Hi all -
Guess it's time I joined this thread. We'd been getting by, albeit hand-to-mouth, for several years until last month. For approx. 4 years, hubby had been working as the assistant manager of a gourmet foods/snacks store. For a while, I earned money working from home, and then I took a part-time job in retail (we homeschool, so working full-time is difficult). We had enough money to pay for rent and utilities, gasoline, groceries, etc., as well as enough to eat out occasionally and shop at thrift stores (we have always bought all non-consumables used).
However, hubby is going through a bit of a mid-life crisis of sorts and can think of nothing but attending school, working toward a certificate in 3D design. When he first had the idea early last year, I asked him if he couldn't learn the programs online (through Lynda.com or something like that). He was adamant that he could only learn in a traditional classroom setting, that online tutorials just don't work for him. I suggested other routes - trading his knowledge (of other programs, sketching and painting, cartooning, etc.) with someone who knows 3D design, taking an online course, etc. No, he said, it had to be a classroom with a professor. So, he applied for grants and got them. I was relieved we wouldn't have to pay for him to go to classes and stopped worrying.
For the first semester, everything was fine. His class was in the evening, so he would work and then head to school. Unfortunately, the classes he needed for the next semester (which started last month) were during the day on Friday and Saturday. His boss was happy to let him have those days off, but the district manager was none too pleased. She told him it was either his job or school. He chose school and went back to driving limousines like he did several years ago.
When he drove before, the money was erratic, but we were able to live off it, for the most part. Now, however, with the economy as bad as it is, business is down and tips are virtually non-existent. There are fewer runs, and (because he hasn't been there in years) he's at the bottom of the pecking order. We live about an hour away from the limo place, but he can't really turn down any runs (if only to get ahead in the pecking order), so he ends up driving all the way down there for a run or two. The cost of gas is difficult. We live near Austin (and the limo place is in
Austin), and, even if just for a split second, I was relieved about the plane crashing into the IRS building because there would be newspeople and others flying into the city because of it, and hubby would have more work. In fact, tomorrow, he has several runs taking people from the airport to the crash site.
My job is pretty horrid, I hate to admit. We have only one car, so I had to find a place I could walk to. There's really not very much within walking distance (and there is no bus service here), so I decided to work at a thrift store about 20 minutes walking distance away. The pay is poor, and the working conditions are even poorer; the work is physically demanding (even though I'm primarily a cashier), most of the people I work with aren't people I'd want anything to do with, and the company treats us all as criminals (which many of the employees actually are). Just last week, they replaced all the locker locks so that they would have the combinations; they intend to randomly search our belongings to make sure we haven't stolen any trinkets. They randomly drug test employees. They search our bags before we leave. They have scads of cameras capturing every movement we make - not to catch shoplifters, but to keep track of the employees (and they have people employed just to watch them). Ugh. So, needless to say, I'm not very happy there. In addition to that, I have MS, and the physical aspect of the job is difficult for me to handle. This past month, they were gracious enough to give me more hours (I let a few of the supervisors know my family was hurting financially), but I'm having real trouble working so much. Several of my symptoms are worsening, and others that had gone into remission have come roaring back.
So, we're in a tough spot. Hubby has quit school so that he can work on Fridays and Saturdays and so that he can tell potential employers that he's available every day. (He's been using (and learning from) online tutorials like I suggested in the first place -grrr.) He's gotten almost no interviews for jobs (it's just a really bad time to be looking). I'm having trouble staying positive.
We were given a Vitamix for Christmas (my mother is a saint, sometimes) and had begun eating raw (we're already vegan). And we felt great! Hubby has diabetes, and his blood sugar and blood pressure stabilized. My MS symptoms all lessened or virtually disappeared. Ds felt and looked better. All of us had more energy. And all within a month! But then, we had no money to continue. Luckily, I had lots of dry beans and rice and such in the pantry, and we've been living off those for several weeks, now. But, the pantry is beginning to look empty, and the thought of buying more dry beans and rice is disheartening - not only because we're sick of them, but because we can't afford them. Blah. I've planned a garden for this year, but I'm not sure we'll be able to afford the seeds. I think I can search out old fence planks and other such freebies to actually build it (I'm using the square foot method), but the cost of seeds is a little daunting.
Son's bday was last week, and he was absolutely great about it. He knew we had very little money to spend on him. He received 3 t-shirts (that cost me $1.50 each) and the game Settlers of Catan (which I found for $3 at a thrift store - unopened). We made him a chocolate cake (we had nearly all the ingredients on hand) and played Settlers of Catan all evening. He was quite happy.
Still, the stress is beginning to get to us - me especially. Stress is terrible for MS, and I'm someone who is easily stressed....
At least the weather is looking up so we can head out to the park or take walks (it had been consistently rainy here for a while). Also, we just received a couple of homeschooling freebies in the mail, and the little one is having fun with those (right now, he's watching a documentary about Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers). We've got lots of books in the house to keep us occupied (we owe the library over $20 because a dog chewed up one of the kiddo's books), as well as a huge collection of VHS tapes (all bought for $.25 or $.50 each). We don't have cable or Netflix, so the tapes are nice to have on hand. And, we haven't had to cut off the Internet yet (though I'm worried we might have to soon), so we've been utilizing it quite a bit. We've got lots of board and card games to play, also. There are instruments (guitars, banjo, mandolin, violin) we can play around on, and I've got a small stash of yarn I need to learn how to knit. Still, even with all these things to occupy my time, I spend far too many hours sitting around worrying.
I wish there were things we could cut out to save money, but we're already bare bones. We don't buy anything, we don't subscribe to anything, etc. We already work hard to keep the utility bills low. We eat very cheaply (though as nutritiously as we can afford). We don't have any habits we have to support (i.e., smoking, drinking, etc.).
I know we'll make it through this rough patch eventually, but it's just difficult right now. Sigh.... So, there's my introduction. If you've made it this far, thanks.
I know I've posted a novel. I'm just happy to be in the company of others who get it