I was planning on writing several blog posts about job loss today, but I think I'm going to tie this topic up quickly. One more blog post and then I'm done.
The first week after we learned about Steve's downsizing was a blur. Steve had no time to process the news, because he had to go into job-finding mode immediately. Resume writing, creating a LinkedIn page, talking with headhunters. He had to buy a new tie. He started interviewing for new positions within the week. He was still in major shock, but he didn't had time to digest events, which was probably a good thing.
In between all those tasks, I kept Steve busy. We went for long walks and tried out the lunch specials in town for the first time.
I evaluated my own situation. Should I start looking for a job, also? Freelance writing is great, but it isn't paying the bills so far. Should I run out and get a minimum wage job right away or put in the time to get a proper job? We decided to wait until the situation got more desperate. Steve was speed-dating on the interview circuit and we would have run into major childcare problems, if I was doing the same. With my background, even a proper job might not cover our child care expenses.
And, of course, I decided almost immediately to keep a record of events with the idea that I could turn the bad news into an article. How could I monitize this disaster? So I started a secret blog, called Downsizing Diaries, to keep notes. And then I googled "Downsizing Diaries." Do you know how many blogs are called "Downsizing Diaries?" A lot. And they all end with home foreclosures. Honestly, I felt like an ass for thinking we were special in some way.
Still, home foreclosure was very much on our mind. As former graduate students, we're cheap as hell. I don't have a landscaper or housecleaner. We drive crappy cars. We have no credit card debt. But like everybody else here on the East coast, we're house poor. Almost all of our money goes to the mortgage and property tax.
Our money is divided up in three ways: liquid, stock investments, and 401K money. We decided that we could burn through the liquid and stock money, but we would sell the house before we had to hit the 401K money and way before we were in serious hot water. We figured that we had six months. I like our house, but an apartment would be fine, too.
And burn through the money we did. When you're unemployed, your expenses actually go up. We had to pay two months of COBRA up front, which was $4,000. Steve needed a car to get to some interviews, and so our rarely used second car had to get serviced. My parents helped out with that $2,000 bill. I started evaluating our grocery bill carefully. We stopped going to out for dinner. I didn't visit the mall.
In week two of this insanity, Hurricane Sandy happened. New York City and the area was shut down for two weeks. Interviews were cancelled; positions mysteriously dried up. Nothing happened for two weeks. Thanksgiving and the winter holidays happened. Again, days when nobody is calling you for interviews. And Christmas is expensive. We cut waaaaay back, but it's still expensive. How about a panic attack while wrapping Santa's gifts on December 24th?
The most asked question during this fiasco was "what did you tell the kids?" We didn't tell the kids. In fact, as an experiment, we waited to see how long it would take them to notice that daddy was there in the morning and in the afternoon. It took my Einstein children two days before they noticed. Then we told them that Steve's office was being painted, so he was working from home for a little while. They bought it. Well, I think Jonah figured things out eventually, when he overheard a conversation. We didn't want them to worry about matters.
Steve started working the week after Christmas. It took a couple of months to recover emotionally and financially. Not that we're back to 100 percent in either way, but things are certainly better. I think we would both like to figure out a way to cut back on our expenses even more and stockpile a year's worth of savings. But we can't do that without selling the house and that can't happen until the kids are done with school. So, we're squirreling away money here and there and keeping things simple.