When people find out that I’m a railroad wife and my railroader is on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week they often ask me how I do it. How do I manage the house and kids when I never know if my railroader will be home or not. It’s not rocket science but I thought I’d write a series on how I survive as a railroad wife. I hope some of these tips and tricks help other railroad wives…especially ones just starting the railroad life.
So to kick this series off, let’s talk about money. I personally have found that the railroad is either feast or famine. Either we are living comfortably or we are barely making it. The first year I found it so hard to budget because my railroaders’ pay cheques were consistently inconsistent. My railroader is not paid hourly. Gasp! He is paid based on running miles and claims he puts in for the work he does (examples: setting off cars and lifting cars). Because of his consistently inconsistent pay cheques we have decided to budget based on his guaranteed wage. I honesty can’t imagine doing it any other way. This way were are certain we will never overspend because we know he
will always should always make the guarantee. (Ummm, there has been a time or two that he hasn’t been able to collect the guarantee wage and that’s because he booked too much rest. He needed it so it’s all good).
About five years ago my railroader and I went to a weekend budgeting course at our church. We were in debt and needed help figuring out how to get out of it. Before my railroader started working for the railroad he was in school. He graduated with an English degree and student loan debt. Oh how I hate student loans. Anyone else with me on this one? On top of that, while being in school we had two kids so while he was in school working part time I was on maternity leave for a year both times. Yes, you read that right. After each child was born I was off work for a full year. Granted for those 52 weeks I was making 55% of my income but after my first I only worked part-time. 55% of a part time income really isn’t a lot of money. Because of this we not only had student loan debt we also had credit debt. Thankfully it wasn’t a huge amount but enough to stress me out and sign up for a budgeting course.
This course was a real eye opener and so beneficial. I am so glad I dragged my railroader to it and put in the work to balance our budget. We balanced our budget and bought this app for our iPhone so we could track our spending. (Note: It’s a free app (bonus) but we bought the in-app purchase so we could sync our iPhones) This is a great way to track your spending and this is something we were not doing. In the past we had created a budget but then didn’t keep track of what we were spending. Really, what good is a budget if you don’t keep track of the money going out of your account. I know, duh!
Shortly after this course we were able to pay off our vehicle loan a year early. This was just the start to our success. We were following our budget, tracking what were were spending and paying down our debt slowly. Since my railroader has been working for the railroad we have been able to pay off $40,000 in debt. We paid off our line of credit, our visa and his student loans. Currently our only debt is our mortgage and a car loan and let me tell you it feels so good to know we are becoming debt free. We know what we need every month in terms of income so when his pay cheque is over that amount we put the extra money into savings. We haven’t tracked our spending for the last year because I’ve learned over the years what I can and can’t buy. This September is a new season for us. We have a few more expenses than we’ve had in the past so I’m going to go back to make a new budget and start tracking our spending again. Just so we can stay on track. It can be a lot of work in the beginning but it’s totally worth it in the end. If you put in the work you won’t be disappointed. Nothing feels better than paying debt off. I’ve always reminded myself…short term sacrifices for long term gains. We are still not out of the woods yet though. We are currently working on paying our mortgage down to be able to buy a bigger house.
I have created two printable resources that were pivotal in helping us on our journey to becoming debt free. The first is a monthly expense worksheet. This is where you balance your budget…it must balance! If there is money left over at the end of the month put it into savings or debt repayment. If there isn’t enough money at the end of the month then you need to cut somewhere. The second is a debt reduction worksheet. This is how we figured out how to repay our debt faster. Obviously, I’m not a financial expert but this is what worked for us. We paid off our smallest amount of debt first and then slowly moved up to the largest amount. After we paid off the smallest amount we felt good about it and moved on to the next one. If we had tackled the largest amount first we would have been easily discouraged by not seeing any progress. I realize I have just contradicted myself because we are currently paying down our mortgage instead of our car loan. It has to do with what works better financially for us with buying a new home.
Like I said, I’m not a financial expert but I’m always willing to share what we have learned and what has worked for us. Money is a subject most people don’t like to talk about so many people are afraid to ask for help. Being in debt is horribly stressful and can cause problems in a marriage. Print off these resources and start moving towards being debt free.
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