Those all pale in comparison to this past year's unplanned life class: economics of the home/ home economics. At Thanksgiving, my DH didn't get a turkey from his employer; he was handed a pink slip. Apparently they had mismanaged a number of accounts and needed to sell off equipment to appease their bankers. Unfortunately, in doing so, they crippled the division my husband ran, as they could no longer bid work competitively if they needed to rent. Instead of trying to spread the workers into other parts of the company, the owner just canned everyone working in that division: merry 'effin Christmas.
At first, we didn't panic much. My DH had been sought after by other firms frequently over the years, and we naively thought it would only take a few phone calls before he had another position. We tightened up our holiday spending and had a relatively carefree December.
In January, however, we quickly realized the unpleasant reality for high salary workers in the construction field, especially those in management positions. No one would hire until spring. Unemployment compensation, even at it's highest payout in our state, is roughly 1/3 of our former income. We still have my income from part-time jobs, but my DH had always been the major provider for our homeschooling family.
We decided early on that we needed to make some major changes to our lifestyle, and with two teenagers still at home, we needed them to be aware and on board with the choices. Some would argue that we should have sheltered them from such stresses. But the reality was our children were mighty materialistic. Chanticleer had already begun making poor financial choices and had a tainted view of his work value from a few summers of insanely high wages. HoneyGirl was just beginning her working life, and while she saved half her pay each week for car insurance, she still had no concepts of budgeting over the long term.
The first goal, then, was to get everyone to recognize the difference between a need and a want. This concept is apparently easier to grasp for some than others. Each day I would thank my grandmother for setting such a good example of her New England sensibilities, and I was so glad enough of it rubbed off on me that I could readily wrap myself around her mantra.
This quote became the basis for our lessons, and has become our new lifestyle, in a way. It was amazingly eye-opening to look at how carelessly we, and our society, throws our hard-earned dollars away. We've been conditioned and advertised into death into spending habits that in no way lead to a better quality of life, but rather a treadmill of work to spend.
Somehow, through the process, we found a lot more fulfillment and appreciation for hard work and simple pleasures. Framing a family budget takes communication, sacrifice, cooperation, and respect for individual differences. And while I know there are consumer math and home economic programs aplenty, this applied practical learning will have a much longer effect on their lives than all the years of Latin I've forced on them.
Over the next few posts, I'm going to outline the ways in which we embraced these concepts, turned them into a life class for not just our kids, but our entire family.