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    Posted November 27, 2012 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    The fiscal cliff: Messages to Washington

    We are better off...

    In Dec 2008, my husband, who worked in the banking industry, lost his job. We were a two income household with 2 young kids (3 & 6). Although I brought in a decent salary, 2009 was very hard for us. I think we walked around in a mental/emotional fog for the entire 2009. We were basically robbing Peter to pay Paul because we did not have a plan B. We had 2 car notes and had to continue to pay childcare expenses. In hindsight, I realize we took our jobs for granted assuming we would never end up in that position, and this thinking is what led to us not being properly prepared for a major financial setback.

    After 1 1/2 years of job searching and nothing worthwhile panning out, we decided it was best for my husband to stay home because the jobs available at the time did not cover the cost of gas and childcare expenses. We cut our fuel expense in half, and eliminated childcare expenses. Even with this, we were living paycheck to paycheck. Also, with him being home, I could put more focus on my career advancement opportunities.

    At the beginning of 2010, I got my head out of the sand and faced the reality of the situation….we needed to make a plan and stick to it. My husband found a part time job working from home which kept ‘spending money’ in his pocket. I made a conscience effort to not have any past due bills….once a bill is past due, it is so hard to get back on track. Our mortgage payment was behind, and that seemed to cause everything else to snowball. So, getting the mortgage back on track was priority #1. Once I got mortgage under control, I focused on utility bills such as lights/gas/water. The craziest thing was our utility bills were much higher because my husband was working from home, and the kids were coming straight home from school. So, I researched and put whatever bills I could on some sort of budget billing plan….this would at least keep the amount due consistent. Even working through this, I never set a real budget mainly because I did not believe we were disciplined enough to follow it. In my opinion, this made our rebuilding process harder than necessary. Somehow (I am still not sure how it happened) in 2010, we were able to pay off one of our car loans.

    After I finally got all household bills caught up, I focused on personal debt. I took the time to look at our credit profiles and truly understand how credit worked and map out what we needed to do to get out of consumer debt. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that we did not have any late payments on our credit file since the beginning of 2010 (which is when we got serious about working our way out of the mess we were in). Our credit was suffering because of things that happened in 2009, but it was good to know that we were further ahead in rebuilding than we thought we were. I sat down with pen and paper, and wrote every credit card, student loan, car note, mortgage payment, and the balance for each, and went to work on a plan to reduce it. In 2011, I got a big promotion, and with the additional money coming in through increase in salary and extra money from paying off car, we were able to fast-track our plans to be financially free. We moved to a strictly 'cash only' financial lifestyle, and bought only what we needed. The access cash went to pay off credit cards and the remaining car note. I also began working on a budget spreadsheet.

    Educating ourselves on how credit works and putting monthly expenses in a spreadsheet is what catapulted us to the next level. Words cannot express how impactful is was for me see what I brought and paid out. For the last 1 ½ years, I’ve been very meticulous about our budget….and I’ve discovered that we actually do have the discipline to stick to it. I’ve tweaked it so that it is works flawlessly for us….and I make sure to look at it every day! Our credit scores have rebounded very nicely.

    We have accomplished so much on 1 salary. We live within our means, have started a savings, don’t have consumer debt, and take NOTHING for granted.

    Back in July/August of 2012, my husband decided that he was ready to look for another job outside of the house. In September, he found a full time job that pays well and also provides a company car and gas card. He now contributes to household bills, and 75% his check goes directly to savings. This is a moral victory for him because he struggled with what he perceived to be his inability to contribute financially to the household. However, from my point of view, we would not be where we are today if it was not for his sacrifice to stay home, be Mr. Mom, and support me as I advanced in my career. I tell him all of the time that making a family work is so much more than who brings in the salary, and I will never be able to put a price tag on his contribution. In my opinion, he is Father/Husband of the year.

    So, when people ask if we are better off than 4 years ago, I proudly say YES, WE ARE. My family and I have been blessed beyond measure!
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