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Family vs. Finances


My husband and I have been debating a big financial decision for a few months now. Some of my family is heading to Ireland and Italy in October and this will likely be the last and only trip we make together.

The cost of the trip?

$3,000 each.

I could say no but… I have decided to go.

Our tax refund covers the entire expense so we won’t fall behind on our debt free date.

I’m sorry to disappoint you, and I’m sure I have, but this is an opportunity I can’t turn down. Spending time with my family discovering our history across the sea, walking the same steps our grandfathers did, is important to me.


  • Reply Grace |

    Well, I’m kinda on your side, Beks. But when I discussed your post on my blog, my readers weren’t nearly so supportive.

  • Reply oilandgarlic |

    I am not a regular reader so maybe I don’t know the whole story but please don’t call this trip “once in a lifetime”. Italy and Ireland will be there for a long, long time. Maybe you can’t visit with your family but there are other ways to create memories with your family besides traveling together.

    I don’t know how you racked up the debt in the first place but I assumed you lived it up and/or got an education? You’re accruing more interest on your existing debt which will hinder your future plans.

    I know far too many people who have charged pricey trips. They may not regret those memories but they were not able to take advantage of future trips or opportunities because they were still paying off the earlier trips years later.

    I know this won’t change your mind, but this trip will cost $6,000 + trip expenses + interest on your existing debts.

    BTW, don’t think this is easy advice for me to give. I love traveling so I totally understand your desire to go!

  • Reply Mary |

    I say go. Americans are a very egocentric society (I’m American, and my family goes back to some of the earliest settlers in Michigan, and we trace our family tree back to the 1600’s at the French/German border, so before anyone starts yelling at me, yes, I live in the U.S. and I’m 100% American) and I think any chance we can take to see how other parts of the world work is a good thing.

    We are so used to grabbing our groceries at the store, using our cell phones and internet, driving our cars…while our cities have turned into patches of concrete and ugly steel and glass buildings (I’m also an architect, so sue me for my views, I’m entitled to them, just as everyone is!)

    I got to spend a year in the UK for my job. It was the most enlightening experience I’ve ever had. This was nearly 10 years ago and their cell phones then were so far advanced THEN from what most of us have even NOW. I could go to Tesco (a grocery store) and buy the most delicious fresh baked baguettes and pure Irish butter to put on them. Truly I did not eat even a ho-ho for over a year. LOL I did and saw so much even with the horrendous hours I was working and my biggest regret was canceling the very cheap (under $15) tickets I had to Pisa and Venice during my stay. I could have gone to another country for virtually nothing (I was on per diem) and I had to cancel both trips for work meetings.

    If only I had it to do over…LOL


  • Reply Tonya |

    I haven’t been able to read through all the comments and I’ve seen at least two that say “don’t go”.

    The way I see it is this…..we who are on the path to getting our finances together are doing so, so that we will have more freedom. Along the way we have to make choices. Even if you went out and earned another $6000 toward the trip, there are those who would say….see how much farther along you would be if you didn’t go on the trip at all?

    When I was 20 I was fully supporting myself while putting myself through college. I got the opportunity to go to my grandmother’s house one weekend. It wasn’t a huge thing….while she lived far enough away for it to be a real trip, it wasn’t so far away that I couldn’t make the trip at a later day. Because my aunt was in ill health (she lived with my grandmother) I decided to take the weekend off work and go. My parents were very upset, telling me that I shouldn’t do that. It was the last time I ever saw my aunt alive. I’ve never once regretted the cost of that weekend. We have to have our priorities….if you were saying that you wanted to buy a big screen tv I’d say “no way!”

    Family however is a major priority and sometimes these opportunities are truly once in a lifetime.

    Go, enjoy…..

  • Reply Divine and Debt Free |

    Im not against the trip, im just against this “once in a life time deal”

    if you want to do something, imho its YOUR money, But it just drives me nuts how people justify stuff and “Dress it up” to be this big thing.

