How We Survived After My Boyfriend Lost His $65,000 Job

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Sandwich on brown bag beside computer
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By Tahnya Kristina

In the 14 years I've been with my boyfriend, Nick, we've weathered a lot of storms, from my parents' divorce to paying off $50,000 of debt.

Nick and I started dating in 1999 as poor 19-year-old college students. We didn't know anything about managing money at the time, but we learned together. After graduation, we both found full-time jobs, in finance for me and in information technology for Nick. We moved into a convenient (read: expensive) downtown apartment, bought a new car and furnished our apartment with a big-screen TV and new furniture.

For a while we paid our bills on time every month, but eventually our frivolous spending got ahead of us -- and we landed thousands of dollars in debt. I wasn't sure Nick and I could pay off our balances, and I went to see a bankruptcy consultant. As a financial planner, admitting financial defeat was one of the lowest points in my life. Ultimately, we didn't file bankruptcy -- there would have been too many consequences for my financial career. But we immediately cut our expenses and readjusted our budget. I took a second job, and it took us three years to get back on our feet -- but we did it.

Laid Off During the Recession

But in 2009 we suffered a huge blow. Nick's company was acquired, and they outsourced a lot of jobs, including his. I wanted to play the supportive girlfriend role, to tell Nick everything would be OK and he'd find another job quickly. But as a financial planner, my mind was racing: How could we adjust to living without Nick's $65,000 salary?

Though we had a small emergency fund, I was determined not to touch it and to figure out how we could truly live off one income. So I scoured our bills, and we discussed how to restructure our budget. The first round -- such as dining out several times a week and premium cable -- freed up a whopping $600 each month. Through this process, Nick and I began to realize that living off my $70,000 salary was indeed possible. Here's what we did.

How We Made It Work

We scaled back on eating out. When we realized we were spending upwards of $400 every month on dining out alone, we cut that down to $20 a week, which still allows me to grab a bagel and lunch with my co-workers once a week. I began bringing my lunch to work the other four days and stocking my desk drawers with instant breakfast options. Let's just say that learning to cook was not a success, so I compensated by finding premade foods and snacks to eat at work. They taste better than anything I can cook, and it's much cheaper than going out every afternoon.

We found cheaper ways to socialize. Being extremely social, as Nick and I naturally are, is extremely expensive. Now we limit our restaurant dinners and after-work drinks with friends to once a month, instead of once or twice a week, and we easily save at least another $60 a week. Our friends were very understanding when we told them about our financial situation, and they even started hosting dine-in dinners in their own homes. This allows Nick and me to enjoy time with our friends without having to worry about whether the restaurant bill fits into our budget.

Our premium cable bill was killing us -- so we killed it. Our cable bill was close to $350 every month and had always been a sore spot in our financial relationship. I thought it was too expensive and didn't like contributing to Nick's sports packages, but chalked it up to the sacrifices you make in a relationship. So I was glad when Nick suggested we pare it down to the basics. We removed the extra channels and sports and movie packages, and also got rid of special features from our home phone and lowered our internet package. Although we felt the difference at first, we quickly realized our expensive cable bill was unnecessary. We learned to live without it.

We cut out vacations we couldn't take by car. The key to making budget cuts is to not feel like you're sacrificing too much. Traveling was really important to us because we didn't get to do it in college, so Nick and I were used to taking a couple of vacations every year -- at $2,000 to $3,000 each. Instead of eliminating vacations altogether, eliminating the need to fly cut our vacation costs in half.

We still prioritized retirement savings. As a financial planner, I knew how important it was to continue saving for retirement. After all, we still wanted to retire someday. I adjusted our $200 biweekly retirement contributions to $50 monthly in order to keep saving without straining our budget. I felt good knowing I was still building our future nest egg. (Plus, I was concerned if I stopped contributing completely, I may not start again when we had more money to spare.) So I stayed the course and only increased my contributions when we could afford it.

Thankfully, Nick was out of work for less than a year and is now happily employed again. Even though we're once again a dual-income household, we haven't fallen back into our old habits of careless spending. Although it's cliche, we really did learn (the hard way) that money doesn't equal happiness. Instead, we found happiness in being financially responsible and finding a balance between enjoying ourselves now and planning for our futures -- even when the going got tough.


