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Facing The Harsh Reality (Re-Do!)


Edited: HUGE thanks to those of you who reached out after my last post completely disappeared! It seems silly because its such a trivial thing compared to real-world issues, but I was SO BUMMED when I thought the post was gone! I really appreciate those of you who took screen shots, typed up word docs, and provided links so I could re-access this content! I’m sorry I can’t re-publish the previous comments, but at least the content was saved! THANK YOU! <3

This was a tough one for me to write and to post. I’m about to let you take a peep into our current financial situation. It’s not pretty. I appreciate constructive feedback, but go easy on me!

I’ve already talked about a dozen times about how our finances got out-of-control over the summer months. Everything was fine through April-ish. But then a perfect storm hit that we did not weather very well. First, my final paycheck from my part-time job was in April (even though I worked into May, my contract was written with 4 lump sum payments and the final one was paid out in April). Just like that, we were down $3,000/month (that’s how much my part-time job paid. Note – I had to leave my part-time job because I got a big raise at my full-time job and had to sign a non-compete).

Hubs’ income from his company had been dwindling for months as he was back in school full-time and only had one crew working for him. He continued to pay for all his business (and personal) expenses, but when his licenses and insurances all came up for renewal the best option for us was to call it quits. By mid-June, he was out of money and all his expenses (that he’d previously budgeted and paid for separately out of his business income) needed to be included in the regular household budget. We lost his income and added a few line-items to the “expenses” portion of our budget (specifics in a future blog post).

Our income had plummeted overnight.

We’d grown accustomed to an income of over $10,000/month! And then, just like that, we were down to an income of only about $3,000/month (my take-home pay from my full-time job). We basically kept on spending like it was business as usual. My raise would go into effect mid-August. I thought that if we could just hold out until September (my first full month at my new rate of pay), that we’d be golden! I was expecting to have a huge bump in my take-home pay. I was hired at $55k and when my raise went into effect I’d be at a $95k salary (in 2 years’ time!). I thought my take-home would be over $5,000/month – somewhere in the $5-6k range (note: I have a lot of automatic payroll deductions – see more here).

What I did NOT expect was that my first paycheck with my raise (for 2 weeks of work) would only be $2269. We’re talking under $4500/month. Nearly a thousand per month under what I’d been anticipating, and less than half of what we’d grown accustomed to bringing home.

I spent a lot of time in August (after that first paycheck) looking at our budget trying to make sense of it and see how I could make it work. From an objective perspective, I know $4500/month is a lot of money. Many families get by with half that amount! When I first started blogging, our household income was only $4,000/month so we’d done it before! And that was when our babies were in diapers still! Surely we could do it again!

But the numbers just didn’t work. Our lifestyle had become inflated. Our budget was bloated. We’d picked up a lot of monthly payments that didn’t used to exist (more on that in a future post). And no matter how I tried to look at it, our expenses exceeded our income.


And so, we continued to live on credit cards.

The blog was just purchased by its new owner at that time. I didn’t know if I’d even be blogging anymore. So, I gave up. Without the public accountability and with our financial situation seeming so bleak, I didn’t think it could be done. I didn’t see a way to win.

Fast forward to today. Last month (September) was the first month that we were able to balance our budget since April. For four months (May – August), we were in the negative every month and supplementing our lack of income by relying on credit.

We’re still not in a good place.

Although we didn’t go into the red last month, it was just barely by the skin of our teeth! I had to implement that surprise No Spend Week the last week of the month. And, oh yeah, September was a 3-paycheck month!!! How will we do it with a normal (2-paycheck) month? How can we get by on our current income?

I did change my payroll deductions so I have a slightly higher take-home pay. Instead of $2269, my paychecks are now $2440. Among other things, we also have a huge tax debt we owe. I could adjust my withholdings to get a little more back per check but am purposely not doing so until the tax debt has been paid in full. It’s going to be awhile.

Bottom line, we need to get a budget in which we are somehow living on $4880/month. At this point, our expenses exceed that amount. Heck, our debt obligations alone are over a third of that! It’s kind of scary stuff still.

We’re committed to cutting back in many places. Hubs finishes his personal training course this month and will hopefully be able to land a part-time job. And we’ll supplement in the mean-time by selling everything we can to try to earn some side-cash and STOP increasing our debt by living on credit. Gulp!

More concrete budget details to come.


  • Reply Jane |

    I love your honesty Ashley. I think we all feel defeated at times, it happens. No one is immune to lifestyle inflation, no matter how minor it may be. I look forward to seeing a list of your expenses. Hopefully the readers can offer some advice on trimming it enough. You’ve lived on $4k before, you can absolutely do it again! You’ve motivated me so much through your posts here, keep posting, we’ll keep you accountable and get that fire going again!

  • Reply Chantal |

    Oh you poor poor thing. Losing this entry was The Fates rubbing salt in your wounds.

    Years ago when my husband and I were still working (academic posts) I was the president of a volunteer international students organization. It was a time when Chinese students suddenly lost the grant checks from their homeland. We scuttled around searching for housing and temporary jobs for them.

    Our most successful activity was finding them free housing in return for their services to the owners. These were both elderly people needing shopping.cleaning, driving etc. assistance and families with young children needing some day care and babysitting. Not one student let us down and so this leads on to how about housing 1 or 2 students who could pay rent and/or cover your babysitting needs?

    Good luck in every way to you both and your lovely children.

  • Reply Kelly |

    Over at six figures under there was a recent post on VIPKID….possibly a way to increase your income without violating your non compete.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Wow, I’ve never heard of VIPKID before but I’m totally intrigued! I’ll have to look into it further, thanks for the tip! (and, you’re right, it wouldn’t violate my noncompete because this is considered a “separate industry” since it’s not higher-ed)

  • Reply Holly |

    I feel for you. I’ve been a single mom since my husband died when our sons were little. We had Social Security payments to help us but over the course of the last three years both kids graduated high school and Social Security benefits stop then. Did I know these payments were eventually going to stop? Yes, and I tried to prepare for that by down-sizing but when you don’t live extravagantly anyway (because I can assure you Social Security payments don’t offset a full-time salary) and you have a son with a chronic illness and you’ve suddenly lost $1900 a month from what you had three years ago, it has definitely been tough. I’ve picked up a second job at a friend’s restaurant for the time being trying to get some bills paid down. It’s tough but I’m confident we’ll make it and I’m confident you will too. Hang in there!!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks Holly! I can only imagine how stressful that must be! Good luck to you (and us both!) on the debt-reduction journey!

So, what do you think ?