How to survive a dual startup household with Mother of All Jobs author Christine Armstrong

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Soon after Christine Armstrong’s husband took a company buyout and launched a family vacation business, the executive and new mother found herself in an intolerable job situation and quit to start her own business- resulting in a double dose the challenges of startup life. 

In Christine's money story you will learn:

  • Being miserable in your job isn't worth the money

  • Why Christine and her husband went from having two good paying jobs to not having any set income to rely on and how they made it work

  • By being curious how other parents were balancing work life and home life, she started interviewing them, which led to the inspiration of her book - The Mother Of All Jobs

In Christine’s money lesson you will learn:

  • How little you can spend when you really put your mind to it

  • Be conscious of how much you are spending on childcare and figure out a way to best balance that expense with your work life

In Christine's everyday money tip you will learn:

  • How to be more eco-friendly with your gifting over the holidays, and save money

  • How to teach your children the benefits of gifting second hand goods and why they should be proud of it and not hide it

  • Where to find the best high quality second hand goods for yourself, and for gifting

In My Take you will learn:

  • Don’t spend the time stressing about the money. It is gone. Move on psychologically and just do better next time

  • Keep your fixed costs low

Episode Links

Check out Christine's website - www.christinearmstrong.com
Link to buy Christine's book on Amazon -
Mother Of All Jobs
Link to
Ebay.com

Follow Christine!


Transcription

Christine:
What we were astonished by, having gone in a really short space of time from two corporate incomes to nothing, was how much spending you could just strip out overnight. We just cleared everything. We cut television packages, gym memberships, old insurance policies. We just scaled everything right back.

Bobbi Rebell:
You're listening to Financial Grownup with me, certified financial planner, Bobbi Rebell, author of How To Be a Financial Grownup. You know what? Being a grownup is really hard, especially when it comes to money. But it's okay, we're gonna get there together. I'm gonna bring you one money story from a financial grownup, one lesson and then my take on how you can make it your own. We got this.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hey friends, have you ever heard the acronym DINKS? D-I-N-K-S. Double income, no kids, usually used in the context of couples that have a capital F for fabulous lifestyle. How about if that was now double startup, two kids. That is where Christine Armstrong, author of The Mother of All Jobs, and her husband found themselves, and let me tell you, there was drama with a capital D. Spoiler alert though, they survived, but they lived to tell the tale and we get to benefit.

Bobbi Rebell:
Welcome everyone, if you are new, so glad you found us. If you have a sec, do a screenshot and post it on social media, make sure you tag me so I can welcome you personally to our Financial Grownup community. The show stays around fifteen minutes because you're busy, but feel free to binge listen to a few if you have a little more time. We now have a library of more than 100 amazing high achievers sharing their stories and lessons.

Bobbi Rebell:
Alright, let's get right to it. Here is Christine Armstrong. Hey Christine Armstrong, you're a financial grownup, welcome to the podcast.

Christine:
Thanks so much.

Bobbi Rebell:
And congratulations on you're new in the US book. It's already been a huge hit in the UK where you are called, The Mother of All Jobs. How to have children and a career and stay sane-ish. Emphases on the ish, right?

Christine:
Yeah, totally.

Bobbi Rebell:
You have managed to stay sane in an extraordinary circumstance where both you and your husband found yourself in startup mode. Tell us your money story.

Christine:
So I had a lovely job at an advertising agency and I traveled all over the world and presented work. When I had a baby, I came back to the ad agency, but the boss had changed and they were offering me different terms and I kind of panicked and I took another job, which wasn't a great fit for me. It was a really heavy [inaudible 00:02:56] culture and I was really kinda stressed. It wasn't a great place for me anyway, but it particularly wasn't a great place with a small baby.

Christine:
But I felt I couldn't leave because while I had been on maternity leave, my husband, who'd been eighteen years at his company, was offered a big package to leave and he was like "Look, I really wanna take it, I wanna startup this business." I was like "Okay, yeah. That'll be fine, great idea."

Bobbi Rebell:
Because you would have the steady income.

Christine:
Right, 'cause I was just gonna go back to my job. It never occurred to me that I would want to stop or do less work. That kind of career was what I did. My job at the ad agency, they were really senior women who had families, and that seemed to be what they had done and it was fine.

Christine:
So we found ourselves in a situation where I was really unhappy at work and he was with the startup, which is a travel company called [inaudible 00:03:40] as you know with a startup, you don't make money immediately, so he wasn't making money, but we still needed quite a lot of childcare, because also, he wasn't home being just a parent and I was working really hard, but quite frustrated. So, I kind of was looking for answers in what I thought I could do to kinda make things better. I decided that I would have another baby.

Bobbi Rebell:
Of course.

