In more trouble than I thought

hogan_njJanuary 13, 2010

It's me again Hogan from the previous thread. I am doing everything I can to change our lifestyle. Trying to cut back on anything I can control, like gas and electric, food, entertainment etc. Just trying to give some of you alittle backround that did not read my previous thread.

My wife is the problem,in just two short days we had as many arguments about spending and how our life is different now. i thought I made everything perfectly clear about our situation but I guess I did not.

She went to the store and spent $133 on groceries. When I asked her why she spent so much, she got real defensive and said I bought what was ONLY on sale.Everything she bought was name brand and she also told me she bought more food than usual so that's why she spent more. I estimate its about one week of food with a FEW extra's ,

In the end her defense is IF YOU DO NOT LIKE THE WAY I SHOP YOU DO IT. I feel like she is my adversary instead of being a team. It is going to be a struggle because not only does she not get it but whenever we have a disagreement instead of coming up with a solution she says THEN YOU DO IT.

Then today she tells me how she still needs to buy those boots she been wanting to get and I said ok, well just use your $120 gift card you got for christmas from your class (she's a teacher) Oh no I spent that on this and that and she will just double talk the heck out of me.

I feel all alone in this, she has always been bad with money, and she is extremely defensive about it. If I bring up anything about why she spent so much on something she takes it as a personal attack and fiercely defends herself.

I hate to say it but 90% of our debt is from her bad judgement and bad spending habits. I am not perfect when it comes to finances but at least I realize when its time to put the BRAKES on spending. I don't know if I ever will get through to her, she is a strong willed person and maybe she partly blames me for being laid off.

I cannot monitor her spending around the clock,I just wish she would understand the gravity of the situation.

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Wow! Hogan, I'm sorry to hear this.

Marriage counseling. If you belong to a church, they will provide it. Otherwise check with the union or social services in your county.

Even if you cancel all the credit cards, etc. she can open another. If she is spending more than usual, it could be her way of lashing out because she is worried about how long you will be laid off. Even if she won't go, you need to talk with a counselor for suggestions on how to handle this.

A visit to one of the non-profit (free) credit counseling services might also help.

Meanwhile, given the circumstances, perhaps you SHOULD do the grocery shopping and cooking. Take your wife out to places that are free or cheap, or have friends over. Keep her out of the stores ;)

    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 7:39PM
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I thought I would offer a womans point of view. We are in a very similar situation. My husband lost about 30% of his income last year. We were making pretty good money so while we saw the difference, we could still live pretty comfortably and I didn't really need to change my spending. We just found out that in the next month he will lose another 60%. We will have to give our dream home back to the bank, actually they will come and take it and move to another city to a much smaller home. Even then it will be really tight and I will be forced to pinch the pocket book. Fortunately I'm not a shopper and we have no credit cards or credit card debt. But I have never had to keep track of grocery spending or dining out spending or entertainment spending. I know this is going to be really difficult for me. And even though I am well aware of the fact money is going to be very tight, habits are hard to break. I rarely cook, we eat out ALOT. I know this will need to change. As often as I tell myself all of this, I still know that NOT spending money is going to be easier said than done.

I'm sure your wife is not unaware of the financial issues at all. And whatever you have told her about spending or not spending she has probably told herself twice as many times.

I disagree with the last poster about not taking her cards. I think they should be given up. In this economy the odds of either of you getting a new credit card is slim. And when you do start working again your wife will want to enjoy the money, not have to live just as frugally because of all the credit card bills that you will have to pay back.

Put the entire family on a cash budget. When the cash is gone the spending for the week is over. Women love to think they stretched the dollar as far as it will go. Soon your wife will figure out ways to spend half as much on groceries for twice as much food. Then she will be free to spend the leftover money on a treat for herself.

I get angry at my husband too when he constantly reminds me of the money situation. But deep down I'm glad he does.

If you feel you would benefit from counseling then you should go. Even if I didn't think we needed it, if my husband felt we did, I would agree to it for him.

I guess what I'm trying to say is just have patience with your wife. I'm sure you both will get through this and be better because of it.

