Our Storm Mode Budget

On April 11th I got home from my daughter’s mommy and me music class and our weekly grocery shopping trip to find my husband sitting at his desk. He handed me his cell phone open to a text message. He had been fired from his job of four years, by text message, effective immediately, with no warning.

My mouth hung open for a few seconds before I gave him a hug, promised him everything would be okay somehow, handed over my daughter to give him hugs and kisses and then put the groceries away. I second guessed every purchase. Did we really need that bag of chips I bought or the $2 cookie my daughter had gotten for such good behavior. I can’t believe we spent $10 on lunch out that day.

I wiped my tears and made my way back to the livingroom where my daughter was happily playing and my husband had lost himself in a video game as a means of coping with the panic that was setting in on him. I sat down at my computer, opened up a new spreadsheet, and started plugging in numbers for our storm mode budget.

The first numbers I entered were the current balance of our checking and savings accounts and even my daughters small savings account just in case. The I entered the small amount of cash we had on hand and even counted my daughter’s piggy bank, again, just in case. My husband was making two thirds of our income with my freelance projects bringing in about a third. We weren’t going to be totally without income, but it was drastically cut and very sporadic as freelance tends to be.

Now that I had the total number for the money we had to live off for the foreseeable future I had to start putting in expenses. I started with the next bill due and subtracted that from the total we had. I kept going with bills for a few months out. I added in what income I thought I could bring in and added that in where appropriate, and then took out grocery shopping money in the appropriate places as well. Eliminated immediately from the budget were any spending money for the three of us, future as well as saved, all entertainment or eating out monies, no gift money, etc. I cut everything we could from the budget.

Even though we had only $3000 to our name and we were without steady employment we would be able to stretch that, with some income from my freelance work, for about 3 months. More if I could make more money.

It felt like great news. I could tell my husband, “See we don’t need to panic yet. We have enough money for three or four months. You have some time to find a job.” And then I started to worry. I had a husband with a very bruised ego to help, a 3 year old to care for, and I needed to do more work than ever just to try and stretch our solvency date a little bit further.

I also, now knew exactly how many days I could afford to continue feeding my child. 97 days. I just kept seeing that number in my head and counting it down. I can feed my child for 97, 96, 95 more days. Talk about stressful. When someone close to us asked how were doing I could answer them with just a number.

To make myself feel better I played with our spreadsheet some more. I was looking at what number we needed to pull in each week or month to keep us going longer. I had a plan figured out where we would be able to make it to the end of the year if it takes that long for my husband to find work. I projected the spreadsheet out to the end of 2019 to see what kind of numbers we would need. It’s not as much as we might think, but it’s also not a realistic long term budget.

At this point we’re spending the bare minimum to not go crazy or have to feed my child only ramen noodles for every meal, but we’re still spending more money than we’re making at this point. Hopefully a job will be coming in soon. We can make it work and have a little wiggle room in the budget with something part time.

In the meantime though, our budget consists of my freelance income coming in and any odd jobs my husband can do as well and going out are only rent, electric, internet, car insurance, gas for the car, my husband’s haircuts, and weekly grocery shopping.

My daughter does still get her little treats. A cookie at the grocery store and a toy at the dollar tree each week. We’re doing our best to keep things as normal for her as possible. But when the new semester of her music class begins we’ll have to see if we’re back in a place to spend the money on it. Otherwise, we’re making it work for now. We’re helping each other stick to the crazy tight budget and staying strong as a family.

My hope is that we’ll come out of this chapter of our lives with a better grasp on our money. A better understanding of how far we can actually stretch our dollars and what we can and can’t live without. And a stronger motivation to finish off our 6 month emergency savings fund instead of only partially funded like before.

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