Preparing for the (possibly) inevitable
I've already mentioned a couple times that Tim and I are facing a rather uncertain future. It's unclear whether his unemployment benefits will be extended. (It's unclear, in fact, because the agency says that it won't know until it sees his application; but it won't send us an application until his benefits are nearly gone.)
So in six weeks' time, it's entirely possible that our income will fall from just over $3100 a month to $1781 a month. With $700 rent and Tim's $502 insurance premium, we're not looking at a lot of wiggle room. Especially when my energy medication costs $337 every three months.
Certainly, we'll have enough for food and even some cheap entertainment, like our Blockbuster Online account. But we won't have a heck of a lot more beyond that. We will probably just be able to cover our minimum payments on the credit card. (I'm very thankful that we loaded up all the debt onto one card with a low-rate balance transfer.)
While I'm hopeful that Tim will get the benefits extension -- which would allow him some breathing room to get his medication situation figured out -- I am trying to maintain the assumption that this won't happen. It helps me plan for contingencies.
At the same time, I'm aware that dropping down to a much leaner budget is going to be hard on us. So Tim and I have been consciously trying to slowly pare down ahead of time. For example, Tim has been diligent about not asking for pricey groceries, like nice cheeses. (Those are his particular weakness.) I have been trying to buy myself less junk food, which is my particular weakness.
We've been slowly pulling on the reins, to give ourselves time to ease into this potential new lifestyle. My hope is that this will make any transition a lot easier. Tim and I both get tired easily these days, and that leads to being short-tempered. So limitations can really make us bristle. By starting the cuts ahead of time, I'm hoping we won't chafe against the new, lower budget restrictions.
I want the next few months to be as stress-free for Tim as humanly possible. He's already pretty stressed out about potentially losing his benefits -- in addition to the general stress of not being able to work. This is exacerbating his eczema to a pretty worrisome point. So you can see why I want to be able to ease us into any future changes.
The other major change I'm making is to try and find the simplest answer to everything. The reason for this is pretty simple: Tim and I are fried. We're exhausted, vaguely punch drunk and just generally ready for things to change.
Unfortunately, the change will probably be slow. Medication is rarely something that helps overnight. And once a good level is found, we'll still need to see how it affects his overall health. So, for now, I'm focused on ensuring that we're as nice to ourselves (and each other) as possible.
With the level of exhaustion around here, tempers run high. (We have, after all, been living most of the last 10 months day in, day out in a one-bedroom apartment.) So I'm focusing on calming down. And, perhaps more importantly, I'm focused on trying to find the least-demanding route to everything.
When Tim says, "Aw, man! I still have to get the groceries out of the car!" I simply reply, "Yes, but not right this second."
When Tim is stressed out about dishes piling up, I try to devise the minimal amount of work possible. If we're running low on only bowls, I suggest just doing a load of bowls. (Yes, it wastes some water, but right now our sanity is a little more important.) If the sink is full, but we still have all the basic necessities, I tell him to worry about it tomorrow.
Mostly, I'm focused on breaking everything down into bite-sized pieces. It seems our best hope for staying sane. And married.
Is anyone out there taking steps to plan for unemployment? Or a loss of unemployment benefits? Anyone else trying to find a balance between life's little tasks and your sanity? In other words: How are you coping with these stressful, uncertain times?