Another thing I have started doing is selling un needed stuff on Craigslist. If I want to buy something, I have to sell something. I have started trading things as well. And not just little things. I just traded 2 go carts for a truck. We don't need the truck so I worked out another trade, the truck for a couple of concrete patios.

If you have a skill, try trading labor for items you and your wife would like. Gift cards, clothing, hair cuts etc...

Good Luck and God Bless. Just remember you are not alone in this. So many of us are in the same situation and feeling the exact same feelings.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 10:04PM
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You see the frustrating thing for me is we been here before. I am a construction worker and in the past 5 years I have worked on and off. We have not gone on a family vacation in over 5 years. I feel bad for my son because the only vacation he remembers is when we went to Disney on his 5th birthday.

When I say we been here before, my wife never gets it,she knows we must cut back. We accrued all of our debt in the past 5 years because of layoffs year after year.

I know people will say find a new job/profession but I am not college educated or any other skill, plus I love my job,when I have one. I heard someone say the healthcare business is where some jobs are secure. First of all the cost of training is expensive and just because it's a growing field does not mean it's for me. I love construction, it's all I know and I get such satisfaction at the end of the day when I see what I accomplished.

I am worried this time even more because there's even less work on the books for this upcoming year. I worked for 20 years without missing a day(for lack of work) and I am hoping work will someday be better, maybe not like before because I think those days are over,but at least be able to support your family in a decent, modest lifestyle.

All I want to do is work, I do not want a union paid vacation like someone said in a previous thread. There's dignity in working a hard days work for a fair pay, not much sitting home.

Like I said it's not fair for my 10 year old son, having to cut back so deep. When we were first married and money was not an issue we said our son will have everything we did not have, didn't work out that way,if I knew this was coming I would have done things so different, I would have saved as much money as I could.

Sorry this will be the last post I depress everyone, I do not want to be felt sorry for. I need to just read these posts for a while and learn how to be more frugal.

Thanks for listening.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 11:23PM
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You don't need a marriage counsilor you need a credit councilor. You need someone to set up a budget for you and your wife has to be part of the process. You need to sit down with her and go over the finances weekly or monthly. If you have a budget first and a system for recording things then your wife and you too,will see just how far your dollar goes and the real cost of paying interest. Talking will not get the point across like seeing it laid out in black and white.

Your wife maybe deep down feels that since she earned the money she has a right to spend.

Take on doing the grocery shopping. In fact since you are the one at home you should be doing most of the housework too. The grocery shopping will let you see just how far you can stretch your dollar and give you an idea of how much groceries really cost. If that $130 was a weeks worth of groceries that is not too far out of line, but maybe you could shave some off of it. Doing the housework will give you a sense of contributing. In case you think it is --it is not unmanly to do housework.

A future plan when you are back at work, should include savings set aside for just such times as these. You know it's going to happen sometimes so plan for it. If you don't have to use it then it is a nice retirement nest egg. $50 a month will give you $600 in savings in a year. More will give you more at the end of the year. Figure out what is best for you, and include your wife in the process.

Good luck! I hope you are back at work soon and please consider a credit counsilor. I think the government offers free counsiling

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 3:42AM
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You sound like my neighbor. He leaves the bill paying to his wife. About every two years, the bill collectors start calling. He finds out that not only are the bills not paid, the credit card debt is over $10,000 (sometimes way over). So, then, poor guy, has to work extra hours and side jobs to dig them out. You know what, I think he likes to be the victim and complain and be angry with his wife. I mean, how hard is it for him to write out checks to pay bills? Anyone know of a reason he lets the scenario repeat and repeat and repeat?

In your situation, do the shopping. Do whatever it takes to get it all under control. Cut up the credit cards, put a freeze on your and her credit. Have her paycheck deposited into your account. It can be done. Someone just has to DO IT. Neither one of you is dumb. So, what's the deal?

Are you really content to just be the victim, sit back and complain and get into more debt. Psychological/emotional issues have control maybe?

Lack of a vacation will not hurt your kid - but you playing the victim definitely will. Teach your kid what it takes to take care of a family.

