Employers: Ben works at the Department of Homeland Security. Carolyn is a university professor. (CNBC Make It has changed their names and withheld their location.)
Since the government shutdown began, how have you had to adjust your finances and lifestyle?
Carolyn: We are looking for ways to really tighten our budget. We've called all of our creditors to negotiate payments, identified items to sell, returned Christmas gifts and trimmed our grocery list as much as we can. We've eliminated all of the extra meals outside the home, coffee at work, etc. We've also eliminated some of the special services one child needs because the co-pays are high. This is the one that stings — not giving a child something they need because of the added expense, but our options are limited.
Yet, despite the challenges, we realize that we are the "lucky ones." We have my salary and we have creditors who will work with us, family and friends who have offered to help, and savings and pensions we can dip into if the shutdown continues on. We know there are many families who don't have this type of support.
We are doing what we can by sharing information about how to contact creditors, which food banks are supporting federal employees, or businesses that will give a free meal or a bag of dog food to a federal employee.
Have you picked up any side hustles to make some extra money?
Ben: My department's regulations do not allow us to take on extra work, accept gift cards, apply for unemployment, engage in/accept crowdfunding, etc.
Carolyn: I am the one who has to seek out extra work to support our family of five. I'm a professor with a full teaching/advising load. Part of the challenge is that extra work means additional, up front expenses, such as travel and childcare. Ben cannot take any time off, so I have to figure out how to pay the additional expenses, as well as our everyday ones.
Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!
20 organizations offering discounts, giveaways and payment assistance during the government shutdown