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FPU Accountability…

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We had our Financial Peace University class on Sunday. I found it incredibly difficult to share the reason we were gone for last three sessions.

Admitting we had taken a family vacation to Europe is the equivalent of telling your Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor you spent the last two and a half weeks downing bottles of Jameson.

They weren’t exactly receptive to the idea.

We explained that this was likely the last and only time we would have the opportunity to go with our family and we funded the trip fully with cash.

But still, they weren’t happy about it.

I started to get annoyed and then realized, isn’t that the point of FPU accountability? Isn’t that the reason for the class?

No, I wouldn’t have changed my decision to go… but you can bet I won’t be strolling into class with a new sweater or a cup of Starbucks anytime soon.


24 Comments

  • Reply Andy |

    You should’ve been annoyed – I would have been. There is a difference between accountability and judgement. The people in your class were acting on the latter.

    There were extenuating (sp) circumstances as to why you took this trip while still in debt – and you and your husband worked your tails off to save enough money to pay for the trip in cash, as well as still manage to continue to agressively pay down your debt.

    This is one of my issues with Dave Ramsey. While I think his general ideas of debt reduction are sound and helpful to a lot of indebted people, he takes an “all or nothing” approach to the process.

    The other day a caller on his show asked him if they could temporarily stop debt snowballing because their house needed some repairs (a roof, leak or something along those lines). His answer – not until you pay off your debt. Home repairs can wait. Uh, yeah..no. We are currently following his plan, and let me tell you, when our porch roof was leaking this summer we divertered our “snowball fund” to the “roof repair fund”.

    Like I said – not everything in life is so black or white.

  • Reply Nichole@40daysof |

    Beks,
    I think your attitude about what happened at FPU is amazing. I can see your point, but I don’t know that I would have been able to keep from being really ticked.

    To Andy above: I have listened to Dave for years. And while he’s not perfect, he usually asks enough questions in those situations to find out if it’s a critically needed repair, or a want. I know he has encouraged people to see if the roof can be repaired with a cheaper quick fix before a new one is put on. I think he either messed up that day which is rare (but it does happen) or you are giving him a bad rap because you are sensitive about your roof situation (which is understandable).

    I’m having a giveaway on my blog today! Please leave a comment on it to enter!
    http://40daysof.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/giveaway/

  • Reply Alexandria |

    “You should’ve been annoyed – I would have been. There is a difference between accountability and judgement. The people in your class were acting on the latter. ”

    I’d have to disagree. I don’t know any fiscally responsible people who would agree to go on vacation like that in Bek’s shoes. The fact is, if you want to get out of debt and stay out of debt, you have to make sacrifices.

    Personally, I think it’s good you have a reality check. & I don’t mean that in a judgemental way at all. I mean it in a “This is how people who are not in debt behave” way.

  • Reply Shannon |

    Isn’t the FPU thing a CHRISTIAN thing? Nice. Feel the love and understanding.

    This was literally a once in a lifetime trip. You planned for it for months and months and months. You are still paying down debt. You did not incur any more debt by going on this trip. You didn’t miss any payments because of this. You took a trip the exact way you are supposed to, planned ahead, paid for in cash, without affecting the rest of your financial life.

    The purpose of life is to LIVE IT.

  • Reply JT |

    You have every right to be annoyed. You were being judged by your fellow classmates. That is why Dave Ramsey frustrates me. He refuses to take account for individual situations. You have paid down debt and changed your lifestyle in order to pay off debt. Do not feel bad about the trip because you know something that Dave doesn’t. There are more important things in life than money.

  • Reply Kate |

    While I cannot justify spending money on a vacation in my situation, I would be hugely annoyed if someone else implied that I shouldn’t go “just because” I was in debt.

    I have lots of bills to pay and am not going to put my life completely on hold until they are paid off.

    Heaven forbid you got run over by a bus tomorrow. Life is too short to stop living-for any reason.

  • Reply emmi |

    > I found it incredibly difficult to share the reason we were gone for last three sessions.

    Ha ha ha. Thanks, I needed that laugh.

    How about wearing your rattiest sweater that you used to go camping so it smells like you haven’t been able to afford laundry soap? That will teach them to get all high and mighty on you.

    In reality they can’t bear their own lack of self control and so exert what they can on others to feel better. It really has nothing to do with you, so don’t create that connection yourself, it’s not worth it.

  • Reply David |

    People can disagree or disapprove of a decision and still fell love and understanding. That is a Christian thing (and I am sure it is common in many other religions). It is really helpful to have an accountability group to keep you moving forward. Would I have gone to Italy? Absolutely! But it is also good to get some pressure to get back on working down the debt. Great job so far. Once you are done it is worth it.