(Sorry if I sound harsh, but you needed it.)

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 8:37AM
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Sorry to hear you are having a rough go of it hogan, and please don't take this as piling on....

It sounds like you are talking down to your wife. "You" decided "You" explained etc. It sounds like you are trying to teach lessons to a child. I really don't know many woman (or people in general) who take that well, especially in stressful times. She is your partner in life and in finances, so you guys need to be making decisions together.

As for "blames", yeah she probably has some resentment. Most people would. You've said in previous posts that you are going to be out for a year, but didn't intend to look for other work. In previous layoffs, you've gained weight and let yourself go. It sure sounds like you are expecting your wife to make a lot of sacrifices to keep you afloat, but are being pretty rigid about what you are willing to do. I know that personally, if my wife was laid off and just sat at home getting fat, and expected me to do the housework/grocery shopping etc, and then complained about the way I did it........ yeah, we would probably have a fight on our hands too. It is going to be a LONG year unless you and your wife get on the same page with your finances and responsibilities.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 8:47AM
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Hogan, You said, Like I said it's not fair for my 10 year old son, having to cut back so deep. When we were first married and money was not an issue we said our son will have everything we did not have, didn't work out that way, if I knew this was coming I would have done things so different, I would have saved as much money as I could.

I write as a woman who in the 1980s was the sole support of my partner and step-son for two years in a bad recession, so been there, done that. In retrospect, my partner (who got by on my earnings and doing occasional freelance work while looking very very hard for permanent employment), would never take back for any amount of money, that time he had as an at-home dad even though he will retire later and have less retirement income because of it. So in that one sense, you have the opportunity of a lifetime to spend time with your son. You can turn that opportunity into a fortune more valuable than anything material. We made a kind of contest or game of being thrify, and it became a lifeitme habit that served us and our child very well over time.

Perhaps you and your wife can find the way through this in your mutual love for your son.

If the two of you could approach your current financial situation with the common goal of self-sacrifice to keep life as little changed as possible for your son, then your wife might think differently and carefully about budgeting and spending.

The three of you are in the same boat in turbulent waters. The object is for the three of you together to get to shore safe and sound. To an extent your boat is weighed down by material things, and by the material expectations you had when you set off. But right now, those things and expectations are deadweight. You three staying together and getting to shore safely together is of sole importance. To get there, you and your wife have to make personal and material sacrifices and dampen your personal desires so that your little passenger gets safely to shore and that you survive as a family together.

Maybe this approach would persuade your wife to think more selflessly about your family finances. If, you have the habit or attitude of being the captain of that boat, you must now become co-captains where each of you employs your strongest skills for the journey ahead. Is there a way that you can verbalize -- without finding fault -- that the money your wife spends on non-necessities for herself is, as a practical matter, taken from things your son will need? (Can you also acknowledge that certain expenditures may be essential to her self-esteem -- for instance, a good haircut -- and need to be budgeted for? And be sure she knows that in old boots or new, she's beautiful in your eyes.)

You've been very forthcoming to this forum about your feelings as you are going through this. Be as open with your wife as you possibly can be. Express your love for her in so many words, and frankly tell her how important she, and her support, is to you. Then be up-front about your worries. Talk about your finances in a "big picture" context looking to the future as a family (as opposed to focusing your angst on the amount of the weekly grocery bill about which she then feels judged and criticized). Try to get her to express her feelings about the situation. And listen, really listen, to what she has to say. A lot of spending is emotional. Do all you can to encourage her to have positive emotions from and staying on budget, and give her lots of praise for that. Take up her challenge to do the grocery shopping and enlist her expertise to make a menu together for the week and build a grocery list from that. Ask what 'brands' she prefers and truly can't do without, and if Cheerios are essential, you can still substitute store brand for Campbell's cream of mushroom soup.

