Katoya’s Story: COVID-19 Made her Family Have to Live Separately

Meet Katoya, the supervisor for a post office who lives with her husband and four kids in Hosston, LA.

Tell me what goes on in a day in your life.

Work, home, and kids. That’s basically it. We’ll go on an adventure as a family every now and then.

How has your family been dealing with sheltering in place?

We actually had to split up. With my work schedule and how busy I’ve been at the post office, it’s not like I can leave my kids at home. I work six days a week, sometimes 10 hours each day. I’ve been busier with work since March, and my hours have definitely increased. They’ve probably doubled at this point. Before COVID, I was working part-time, and now I’m working full-time.

And my husband is a truck driver who works weekdays Monday through Friday. It’s nice when he’s home on the weekends because he can help with picking up the kids and whatnot.

My kids and I have a routine down at this point. I’m out of work by 4:35pm, I pick up the boys from their babysitter, then I get ready to be up by 5am the next morning.

My girls are 11 and 13 years old, so they’re too old for daycare. They’ve been staying with my parents since school let out in March, and my other kids are with a babysitter while I’m at work.

What does going back to school look like for you and your kids this fall?

My kids have to go back to school. They need the interaction. My 4-year-old is a little behind because he’s going from just having a babysitter teach him to attending pre-K.

Are you saving right now?

Short-term, I start saving for my family’s Christmas presents right about now. I have direct deposit set up so each time I get my check, a certain amount is automatically routed to a separate savings account. I’ve had that savings account since I was 16 years old. I don’t see the money, so I don’t miss it.

I’m not necessarily saving for anything long-term, but I am managing my money better so I can fix my credit. I want to buy myself a nice car in the next two years. In order to do that, I have to fix my credit. Right now, I’m just learning to save money and get my bills paid off.

What are you looking forward to doing when things are safer?

I really would like to take a family day. I used to rotate Saturdays just so we could do a family activity and eat out every other weekend, but now I work Saturdays. We used to go to the movies, skate, go to the park—all kinds of stuff.

Tell me about your greatest financial accomplishment.

I was able to purchase a car using cash, and just a few years ago I bought a house.

When I was saving to buy a car, I just put away money until I reached the max amount of what I was willing to spend on a car. The process wasn’t hard; it was more tempting not to touch the money.

My house buying process was a bit different compared to what most people go through. I first bought property back in 2015 when I was 28 years old. Then I was living in an apartment with my four kids for a while. When I turned 30, I bought us a mobile home.

Do you budget these days?

It’s easier right now because I’m making more money, so I’m able to expand my budget a little. I have money for other things. I don’t really budget, but I just make sure my bills are paid, then I’ll usually have $200 to $300 left over to spend. We’re not living paycheck to paycheck, so we’ve got a bit more breathing room. However, my husband and I have to budget his overhead from his truck business. The trucking business is expensive.

I no longer have to say to myself, “I have to work X hours to make $XXX to pay my bills.”

Could you tell me more about what it was like living paycheck to paycheck?

It was a struggle.

When my husband bought his truck, we were living off of my paycheck. We had just moved into our mobile home with the kids. It takes a lot to get a truck on the road as an operator. We learned that running a business is not always about profit. It’s about breaking even and keeping your head above water. He has to have food, tires, diesel—the list goes on. At first, it was a struggle to find the right company that he could make a profit working for. All in all, a truck’s overhead costs are about $10,000 a year. It’s a lot more than what people think.

How’s it been with you and your husband both working?

I’m making more money, and he can pick when he wants to work. We’re actually able to save for rainy days and times when my husband might be down for a week because his truck is in the auto shop.

Have you had to dip into your savings to help weather additional costs during the pandemic?

We haven’t had to dip into our savings because we’re constantly working and earning more money than we were used to. We’ve been able to actually put more money in our savings account.

I noticed we don’t spend as much on eating out or buying frivolous things. My girls are staying with their grandparents, so there go my shopping buddies. I just really go to work, pick up my younger kids, then shop at the grocery store. Shopping for groceries online has helped me budget. Instead of going to the store and walking around the aisles, you can just have someone shop for what you need.

How are your girls doing since they’re not at home?

My girls help their grandma with her t-shirt business. Since they’re earning money now, they want to spend it. They tell me they’re going out to McDonald’s or buying hair for $50, so I had to talk to them about saving money.

It’s a learning trait; it’s something that’s taught. My mom taught me how to spend, but now I’m teaching my daughters how to save. I don’t want them to live paycheck to paycheck when they’re older. My husband is a saver, but he’s not around them as much as I am, so they pick up on my habits.

How do you feel about SaverLife?

I really like it! I even introduced my girls and my mom to the helpful articles on the website.

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