Tj and I have been so blessed since we’ve been married. We haven’t struggled so much like so many couples do. He’s always had a great paycheck, if his job hasn’t been the best, and really for many years he’s had some really great jobs, too. It was a real struggle when he retired, first for a while there he was submitting resumes like crazy and not getting any feedback at all. And then when he did get a job it was non-flying, which has never been what he wanted, but he tried to make it work. He struggled, too, with just leaving the AF; it’s the only job he’s had for so many years, and he loves the AF so much, it was hard to leave it though it seemed like the best thing for him to do. We finally came through that, though, and have been settled for the most part for a while now. Life has been rocking along.
Right at the end of September of last year is when I first remember hearing serious things about his job. A new firm got the contract so there would be a changeover. Tj said everyone said generally these turnovers went smoothly with basically the only change being where the check came from and what logo you had on your shirt.
Sometime in October there was a meeting where the new firm said they were cutting everyone back to part time, no paid vacations, not hiring any schedulers, etc, etc, crap, crap, crap. We began to get a little nervous. We’ve operated with no debt for practically our whole marriage, but we went on a big cruise in May, and then both of our cars needed serious repairs, and then…and then, by the end of the summer we weren’t paying off the credit card every month like we’ve always done. It was weighing on our minds. By this time I’d cut out frivolous spending, and was trying to cut down on necessary spending as I could as well.
After trying not to spend so much for a few weeks on groceries and failing, I started thinking about a no-spend November. I kept going to the store to pick up just a few things, but would see a staple on sale and would stock up as I normally do. And then there was that last trip to Sam’s…our membership was expiring so I made a last run. It’s hard to buy just a little! So I decided I wouldn’t buy any food for me or the boys for the whole month of November. Tj was still eating fresh fruits/veggies every day so I’d get his normal things, but I thought I had plenty of food in our pantry (and the garage food shelves, and the ref/freezer, and the garage freezer) that it wouldn’t be too hard.
We made it through the whole month…we ran out of milk 3 days before December, we were almost out of eggs, and the biggest tragedy: we were completely out of hot chocolate mix!!!! But we had veggies every day, and fruit probably every day. Heh. I’ve come to the realization that I’m a food hoarder (I won’t mention all the other things I hoard, it’s enough right now to only talk about the food hoarding.) But really, that hoarding really came in handy that month. :-) I really enjoyed the challenge. Two surprise helps: our church hosted a luncheon for G-lab workers and we got to bring home some leftover baked ziti and enough salad to last us a week. And then my girlfriend moved and I cleaned out her refrigerator. I mixed the creamer I brought home with some chocolate chips I had from my stash and made us hot chocolate. Heaven! :-)
In December I challenged myself to only spend $100/week for all 4 of us for food and whatever else I’d normally buy at Wal-Mart. I had already been price matching Kroger’s sales at WM for the last several months, but I’ve really stepped up my game. I’ve compiled a price list in Excel, and now when I go to the grocery store I pretty well know how much I’ll spend. I did go a little crazy with the sales last week: Kroger had milk for 40 cents less than usual per gallon so I bought 5, and eggs were 50 cents cheaper so Tj and I decided to make breakfast burritos to freeze for him to have on the go so I got 5 dozen eggs. Then when I was there I saw that WM was selling their pepperoni for $1 less than normal! I bought it all. :-) That combined with other sales I found I think I’ll only buy a few fresh veggies next week. I’m enjoying the thrill of the hunt with these sales, and I like being better informed when I shop about what actually constitutes a good price, but it’s hard not to stock up on a good thing if I’ve already spent the money for the week. If he ever has a job where we’ll actually have to live with this budget I’ll be a lot more prepared and confident now. Other areas we’ve cut way back on: eating out (we’ve eaten out once in November to celebrate an interview, and twice in December to celebrate him being hired and hearing from A), we haven’t opened the hot tub (we have to buy a new cover before we do), and we didn’t buy a Christmas tree.
We told Max that Christmas was going to be slim because of the job situation and he took it like a champ. Because he knows Santa isn’t real, and because Jack still doesn’t understand Santa (although he definitely knows what presents are), Christmas was almost kind of a let-down. We planned on staying home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas to save money, and really, the boys and I had a whole month off of school by then, so Christmas day was not too much different than the other days we’d had. I forgot to mention that Thanksgiving wasn’t as fun as it had been the last couple of years when I spent the day leisurely cooking after we delivered meals and then we all sat down and had a nice dinner. This year I cooked and Tj mostly filled out applications and worked on keeping himself employed. We were convinced the week before Christmas that Tj wasn’t going to be offered a job with the new firm. They had to hire in order of seniority, and he was 7th from the bottom! Finally, 8 days before Christmas he was sent an email around 9pm offering him a job! We were so relieved!
Even though we’re so happy for Tj to have a paycheck, the crap hasn’t stopped. The first thing his boss said to him in front of the other hundred or so employees was, “You don’t take a good photo so you can’t get a company badge today”!! When I asked him what he’d done that was such an affront he said that the guy taking the picture okayed the pic even though Tj had his eyes closed. Whatever. From them dangling unemployment in front of 90% of the staff for months before Christmas to them letting go of 20% of the staff to them not having good business etiquette (showing up to an 8am meeting at 8am and still not being ready for it by 9:20), they’ve really created a hostile work environment. I really wonder where this will take us.