Live Like There's No Tomorrow

by Linsey Knerl on 5 September 2007 14 comments
Photo: Changes

My husband had a great job. He was receiving a nice steady income at a higher rate of pay than what we were used to living on. He drove an all-expenses paid company car, and all work-related supplies were paid for in his home office. We had the privilege of going to two sales conferences earlier in the year to nice locations with drinks, dinners, and many social outings. Despite all the success, I somehow had an uneasy feeling it wouldn’t last. It didn’t.

 

Two weeks after he had gotten a glowing performance review and his manager sent care packages for all of our kids, he was told over the phone at a client meeting that he needed to return the rental car by 5:00 and apply for unemployment. His position had been eliminated due to budget cuts and a reorganization. It was nothing personal.

 

Six months pregnant with three more children at home, I could have panicked. I instead said a prayer of thanks that I had the foresight to start saving aggressively two months before he was let go. I had a mistrust of the company, and knew that we would never survive if we believed that he had full financial security in any job. We took 50% of our earnings and stuck it in a savings account. That small nest egg, along with the very small unemployment earnings and a few side jobs here and there, lasted us through a 10-month financial drought we had never seen before.

 

I realize that most people can’t put away 10% very easily, not to mention 50%. But we had just paid off all of our credit cards from a debt consolidation that had taken 8 years to complete. We originally wanted to celebrate by getting some new appliances and a fresh coat of paint in the living room. I felt uneasy by our financial success, however, and wanted to be sure we were set in case he were to ever lose his job. We bought a refrigerator and agreed that I could wash the dishes by hand for another year. We took the money we were putting toward the debt consolidation program in the previous months, and put it directly into savings. That was the best decision we ever made.

 

Have you just finished paying off a large loan? Do you suddenly find yourself with an additional $100-$500 a month? Stop what you are doing right now and live like you won’t have your job tomorrow. Resist the temptation to celebrate. Put it in savings. Plan ahead. Hopefully you won’t need it right away. But if you do, you will be thankful for your foresight, and can make it through the next dry spell. And after you have accumulated the recommend 3-6 months of expenses in your account, you can consider upgrading your vehicle or building that deck. Whatever you choose to do, you can do it with the peace of mind that comes from being prepared.

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Guest's picture

I'm sorry to hear that. I will be done paying off credit cards next month and after that I'm going to sock away as much money as possible to save for a rainy day. I'm very excited to be getting out of credit card debt (still got the student loans though).

Linsey Knerl's picture

My husband found a job after 10 months (which was a lot longer than we had planned on.)  But fortunately, we were prepared.  It saved me alot of worry during the time he was unemployed, and my husband was able to stay home and help with the birth of our new son!

 

Congratulations on getting rid of your cc debt! 

Guest's picture
Guest

i believe you meant "drought". very inspiring article, BTW!

Linsey Knerl's picture

It's been so rainy here in Nebraska, that I've forgotten the meaning (and spelling, apparently) of the word!  Thanks!

Myscha Theriault's picture

Being prepared feels way better than any cool "stuff" ever could. I think it's very interesting you mentioned that it took nearly a year, because I've always felt 3-6 months of savings was not nearly enough. 1-3 years is more what I'm comfortable with (although that includes other savings such as stocking up on things and making sure things are taken care of on the home maintenance front). I've been thinking of doing a post on the issue of 3-6 months of savings being enough or not. . .

Good for you for being prepared!

Guest's picture
Guest

Thank you for the words of wisdom. I would also recommend some form of term life insurance for the surviving spouse. Bad things happen to good people every day. Invest in preparedness......

Julie Rains's picture

Your post reminded me of all the extra money my husband and I had when we paid off our first cars, a couple of years after we got married. At the time, we were getting a mortgage loan and we were questioned about all the money now flowing into our accounts. No, we weren't money laundering, we were just enjoying not having car loans, which were equivalent to our soon-to-be mortgage payment.

It's also wise not to increase your standard of living as soon as you or someone in your family starts making more money; you can save the money that is given in higher than before pay, merit raises and/or bonuses rather than spend it. Glad you were thinking ahead.  

 

Guest's picture
MeLiSsA

this article has really served as a great wake-up call for me. my husband and i have recently both landed ourselves with higher paying jobs and we've been celebrating for quite too long (about four months now). the story brought me back to the reality that we need to stop celebrating and start saving!!!!

Guest's picture
Julia

Excellent post Linsey. I've talked about this several times on my own blog, for the exact same reasons as you: after going through a couple of layoffs (I work in the high-tech industry, and this is fairly normal), I realized that an emergency fund was definitely in order. After my latest downsizing this past summer, I actually didn't need the emergency stash because of the severance package I received, but that didn't mean I stopped contributing to it. Even with the new job I started last month, I'm still contributing, and will probably increase the contributions, just in case. An emergency fund is always a good thing to have, because as you & your family found out, unemployment can happen at any time. So be prepared.

Guest's picture
joe shields

There is really no need to save for the future, everything will be fine.

Linsey Knerl's picture

But haven't you ever heard the story of the Ant and the Grasshopper? 

Guest's picture
prfctlyclm

Thank you for the wake up call!!! We're in debt consolidation now and finding the going very rough without an emergency fund. I've decided to focus on trying to build one up as much as possible, but it's so easy to stray from that focal point when a little extra money is at hand. I'm so glad things worked out for you all, and I'm also glad you've shared your inspiring story to help others!

Linsey Knerl's picture

We too, went through a debt consolidation plan.  My husband and I BOTH had one when we were married, each worth about $15,000.  We have been married 5 years, and I'm proud to say that we have both paid ours off!  Whenever we have even a little extra money, we've put away for an emergency fund.  We seem to have an emergency annually that almost takes everything (medical, car repairs, lay-offs, etc.)  we never usually come out very far ahead, but we haven't gone hungry yet.

 Keep up the great work!  Some day you'll look back and be so glad to have saved even a little bit.  And the debt consolidation will be something you'll be proud of later!

Jabulani Leffall's picture

That was great foresight on your part. Very shrewd indeed. My philosophy with savings is to pretend it doesn't exist, allocate a percentage and have it automatically deducted or at least feel up a change jar on a monthly basis and put the bills in an interest bearing account LOL:). I'm glad you guys are your feet. 

 

Jabulani Leffall

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