• Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
sunshine & unicorns: a blog about love, learning, and life in the upper midwest

09 November 2009

she broke your throne and she cut your hair

I have written a ton of really cryptic posts over the past several months, and for that, I'm sorry.

I'd like to provide a full explanation. I have a whole lot of, um, information banging around in this noggin of mine, and very few people with whom I feel I can share it. Hint: the Internet, as a collective, is not one of those safe-places for sharing.

Aside from just knowing that it is generally not good to share private info with god-knows-who, I've had personal experience with this type of thing. Not so much in the 'private info' part, but more along the line of opinions that didn't match what others felt. See, I live in a part of the country that is - shall we say - undesirable to a lot of people. Many people who live here are very very proud to be North Dakotans. And in another life, on another blog I used to have, I complained about our 'great state' quite a bit. I was freshly back here from the west coast and it was SUCH a culture shock. (I'll say more about the pros and cons of ND in a different post, I promise.) But yeah: some of my coworkers at the time saw it. They were not pleased. I was given a talking-to by my boss. Etc etc etc. No jobs were lost, but still, yuck. So now I am cautious.

Moving on. I'm trying to write this post about our situation. I love to write. It helps me think and process. When you try to write about everything but what you actually need to write about, some serious writers' block ensues. Ugh. I want to share, but I also don't want to share too much. It's a hard line to walk, but here goes.

Some background first. I've mentioned before that we Pink H's are both full-time students. We have been since we met, and we've also both got full-time 8-to-5 professional-type white-collar jobs. (This doesn't leave a lot of free time for us, but that's how we're used to living. It's going to be weird some day when we're finally done!)

Now: Our bosses have dealt with our school schedules pretty well. We've been professional about it too, providing current schedules to them and making sure that we're putting in our full day's work even if we are gone during part of the normal day for a class. We've been gliding along for several semesters, each of us attending classes, each of us going to work, just living the busy double-lives of students/career-people. But (and this is where I have to be vague) one of our supervisors changed their mind: they did not like that a particular Pink H was not necessarily at their desk during normal 'business hours'. (This was back in May, right after we committed ourselves to a mortgage - nice.) The choice was this: pick one. School or job?

Now, consider this. A job is a job, but it's also a lot more. At the most basic level: it's money. I like money, do you? But a job (if you've got a good one) is also a source of creative inspiration and a way to stay connected to your industry. And it's a career builder. It gives you experience and skills that you'll need if/when you seek raises or higher positions in the future.

School is a life goal too. We each are ultimately out to finish our degrees, and we'd like to do it as soon as we're able (before starting a family or embarking on other adventures together). We're both pretty academically-oriented, and for as much as we complain about school and wish it would just hurry up and be done with, we know where our priorities lie:

School > Work

Disclaimer: Don't misread this. That doesn't mean that Pink Hubby or I don't care about work, only about school. We work hard, and we 'school' hard. hah. However: given an ultimatum, school wins. We've been told by a lot of people that we're nuts to give up so much income for silly old classes. Nuts, maybe. But we're thinking about the future, not the now, and we'll make sacrifices to make it happen.

That said, this new development was/is very hard for us to wrap our recession-dodging yuppie heads around. There is no major pay difference between Pink Hubby and I, so either of us losing our job means basically a 50% income cut. We can juuuust barely survive on that. I'll spare you the long and complicated (and personal/private) details, but suffice to say that we have had several very hopeful solutions for the issue. All the possible solutions allowed [the P.H. in question] to continue 'school'-ing, and most solutions involved at least a part-time job that would allow said P.H. to keep their benefits and keep bringing home at least some bacon. Over the last 6 months, we've built ourselves up multiple times only to have each ray of hope dissolve into disappointment and general four-letter-wording.

I can see both sides of it too. On one hand, yeah, most bosses would not be so supportive of this full-time student biz. But on the other hand, it depends on the position. We both have the kind of jobs where it should be Ok.

Now here's a bright side I've been able to apply to all of this. With both of our salaries to tap, we have been fairly careless with our money over the past 2 years. We save some, and we pay the bills. But the rest? We have fun. We eat out. We see movies. We buy gadgets. We spend. Because we can, right? We're young. We have no kids. So why not?

We've always been a little cocky about that too. People complain about having credit card debt, and we'd comment (to ourselves) "Then stop spending money you don't have. Seems simple to me!" We may not have debt-collectors honing in on us, but we're not exactly savings-champions either. We're kind of in the middle. No 'bad debt' to speak of, but emergency fund? What's that? Now we get it: when you have a mortgage and you lose your job, that $500 you ended up not buying a new netbook with ain't exactly gonna keep you afloat for more than a week or two.

Thankfully, we have had that time to prepare. Things have continued on, some concessions have been made, and the paychecks are still coming - for now at least. Aside from the added stress of trying to solve this situation, nothing has changed. Except our budget.

We now have restrictions*. We don't eat out much anymore. Don't go to too many movies either. We don't impulse-buy** fun 'toys' and I rarely ever walk in to a store just because I feel like shopping (i.e. buying clothes). By doing all this, we're saving a good amount of money each month. That, I figure, will serve as a sort of emergency fund if/when the shit does hit the fan.

If we had been as frugal over the past two years as we have been for the past 6 months, we wouldn't have to worry about this job business. Just one P.H. salary would be plenty to support us, and the other spouse could just walk away from the workforce for awhile.

Right now it's all looking up a little. I've said that so many times in the past 6 months that I don't hardly believe it myself. I'm to the point where I don't want to let myself hope because all of my 'gut-feelings' thus far have, sadly, been incorrect.

But let's just say for a moment that it really does look up. That things really do work out this time. (And they just might.) I feel like we've really learned some valuable lessons about budgeting. We've felt the fear in our hearts. We've adopted the discipline to stick to a budget, and we've seen the 'windfall' said budget provides (in the form of extra money saved). That's my silver-lining now: my bright side. A lesson in frugality has been learned.

(OK, 'higher power'! We've learned our lesson! Stop screwing with us and give us back our financial security now! Kthxbye!)

*Can I just say that it's really hard to follow a budget when you've just gotten married yourself, and have two very good friends doing the same over the next 8 months? And if it wasn't that, it'd be something else: life is expensive, man oh man.

**Yeah, I see the irony of writing this after I just showed you our shiny new Kitchenaid mixer. But that was paid for 100% by wedding gift cards. And since I can't see how squirreling away Bed Bath & Beyond gift cards in a coffee can would help our savings sitch, we decided to get something I'd really been coveting.

OH! And I took the photos above when we were out visiting my parents in the east, back in July.