From two incomes to none

Two years ago, we were a two-income family, able to make two housing payments and support two separate households. Yesterday, we went from being a one-income family to a no-income family. My husband, my Wonderful Pumpkin, got laid off from his job at a local company which I won’t name.

I know we’re not alone in this state of being. Lots of other people are either jobless, or dreading the possibility of being jobless in the near future. This jobless state of being is scary for us, as we’ve never been both of us unemployed at the same time. As so many other newly-unemployed people, we are not completely prepared for this. We have been trying to live as frugally as possible for a year now, especially since I’ve been unemployed as of our move to Knoxville. At the same time, we’re working to pay off our unsecured loans (credit cards, signature loans, etc.) so we can eventually live off of cash and not rely on credit cards to pay for things like car repairs and other emergencies. That paying-off-debt thing has been going pretty slowly, especially when we’re trying to live off just one income, but we were managing.

When we were living and working back in the Ann Arbor area, we both had full-time jobs, and my salary was roughly half of what my husband was earning. So while I wasn’t making a lot of money, we still enjoyed a healthy household income. And yeah, THAT’S the time when we SHOULD have been living frugally and trying to pay off our unsecured debts–NOT when we transitioned to being a single pay source family.

And before you say it, I know that I’m a lazyass and that I should have been working at least part-time ever since I joined my husband here in Knoxville. But I’ve been enjoying the freedom to hang with our dogs and work for local dog rescues, and since that’s a value that my husband and I share, I’ve rationalized that this worthwhile work is a fair exchange for a paycheck.

Down here, there’s no chance of me being able to earn what I was making up in Ann Arbor, when I was working as a technical support representative for a company which wrote software for newspapers that ran primarily on the Macintosh OS platform. In the first place, I’d been at my former job for almost eight years, and even though I didn’t have a degree or certificate in my field of employment, I knew my job and did it well. I was self-taught in using and troubleshooting problems with Macs, so much so that I earned a spot as one of the MacSpecialists for the August, 2002 grand opening of Michigan’s very first Apple Store, at Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi.

That’s a point of pride for me, if you hadn’t noticed. There were MANY people who were interested in those positions, and I don’t recall exactly how many applicants I competed against, but I do remember there were thousands. THOUSANDS. :::grinning foolishly::: Some will say that I’m a member of the Cult of Macintosh, and that my knowledge of and devotion to the brand is obsessive and therefore not a true accomplishment, but I put a lot of brainwork into getting and keeping that job. And I’ll always look back at my time at The Apple Store with pride.

Down here, not only are the jobs paying less, but there are fewer jobs in my line of work experience–and there are certainly no Macintosh-only software houses who are looking for technical support representatives. My associate of applied science degree, completed two years after my high-school graduation, is in graphic arts technology, and almost all the printing techniques I learned then are quite literally considered antique in today’s world. So we can consider THAT pretty much useless.

At my current level of (irrelevant) education, the best employment I can hope for is probably a retail sales job at which I can make $8.50 an hour–and that’s NOT gonna carry us through, so I should be worrying.

Strangely enough, though, actually hearing the news that my fabulous man was one of the people targeted for the cut was more of a relief than anything. I can say that with certainty for myself, at least. I can’t really speak for Rick, but I think he’s feeling a little bit of relief that this is finally all over.

You see, the company at which Rick worked has been suffering the effects of a tanking economy for the past year. They started making changes to employee benefits and planning personnel cuts back in July 2008 to try to head off the worst of their current financial dry spell. When those initial cuts didn’t work, they began planning more personnel cuts, and rumor has been running rampant about the company’s closing ever since then. We’ve been living in a constant state of low-level panic since summertime, and I think that’s taken its toll on our emotional and physiological well-being.

So while it was devastating to us both to hear that my husband lost his job yesterday, there was also a huge component of relief in finally receiving that news. At last, we knew for certain. No more waiting and wondering, no more “not today, but maybe next week” rumors of layoffs…

First thing Rick said to me yesterday (via instant message) when he “pulled the short straw” was “I’m sorry baby.” I don’t want him to feel like this is his fault–it’s so NOT his fault. I wish you all knew my husband. He’s scary-smart, responsible, loyal, super-dedicated, and hellishly driven to perform his job well. He’s one of the most conscientious people I know, and he feels responsible for every body and everything. So how did the two of us hook up? Heck if I know…probably the Big Guy in the Sky is sitting on his Heavenly Throne with a pen in his hand, making tics in the column titled “Kara Really Owes Me.”

So now we’re both looking for employment. I’m hoping and praying that we don’t have to relocate in order for Rick to find another job, because we’d end up taking another sizable financial loss on the sale of this house, just like we did on the sale of our home in Michigan. (That was the first time I’d ever heard of the SELLERS taking an $8,000 check to closing, but that’s another story.)

I’m still hopeful, though. I’m hoping that Rick will be able to find another job that will allow us to keep this house and buy dog food for the furkids, and maybe THIS job will be closer to what he really wants to do (be an astrophysicist) as well. Maybe I’ll find the one job in all of Knox County that requires me to be familiar with Macintosh computers as well as string words together into (semi)coherent sentences.

Maybe we’ll win the PowerBall lottery. Maybe golden monkeys wearing stocking caps will fly outta my butt. Any of those above scenarios will warrant an note here, folks, so stay tuned. And for everyone else out of work now, hang tough–it will all get better someday.

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