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84 Comments

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michael.rogers43

$350 a month on cable? Dear god.

April 28 2014 at 7:09 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
viviglam

My God you haters and self righteous people bashing this couple!

They graduated, got good jobs and found out they were living beyond their means. They adjusted their expenses and found out they could still live happily on much less.

They LEARNED. You pompous blowhards spewing off your self preening "I am so much better"

BS need to LOOK IN THE MIRROR.

No one is "perfect."

We all learn through trial and error.

April 28 2014 at 12:27 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
griffon652

For those that are wondering why there is so much hate against this couple I will explain it for you. The fact that this lady is a "financial planner" (and I cringe even saying that) and has no clues regarding budgeting, the reality of living frugally or actual sacrifice's is just truly pathetic.

She has no business being in that field after writing this article. The "sacrifices" she made are not that and are merely luxury spending's she was forced to give up. The fact that they made 135K combined but only had a few months worth of savings speaks volumes. Here's how a real responsible couple making 100K + live:

Me and my wife don't live frugally and have a great lifestyle. But we were responsible enough to save enough to where if we both lost our jobs tomorrow, we have enough savings to live for 3+ years without any work. And that's without counting unemployment benefits, food stamps, without touching our 401K or the equity in our house. That's why there is so much hate because they don't have a single clue regarding living even a bit responsibly but want to moan and complain when one of them loses a job so now they are "only" making 70K.

April 27 2014 at 11:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to griffon652's comment
viviglam

She could be GREAT at helping OTHERS with their portfolio.

Many amazing interior decorators live out of boxes in their own houses.

They learned through trial and error so GOOD FOR THEM.

April 28 2014 at 12:29 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to viviglam's comment
griffon652

Actually she is a terrible financial advisor who has learned nothing as evidenced by this paragraph:

"As a financial planner, I knew how important it was to continue saving for retirement. After all, we still wanted to retire someday. I adjusted our $200 biweekly retirement contributions to $50 monthly in order to keep saving without straining our budget. I felt good knowing I was still building our future nest egg. "

So part of her solution to "budget" was to put her retirement in danger just so she can take vacations and other useless things. Funny thing is if she knew anything remotely close to proper financial planning she would know that in the long run she will end up taking LESS vacations with this foolish strategy. In comparison to her paltry $50/month, I contribute about $1K a month to my retirement. I will be retired in my mid to late 40's and taking a permanent vacation.

She hasn't learned anything. She just found another way to justify her bad spending habits.

April 30 2014 at 4:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
beadpatterns

oh poor dears only $70,000 to live on

April 27 2014 at 11:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mgnficntoz

If things get any worse they may have to push back their plans to retire at 55.

April 27 2014 at 11:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mgnficntoz's comment
Iselin007

They should download the BLS data before making any plans. As it stands now they could be "not in the labor" at the blink of an eye. The civilian non institutional population over age 16 keeps growing faster than those that are in the labor force that actually find employment.

April 27 2014 at 11:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

There are many stories in the concrete jungle not all of them end happily.

Not all boyfriend / girlfriend relationships last. Might want to think about whose nest egg it is should there be a falling out.

April 27 2014 at 11:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

She is lucky to have a job period. That $70,000 dollar job could end .

April 27 2014 at 10:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mgnficntoz

Fortuneatly there was no need to reduce charitable giving-if for no other reason that there was none to begin with.

April 27 2014 at 10:33 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mgnficntoz's comment
Iselin007

It's funny the rich kids beg for donations outside of the low income box stores as if the employees and customers on food stamps had spare change.

April 27 2014 at 11:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mgnficntoz

Whew! Scraping by on a mere 70,000! I can see why your first reaction was to rush to an irresponsible plan to file bankruptcy. Why, you can no longer afford to fly to your vacations or afford dinner and drinks with friends more than once a month! Where can I send a check to help ease your suffering?

April 27 2014 at 10:23 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mgnficntoz's comment
Ken

Plus her boyfriend was making $65,000, at the time she was considering filing for bankruptcy(while she made $70,000)!

April 27 2014 at 10:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

After reading this article I still feel Humpty Dumpty had it tougher.

April 27 2014 at 10:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply