2014: Jason had a good salary. Not huge, but large enough that our family of five was doing well. We were frugal, so we didn’t spend huge amounts. Every month, we put money into savings and paid extra on our mortgage. We’d owned our house for over eight years, and we’d bought it at a pretty decent price when the market was super low. Our only credit card was used strategically – we put all our expenses on it every month (to earn points) and paid it off in full when the bill came, so that we never had any interest. This way we earned free flights and hotels, and avoided debit fees at our bank (which was still stupidly charging per use). We had enough for vacations or emergencies, and we didn’t have to worry about paying the bills every month.
At the same time, we didn’t have enough for any major college funds for the boys, who would all be starting college within 6-8 years. Plus, Jason’s company wasn’t doing well, and we were worried that eventually there would be layoffs. He began looking for another job, and this is when we made the crucial stupid mistake. A company offered him an excellent position in Boston with nearly double the salary and a great relocation package. After weighing the pros and cons, we took the deal. That’s when things went wrong.
- As it turns out, selling a house and moving across the country takes a lot more than most relocation packages. For the first time in years, we had some major credit card debt.
- It also turns out that estimating cost of living expenses is extremely difficult, and not only was our rent three times the cost of our previous mortgage payment, but everyday things like groceries were at least twice the expense. Despite the increase in salary, we were making the same net every month, and less was going to savings because of the debt.
- The new company began to fail, cuts were made, and we moved back to San Antonio, where the housing market had boomed and houses were a lot more expensive. However, our cost of living went down, and our salary stayed almost the same as it had been in Boston, so we started getting out of debt…
- …until we suddenly discovered some major problems with our new house and had to spend $20k making crucial repairs, then more money when we needed to move northward to WI due to some health reasons for extended family, then even more when we started repairs on the house there. We hadn’t gotten out of debt yet when Jason was laid off from his job and we had several months without an income.
Now fast forward to today. Jason has a new job. His salary is smack-dab in the middle of his pre-Boston and post-Boston salaries. It’s plenty of live on…except for the situation we now find ourselves in. We still own a house in Wisconsin which will probably take years to sell. The housing market in San Antonio skyrocketed over the last few years, and our current house cost over twice what we paid for the first house from all the way back before we ever moved. We also still have nearly $20k of credit card debt from construction on two houses and four cross-country moves. So despite the fact that he’s making more money now, we’re in much, much worse shape than we’ve ever been in. And that’s unlikely to change before our first child goes to college in less than two years. Like I said, a terrible decision that we thought was going to be a good one.
We are doing everything we can to minimize expenses and get things back on track. If we can sell that stupid house in Wisconsin (we just fired our previous realtor and are starting with someone new), we’ll be able to apply that house’s monthly expenses toward the credit card and hopefully be back on our feet in a year or so. In the meantime, everything just feels very pinched, in a very frustrating way. I’m itching to help out, but don’t really know that I can contribute much – I was supposed to finish my degree when we moved to Boston, but then expenses didn’t allow (any time since then either), and I can’t make much more than minimum wage, plus I have a kid with behavioral issues that I need to be home with. It’s such a frustrating situation, the sort of situation that keeps me up at night. Ugh.
I just…I’ve had moments in my life where I felt like we’ve made good decisions that have set us on the right path, and others when a decision sent us off the path so badly that we’re just lost and fumbling in the dark. Deciding to move back in 2014 is one of the biggest regrets of my life. Everything went wrong – financially, emotionally, health-wise, in our marriage, for our kids – and so very little has been right ever since. I’m really, really hoping we’re heading the right direction now. So much needs to happen and really fall into place before things can truly be “good” again, and in the meantime, I worry and worry and worry.
But! I’m also trying to look at this all positively. Yes, we’re in a deep hole, but there are good things. Jason has a good job and a good salary, and if we can sell that WI house, we’ll be okay. Tight, and not quite as good as we were before the moves, but no longer digging into a monthly hole of debt at least. Plus, losing that job is the last remnant of our ill-fated Boston adventure. We all love our new house, and I’m no longer pining after the one we left behind in 2014. Sure, I miss the mortgage payment and the fact that we had a good chunk paid off, but I’m not crying about how this house isn’t our old one the way I have at previous houses. I feel home again, for the first time in years, and that’s important.
Those are only small rays of light, but rays nonetheless, and hopefully in time, those rays will eventually lead us back to the right path.