As Oilpainter said, try to take on some of the household chores that your wife usually does, such as laundry and housekeeping. If that is her domain, she has a certain way of doing things, so don't be surprised and hurt if she sometimes is critical of your efforts. Just try to do it "her way." (Don't expect thanks unless you were in the habit of thanking her for doing those same chores in the past);-). Frankly, most women who work full time think a more equal division of housework should be the norm whether or not the spouse is employed. Housework is a PIA, and it will surely help your relationship if you take on a little more of it permanently. :-)

If you keep the house picked up and get supper started on weekdays, maybe take on the laundry, and some of the shopping and housekeeping that ordinarily your wife does, then you will reduce her stress levels and free up her time for family activities. Look for free or reduced-charge admissions to family-oriented recreational and cultural events in your community. As a teacher, your wife probably gets a steady stream of announcements about fun, educational and low- or no-cost activities. Finding fun free things you can do together could be an important part of her role on the team. Get your son involved in scouting, or a sport that doesn't have high overhead, or go to a childrens' museum. Get a movie from the library and have Saturday movie nights at home. This will strengthen your family, keeping everyone busy and out of the malls.

You don't have to buy plane tickets or travel vast distances to take a vacation. Borrow some camping gear and go to a state park for a weekend this summer. If camping isn't your thing, plan a day trip and have a picnic at the shore, visit a regional historic site, go fishing, see the Statue of Liberty, or spend a day at the zoo. Have your son research the destination in advance so he is part of the planning. Just make it "a vacation" to look forward to! Your son will remember these family activities long after the stress of the current time is forgotten.

Living very frugally isn't much fun but it isn't like going to the penitentiary, either. When he's grown, your son won't remember or care that he didn't get every toy or electronic gadget or clothing item that other kids have, but he will remember stress and anxiety and discord between you and your wife over money and life style, so work together to get through this difficult time.

Try to enrich your partnership with your wife in making this time as low-stress for your son as possible. I echo the encouragement of other posters that you seek out budget counseling through your union, community adult education, or a faith community. I think you also could use a male buddy for friendship and advice, and I urge you to reach out to an older worker in your union who has been through this in past economic cycles.

You can and will get through this. I wish you all the best.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 1:29PM
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OUCH! Does your union offer any financial counseling for the ones who were laid off?

Go ahead and take over the budgeting, the bill paying, meal planning and grocery buying. For one, you have the time to be "Mr. Mom" and it could be fun.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 3:41PM
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Hey Hogan-
Sorry to hear about what is happening. Somehow the two of you have to come together on this issue. You may never agree on how to best spend the family funds but you have got to try to work together for your financial success.
As I write in a lot of my posts there is no best way that works for everyone - we can only share what has worked for us.
The hubby and I have separate accounts and have each taken on set financial responsibilities based on an agreement we came up with when we first moved in together. It has been modified based on income level changes for both of us.
Currently, I make less than 1/3 of what my hubby makes.
I pay all groceries, auto insurance, one car payment and medical insurance for the family ( I work for the state). I also have monthly medications and dr's appointments. Hubby pays a car payment, mortgage, home insurance and extras on a rental property he purchased prior to our marriage. He also has child support and alimony.

If one person is tight for a month it is acceptable to request aid and it is easily given.

Before vacations or major expenses we determine together how much we want to spend and set a budget. We have a set spending amt. that we must discuss prior to a purchase. We both also have retirement accounts and savings accounts.
We both have payment responsibilities and we make sure we pay them on time. We have to work together or it will not work. It gives us both freedom and we don't have to discuss every purchase.
Just a thought. There are no easy answers to any of this.
I wish you the best!!!

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 8:15PM
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Money is the most divisive issue leading to divorce. Sadly, most couples are not very good at handling money together.

I have to disagree with oilpainter. Financial counseling will not work unless you and your wife are both 'on the same page', and frankly it sounds as though you have NEVER worked together successfully on your joint finances.

You remind me of the couple who came to my ex-boss, a respected Certified Financial Planner, for their free consultation. They spent two hours with him, and as soon as they left, he shook his head and said, "I won't be accepting them as clients."

When we asked why, he said, "Because they spent the entire two hours contradicting one another - every sentence one of them uttered, the other argued with. They'd be impossible to work with!"

Money is tied to ego, which is tied to self-worth and one's mental/emotional image.

