About the Penny-Wise family

This blog started the day after my layoff from corporate life, December 8, 2008.

I didn’t set out to be a blogger. Mostly I was setting out to help others survive their layoffs. I sat down that night and scratched out a budget (something I’d never bothered to do, but with debt and mouths to feed it was necessary pronto). I started this blog thinking that as I learn, perhaps I can teach. How to live on less, how to do more with less, and how to love your layoff and use it as a tool to change your life for the better.


Our family has gotten on board this program together. Within six weeks we were “loving the layoff” and our story was even featured on BusinessWeek.com and ABC News.

Creating a written budget helped us to learn that having two parents working full-time outside the home was costing more than it was making us.

I could start my “dream job” (previously on hold for retirement) right away, and work full-time as a freelance writer while staying home with our two kids. After just one week I stopped claiming unemployment, and I stopped looking for work as an employee and started my business.

About the family

Mr. “Pennywise” and I are in our 30s, with two adopted children, ages seven and fourteen. Our oldest was adopted domestically when she was seven years old. Our youngest came from Ethiopia at age three. Both kids have medical needs which make financial security absolutely critical.

The Mr. works full-time in a government job, and has for several years. He works hard and spends time with the kids. I worked in public policy for most of my career before a short stint at a corporate job in a construction firm, now freelancing full-time.

We live in the suburbs of Seattle, where we’ve been since we first married in 2003.

Where we’ve been

We’ve always maintained good credit and always paid our bills on time. But, we had plenty of bills. We started our marriage with student loans and a couple of financed cars. We added moderate amounts of credit card debt and then financed two adoptions—the last one involved me spending a month overseas.

The layoff was the wake-up call we always needed. We resolved to stop borrowing. To pay all our debts, and work towards permanent financial security, and to model smarter financial habits for our kids.

Where we’re going

We’re going to be debt-free. We’re going to fund our kids’ college. We’re going to finance our next adoption with cash—not loans.

We’re going to travel the world.

We’re going to raise financially-responsible children who can support themselves!

We’re going to remain frugal to further our charitable giving goals.

How we’re getting there

We’ve been using the debt snowball method and tight budgeting. We’re Financial Peace University graduates (Dave Ramsey’s Program), and I’ve facilitated the program at our local church. We live very, very frugally now, but without deprivation. We re-use, re-purpose and share everything that we can. We make purchases wisely. We shop around and compare staple-items and we make what we can, from supper to laundry detergent. The whole family is in on this goal (there’s a promise of a major Magic Kingdom family vacation when we’re debt-free and have saved cash for it).