Everyone knows that first year pay sucks. It just does.
If you’re lucky enough to have been hired by a major, it may come as sort of a shock that first year pay is so low, especially if you’ve become accustomed to getting decent pay from a regional.
Although some pilots marry women who make as much, if not more, than they do, I have found that the majority, myself included, do not.
No matter how you’re doing it, here are ten tips to help you
get through survive those awful first 12 months.
1. Plan and Cut Back
You know ahead of time that this is going to be a challenge, so prepare as much as possible. Do what you can to eliminate debt and minimize payments. The less money you have going to payments is the more money you get to keep and use elsewhere.
Try to lower as many bills as you can. If you don’t have one already, get a family share plan for your cell phones, or see if there’s something else you can cut out (minutes, texting, data) to slash it even more. Cut your cable (yes, I’m serious) and stream Netflix instead. Get rid of your landline unless it’s absolutely necessary. Getting rid of our house phone (that we never used and only rang with solicitors) was one of the best things we ever did. It cut our bill by a lot and our evenings became peaceful again!
Try and get by with the basic plan for everything. If you have credit cards or student loans, check into lowering your payments or deferring if possible. It never hurts to ask!
If you can save anything, put it away while you can. I can assure you you’re going to need it. Car repairs, household issues, and other unexpected mishaps can break you if you’re unprepared. And putting it on a credit card can really hurt you long term. Your future self will thank you.
2. Create a Budget and Stick To It
If you haven’t used a budget before, now is the time to start. There are a ton out there, do a Google search to see which one you think will work the best for you. Dave Ramsey is extremely popular among aviation families; I suggest you look into that if you can.
Whatever type of budget you use, it’s so important to stick to it. Having it all written down will help you immensely in tracking where your money goes. It’s also important to keep the communications lines open with your spouse. You should both be on the same page and willing to talk about finances.
Financial intimacy is vital; fights about money are inevitable, but being able to trust each other and work together as a team can really help quell any arguments ahead of time.
3. Don’t Acquire New Debt
This seems like a given, but you’d be surprised. Save the car and house buying for later (did you laugh at house buying? I did too. Who is that crazy?). It might be tempting to buy a TV when the payments are $37 a month, but that $37 could go towards gas money instead. Like I said, you’re going to need all the extra money you can get. Don’t do it.
This is the part that sucks, and takes a lot of sacrifice. But you gotta do what you gotta do. And it’s a year, not the rest of your life. You have to remember that this is temporary.
During first year pay I stopped getting my hair cut (which wasn’t too bad, since I usually grow it out long after cutting anyway), I stopped getting my nails done (easily $50-$65 a month), and I shopped at consignment stores for clothing. It actually wasn’t horrible, you’d be surprised what you can find. I had to make do with what I had, and even though sometimes it sucked, it was worth it.
We stopped eating out, which had been a huge money pit. Instead, I used our budget to meal plan each week, and I went out and found the best deals on food. I also learned how to cook and freeze meals to make them last a lot longer. And no-name brands were my new best friend.
I still shop at the dollar store for certain things (party supplies! kitchen utensils! cleaning products!) because of the habits I started during the first year.
5. Find Free Things To Do
Fun, free things to do are literally a Google search away. Just enter “free things to do in [enter your city here]” and check it out. You can find performances, parks, art festivals and more. Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t still do stuff. You just have to be a little more creative.
Also, check around for Groupons, free outdoor movie nights, or museum specials. You never know what you could find!
6. Trade Services
Have a talent or a skill? Trading services can be a great way to get stuff. Being a photographer has gotten me childcare, meals, baby clothes, and more. You can also trade babysitting with a friend to score date nights, something that came in very handy for us. They were cheap dates, but dates nonetheless!
7. Craigslist and Swip-Swap Sites
We’ve all heard the sketchy stories about Craigslist meetups gone wrong, and no one argues that it can be dangerous. But if you do it right, Craigslist can be a huge resource for awesome deals. You know the drill – meet in a public place, during daylight hours, let a few people know where you’ll be and what you’re doing (text before and after), and bring someone (or multiple people) with you. I have scored so many amazing deals this way (and made money selling crap we didn’t need!) – even though I had to wait for my husband to be home, it was worth it.
Ever heard of Swip-Swap? Found on Facebook, virtually every city/town has jumped onboard with one of these. It’s like an online garage sale – sort of a safer Craigslist, since you know who the people are (or where to find them) and it usually involves “porch pickup” with no in-person interaction. I have made a lot of money selling baby items and toys – and gotten stuff like free (sealed of course) formula, cheap diapers, and kid clothes as well.
You just have to be quick; things on the swip-swap sites can go fast. But the deals can be amazing.
My friend got my son this climbing toy for his 5th birthday. Retails on Amazon for (not joking) $385. She got it for $35. And the thing is still new! If that doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will. Just search for groups in your area on Facebook.
8. Increase Income
If you’ve cut everything you can and you still are cutting it close, try to come up with different ways to add to your income. Are you good at making things? Open an Etsy shop. Or consider driving people around in your spare time with companies like Uber or Lyft. There’s a myriad of ways to earn extra cash.
Fiverr is a site where you can offer your services (voice over, song writing, designing, copywriting, editing, singing) starting at $5 and go from there. For instance, if you do voice over, you can offer 20 words for $5 and then include add-ons (where the real money is made).
If you teach, you can tutor online. If you knit or sew, you can open a store with Etsy or bigcartel.com. You can also watch other children in your home or pet sit. I made $100 watching someone’s sweet dog for a week once. It was easy money!
9. Be Supportive
Chances are, if you’re going into this with at least some knowledge of the task you’re undertaking, you’re already a supportive person. It’s a big deal that you are supportive of your husband during the hard times – you deserve a lot of appreciation for it. You just have to keep in mind that you’re in this together. Is it fun? No. Does it mean you can’t have fun? Absolutely not!
Don’t lose sight of your long-term goals in the midst of stressful times. It’s going to be difficult, I promise. But I can also promise that it does get better. A lot better.
Just keep repeating; it’s only temporary, it’s only temporary.
Give each other space to be frustrated if that’s how you’re feeling. Keep communicating no matter what. But don’t let it consume you – this kind of stuff is what can ruin marriages. Try and stay connected as much as you can.
10. Plan Your Party!
That’s right, you deserve it! Surviving 1st year pilot pay warrants celebration – you made it! You are now fighters of frugality, masters of money, slayers of setback, and conquerors of catastrophe. Congratulate yourselves, and plan something fun for that first 2nd year paycheck. However you decide to celebrate, make it good. And know that most likely the worst part is over.
The Flight Wife
***Have anything you would add to this list? Comment below, I always love hearing from readers!***