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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

'Get It And Keep It:' How The Dory Family Keeps A Tight Budget

Schnique and J.C. Dory run a tight financial ship. That’s because they both grew up poor and she had a brush with homelessness.

Even though both are steadily employed, they, like half of all Texans, don’t have enough cash on hand to last more than 90 days after an emergency.

As a part of our series One Crisis Away, the Dory family explains how their past and questions about the future shape their spending habits.

A lot of moms make multitasking look easy, but Schnique Dory elevates it to an art form.

She cooks chicken with one hand, finishes the dishes with the other and makes sure 11 year-old Schnthia and 13 year-old Jaelyn are set on schoolwork. Once dinner is simmering, she turns her attention to the family finances.

Schnique and her husband J.C. log every monthly expense in a spreadsheet. Sometimes, unexpected bills have to be added, like doctor’s visits. Sometimes, there’s good news.

Schnique and JC say their approach to spending is needs first, wants last, an attitude shaped by their childhoods.

“I was raised by a single mother, so she had to do what she had to do. She had two jobs and still the bills were paid late every now and then. We didn’t have a car for a long time,” J.C. says.

J.C. and Schnique knew each other in high school but didn’t reconnect until 2011.

A decade ago, Schnique was all alone. She took the kids and left her fiancé with no job and no place to live.

“The first thing I kept thinking is, I’m a statistic. I’m a single black woman, children out of wedlock and my future is going to be very bleak,” says Schnique. “It’s going to be very hard given the price of daycare to climb out of this hole.”

But Schnique got a leg-up, from the Community Enrichment Center. The North Texas non-profit helped Schnique with daycare, car repairs, and most importantly, put a roof over her head.

“They first started off by putting me and the children in a three bedroom house, two car garage,” says Schnique. “And that was great because it gave us a stable place to live.”

Schnique paid rent on a sliding scale at that home for just under two years. By then she and the kids were able to buy a house in the Fort Worth suburb of White Settlement. It’s been years since she faced homelessness, but Schnique says those memories still guide all her decisions.

“I look at it as though I never want to be there again. I know that homelessness, I never want that to be an option for me or the children ever again,” says Schnique. “So I watch very closely where I spend my money.”

She’s a teacher, he’s a truck driver and they know how close to the edge they’re living. They’re slowly chipping away at substantial credit card debt which jumped back up last year after J.C. went a few weeks without steady pay.

“I have no philosophies, just try to get it and keep it, because you might need it one day,” J.C. says. “Not get it and spend it, because when you do need it, it’s nowhere around.”

And every member of the Dory family is onboard. They use coupons for outings, restaurants and trips to the supermarket.

And teaching Jaelyn and Schnthia the importance of budgeting is very important to their parents.

“It’s a part of growing up these days.  Can’t have them running out of the house blowing money as soon as they get up out of here. Let’s go ahead and teach them now. That way they don’t run right outside off the porch and fall,” says J.C.

Which seems unlikely in this family. But, Schnique and JC say, that’s exactly why they’re so careful.

Watch a video of the Dory family.