Here is Christine's story about how she and her husband, Jack, rebuilt a life that they love after an 85% reduction in pay six weeks into their marriage.
Losing Your Income
Two weeks after they were married, Christine was let go from her engineering job. Basically, the company was looking to reduce expenses after they lost a big contract and since she was relatively new they let her go. Four weeks later, as an audio freelancer, Christine's husband lost his oldest and most lucrative client.
In total, they lost $115,000 worth of annual income in six short weeks. That left them with around $20,000 of annual income.
At the time of this loss, they were spending around $40,000 to $50,000 annually. They knew that they would need to make changes immediately.
They did have a savings account, severance package, and investments to fall back on. However, the couple was determined to not dip into savings to fund their lifestyle.
Christine is an engineer with a very specific skill set. She was trained in print engineering. Unfortunately, that is a dying industry so it was not possible to land another job in that field. Especially in the south, there are not very many individual printing plants.
During that time period, there were definitely points when I thought Nashville wasn't for me. Applying for jobs and getting told no repeatedly is very very difficult…so there was a time I was like ‘Man, I am over this and we really should move.'
However, it was not a real option to leave Nashville. As a freelancer in the music industry, Nashville is the place where Christine's husband needed to be. If they left Nashville, he would have a difficult time rebuilding his network. Since Jack enjoyed his work and Christine did not, they decided that they would find a way to stay in Nashville.
In order to stay in Nashville, Christine and Jack needed to be willing to hustle. Christine took up driving for Lyft soon after the job loss. Eventually, she found a job as a brunch server and then as a bartender.
In addition to finding income sources, the couple needed to cut down on expenses immediately. After using Lyft to help make car payments, they thought about other ways that their large expenses could pay for themselves.
We try to have all of our major expenses, try to find little things that we can have them produce; a little bit of income to help cover the expense.
Immediately, they moved from their large house rental into an inexpensive rental that needed a lot of work. The landlord allowed them to take any improvements they made to the house off of the rent price.
Overall, the couple was able to reduce their living expenses down to between $30,000 and $35,000 each year. The dramatic drop took a huge amount of determination to make the hard choices.
Tracking Expenses And Saving For A Down Payment
Once they moved into the inexpensive rental, they started to track their expenses meticulously. Instead of relying on an Excel spreadsheet to capture their spending every day, they used a whiteboard calendar. The calendar rolled through four weeks, and they recorded all spending on the whiteboard.
As they went through this major downsizing, they realized that they really wanted to purchase a house. In order to keep it affordable, they knew they would have to buy soon if they wanted to be in a relatively desirable neighborhood. They wanted to have 20% ready for a down payment which meant that on top of their expenses they needed to save around $450 a week.
The whiteboard approach to tracking their finances made it more manageable to track their money goals. Due to the nature of their jobs, they were able to pick up extra work and shifts as necessary to make up for any deficits.
Because of the types of jobs we were doing…we were able to actually work both sides of the equation; which I think is really, really valuable…Not just try to reduce our expenses actively but also try to increase and match our income every single week.
One nice thing about a rolling calendar is that if you have a bad week, then after three weeks it gets wiped off the board. So it's like starting over.
Buying Their House
Nashville was a hot market but the couple wanted to buy a home before they were priced out of the market. In total, they looked at 70 houses and put offers on eight houses. It was a difficult situation because most houses were going above the asking price with multiple offers within 24 hours.
Eventually, they found a fixer-upper through Facebook Marketplace. It was a for sale by owner property, so they were able to close the sale without a realtor. Since closing in 2015, the property has increased in value by 50%.
The property has been able to provide an income in several ways. First, they rent a room out to a friend which helps to cover the mortgage. Plus, they have an acre of land with fruit trees and cut flowers. In the beginning, they sold the fruit and flowers but now they mostly give them away as gifts to friends. It is an easy way for them to continue to be generous without having a large cost associated with that.
Rebuilding A Life You Love
Having your life fall apart feels like a roller coaster ride with lots of heartbreak and hard times along the way. However, Christine and Jack made it through stronger than ever.
What we found is that through, basically, financial demise, we had the opportunity that most people don't have…we had a very rare opportunity where our entire life was blown to bits. And you have to rebuild it. And when you get to rebuild it, you figure out that you can rebuild it the way that you want it to look.
The shocking turn of events forced the couple to really think about what they valued. For Christine, one of those things was spending time outside. She found a passion for gardening and a schedule that allowed her to spend most of the afternoon outside.
Another schedule change was aligning their work schedules. As an audio engineer, Jack worked nights so with Christine's 8-5 it was difficult to spend time together. All of a sudden, they could build a life where they could spend more time together.
I was making less than a third of what I had made in the past and yet I was living this life that I absolutely loved. I couldn't wait to get up and work for four, five, six hours at a time, really really hard. Then I would have a break in the middle of the day then I would go bartend and I loved every second of it.
Eventually, she realized that she loved the life she was building. Without losing the job, she may have never left the higher income of her engineering job.
It is possible to take advantage of terrible events in your life. Instead of looking at some events like they are the end of the world, find a way to rebuild.
Before CampFI, Christine was hoping to learn tools that could save her family money. The total cost of the trip was $300 and she was hoping to glean $1,500 worth of knowledge from the camp.
After attending, she realized that she more than reached that goal. Just talking to people and learning about their path equals very real dollars. Christine learned about the saver's tax credit which saved her thousands of dollars alone.
However, she found that some people seemed burned out on their journey to Financial Independence.
I think a lot of people feel like it's this “all or nothing.” I'm either working towards FI, and working as hard as I can and saving all of my money, and just burning the candle at both ends; whereas, people don't realize as you are saving money, you are earning freedom along the way.
So, she asked people what they wanted their life to look like. Over the course of the camp, she challenged people to buck their limiting beliefs and attempt to redesign their lives. Of course, someone else challenged her to face her own fears as well. As a direct result of Camp FI, Christine chose to start her own business.
A Little Local Flavor
Through the business, Christine wants to help people achieve their dreams. In some cases, that means paying their employees well. In other cases, it means working with local businesses to bring hundreds of customers in the door.
Community is something that means so much to me. In fact, I think all growing up there's been something on my heart where I have this–I just want to help people achieve their dreams.
She works to highlight local family businesses that are doing great things.
Starting Your Own Business
Do you have an idea that you have been waiting to get off the ground? It might be time to take the leap and start your business.
After doing your market research, you need to just take the leap at some point. The key is to just start on something. Try to move something forward every single day.
Try to take little steps every day to either build that life that you love or start working towards whether or not starting a business is right for you. But the key thing is to just start. Keep your eyes forward and don't look back.
Take action every day, no matter how small. Make sure to celebrate and acknowledge every small win along the way. Use momentum to move your plans forward each day.
How To Connect
You can contact Christine through their business' website, A Little Local Flavor, you can find emails and contact forms there.
You can follow them on Instagram or Facebook @alittlelocalflavor.
If you want to book a tour by A Little Local Flavor in Nashville, then go through the website for the best deal.
The Hot Seat
Favorite Article: 1000 True Fans
Favorite Life Hack: Bartending events.
Biggest Financial Mistake: Missing out on money because I was too afraid to have a difficult conversation with my superiors.
The advice you would give your younger self: Stop worrying so much and enjoy every single phase of life.
Bonus! What purchase have you made over the past 12 months that has brought the most value to your life? Bluetooth noise canceling headphones which help to create a quiet space for working on her growing business.
New to FI? Be sure to check out Episode 100: Welcome To The FI Community!