    If I want to buy a big tv I’ll say hey I wanna buy a big tv and that is that lol. I can’t see my self saying well this is the last tv in this decade so If I don’t get it im sure I will regret. I love my family so dearly but if they are gonna be so “tight” next year maybe like mem said they are TIGHT NOW. My family doesn’t run what I do, I decide and I would decide that next year I will save get outta debt and sacrifice to win.

    Im glad there is a supporter lol, I was feeling kinda lonely for a minute!

    further more TAX REFUNDS ARE not gifts from santa in washington, its YOUR money that you haven’t accounted for during the year “ie raise your exemptions”

    Had you had an extra 500 a month in your paycheck would it have been the same amount saved?

    it just seems like its so last minute to me too!

  • Reply bouncing back betty |

    Having made a decision last year to use part of my tax refund to fund a trip overseas I support your decision. I could have put the cash towards my E-fund, etc, but I had a good friend who was very ill (is better but not great)and decided that the friend was more important than the money.

  • Reply Jenn |

    I’m still struggling with where I stand on this. On the one hand there will always be some fabulous opportunity coming along and perhaps it’s best to put blinders on and completely ignore all of it until you’re in the clear financially. If you go will these siblings still expect you to travel/buy gifts to celebrate house warmings and christenings in the next year? Last year if I recall there was hubby’s bachelor party cruise and a girls’ weekend. All valid treats at the time, but you can see a trend there.
    Having said all that, if it was me I would also go. I’m travel obsessed and have decided to stop fighting it for the sake of my sanity. Our entire budgeting system and early retirement plan is built around allowing for travel. In order to live massively below our means so that we can save 35% of our salary for retirement and 10% for travel, we buy used cars, no cable, second hand clothing, rarely go to restaurants, pack lunches 100% of the time, etc etc. We don’t feel hard done by because we are skipping stuff that we don’t care about and keeping the travel which is the one thing we do care about.
    I guess the deciding factor on your situation was that it didn’t seem that you were expecting a giant refund until you started preparing your taxes recently. If that’s true, your repayment plan never included this found money. The only decision here is how to handle an unexpected windfall. If you go on the trip you’re no further behind than before you knew you were getting the refund. What we’re really talking about is the value of using this money for an unexpected fast forward to debt reduction. If you were satisfied with your progress on your debt and the length of time it’s going to take to become debt free then you only have one decision to make as I see it. Which is more important, the trip or getting to debt free X months sooner than planned? As long as it’s a conscious decision to take the trip at the expense of those X months then go. It certainly seems to be where your heart is.

  • Reply Tricia |

    Hi Mar and Whitney – like Jeffrey mentioned, there has been a lot going on. December was an oopsie. In the excitement of the holidays that update slipped by me. Then, 2010 started off on the wrong note. I will be writing an update for tomorrow and will give more details then.

  • Reply Angie |

    You know, this is interesting. I’m making the assumption that most people who read this are or were in some serious debt. It almost feels like we’re all enablers, not that we have any say in what you do with your money. I just think it’s interesting someone who’s coming from eating ramen noodles and sacrificing health insurance is willing to this, whatever the reason.

    I would wonder what some other financial bloggers – those who are very disciplined and have “conquered” debt – would counsel.

  • Reply Mary |

    One last comment from me, a more personal perspective. My mom died at age 50 from lung cancer, when I was 20. I’m now 40, so I’ve been without her half my life. If she were still alive, and I had the chance to go see Europe with her, I would take it in an instant no matter the cost.

    My brother passed away at age 30, I was 26 at the time. I lost a grandmother and 6 of my mother’s sisters to lung cancer in just a 3-year span shortly after my mom died in the early 90’s. My uncle has Parkinsons, another has serious heart trouble. If I was given the opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime trip with any of them I would grab it.

    I am so grateful that I took my brother out to dinner the night before he passed away. He had a seizure disorder and was mildly mentally retarded, and he had gotten to see the reshowing of the original Star Wars films that weekend, and that was all he talked about. I know it sounds corny, and dinner with him at Boston Market wasn’t $3k, but I wouldn’t trade a minute of the time I spent with him that weekend.

