Losing your job is hard enough, but to lose your job only a few months before a pandemic is a whole new level.
In January 2020, my husband, Craig (AKA @bigdaddykreativ) was let go from his job. There were no warning signs; we didn’t see it coming. He was under the impression that everything was fine and then in the blink of an eye, he’s called into a meeting and then shown the door. To say he was hurt and upset is an understatement.
I tried to be strong, telling myself we’ve weathered storms before and we’d get through this one, too. But in the quiet of my own thoughts, I worried. I had a feeling that finding our way out of this wouldn’t be easy.
Conversations about what to do next began. We weighed the pros and cons of Craig working for himself again. While he appreciated the freedom of being an independent contractor, the inconsistency of income is really hard. So, we agreed it was best that he start job hunting. Months ticked by. He sent out lots of resumes but only had a few interviews. Nothing was panning out.
As the person who keeps an eye on our finances and budget, I started watching our bank account like a hawk. With one income, things got tight. We examined the “extras” we were paying for and agreed we needed to cut back. The first thing to go was our home phone since we all have cell phones. Our daughters use a streaming service so we cancelled the cable TV. We renegotiated and lowered our cell phone and internet bills. We created and stuck to a meal plan to keep from overspending at the grocery store. Our roof desperately needed re-shingling, but that was too big an expense to deal with. We had some savings, but the last thing I wanted to do was touch that money.
In all of this, there was one thing I was grateful for. In 2019, we made the decision to use some of the equity in our house to consolidate our debt. Our mortgage broker did his homework and found the perfect answer for us—Manulife One. This all-in-one solution combines your savings, chequing and mortgage into a single account. Every time you get paid, your debt goes down and you pay less interest, which could potentially save you thousands over the long run.
When we were forced to live on one income, this account was a godsend. First, it allowed us to keep our credit rating intact. With our Manulife One, we could easily access our home equity to pay off credit card debt that was piling up. When times were lean, the account’s flexible monthly payments meant we were able to reduce our payments without penalty. Thanks to our mortgage broker’s smart thinking, we were able to manage our expenses and did not have to dip into our savings.
I checked our Manulife One account every day to make sure we were above water. I tried not to add extra stress to Craig and told him that I’d let him know if our financial situation became dire. We each carried different burdens—he stressed about finding a job, and I stressed about the dwindling dollars in our bank account.
Then in March, the pandemic hit, and finding a job became a whole lot harder. Businesses everywhere were cutting back, trying to do more with less. Out of the blue, Craig received a great job offer! But before we had time to celebrate, they put the position on indefinite hold due to COVID budget constraints. That was a hard day. It was right there at our fingertips, only for it to slip out of our grip. We almost lost hope.
By March break, my employer told me I’d be working from home for the foreseeable future. This helped keep our expenses down. My daily commute was 120 KM, so working from home meant saving a lot on gas and my car insurance was cheaper. A bit of good news.
At this point, the kids were doing school from home, I was working from home, and Craig was spending his days job hunting while collecting CERB. Craig and I kept things as positive as we could so the kids wouldn’t know how worried we were. We tried to find the bright spots but it was a difficult time for everyone. Kids are smart; they could sense the tension.
Finally, in August 2020, after seven months without work, Craig was contacted about the position he was previously offered. I cannot begin to tell you how relieved we all were that he would be bringing a salary home again. Since becoming a two-income family again, we’re putting both of our incomes into our Manulife One account, saving on interest charges and working on being debt-free sooner. As you can imagine, it feels great!
In the fall, we used our Manulife One to have our roof repaired. We also upgraded our living room and dining room with new hardwood floors, pot lights, fresh paint, and new furniture—a gift to ourselves for all the months of uncertainty we survived.
2020 may not have started out well, but we became closer as a family, stronger as individuals, and smarter with our finances as we weathered the rough times together.
This story is for information purposes only and is not intended to provide specific financial or other advice and should not be relied upon in that regard. Individuals should seek the advice of qualified professionals to ensure that any action taken with respect to this information is appropriate to their specific situation.
Manulife One is offered through Manulife Bank of Canada. Manulife, Manulife Bank, Stylized M Design, Manulife Bank & Stylized M Design, and Manulife One are trademarks of The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company and are used by Manulife Bank of Canada under license.