  • Reply MyMoneyMess |

    I’ve seen all kinds of people who are deep in debt make all kinds of silly hair-brained moves. Taking a vacation with family that’s paid for all in cash isn’t one of them. You did it. You’re back. You’re paying down your debt. Keep going!

  • Reply Amanda N |

    I think it is great you are attending the class and I think it was great you didn’t pass up this opportunity to take the trip. Memories are more important than money. You have memories to last you a lifetime and you worked your butt off to pay for it in cash. Do not let them judge you for your decision. The pictures of the trip were great and I know you loved it. Maybe some of them were just jealous. In our effort to live free of debt, we can not lose sight of what really makes our life great: those who we love and love us. (forgive any bad spelling-the baby is waking up)

  • Reply Mel |

    I would have been annoyed too. Have all these people accomplished what you have? Beks, you inspired me (in a counterproductive way kind of) I have a pretty low amount of debt I could knock out in less than a year on my income, however it’s interest free and it will still be paid off way ahead of time. It’s going to cost $1,100 to put the family boat in the water this year. My parents can’t afford to due to job loss. I can if I slow down debt payoff. It’s worth it to me though. Someday my dad will be gone and all I will have left are memories of the summers we spent fishing together.

  • Reply Mom, Ph.D. |

    You have a wonderful attitude about this–which is why you’ll pay off your debt soon! You are absolutely right–FPU is about accountability. It is often easy to find people to support our decision to spend on something expensive (or have a second helping of dessert). We also need people who will support us through reminding us of our difficult, longer-range goals.

  • Reply Ponyryd |

    I would hope the group would be able to question such a large expense or why else be involved with the group. Keep up the good work and don’t worry about it.

    Not to disagree with others, but I don’t think a leaking roof is the same as a European vacation. Should Beks have taken the family trip – yes in her situation and because it didn’t get paid for with debt, should she have done it if she really needed the money for a new roof – NO.

  • Reply morrison |

    I didn’t see any posting of how much the european trip cost you? I can only estimate it must have been somewhere between $5000 and $10,000 (since my family of 4 traveled to Italy for 15 days in 2007, it cost me $7,500).

    The amount of your remaining debt is only $9000. Wouldn’t it have been more prudent to finally pay off your debt and then start saving for the trip to Europe? There is no such thing as a ‘trip in a life time’. I took my ‘kids’ to Italy. One was married and 27 years old (she came without her husband) and the other was 30. I’ve been debt free since 2001 and I would have NEVER taken an expensive trip to Europe while carrying so much debt. You delude yourself into justifying your spending.

    Just my opinion. From one who has been there, done that and learned from the experiences.

  • Reply jaye |

    Here’s what you need to remember: You have paid off over $30,000 of debt. And you have no intention of stopping your journey to being debt-free. You and your husband are absolutely amazing. Sometimes it is important to celebrate your achievements. What could be a more wonderful reminder of why you are doing what you are doing than to enjoy a family vacation without incurring more debt?

    If you were an alcoholic, I wouldn’t be so sanguine about you “going off the wagon”. However, you did what you did fully knowing what you were getting into. This was not a binge! The trouble with people who can’t control themselves is that they can only overcome their problems with abstinence. That is not you! I think you deserved your vacation. Hopefully, those happy memories will help you push through the next year (or so) of austerity!

  • Reply Honey |

    Honestly, since all the debt Beks has left is student loans, and you can be on a 30 year repayment with those, I have a hard time thinking of it as debt at all. I stopped relating to her as someone else who’s also “in debt” a long time ago.

  • Reply Angela |

    I read Dave’s book and made it through half of the classes. I agree with most of it, but as another reader wrote, it is strictly “all or nothing”. A lot of people in the group that I was in would brag about how their family ate rice for 3 days because they ran out of money in the grocery jar until payday. I’m sorry, I’m not making my children eat rice for 3 days because my husband and I made bad financial decisions before they were even born. Most of my debt is also student loans (a lot) but I work hard at the career that I got because of them, as does my husband. We are working hard to pay off the credit card debt and we have done well, but every once in a while, we enjoy an activity or a weekend with the children that costs money. It will get paid off, but I’ve come to realize that I will probably never be totally “debt free” and I’m okay with that as long as we have enough to pay the bills and still enjoy life.
    By the way, I now am a heavy couponer, so my cupboards are full of food at all times and I don’t use even half of the money in the ‘grocery’ jar.