    I made $60k a year as an engineer (and I will again as soon as I find a job…) so to spend 1/20th of my pay on an unforgettable trip like you’ve been offered, well, sorry to the naysayers but HELL YES I’D GO. 🙂

  • Reply scout |

    Since you seem like you’re asking for opinions, I’ll add my 2 cents worth.

    I know you’ve framed it as a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip with ‘some’ of your family. I’m sure it would be an amazing experience, but it seems like your family is tempting you to live beyond your means. It’s a bit like giving someone a birthday cake when they are on a diet.

    You’ve written about the job instability both you and your husband have been through and how big of an impact the late unemployment checks have had on your life. I would encourage you to go back and read your post about your inexpensive camping trip. I know it is hard to be the sibling staying home when everyone else is going on a trip right now, but you absolutely do not have the financial cushion to blow on this trip.

    I notice how you say it is the last trip you can all go on before everyone starts have kids. So what? We’ve been on many (and less expensive) trips with siblings and their kids. It adds to the fun.

    I agree with the comments that you are trying to rationalize this trip. No matter how you slice it, spending 6k in October significantly slows down your progress toward being debt free. More importantly, each special and once in a lifetime opportunity (as others have pointed out: family trips, bachelor parties, girls’ weekends, etc.) continues a pattern of immediate gratification which leads to a continuation of debt.

    PS-Tricia, we miss you. Even if you’re having trouble, lots of us are thinking of you.

  • Reply Tricia |

    Angie – it almost sounds like you are asking my opinion about the situation 🙂

    I don’t have any advice when it comes to something like this. I don’t know all of the details of Beks life so I cannot give the opinion of go or don’t go. The only thing I can do is think about what I would do if I was in her situation.

    For me, it would be nice to visit where my ancestors came from at least once in my life. If some of my family decided to go, and I had to pay $3K to go – I wouldn’t. We are not in the financial position to do it, even though it wouldn’t put us in more debt. Sure, I’d miss out on a great experience but there are always photos and stories to share after the fact.

    To me, spending time with family is what you make of it – regardless of where that visiting is taking place. I’m pretty content if our time is spent together hanging out in the backyard, chatting at the picnic table. But that’s just me and how I am. Some of that is probably thanks to the simplistic lifestyle I found myself growing more into as our debt reduction journey progressed.

  • Reply Mary |

    What if you found a way to pay for the trip without using your refund money? 8 months, $6,000 is $750 a month, if I did the math right. Roughly $175 a week (if you consider 4.33 weeks per month). Start by cutting your spending. Can you cut $10 a month off your gas usage? $25 a week less in groceries? What about getting your hair cut less often? Start playing the drugstore game – get your toothpaste, shampoo and deodorant free at CVS and Walgreens, like we’ve tried to get you to do – it’s very easy! How about a part-time job – say 15 hours a week at Walgreens or CVS, net yourself $100 a week, easy. Everytime you think about a Starbucks, put $3 in your “trip jar”. Date night? Dinner at home cooked from scratch with your hubby and a netflix. Put $40 in the jar, easy. Consolidate your shopping – limit yourself to one trip every two weeks. Save on gas, plan your spending, make a meal plan. There are tons of blogs out there that give good deals on free or nearly free food at your local stores.

    If you really really want to go, you will find a way to pay for most of it with extra work and a little sacrifice and you won’t blow your pay-off plans one bit.

  • Reply Angie |

    Tricia- I didn’t mean you per se, it just so happened you’re back! 🙂 I think you make good points.

    When Beks does go, it would be interesting to see if/how she plans to stay on budget.

  • Reply Val |

    Life is just too short to not seize great opportunities like this. If it is important to YOU & it doesn’t put you in harm’s way then DO IT!!

    I did the same thing 5 years ago & will always treasure those memories. I’m doing the same thing again this year & the anticipation is killing me.

    I find other things to cut out of my life to help me pay off debt & save for the future, but in my opinion everyone has things that are “must haves” and without those things, life wouldn’t be the same.

    Have a wonderful time on your trip!

  • Reply Oscar |

    All I can say is Kudos to you. You made the right decision especially if you can pay for it all with your return. Not sure what the dilemma was but you will not regret your decision.

So, what do you think ?