Monday, March 16

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?


Blogger Shtinkykat said...

We're definitely on the same wave length here, Abigail. But aside from the PF advice you have in this post, I really like your "bite-size" approach and hold off on tasks that can wait. I'm a bit overwhelmed at work and this advice really hit home on how to deal with it. Good luck and I'll be praying that Tim's benefits are extended.

March 17, 2009 at 5:46 AM

Blogger Abby said...


Thanks for your good wishes. We can use all the positive thoughts and prayers we can get, certainly! Like I said, it won't be the end of the world, but it would be a lot more comfortable if we can get a few more months' respite to get Tim nice and comfortable with medication.

As for "bite-size" approach, I'm glad if it helps inspire you. I think some of us just tend to feel like -- if we can only do a little -- it's just not worthwhile to bother. That leads to feeling overwhelmed and powerless. So I just try to figure out what is the smallest piece of a given task I can do to get myself up to speed.

My mom's approach is to set a timer for 10, 15, 20 minutes (depending on the task) and just work furiously for that time period. This is great for cleaning, especially, since cleaning makes most of us think of hours of toil. If you think, okay 10 minutes of getting the kitchen as clean as I can, it's a lot more approachable.

March 17, 2009 at 1:23 PM

Blogger Alane said...

Now this is just for you so you don't have to post it but if things get really tough you should apply for welfare assistance. Even if you only get a little in food stamps it could be a big help. You and Tim need a little help bridging the gap. There is no shame in that. That is what it was meant for.

March 17, 2009 at 4:49 PM

Blogger Abby said...


You're absolutely right that there is no shame in taking food stamps or other, similar programs.

The only thing is that, in Seattle, a couple living on $1700 a month doesn't qualify for any help from the Dept of Health & Social Services. Strange, but there it is.

Still, it's a helpful reminder to us all: Even the most liberal of us tend to view welfare as something people should definitely, absolutely take advantage of. Until those people are us. I had this initial problem with applying for government programs. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but an ultimately very helpful one.

So to any of you out there hesitating to apply, I would beg you to go ahead and do it. Our taxes go to fund these sorts of programs, so that we have safety nets when we need them. Please don't let your pride get in the way of making your life a little bit easier!

March 17, 2009 at 6:07 PM

Blogger Mrs. Modern Tightwad said...

Ironically, I'm just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but its a loooooongggg way off. After three years of no steady work, Mr. MT has a good part time job. But since we both work in the hospitality industry (not need based by any means) we never know what our checks will be, or if we'll even continue to have them. I'm not changing anything, and I'm actually using the extra time I have when he's working to try and pare things down further. Less things, less debt (more in theory than practice), and I escape to the blogs I love to read when my head feels like its about to fall off. I take comfort that we're all (somewhat) in this together, and try and learn from what other people are doing to simplify.

March 17, 2009 at 10:44 PM

Blogger Revanche said...

Best of luck to you, it's definitely easier to just not do things at all when overwhelmed with tons to do. Or even just difficult tasks. Often, doing a small chunk of it makes the rest of the task more palatable. Manageable, I should say.

I've been preparing for a layoff for months so even though I'm more prepared than I could be, I'm still scared as all get out. Even though I've saved very seriously, cut down on expenses and held the reins as tightly as I can, I'm losing my grip on sanity because it's been so stressful being in emergency-planning mode for months.

March 18, 2009 at 10:38 AM

Blogger Abby said...


I can only imagine. We've been on high alert only for a couple of months and are burned out.

After I got out of the hospital, I joined up on a support network and learned that after severe illness, your body can still be in what's called "survivor mode." It's a physiological state akin to pretty much anyone who's survived a trauma. It's been documented as real, tests showing things like a more rapid heartbeat etc.

About a month before the wedding, I went in to the doctor for a checkup and the nurse noted my blood pressure was high. I told her that I was getting married in a month and was pretty stressed out over the preparations. She nodded and seemed to take that as explanation enough. The first time after the wedding that I saw the doctor, my blood pressure was back to normal.

So it's a good reminder that stress, whether physical or emotional, has a very real effect on our bodies, as well as our minds. Try to take that into account and, as my therapist would say, "be gentle with yourself." It sounds a tad cheesy but it really does help overall. Maybe some meditation, too?

March 18, 2009 at 12:33 PM


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