The third personal finance real life story in our weekly series is from Jane, who lives in Raleigh. Her family has been struggling since her husband lost his job in 2001 and has not found full-time work since then.
With the unemployment rate in NC at 9.4 percent for May, there are hundreds of thousands of people feeling the pain of this difficult economy. Many of our Smart Shopper readers live with unemployment and underemployment every day and some of them have generously offered to share their stories with us.
For the next few weeks, you will see how the economy has changed the way they live, eat, play and make ends meet. Some of them are successfully digging out after long-term job loss and some are smack dab in the middle of the black hole, struggling to pay bills every month. These are their real life stories and I thank them all for sharing their experiences.
My hope in running this series is that their suggestions and tips will be helpful to others who are also struggling. The creativity and determination these folks have shown is very impressive and I hope you are able to take away some helpful information from each situation.
In 2001, Jane’s husband was laid off from his long-term job. Since then, he has had short-term jobs not even paying half of what he had earned and with no benefits. This has been ongoing and they are still struggling 11 years later. The kids are now in college but the great news is that they had college savings set aside from the earlier years so the kids won’t graduate with debt.
She is working full time to support the family. He is now at 15 hours a week and has decided to go back to school.
Here are some of the ways they save money now and when the kids were still at home.
When the kids started to drive they bought an older vehicle and each signed a teen driving contract clearly laying out what the parents would pay for and what the kids would pay for. Mom and dad paid for vehicle (and vehicle remained the parents) and maintenance, and the kids covered the gas. If there was a ticket or accident, kids paid for any costs for those incidents. They also paid for any increases to insurance as a result of an incident. They worked part time jobs to pay for costs.
When the kids were still at home, they negotiated for things they wanted. For instance, if the kids wanted the more expensive brand of clothes, they offered to pay for half the cost.
In addition, they use couponing, sales, used items instead of new and refinanced the mortgage twice. They have no extras like smart phones, cable, gadgets and nothing that starts with an “I”, as she put it! They only eat out at special occasions. Their only vacations are to see family. Her family watches free Internet TV and they rent movies through Redbox free movie rental codes.
They have minimal life insurance and no dental insurance. They have switched auto and home insurance a couple times to take advantage of better rates. She has also carpooled to work with a co-worker, when possible.
Having the coupon binder and reading blogs is a big step, she said. She clips while she is on the phone because they don’t have TV. She spends maybe 5 hours a week couponing.
As far as retirement, Jane said it’s “a mixed bag.” They have some money saved from when he was working and she is saving some now with her job. They have about half of what they would like to have before they can consider retirement.
Her advice: keep learning, keep reading blogs and books and keep priorities in check!
If you enjoy watching free Internet TV, which websites do you use?
Remember, you get at least one free movie every month from Redbox when you join the Redbox Text Club HERE.
My great thanks to Jane for sharing her story and her suggestions for making ends meet in difficult times. Stay tuned for next Thursday when we’ll hear from another Smart Shopper reader about her struggles and triumphs. As I always say, it’s your money – spend it wisely!