Thursday, January 2, 2014

So I guess I should write something...

I haven't updated my blog in forever. In part because I don't like to hear myself whine and in part because it's a lot easier to just write something in my private journal or on Facebook. But I know not everyone is on Facebook and that no one is able to read my private journal. So I finally decided during these moments of quiet to write something (Joy is sleeping and Joe is getting the oil changed in my car and picking up a few groceries).

"Well, what the heck is going on with you these days?" you might ask. A lot and a whole lot of nothing at the same time, likely.

Joe and I are knee deep in the job hunt game. Interview-wise, he is currently having more luck than I am. Random-job wise, he is also having more luck. I did help a friend clean out her fridge and she paid me 20 bucks for the hour-and-a-half it took me. I kept thinking how much I should probably do that with our own fridge. I also have another friend who introduced me to one of her co-workers who was looking for a cat sitter. I have watched said cats on a few different occasions now. The pay is pretty good. Other than that, I'm still delivering papers and selling Origami Owl ( if you're interested). But none of those things are long-term solutions. They were plans to help put a little extra money toward bills and savings and vacations back when Joe had a job. Now that he doesn't have a job, the money is being put toward bills, but there are many more bills than there is money to put toward it since his unemployment has now officially run out.

Yes, that leads me to the bulk of what has been on my mind since finding out the news. But to give a little background first. With the downturn of the economy, people and the government learned that 6 months of unemployment just wasn't enough for many people to help cover bills until they were back on their feet. Emergency funding was approved with an expiration date that extended the unemployment benefits. I'm not sure what the absolute longest is that someone could be on it, but when I was unemployed not-by-choice before getting pregnant, I was on it for a year before they took it away. And believe me, I was still looking for lots of jobs during that year! Most of my interviews were with staffing agencies to get me signed up with them. And most of them I never heard from after that. But I digress. When the expiration date for the emergency funding came, Congress approved an extension of benefits, as the economy was still in the crapper. This happened more than once since the funding was initially approved. And it just happened again. In the past, so I've heard, Congress has let the program expire before renewing it or changing it or whatever they did. I mean, why not? It's not like they have to worry how they're going to pay the bills and where they're going to sleep at night. And, so I've heard, those who lost the benefits were able to get back-pay of benefits. But I'm sure that time between was tough for them. I know it's tough for us.

And, of course, we don't KNOW that we will be eligible for any more unemployment. What gets me the most is that Joe spoke with someone in early or mid December to verify how long he would have unemployment benefits. He did this because we were starting to consider our "options." These options aren't exactly good for our financial health or my stress levels, but we wondered if we had reached the point where we should walk away from our house and move in with family until we could get back on our feet. You see, we are upside-down in our house by about 50K right now, so selling it isn't exactly an option. During the time Joe has been unemployed, our bills have exceeded the money we have had coming in by approximately $1000 a month. But we had savings and figured that if the money coming in and going out stayed consistent, we could last for about a year unemployed. So when Joe called the unemployment office and was told he'd have benefits for a year, we were relieved. Only that wasn't the case.

We are at a crossroads. We could borrow against our retirement savings because of this emergency, buying ourselves another couple months to live before being in terrible shape still and then being without options. Or we can move. Of course, Joe could also get a job, or I could get a job, or we both could get a job, and then we could stay here. But we only have so long before we cannot afford the bills anymore if that doesn't happen. And even if I get a job (which several people have been so kind as to send me job leads, but most are for jobs paying less than $13 an hour), unless it is by itself enough to pay the bills (spoiler alert: it won't be unless it pays approximately $5 an hour more than the most I've ever made at a job before), we would still be in this predicament. Joe can make enough, even if he takes a pay cut, to pay the bills and allow me to continue to be a stay at home mom. Washington state has one of the highest childcare costs in the nation to go along with its high cost of living. So there's that fun factor to take into account.

And here we are. Currently, we're playing a bit of a waiting game while still looking for jobs. We're waiting on Congress. We're waiting on this company Joe interviewed with before Christmas to let him know where he stands. We're waiting to hear back from other companies we've spent countless hours applying for jobs with. And while we wait, if time runs out, we need to start selling our belongings, packing, and walk away from the house.

But, in the meantime, we have received a lot of blessings at Christmastime. Family, friends, and strangers have shown us support in different ways. We are so grateful for and appreciative of that! We hope this next year is kinder to us, even though we aren't off to a good start yet!