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I would not have been writing this post a few years ago. Nope. No way. I would have stopped at panic and felt absolutely paralyzed. (I promise there is a happy ending.)
Which is funny because to the average person I looked A LOT more put together a few years ago. I mean, we had the big house, the new cars, we ate out all the time… Except those were probably signs that we were one step away from financial disaster. I’m not embarrassed about it anymore. We’re all almost one step away from financial disaster. Or at least most of us. I think it might actually be an American past time, this skirting the edge of financial crisis lifestyle.
We’ve all heard the advice. We’re supposed to have 3-6 months of living expenses socked away somewhere in case someone loses a job. And you should absolutely have at least a thousand dollars on hand for emergencies.
It’s fabulous advice. Really. Except…do you know what 3-6 months of living expenses looks like? I never had any clue. And when we tried to figure it out, the number looked completely unattainable. We couldn’t even manage the $1000 emergency fund without something constantly taking away from it. No way could we ever save up enough to cover 6 months! Hell, our mortgage payment alone was $2000!
But we were doing good. We paid the mortgage. We fixed the cars. The kids had clothes. We had family outings and date nights.
Until that one step became the steady thudding of a marching band across our dreams. Both a/c units in the house needed replacing. The county appraised the house, and of course the taxes were raised, jacking up the mortgage. Oh, and the truck needed new tires. All at once. We probably could have figured it out. We always had before. But then my husband’s company got bought out and his pay got cut almost in half.
We sold the house. My husband changed jobs. The kids and I moved into the camper. Y’all know this story. We were beyond paycheck to paycheck. We were scrambling not to lose everything. It’s what started this story. There’s really only one thing that could have made it worse. We could have lost the paychecks entirely.
And that’s exactly what happened at the beginning of the year.
Oh yeah. You read that right. My husband was furloughed because the railroad didn’t have enough work and that means no pay checks.
We’ve already sold our home. We actually traded the truck for a more expensive payment. There is literally nothing else to sell off and no home to go back to to lick our wounds. But I’m not panicking.
But now is the time to panic!
Normally I would agree. But we learned a few lessons when we decided to overhaul our finances on this adventure and the number one lesson is this:
You Need A Budget.
Not just any budget.
The YNAB Budget.
It is the only program I’ve ever seen that actually makes that 3-6 month emergency fund attainable.
No, of course we didn’t miraculously have six months worth of living expenses in our pocket. Are you crazy?
But I was able to open the budget and see exactly how many weeks of food and fuel we had. I was able to see which bills were covered and for how long. I may not know what a six month emergency fund looks like, but I know what a six week emergency fund looks like and we were able to breath, to process, and to plan without having a panic attack.
Jeremy got a job at a lumber mill, and, while it’s not railroad pay, we can see with every paycheck exactly how far our existing emergency fund is extended.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain how comforting it was, for the first time in our lives, to be able to face a huge financial crisis and say, “I’m too upset to think about this today. Let’s sleep on our emotions and talk about it tomorrow. There’s time.” If you can’t imagine feeling that way at the loss of income…you need a budget.
So here’s my shameless plug…because if you use the link we’ll both get a month free…for the budgeting program. You Need A Budget.
In the next financial post I’m going to actually show you how I set up our budget to give us such peace of mind. Trust me, this is something you want, and I’ll break it down into simple steps so you can attain it too.