It was January 2016. The Tagalongs were just a few days shy of their first birthday. I was driving to work and got a text from Marcella saying that our brand new nanny had just called in sick for the 3rd time in 8 days. After texting the nanny that her services were no longer needed, we quickly simply wasn’t worth the time. So we arranged for Marcella to quit her job to stay home full time with the kids. Two short months later (are any months really short with triplets?), work was going great and my bi-weekly bonus checks were huge! Unfortunately they were so large, that it caught the attention of upper management – who first capped, then totally restructured my bonuses to make them top out at less than half of what they had been before. Three months into 2016, and we were losing $100k a year in income.
This caused lot of worrying on both our parts, as we were at the tail end of our fight with United Healthcare about paying for specialty infant formula. There were a lot of terse discussions and impromptu budget meetings about how to make this all work. It seemed impossible to keep going after taking such a huge loss in pay! So how did we do it?
In reality, our plan to survive didn’t start in 2016. It started before we were even pregnant. Managing our money well has always been important to us and we started on the path of fiscal responsibility well in advance. When we found out we were pregnant, we doubled down on this path, which helped us survive. Here are a few things we did.
- Debt Free – To this date, we owe only on the mortgage and the family van. We have no outstanding credit card, student, medical, or other debt. We did this by following a modified version of Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball over a couple of years, combined with creating a budget and sticking to our budget.
- Research – I dig through the Internet a lot and have found a ton of helpful information on personal finance out there. Places like PersonalCapital.com, FinancialSamurai.com, and SideHustleNation.com have helped influence me as we’ve managed our money. The concepts and ideas I’ve gained from these sites have absolutely helped further propel us towards financial freedom.
- Avoid Money Traps – Boy, are there a lot of these out there! Maybe it’s that new car (my 2006 Corolla has 189,000 miles on it) you “can’t live without.” Or perhaps it’s Cable, DirecTV, Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix – which you don’t watch. Eating out every day for work? Gym memberships you don’t use? Whatever it is, most Americans have plenty of these that we pay for on a regular basis that cripples our ability to be financially solvent.
None of this was easy – and that was before we had the kids! But we realized that it was necessary. Necessary to allow us to do what we wanted to do later in life. Necessary to give us the opportunities for our future children that we wanted to have. We needed to get our financial life in order for any of this to happen – so we did.
So if you’ve never started any of this, and you’re dealing with your own 3 (or more!) bundles of joy – how do you make this work for you?
- Build a plan – You will not be able to do this simply by snapping your fingers. You’ll need to sit down with your spouse and figure out how to do this together. Sacrifices will happen. Compromises must be made. But only by writing down what your plan is, can you succeed! It doesn’t have to be overly complicated. You can find dozens of guides or templates online or simply make your own in Excel, as we did.
- Eliminate Muda – What is muda? It’s a Japanese term used in lean manufacturing and production environments and it effectively means “waste.” What is personal finance waste? Things that you are spending money on that do not get you towards your goal. These will differ from couple to couple and some things are sacred to individuals (Starbucks, anyone?). Martial harmony in our household has a cleaning lady and landscapers come to help with necessary chores that we simply don’t take the time to do. You will each have to decide what you can or cannot live without.
- Commit to the plan – Now that you’ve decided how to get your finances under control, it’s decision time. Decide with your spouse how you’re going to make this work. And then come to an agreement to make these changes. Set follow up meetings on a regular basis, and make adjustments as things change.
- Stick with it! – Don’t give up! There will be days where it seems too hard, or not worth it. Don’t listen to yourself. Keep going. Stay focused on the better days that will be ahead, if you can implement your changes now.
- Side Hustle – I know. You’re thinking to yourself right now how you could possibly have time to have a side hustle. You’re still figuring out how to get 4 hours of sleep a night! Think of it this way. Your side hustle does not need to be a job. It could be something you work on to reduce your expenses.
- Find places to send you demo formula, diapers, or other baby related items
- Look for ways to cut costs internally – cheaper items, shopping at secondhand stores or Craigslist, etc
- Sell unused or outgrown items on Ebay, Craigslist, etc
- Clip coupons and look through grocery adds to find the best sales
- Start Now – The longer you wait, the farther behind you are. How much longer can you continue like you are? What happens if you have a major event happen? Can you take care of your family if something bad happens? Studies have shown that a large portion of American’s can’t cover a $1,000 emergency – don’t put your children through that!
Hopefully you never experience losing $100k a year in income as we did. Luckily, as I sit here today, just under 2 years later, I’m happy to report that we’re still financially stable. Marcella still stays home and I’ve found a promotion. And despite no real change in income, we’ve been able to stay consumer debt free and even make advances in our investment holdings. It’s not been easy all the time, and there were certainly opportunities where things could have gone sideways. But, we built our plan and stuck to it. You can do the same!