Christine:
Of course.

Bobbi Rebell:
Because that will solve everything.

Christine:
In my mind ... you know, they say when you are really stressed, you start making really bad decisions and you can only see things in black and white. I was just like, I got to get out of here and I've got to take time to think, so I had another baby, which was great, but it obviously didn't solve my problems at work. Then I went back to work and it was still really, really difficult. So I decided to go and interview women about how they made it work, and some men as well. That was really where the book came about.

Christine:
During this process of interviewing these amazing people and understanding what I needed to do, I had lunch with a really old friend who's a therapist. We were in this café and I just talked at her for 45 minutes. She looked at me and she said "Look darling, just go. Go back to the office, get your coat and go home." I said "You're insane. I've got a mortgage, I've got childcare, [inaudible 00:04:58] is making no money." She's like "Yeah, but it'll be fine, just give it to the universe." I'm laughing at the word-

Bobbi Rebell:
The universe does not pay your bills.

Christine:
No, no. So, I didn't take her advice. I didn't literally go back to the office and resign, but I went home that evening, I said to my husband "Jill says I should resign" and he says "Yeah, I think you should, you're so unhappy, it'll be fine." So I did and then ... in the UK, you get three months notice. So I had three months of pay, so I kind of had three months to sort things out. During that period, we booked an amazing trip of a lifetime to go visit my sister in Thailand.

Christine:
Basically, the first thing I did with no income whatsoever was get on a plane to Thailand and go stay in five star hotels, but my sister had booked me where breakfast costs like $50 a person. Chris and I just kind of got fits of hysterical giggles and weren't really sure what to do or how to make it stop, because it was all pre-planned. Chris was like "Okay, the only thing we can do is just to enjoy it and then we'll deal with stuff when we get back."

Bobbi Rebell:
So basically, so now, you're gonna start your own business as an author, because you've got this book in progress. Your husband is at this business, which spoiler alert, is doing great now, but was at its early stages and you're living a lifestyle that needs two incomes from steady jobs to support.

Christine:
Well, I would say that that was our saving grace actually. I think we were really fortunate that my husband bought a house a long time ago, so actually, when we came back from Thailand and were like "Okay, let's just clear the decks. We've gotta lose every piece of spending that we have that is not essential." What we were astonished by, having gone in a really short space of time, from two corporate incomes to nothing, was how much spending you could just strip out overnight. We just cleared everything. We cut television packages, gym memberships, old insurance policies. We just scaled everything right back. What we were astounded by, we really worked together on it, we were really focused on it. We went from shopping in the equivalent of Whole Foods to the discount aisle at the discount supermarket.

Christine:
We were just astonished actually how little you could spend when you really, really put your minds to it. Having been massively complacent, it has to be sad. So, we just stripped out all spending and twiddled everything back and basically rebuilt from there. So I didn't immediately start a business. I freelanced for a while and then I met a guy called Robert Phillips who had it in his mind an idea of a consultancy he wanted to set up and was really inspirational.

Christine:
I joined up with a group of people and we started a consultancy that's been really successful and it's given us a great and stable income and allowed us to compensate. But it really took nearly a year for us to sort all of that out.

Bobbi Rebell:
Alright, what is the takeaway for our listeners?

Christine:
So my takeaway, the thing that Chris and I have taken a run through our lives is to keep your fixed cost as low as you can, so that you've always got the flexibility to [inaudible 00:07:55]. We were saved by the fact that we didn't have an expensive car policy, we didn't have kids who have expensive childcare, we don't have kids in expensive schools now. We keep the baseline really low so that we can scale up or down according to what we've got available.

Bobbi Rebell:
So what you learned really, is that a lot of these expenses that were just part of your life, you weren't really thinking about. It was pretty easy to just say goodbye to them.

Christine:
It really was. I do totally take responsibility for having previously been compulsive, but we both had good jobs, we both got promoted pretty regularly, our incomes have got bigger and we just really assumed that they would just continue to get bigger. We just really were very thoughtless about A, the impact of childcare and how much money that is. And B, how you often also lose one or half a salary and we managed to lose two salaries, which I think was quite an achievement when you have kids.

Christine:
I think my other big learning is ... as well as keeping your expenses as low as they can be in terms of core expenses, but also to be really thoughtful about what your childcare costs are gonna be and how you can organize work when you've got kids.

Bobbi Rebell:
Yes. Another big expense with children is the holiday season and all this gift giving that goes on, which brings us to your everyday money tip.

Christine:
Yeah, I'm really interested in the circular economy which is reusing things and not keeping ... making new stuff. I really try and use second buy, second hand things, whether it's books, toys, looking on Ebay for things and getting the kids used to the idea that a gift is a gift, even if it's secondhand. I think that you can still give things to people they really care about, without spending as much money as you might have done.

