Dan is a regular guy. He has a hobby (woodworking), a favorite football team (the Packers), and he goes to church with his family almost every other Sunday. He takes his kids camping and fishing, and he teaches them to leave nature cleaner than they found it. Give him the opportunity to fire up the backyard grill and he’ll turn out chicken, sausages, dogs, burgers, fish, ribs, or steaks to mouthwatering perfection. Let him take a gander under the hood of your car–no matter what kind of car it is–and he’ll be able to point out what’s going on in there with reasonable accuracy.
The universe threw Dan for a loop in 2020. To Dan, the coronavirus has threatened the well-being of his family. But without complaining, he got up early and stood in ridiculously long lines to score toilet paper and cleaning supplies for the household. His job is considered essential, but his wife’s job wasn’t, so he took on odd jobs on the weekends to supplement his income. And he still finds time to play with his kids.
Dan says, “I’m an American. This might be my generation’s big event, and I’m going to put my shoulder to the wheel to do what needs to be done.”
We talked with Dan over the phone to ask him about staying afloat in the time of the coronavirus.
What’s your secret? You sound incredibly optimistic.
I guess I’m basically a happy guy. I’ve got a great wife and kids, a house to live in, and all the food I need to eat and all the toilet paper I need when I’m finished. (Laughs.)
Were you worried when your wife was laid off?
Absolutely. I’m still worried. My default emotion might be “worried.” But it’s because I want my family to have a good life, and they still do so far. I’ll never stop working for that goal.
How prepared were you for this?
Well, thankfully we’ve always taken a pretty conservative financial position. We set up a credit union savings account when we got married, and we’ve been diligently saving money ever since. We don’t carry a lot of debt. Obviously you never want to spend all your savings, but an emergency fund is there for emergencies, and I’d say this comes pretty close to being one.
Have you had to dip into savings very much?
Not yet. The way I figure it, these past couple of months might not be the worst of it. Obviously I hope that it has been, but who really knows? So we’re being cautious. We’re being budget conscious where it pays off to be budget conscious.
Your kids have been home for a couple of months now. How are they taking it?
The kids seem totally happy. They miss hanging out with their friends, but we do things with video chat to help with that. My wife and I have tried to foster a spirit of adventure in them with all this. “How can we conquer the nasty coronavirus today?” So everything from hygiene to making do with a little less–it’s all been kind of a game as much as possible. The coronavirus is a big, bad, nasty villain and we’re the heroes. We’re Indiana Jones, I guess you could say.
If you had to do it all over again knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
For starters, we will always have a vegetable garden. The minute it started to look like the coronavirus could be serious, I used it as an excuse to go to the dirt store. I’d been wanting to do it for a few years now. We devoted a portion of the backyard to raised beds, and it has been an amazing learning experience for the kids. We will also plan on doing some old-fashioned food preservation, like pickling and canning and such. And this might be a little too much information, but my wife and I got a bidet for ourselves, and a backup one in case we need to install it for the kids. We’ll let our kids grow up knowing how to use toilet paper for right now, but not if it means standing in line six days in a row before I can get any!