  • Reply sarah |

    Yeah, they sound like they were being judgey. But really, do you expect anything else from your FPU class? That’s the mental space they’re in–and the Dave Ramsey way.

    Also, doesn’t seem like they were terribly wrong–you did end up going over your budget because you didn’t account for things like high entry costs and cover charges, etc. You could have learned about that stuff by reading a book.

    But really? Eh. Your life. And I’m in your camp. It’s not their job to judge you… especially because you’re going to be better at that than anyone else. Your posts have a little sheepish tinge to them. And your poor emergency fund. Argh.

    So yeah, they were up in your business. But that’s what FPU is all about. Like you said, just don’t prance in wearing a new sweater and carrying a Starbucks cup. 🙂

  • Reply Babybluewater |

    What a funny post! I just started my journey to pay off our debt and I’m thinking of budgeting for a cheap vacation next year with one of my 2 extra paychecks (I only budget for 24 of the 26). People may look down on me for this, but I need to have something to work for and look forward to all year long. If a week out of the office on a cheap vacation helps me get through the rest of the year, then I’m doing it. I still plan to kick butt with my debt repayment, but also live a little along the way 🙂 You go girl!

  • Reply TEN |

    I can see how explaining where you had been could be uncomfortable, but the reality check is that your remaining debt is a relatively small student loan. It probably has a low interest rate.

    From reading Beks journey, the only thing I wonder is how big is her emergency fund. It seems like it should be bigger even if it means that the loan will stay around longer.

  • Reply Budget Confidential |

    Do I think taking an expensive family vacation is a good use of funds while you are in debt? Not especially. But sometimes once in a lifetime experiences are worth the costs. The FPU group had a right to voice their opinions, but that should have been the end of it at that time. They can guide you but in the end it is up to you to make the decision that you feel is in the best interests of you and your family. Period.

  • Reply Undercover Kitty |

    Beks,
    You hv all the right to be annoyed. The fact that you went on a vac and paid it all in cash and on top of that, had to pay/fork out money for the damages on the house etc and not incur more debt is an amazing feat in itself. You should be proud of yourself for being able to keep it all together like that 🙂

    I am in debt myself (CC) and while I know by doing certain things I can pay it off sooner, but at the same time I am not willing to give up some luxuries, like seeing and being with my bf once every six months or so. He lives in the US and I live in South East Asia, and flight tickets take a huge chunk of our money. But since we’ve been doing this for quite some time, I know well enough how much I should budget for each trip so I won’t incur more debt and be able to pay for tickets and expenses while visiting him.

    Of course some might disagree and say I should focus on debt repayment before I start planning international traveling, but when you live 12000 miles apart from each other and don’t spend much on dates for the most parts, every mtg becomes crucial and we work together to make it happen.

    He knows abt my debt and has been very supportive abt it, and understands why I can’t afford to pay for this n that (because I make less due to currency exchange and location). So when we know there is a trip coming up, we’ll work out a budget and agree on how much I can pay for flight tickets and I start saving up for the trip, while making sure I don’t miss on any payments and can even put any extra money into debt repayment.

    To each his own. I’m not going to wait a year before I pay all my debts to go see him. So this plan works for me and yours work for you because life isn’t so black and white 🙂 as long as you’re doing okay, you should be okay.

    I think the others are just jealous you get to go on a lovely trip 🙂

  • Reply margot |

    I have no idea how it’s judgmental to hold someone accountable for massive luxury spending in a group whose PURPOSE is to hold people accountable for getting out of debt using Dave Ramsey’s approach. This vacation was a total violation of everything Dave Ramsey teaches. It’s reasonable to point that out to someone who goes to his classes.

    So many of the people leaving comments – including the blogger herself – have so many reasons to justify the trip. But there is no justification that makes it a wise financial choice. (It might be a good choice for other reasons, but not financially.) This trip was not “once in a lifetime.” There will be others. Europe will always be there. Europe with groups of people you love will always be there. No one “deserves” an international vacation. Etc. People who use debt are experts at justifying all sorts of reasons that their debt is wise or warranted in each instance in which they want to rely on it. Breaking the habit is what will change your financial life forever.

  • Reply L |

    To those critical of Dave Ramsey… I credit his books with providing the major readjustment I needed, but I do not share the same religious views and don’t follow his advice completely. After the first few steps, he gets into things I either don’t care about or don’t need. For example, I don’t have children and if I did, they can earn scholarships to community colleges, so advice on college savings is useless. I’m not trying to attack one specific area of his advice or personal finance, just saying that probably most of us can learn *something* from him and ignore the rest.

So, what do you think ?