salon. The horrific do-it-yourself stories are coming up…and maybe even some pics. Oh they’re bad, honey! But you’ve got to laugh at this stuff. I HAVE to laugh every time I torch something in the kitchen, or get frazzled with the housework, or accidentally color my hair orange. It’s funny stuff.
I’m learning that it is possible to live a different lifestyle, it just takes a whole lot of soul searching to get there. And do you know what? I actually like it. It’s just another challenge…and I’m up for a good challenge these days…what with all this free time on my hands and all. (Kidding. The free time thing. I have a 2-year-old and a baby. And now we have a sandbox. Lovely!)