Unless you two can agree to work together financially, you will never succeed together because money is the "power issue" in your relationship. Neither of you likes giving up power, and so you're unable to compromise. It isn't about dollars, it's about who's got the power in your relationship.

You both need to agree to marital counseling, because your inability to work towards a common goal is what is destroying your chances of creating a successful life for both of you and your son.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 2:20PM
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Try to budget some spending money for each of you. You can think of it as an allowence if you wish. Not the same as your situation but when I retired over a year ago I was supposed to get my first pension check in two months. Because of paper mix up I did not receive until the sixth month. During the time other than a small amount in my personal account I had no money. It truely hurts and made me feel like I had no importance.

You need both marriage and financial counseling to see any future as a couple. Taking over the household tasks is the first thing you should offer, if you have not already done so. Do not be afraid to tell her that you are relying on her for her information and needed instructions. Since it sounds like you have instructed her on what to do rather than actually discussing this may be hard to do. She may think that these will be another group of things that you insist she was doing wrong. Make her feel wanted and needed by you and not just sexually. Also let her be angry with you. She probably is not angry with the person, you, but your decision on a career that will probably never be stable. Having to worry about what will come next makes you really tense.

Vacations do not have to be for long periods of time. The can be from a couple of hours to a couple of days. If you have not had a family vacation because of 'downtime' neither has your wife. Leave the kid for a day and go somewhere just the two of you. Can be a drive in the country with a picnic lunch, this time of year eaten in the car, or simple snack.

Visits to historic places or interesting buildings with discussions with son on the whys and wherefore's. Have your son tell your wife what the two of you have done. If you have not taught your son to use hand tools now is the time. Lots of free things if you put your mind to it.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 1:20AM
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Hi, you have gotten good advice and a lot of it to try to absorb. My husband got laid off through a plant closing and we live in a very small town with no chance of employment for him, he just turned 62 and is going to draw early SocSec. Had the plant not closed he would still be working. Now that doesn't help you, but I do know what it is like to be without a job. Before he turned 62, he drew unemployment. Having made his living through manufacturing jobs, we had been down this road with the 80's especially being unstable.

I have a few don'ts and maybe a few do's to add to the above posters.

Don't do your wife's laundry without asking her first! This is not a good surprise. Most women's clothing require special care, cold water washes and low dryer temps. Do wash the sheets, towels, your clothes and teach your son how to do his.

Don't try "new" foods - without being sure your family will eat them. Oatmeal is inexpensive, but not if your family won't eat it. Price per serving may be a better guide than price per pound. I prefer 16 ozs of frozen vegetables that I can pour out what I need, rather than a 14 oz can that isn't eaten. A 3 lb bag of frozen vegetables may cost a few cents less per pound - but takes much more room in the freezer limiting space for other foods. I don't buy vegetables with sauces, flavorings, etc either.

A good way to make a menu is to write down what you have been eating the previous 2 weeks. Can't remember? Start now writing it down.

As mentioned from others, ASK your wife what would help her the most - I would much rather my husband vacuum and mop than do a sinkful of dishes (which by the way can be done by the son)

Don't boast to your wife about what you have done whether it is cleaning or saving money. Just do it because it needs to be done.

Do small favors for her - have you noticed she likes a cup of tea or coffee after dinner or while watching tv or grading papers? Fix it and bring it to her without asking.

Make a date night for coffee and dessert at least once a month. It is a respite from the house, a chance for you to reconnect; try not to talk about problems.
I wish you and yours well.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 2:00PM
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calirose, I thought your recommendations were excellent!

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 2:13PM
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An article appeared today on the MSN Money website that you might find applicable to your situation. It's long, but a very comprehensive treatment of the "spousal money fight" with a step-by-step solution. But again, you BOTH are going to have to be willing to change, something the columnist points out

Here's the description, with a link to the full article:
"9 Ways to Rein in a Spendthrift Spouse
By Liz Pulliam Weston, MSN Money, January 19, 2010

If you're concerned about an overspending spouse, you don't need to hear any more cliches about how money problems are a leading cause of marital unhappiness. You're living proof.

What you may not know is that there are plenty of practical, field-tested ways of finding money harmony with your significant other."

