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Ask Dave

Rats in a Wheel

Rachel and her husband feel like rats in a wheel. They make $40,000 a year and work five jobs between the two of them. Dave tells Rachel she has to do the work to make this plan effective.

QUESTION: Rachel in Louisville and her husband feel like they’re rats in a wheel. They’ve been hit with one Murphy after another and have been living paycheck to paycheck for a while. They make $40,000 a year and work five jobs between the two of them. Dave tells Rachel she has to do the work to make this plan effective.

ANSWER: You’ve got some crummy jobs. You’re not even making minimum wage. Part of your problem is that you have crummy jobs. We’ve got to work on getting your income up. He barely has a full-time job between his two jobs. He’s working full-time, but that’s about all. Neither of his jobs is great. The UPS job because it’s limited and the other job because it doesn’t pay anything.

I can help you with not using the credit cards. You can’t use them if you don’t have them. Until you burn the bridges, you always think you can go back that way, and you’ll always go back that way. That’s where you set yourself back.

We’ve got to do three things. We’ve got to get you on a written, detailed budget that you both agree on and stick to. That includes cutting up your credit cards today. If you don’t do that, I can’t help you. You’ve got to do the work to make this work. Discussing this like it’s all a theory doesn’t work.

Cut the credit cards up today. Get on a written budget with your husband today. Turn off the TV and do it. The next thing is you’ll have to work on your career. You guys have got to work not on long term, but on short term. These are crummy jobs you have; they’re not paying anything. He can make more than what he’s making right now, and so can you, doing other things. So start to look for other things to do.

Maybe daycare is charging you in the sense that they give you free childcare but don’t pay you anything. If you could double or triple your income, you might not care what daycare costs. I think the daycare has you locked in here. You have to measure your job against other jobs, but you have to work on this.

Your income for the hours you and your husband are working is not very good. You are working five jobs between you, and you’re barely making $40,000 between you. I’m not picking on you or talking down to you, but you’ve got to address that issue to be able to get ahead.