When my husband came home last month to tell me he would be unemployed within 30 days, I went into panic mode. I had so many questions. How long would it take for my husband to find another job? How would we survive while he was unemployed? How would we afford our mortgage, utilities, food and property taxes, let alone extracurricular activities for our kids, SAT/ACT and college application fees? How would we tell our children? I passed a lot of sleepless nights thinking it all through.
When we delivered the news to the kids, we explained the need to tighten up the reigns and determine and prioritize our needs. Jared, my older son asked, “Are we going to be homeless?” I assured him that we wouldn’t, we’d just be on a tight budget; instead of going out to eat, we would eat at home, buy generic brands when grocery shopping and refrain from extra activities for a little while.
Their responses as we’ve tightened up have been pretty typical. They complained that the chips in their packed lunches aren’t Doritos. Jared’s football team has been eating out for their pre-game dinners. Jared had been using the money he made cutting lawns this summer to go with his buddies. When his funds were depleted, he came to me. I told him it wasn’t in the budget. I was expecting a negative reaction, but to my surprise, he didn’t put up a fight. When my younger son, Jansen, had to miss a Boy Scout trip to Red River Gorge, his scout leader contacted me. After I explained our situation, he told me about available scholarships and that no scout will ever be turned away from an event. I was relieved as I know attending campouts are where badge requirements are met.
Living on a tight budget isn’t always comfortable but it is teaching our family to be resilient, to ask for help and to access resources. As a family we are learning to problem solve together and create a game of where we can cut corners. I hope this experience helps my children know what’s truly important: that it’s family, love and security that bring them joy and happiness, not material things.