Counting their chickens
How one family learned to adjust to one income
My guess is our story is very typical.
John and I worked odd jobs completely unrelated to our college degrees for a year or so after we graduated. Soon after we got engaged, John and I moved to Denver, Colorado, in 2007, and got married in May. At that time, we both worked full-time jobs, and decided to buy a home before having children.
Then, in early 2010 when our first son was 1 1/2 years old, John lost his job at the nonprofit where he worked. We made a great decision – financially, spiritually and emotionally – for John to be a stay-at-home dad.
Suddenly, though, our finances got much tighter. We talked about budgeting and knew we should do it. But finances can be difficult, and instead of sticking to a budget, we continued to live as if we had two incomes.
Like many people, we did not like to discuss our failures. To be honest, we were embarrassed by the mistakes we were making. We could not believe, or admit to ourselves, that we were not living according to our values.
When I realized we were digging a deep hole of credit card debt, I finally reached out to our Everence financial advisor. He recommended we contact Lutheran Social Service (LSS), an Everence partner, to discuss budget and debt counseling. I set up a time to have a phone conversation with them.
After I made the phone call, I immediately knew it was the best thing I could have done. The certified credit counselor started to discuss my options – most importantly, we needed a new budget. The counselor went over our family’s finances and helped us create one.
We realized that one of the best financial decisions we made when we bought our home was to follow my dad’s recommendation to get a home loan that we could pay for using just one of our salaries. But we also determined that we had more money going out than we had coming in, so we needed to make decisions about unnecessary expenditures.
The counselor also suggested that we consider a debt management program. Before making this call, I had never heard of this option. I knew about bankruptcy, but John and I didn’t consider that an option for us.
We worked with a debt management company to pay down our credit card debts – and as we reduce our debt, we also feel like we are taking responsibility for those mistakes. We make a lump sum payment directly to the debt management company. Our credit scores did not get affected negatively, and we do not need to use another credit card since we started this process. It is liberating to know that we will pay off these debts in just over two more years.
Most people are not honest with each other about financial struggles. Through our struggle, I learned how important it is to be open with people close to us, so we can learn from each other.
I used to think keeping to a budget would feel restricting, but we feel freed knowing that we are in control of our finances. I know what comes in, and what goes out. I know when we have extra money to spend for short family vacations, or things our boys need. There is money to save and money to give away.
We hope our new money values rub off on our children, because we want them to have a healthy relationship with money and their finances. It is never too early to start modeling that. We want to be open with them about finances and budgeting. We want to show them how to be generous with what they have.
Bethany Simpson lives and works in Denver, Colorado, with her husband and two young sons. They are active members of Glennon Heights Mennonite Church.