Thursday, May 31, 2012

31 Things :: Story 9 - Money

My first job out of college was as an Admin Assistant and they offered me $22,500. This was in 1992, and I was PYSCHED! I remember talking to a co-worker at the Hallmark shop where I was a part timer, “I’ll bring home $1500 a month. The only bills I have to pay are my student loan, car payment, gas, and insurance.  I’m going to have like $500 leftover every month!” Woohoo. I thought I was the cat’s meow.
I was lucky to live at home with my parents after college rent-free. When I was 28 I decided to buy my own condo. I was making a lot more money by that point, and it was burning a hole in my pocket.  A few years later, Jeff and I married and were able to use the profit made on the sale of the condo as part of a down payment for our house (Jeff also had significant savings).

We were affectionately known as DINKs– dual-income, no kids. We both had high paying jobs, and we enjoyed more than a few great vacations. Disney World, San Fran, London/Ireland, and Hawaii. We also started infertility treatments which were mostly paid for by our HMO insurance, thank heavens. In 2005 we decided I would quit my full time job to focus on starting our family. Suddenly we went from being DINKs to SINKs. Whoa, big change. But we were able to keep our heads above water.
Then Jeff lost his job in December 2009. Now we were a no income with a toddler family (don’t think there’s an acronym for that!). We were optimistic he would get a new job soon, so we didn’t change our lifestyle too drastically. But we should have. He was out of work for 18 months. In that time we did start to buckle down and watch what we were spending. I started couponing and doing better with meal planning so we wouldn’t be tempted to eat out. For a while we were able to keep up with paying off our credit card bill monthly, but eventually we had to start carrying a balance. Once we started to drown, we played the credit card game by opening up new credit cards to transfer balances on 0% interest offers. Ugh.

Jeff received & accepted a job offer last May. Woohoo. I kind of went crazy with spending. I felt like a kid in a candy store, but I can’t even tell you what I bought. In January we sat down to do a budget, and this is when I realized how much debt we incurred while he was out of work. We ended up cutting things out of our budget, and recommitted to only spend money on things we need. Can we do better? Absolutely. But it’s at least good to know where we stand.
Next week we had planned a vacation to Mackinac Island in Michigan to celebrate our 10 year anniversary, but once we did our budget realized we couldn’t afford it. So now we’re doing a staycation right here in Chicago, and being tourists in our own town. We also have a Disney trip planned for December using our DVC membership, and enough reward points on our credit card to buy park passes.

Our last big purchase was to start the adoption process in February. That was a big decision and beaucoup bucks, but one that we were willing to make concessions in other areas of our life in order to finance. Praying it’s worth it.

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