Bobbi Rebell:
And not hiding the fact that it is secondhand, actually making that part of the conversation.

Christine:
Yeah, absolutely. I think being proud of it, you know, mixing something up. My husband's great at re-painting stuff or making it look better and being really proud of it and saying "I found this in a secondhand shop and I thought you'd really like it" that's okay.

Christine:
What I find is that strangely, people are quite excited that you went through the trouble to go look for it for them and if you fixed it up and made it look nice, than great. Embrace it, enjoy it.

Bobbi Rebell:
Well one thing that I enjoyed was your book which is called The Mother of All Jobs. How to have children and a career and stay sane-ish. And as I joked at the beginning, emphasis on the ish. One of the great things about it, is that it's very real. You have some very relatable and specific stories. You did a lot of work interviewing people here.

Christine:
I did. I started off with those interviews I mentioned with really senior women who were very high fly. Then, I kind of went for the book to lots of really, really ordinary women, doing ordinary jobs who are never gonna be Chief Exec. Probably never gonna be on the board and just working to pay their bills, basically. To really understand the dynamics of their relationship, their kids, schools and just try to figure out how it all works together and how their solving problems and what works and what doesn't.

Christine:
There are no quick fixes, right? You look at each [inaudible 00:10:55], you go "What can I take from that that's useful? What's relevant to me right now?" That's the way it's set up.

Bobbi Rebell:
And the book has said it really smartly, in that it is bite-sized. You could read the whole thing, of course, but you could read it little by little and there are sections, breakout sections that are titled "If you are too tired and read the above" which kind of gives us the executive summary, because you're realistic about how busy parents schedules are.

Christine:
That's good also, 'cause I've got fifteen books on my bedside table and I wish some of them had a [crosstalk 00:11:26] section I could read as well. So yeah, it was a reflection of the experience and I read two pages in the evening after putting all the kids to bed and everything, then I fall asleep and I don't read anything else.

Christine:
Yeah, it was so that if people are skipping through it, they could just pick out some bits and come back to something later.

Bobbi Rebell:
Well you are wonderful, as is your book. Tell us more about how listeners can find out more about you, the book and of course, following you on social media.

Christine:
So, I'm a Twitter person, and that's C ARMSTRTONG LD which stands for London and I have a website at ChristineArmstrong.com and I look forward to hearing from your listeners.

Bobbi Rebell:
Thanks Christine.

Christine:
Perfect.

Bobbi Rebell:
Okay friends. First, have you ever heard of something called the sunken cost theory? Financial grownup tip number one, sometimes, you pay for something and then, you can't get out of it. You are stuck and the money is gone. Like Christine and her husband's big luxury trip to Thailand. Don't spend your time stressing about the money, 'cause it's already bye-bye. It's gone. Move on psychologically, do better next time, but most of all, enjoy what you spent the money on.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial grownup tip number two, keep those fixed costs low. Part of the reason that the panic attacks were kept in check for the couple was that they had a stable place to live. They own their home and they kept their overhead low because of that, so that they didn't have to worry about all of these bills that they were stuck with, that they couldn't do anything about. They were able to make changes in the high cost that they did have because, they were discretionary. Sure, you can go back and say they shouldn't, coulda, woulda, whatever, but ... the reality is, that when the you know what hit the fan, they were able to make some choices that didn't even seem that tough at the time. It's interesting that they never really went back to a lot of those discretionary expenses, even when they could, in theory afford them again, because their perspective had changed.

Bobbi Rebell:
You can go back now, of course and look at what you have that's discretionary and cut back, probably a good idea for most of us. But at least go and do an analysis of what you have that is fixed that you could not get rid of in this kind of unexpected situation where you suddenly have no income and two kids and businesses with bright futures, but still not any real, meaningful cashflow temporarily. Think about what you would do if you were in their situation.

Bobbi Rebell:
Alright, I hope this episode with the great Christine Armstrong gave you guys some perspective on your money and your life. Let me know your takeaways and if maybe your making some changes because of what you heard from Christine. On Instagram, I am @BobbiRebell1 on Twitter @BobbiRebell and big thank yous for leaving reviews, it helps others discover the show, as does just simply telling a friend. Thank you so much, you have no idea. Thank you so much to those of you who do all these things and who subscribe and spread the word. It is truly so appreciated. We put so much work into this show and your feedback is priceless. Of course, also priceless, is the advice we got from Christine Armstrong that helped us all get one step closer to being Financial Grownups.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial Grownup with Bobbi Rebell is edited and produced by Steve Stewart and is a BRK Media Production.