Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Life in Uncertain Times

Just when you get into this rhythmic routine: work, eat, relax, sleep, repeat...

A while ago I got a call from my supervisor at work. We don't talk on the phone often - it's usually email, conference calls and IM - so when there's a call, something needs attention NOW.

The word was that my consulting job in IT would be ending.

<Pause...> Oh...

It had a been a good run, I'd have to admit, six years into a contract I was told would only last one. Doing something I enjoy (love?). At home, where my husband can call me over to see the funny faces my kids make and I didn't have to worry about missing first steps, first words, first anything.

I took a deep breath. I knew we would get through this.... But HOW?

I started here:

I balanced our checkbook. I need to know exactly what is available to us in our accounts.

I checked the balances on all our debts and outstanding bills. What's the least I can pay every month and still stay current?

I revised our budget. What's the least amount we need coming in every month to squeak by? What do we really need to spend money on: mortgage, groceries, health insurance, gas, car.

I stopped discretionary spending. For us, it's mostly eating out, the Friday night bottle of wine, new books, these super nice flannel sheets with soft green trees that were on sale that I really really wanted to sleep on. Anything that doesn't directly relate to our survival or our ability to work.
I knew when our situation was stable again, we could add these fun buys back into our routine. (Then again, maybe we don't need to...)

When I checked the calendar, the next big expense we had scheduled was my trip to the salon. My favorite indulgence. I've been going to the same place since I was in college. They know me and my wild Calabrese hair. And they are AWEsome and worth every penny. But NOT NOW. So, I decided to cut my own hair.

If you decide to do this, be wary. I watched a bunch of youtube videos, BAD idea. (Well, mostly.) There were some cringe moments at the end of a few videos. But, it gave me the courage to try. I figured the worst thing that would happen is that I had to run to the salon for a fix or wear a hat for a few weeks. I picked up the scissors and...

I cut my hair. The next day, I got TWO compliments. Given the fact that I live in a small community, and that I'm not incredibly fashion minded, I took this as two thumbs up! But if sometime you see me around town wearing a hat for a few weeks, please. Don't ask too many questions.

We are maximizing other sources of income. You know what my favorite thing in the world is (besides saving money)? ... PASSIVE INCOME! I was a landlord for almost 10 years, and it wasn't easy all the time (okay, most of the time. okay, maybe sometimes it really sucked!) but it is true that real estate is a good investment.

We sometimes rent out our house when we're out of town, and we put the income towards paying down our debts if there's any left over after monthly expenses. Win-win-win!

And we didn't forget about our tiny house, which will soon become a seasonal stopover for area hikers, bikers, climbers, and any other vacationer looking for a minimalist and rustic space to call home for a night. My husband kicked it into high gear and, thanks to his (amazing!) hard work, we are just putting the finishing touches on the still-to-be-named tiny house rental.
2014 before the reno

Work in progress last year

I stayed positive. Because the alternative won't get me anywhere.

Because we have a small and modest life, with similarly sized responsibilities and financial obligations, we are able to weather major changes like losing a job much, much better than we were when we owned a big house. Downsizing has saved us major headaches in the here and now by simplifying our daily lives and by alleviating our worries for the future.

I got hired. We had a few very tenuous days of waiting, wondering, and a few days of running around getting paperwork in. But, very fortunately for me and my family, I ended up in a good employment situation after I got hired by the company I had consulted for. Our lives and our bank account settled back down.

The truth is, we never know what the future holds, but sometimes it is more uncertain than others. While I work on living life every day in a way that allows me to cherish the ephemeral moments of the present, I also recognize the necessity of being generally prepared for random uncertainty in the future.

I'm listening. For those of you facing tough times, whether it's losing a job or anything else that contributes to your everyday well-being: I wish you peace in your hearts and favor in your circumstances. And I've always got a listening ear if you feel inclined; you can reach me here.