Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Debt: Nobody Said It Was Easy

Money in the $76K household is tight. We're awaiting medical bills related to the Kiddo's appendectomy, and although it's possible that the total cost of surgery won't be as high as I'm expecting it to be, I'm still very much on edge about it and want to keep a tight grip on the budget until we know where we stand. At the same time, we're determined to make a significant credit card payment this month ($1000) and plan a small but fun birthday celebration for the Kiddo.

Although we're paying all of our bills on time and making progress with debt repayment, there isn't a lot of room for extras and non-essentials:
  • We still don't have a real kitchen table. We're eating off a tablecloth-adorned card table and sitting in folding chairs. 
  • We've had to delay the purchase of other furniture, such as bar stools for our kitchen counter. (The horror!)
  • We're not going out to eat as often this month.
  • We're being more selective about paid activities. The Kiddo's summer soccer league is a go. The running series is not.
I'm not complaining about any of the above items. The card table serves its purpose, we make tasty enough food at home, and I can walk out my front door and run for free every day. We're good.

However, we've come to the realization that our uncompromising budget will necessitate one difficult sacrifice: we'll likely need to cancel the trip that Fortysomething and the Kiddo were planning to take back east this summer. The original idea was to have them fly out, rent a car, and spend two weeks with Fortysomething's parents, siblings, and other relatives. It's something Fortysomething hasn't done in several years. The Kiddo barely remembers what his cousins look like.

Needless to say, nobody is happy about this, especially my son and his grandparents. But the trip seems financially ill-advised given the likelihood of steep medical expenses. The price of plane tickets will be in the hundreds of dollars, even if we're able to offset the cost with our limited Southwest points. Then there's the car rental, the gas, and the inevitable restaurant meals and kid activities. We just can't afford it, is the truth.

Fortysomething is fine with canceling. As usual, he's Mr. Logical: we don't have the money, thus we can't go, end of story. Me? I feel tremendously guilty. I know how much his parents were looking forward to seeing both of them, and as they're getting older, I want them to spend time with us. Life is fleeting, and we need to make time - and sometimes spend some money - for the people we care about.

But is it worth accruing more debt at this particular time? I don't know. I don't think so, but in this case, I'm not 100 percent sure. Either way, it feels like a risk. A part of me is holding out hope that the medical bills will be miraculously low and we'll be able to book the trip anyway.

As anyone who has ever tried to dig out of debt knows, this process is full of ups and downs, triumphs and frustrations, successes and setbacks. Life is damn expensive. Even though we have the  best of intentions, and even though we're armed with the confidence that comes with paying off $17K in less than a year, it would be incredibly easy to backslide - not because we're buying lattes, avocados, bar stools, and fancy vacations, but because life is unpredictable and full of gray areas. 

I'm not complaining, but I will say this: times like this emphasize just how debilitating debt can be. Debt sucks. I'm sick of the way it limits us. I'm sick of having to make sacrifices for it. Situations like this just stoke my determination to get out of debt as soon as we possibly can. I can't wait.

11 comments:

  1. It seems like you have a everything under control given the unfortunate circumstances with the surgery. Hopefully you find a way to book that trip somehow or get the kiddo to see his extended family!

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    1. Thank you! We will make it happen this year... It might just not be this summer.

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  2. OK, so, I was against the running series, but I am FOR just buying the two plane tickets, credit card or no credit card. Trips like this can be dirt cheap, plane tickets aside. We did this all the time when I was a kid and spent basically no money other than the transit to/from the grandparents/cousins. Once we got there we just hung out. I rarely remember doing an 'activity' that wasn't sitting/talking/playing. Why are the restaurant meals inevitable? They can eat meals at various family homes. Ask around and see if a car can be borrowed? Minimally, even if there's no car/traveling around, they should go see the parents/grandparents. They really aren't getting any younger! (I take it that the grandparents can't come to you? That would also be an option, but maybe health makes it difficult to travel.)

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    1. True, restaurant meals are not inevitable, though sometimes when there is a large group of people it's hard to say no when they all want to go somewhere (my partner is awesome but putting on the brakes when that happens isn't something he tends to do... Doesn't mean it couldn't be done, though). The cheapest plane tickets are at least $300 each. The relatives all live in the same general region but are about ~2 hours away from each other, so there's the gas involved in driving from place to place.

      I agree that it SHOULD be a trip that can be done relatively inexpensively, but in this case inexpensive still comes out to ~$800. Yeesh.

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  3. Oh, and if I had my way nobody would have bar stools in the kitchen. I totally do not get the appeal at all. So buy the plane tickets and just never purchase bar stools at all, is what I'd do :)

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    1. Ha! Yeah, no plans to buy bar stools right now (though I personally like them!)

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    2. I love bar stools but agree that they fall under the category of "things that can wait til the debt is gone". I haven't bought a piece of furniture in....ummmm...five years or so? And that was a cheap IKEA storage unit.

      Repaying debt sucks, as does saying no to things. I think that one of the things that makes it even harder is that as a society, we have gotten used to not saying no to things and to just putting things on credit. But know that you are making good choices by focusing on debt repayment and that there will be a lot fewer sacrifices to make in the future once the debt is gone.

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  4. I feel ya! I hope the med bills end up being lower than you are anticipating and you can still make the trip happen. Or, I hope the grandparents decide it is important enough to them that maybe they help subsidize it???

    While there have been many times where I have just wished and hoped for money to drop out of the sky to end this debt enslavement, I also have come to realize that there MUST be pain and sacrifice involved in this process (for me). Otherwise, it would be too easy for me to fall back into the situation again.

    It sucks now, but it will be so worth it in the end. Keep your eye on the prize.

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    1. Thanks, Deborah! I don't know if the grandparents would help subsidize. I know one of my husband's parents can't afford it (we fly her out to see us every couple of years). The other... maybe?

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  5. I am also in the camp with mixed feelings regarding this trip. Honestly, if I were you, I would try and make an appeal to those you would be visiting. As hard as it would be, I'd let those you feel comfortable telling the situation. I seldom see my grandkids and would happily chip to help offset a visit. Life is too short to put family on the back burner.

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    1. SO MANY mixed feelings! I think our decision is to *delay* the trip by just a few months and go during one of the school breaks in the fall. The grandparents aren't really in a position to help out right now; I know they would offer if they had the funds.

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