Here is a link that might be useful: Fighting about money

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 11:26AM
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Great Link!
Thanks for posting it.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 8:20PM
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I am sorry to hear of your situation. No one has mentioned here so I will, can you get a job doing something else?? Even if it is only bringing in 200 week, that is 800a month! I realize that you enjoy construction and keep looking but don't just go down with the ship! Try homedepot, UPS, etc for a parttime job. They are out there. YOu may even get health insurance benefits...
good luck!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 9:54PM
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Cryptandrus, thank you. I hoped my contribution was down to earth, and is from the heart; as I am sure many of the posters here are also.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 11:36AM
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I am just wondering how things are going. You haven't checked in with us for a bit on this posting and I am wondering how things are improving for you. There are many tips/ideas already posted here and you should give each and every one of them a trial to see if they would work for you and your family. Every little bit helps! Budster

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 1:41PM
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Hey hogan, hope you'll be back, sounds like you got some great advice here. I just wanted to say more then half of my childhood was spent lower middle class or lower. I remember eating a lot of mac n cheese and not going on vacations. We lived in small apartments and even in my grandma's basement for awhile. It's ok. Kids don't need vacations. They need quality time with their family. Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2010 at 10:30PM
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You live in NJ, your wife got a weeks worth of groceries for 3 people for $133 and you're complaining that she spent too much? WOW! I spend that in one visit to pick up the stuff in between shopping trips! You need to make your way to the grocery store and see if you can do better! I think you're out of touch with the cost of things these days!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2010 at 12:17PM
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I don't know anything about prices in NJ, but in Michigan I spend between $85-130 week on groceries for a family of 4, but my budget isn't as tight as theirs is right now. I buy lots of expensive things such as cereals, granola bars, extra lean beef . . . I do shop sales and use coupons for cereal and granola bars, but if I were in a money crisis, I could certainly make due with less pre-packaged junk food and focus on nutrition vs. convenience.

BTW, I was talking with a friend from out of state who in the same conversation told me about her husband losing his job and her new $32 haircut that she wasn't happy with! Some people just don't get it! When she visited this summer, she wanted to stop at the convenience store for a soda when she had some at the house and we were only 2 minutes from home! Silly and wasteful habits!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2010 at 4:48PM
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It sounds like you have a 2 problems. A marriage problem and a financial problem.

If you and your wife aren't on the same page (even if one of you is just perceiving this) then your marriage problem has the potential to exacerbate you financial problem.

As for you financial problem, did you ever consider leaving NJ? Most of the state is ridiculously expensive. The good news is that if you own a house in NJ you can probably sell it and move to a similarly sized house for less money.

I live in the PA/NJ area and I'm currently considering leaving as my company was bought out and our site is being closed down.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2010 at 3:10PM
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If you get laid off repeatedly, it's time for another job.

Either start your own crew or find something that's higher paying and more secure. College doesn't have to be expensive. You can get fully qualified for jobs that make $75K+ a year at our local community college--LPN plus a specialty in radiology, for example. EMT training doesn't take that long. That won't fix overspending, though.

You need a job that will give you financial security and benefits. Anything else is reckless and provides not enough of a quality of life. Do you want to go on a vacation some year? How about retirement? If you don't just want to tread water, you have to make the hard choices!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2010 at 5:59AM
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Far as I know, EMT won't make you anywhere near $75k - I knew firefighters who worked as EMTs on the off days and didn't make much more than minimum wage.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 1:37AM
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EMTs around here make a very good wage. It depends on where you are located.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 4:09AM
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re: getting laid off = bad job - I definitely don't agree with that. There are many jobs that are boom or bust and many trade unions that have rules about how that needs to be handled. Many people working that way make a very good living. The key is that you need to understand your industry and plan accordingly.

Example - I have an uncle who worked as a rigger for years. When they got a big job, he worked a ton of hours and socked away money. Periodically, several of their company's jobs would end at the same time and there could be weeks or months before he'd be on to the next job. Since he spent wisely in the "boom" he had no problem waiting out the "bust."

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 8:52AM
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