How We Make It Work: $55K Near Louisville, Kentucky

"We’ve dipped into our rainy day a bit recently, but that’s okay. This is a rainy season for us."

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It’s a question that’s often on the minds of anyone who’s ever looked at the high cost of raising kids today: how do parents make it work? Well, we wondered too. That’s why we’re asking parents around the country for a peek into their financial lives: what they earn, spend, save, and invest as well as what financial headaches they face, what tricks they’ve learned along the way, and what, if anything, they have figured out. Will the answers we receive get the a-okay from financial advisors? Not always. Are they honest looks into families trying to provide for their kids? Absolutely. Here, Roger, a 44-year-old married father of one who lives near Louisville, KY., discusses recently losing his job and how that’s affected how they make ends meet. 

I lost my job three months ago. I was in human resources, but my company had a downsizing event. It happened November 1st, so the day after Halloween. I was a recent hire, which meant that I was first to go.

This is to say that, while we’re “making it work,” it certainly has not been an easy couple of months, that’s for sure. I’ve never been out of work. My adult life has been: Monday-to-Friday, commute-office-home. It’s an adjustment, that’s for sure.

My wife is a teacher and also tutors students after school. She makes about $43K; she also tutors after school. That gives us another $8K or so, which is nice. I made $75K at my new job, which was a sizable bump from my previous job where I’d been for seven years and made $60K. Not so sizeable anymore.

Okay, let’s see: we live in a house, have been there for about 5 years. Three bedroom, two bath. We love it; it’ll hopefully be our forever home. We have a 30-year mortgage that makes payments about $950 per month. General utilities and internet average out to about $300 per month.

We have two cars, one of which we’ve paid off. The other we lease. Don’t judge me, but it’s a Prius. Lease there is about $290 per month. Insurance for them comes out to $2,000 a year. Gas comes out to something like $250 per month – gotta love that Prius.

We have an 8-year-old daughter. And she has a lot of activities. We do it that way. Our goal is to have her try an athletic, an artistic, and an academic extracurricular. So, right now, she does ballet at this great academy, which costs $300 for an 18-week session of one class a week. This her second session; I think she likes it. She’s also in an after-school robotics class where she builds a lot of Lego Mindstorm sets. She loves that. Frankly, I do too. It costs $20 a class. Finally, she does soccer at a local youth club. They practice twice a week in the evenings and have games on weekends. Total there is about $400 for a season.

Pretty much everything we spend is for our daughter to have a good childhood.  

Toiletries, trash bags, and general household things like that? I was surprised by that when I looked at our spending. Christ, those always are sneaky and add up don’t they? Those give us another $300, but I’ve been trying to whittle that down. Lots of places online that have deals.

Grocery bills now cost us roughly $450 per month. I started doing most of our grocery shopping now, so I can tell you that, given our situation, watch it like a hawk and scope out the best deals. I, well, also have the time to do that. That’s not to say my wife didn’t do a good job; it’s just that the belt is tightening.

When I say the belt is tightening, I don’t mean we’re in jeopardy of losing the house. It’s just that our lifestyle has to shift for the time being. We’re not saving what we were, we’re not going out to dinner, Christmas was lovely but very restrained – it was basically a few toys and notices to my daughter about her winter activities. My wife and I exchanged a small gift.

Luckily my wife teaches at a private school — hopefully our daughter will go when she’s out of elementary school because she’ll likely get a discounted tuition — and so we’ve been on her insurance the entire time. It’s great; they have a perk where they give her a card with the amount of our deductible on it. We’re well-covered and that has always really helped. It was nice to lose my job and not worry about my family’s health care coverage. My daughter recently got glasses; my wife had the flu from her class – all taken care of.

We have a number of investments. But I don’t want to really go through them. They’re the standard: retirement, college, general investment portfolio, rainy day. We’ve dipped into our rainy day a bit recently, but that’s okay. This is a rainy season for us.

It’s mostly not having a job is what makes this period so tricky for me. I have a lot of downtime right now to think about not having a job. I’ve got some interviews coming up this week so things should pick up, hopefully, by spring. If not, we’re still alright. Roof over our heads. Food in the fridge. Happy kid.

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