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It’s Hard Saying No


I suppose this is a financial win and a testament to just how much my self control and decision making has come, but I have to admit that it still makes me a little sad.  As I mentioned a week or so ago, we took a quick weekend trip up to DC for the VA Boys Gymnastics State meet.  Well, I am super proud to report that in almost every event Little Gymnast did one of the best routines I have seen him do AND as a result of his scores, qualified for the regional meet.

Regionals are just a couple of weeks away and would require a longer trip to participate.  Another meet fee, hotels, gas, food, etc.  So I made the very hard call to stay on budget and not go this year.  My reasoning….

  1. Stay on budget, stay on budget
  2. Debt payoff by July
  3. He’s only 9, he’ll have another chance

So we are not going, and I had to let him know this after it was announced at the gym that he made it, etc.  I think it broke his heart a little bit.  He works so hard at gymnastics and sacrifices so much.  But this mom stayed strong despite a reasonable amount of backlash from his disappointment.  (I think it was a good lesson to both of us in disappointment and appropriate ways to handle it.)

I know it’s the right decision financially.  And I will tell you now, that if he makes it next year, even if I still have student loan debt, we are going.  But I made a very hard choice and am proud of the financial implications it will have for us.


  • Reply Kili |

    Sorry to hear you had to cancel his regionals.
    I don’t know how these things work, but i am curious (and maybe answering those questions already helps for planning next year):
    How far away would those regionals have been?
    What would he gain for winning in regionals?
    And since you manage to barter for a lot of things: Are there any gymnast-family-friends you could have sent him to regionals with? (Or maybe can next year?)

    • Reply Hope |

      Thanks for your support. I have added some more details to clarify below, but to answer your questions.
      1. The venue is a 5 hour drive from us.
      2. I do not know, but I am fairly certain after states, that he would not have medaled at regionals. This is our first year competing at this level and he will compete at the same level next year.
      3. There were no other gymnast competing at his level, so no other families that I could send him with, nor would I have been comfortable with that.

  • Reply Teri |

    I am a Mom–I know how much it killed you to say no. BUT! Next year when you’re out of debt? You can say YES to more things. Once you are out from under crushing debt your options open up so much more! What a great financial lesson for all of your kids and congrats on doing the right–but not necessarily easy-thing.

  • Reply Alexandria |

    I think that is awesome Hope. Very difficult but a good lesson.

    I’ve had so many other parents tell me they were in awe I could tell my kids no to an ice cream cone. Just stupid stuff like that. ??? Kids just hear yes yes yes in our culture. I know your son worked hard and it was a difficult decision but it just strikes me as a wonderful life lesson for him. Of course, no no no is just as bad as yes yes yes. But you know, there is always next year and it will mean that much more to him.

  • Reply Kerstin |

    I wish I supported your decision, but I don’t. Is there anyway to make it work but not break the bank? Try to find somewhere to stay? Not everyone has to go, just you and Little Gymnast (I know that means trying to find someone to stay with the others). But if he made it and went he would gain so much experience which would only help him down the road, especially if we went and bombed his performance. That is a huge life lesson and would mean more maturity for him. That way if he goes next year he will know what to expect. As a seasoned athlete getting the chance to participate in these competitions at a young age and to battle nerves and still perform or accept what happens are irreplaceable. I’m just saying maybe re-think it and use some savings to make this trip happen. That’s what rainy day funds are for sometimes-when the unexpected happens. Just my thoughts.

    • Reply Hope |

      I certainly could afford it, but I did not think it was the right decision for a variety of reasons. Obviously, because of the purpose of this blog, I focused this post on the financials, but believe me I did evaluate all options and outcomes before coming to this tough decision. See comment below for more clarification.

  • Reply debthaven |

    This makes me very sad too. Like somebody else has mentioned, could he not have gone with somebody else, with you helping with expenses?

  • Reply Lori |

    I’m sorry, I know you are trying to make the best financial decisions for your family, but I very much disagree with this choice. It is basically teaching him that no matter how hard he works he is going to be penalized because of someone else’s past mistakes. I think you are saying no on principle but instead of asking “can we afford it” I would suggest asking “HOW can we afford it”. Maybe he can go with another family or a coach or maybe there are somethings that can be sold or done without. The other kids don’t have to go too. Maybe just you and he drive up for the day or if it’s 2 days then maybe you split a room with another family. This honor took tons of work and dedication on his part and if it were something frivolous I would applaud your decision but this is something he has worked for all year and the life lesson of having to miss out for something he worked so hard for is not a good one. I don’t suggest blowing a lot of money, but when there is a will there is a way.

    • Reply Hope |

      You’re right. This decision was not an issue of not having the money, it was an issue of making the best choice of how to use it.
      You can see my other comment below for more clarification.

  • Reply tami |

    Hope, I think you made the right decision. Nine is a bit young to go with another family to a competition, and there will be other opportunities. Perhaps you could include possibilities like this in your family financial planning. A friend’s child came home with a flyer for an expensive school break trip. My friend could have simply said yes, as they can afford it, but said to her child, “That’s a great opportunity – for next year. Let’s sit down and plan how we can put it in next year’s budget.” Her point was that learning to plan is important, and that her child will not be hideously scarred by going abroad in 10th grade instead of ninth grade.

    As I read your posts, I can see that you are really making headway on making choices that support your long term goals.

    • Reply Hope |

      Thank you, Joe. In the end, that is what it boils down too. He qualified and that is HUGE for his first year competing at this level.

  • Reply Heather |

    Hope I am usually in your corner, but this time you are wrong. You just showed him that other peoples problem screw up your hard work. Find a way. make it work. that is what you do for your kids, not punish him for a job well done.

    • Reply Hope |

      I think my further clarification will change your view, you can see it in a post below. But this was not a punishment for him, this was a good financial decision for now. And my financial decisions affect him and his future greatly.
      And it was a good lesson in disappointment. No matter how hard you work and plan, sometimes things can’t and don’t work out. It doesn’t make it the end of the world or the last opportunity. And sometimes sacrifices must be made and things are out of your control.
      That doesn’t make this a wrong decision, it made it a hard one.

  • Reply Laura |

    Have to agree with the people that disagree with this. Could he go with someone else? Could just he and you go and the twins stay home and watch your daughter?
    This is also going to sound harsh but I’m going to say it. This is where child support would be helpful. I think you are doing your kids a disservice by not perusing a formal agreement with your ex.

    • Reply Hope |

      First, I don’t need any more drama with my ex than I already have and money would make it way worse. I will leave it at that.
      See further clarification in comments regarding going with someone else.

  • Reply TPol |

    I agree with what Lori said wholeheartedly. He worked very hard for this. There is no guarantee that he will be as enthusiastic from now on. So sorry for little Gymnast:(

  • Reply Angie |

    Although it is disheartening for all involved. It is quite rude to flat out say another parent is wrong in their decision. Hope is doing what she thinks is best for her family and just because you disagree with it does not me she is flat out WRONG. Yes, encouraging words to possibly rethink her decision or bringing up alternative options are helpful. Saying she made the wrong decision is not. If you disagree that’s one thing.

    Great job Little Gymnast!

  • Reply Hope |

    Wow, I did not expect the backlash on this one. So let me give a couple more details.
    1. He would be the only child going who competes at his level so there are no other families to go with.
    2. The other gymnasts going, compete two days earlier than him, so I would have to not only help cover the cost of the coach going, but also pay for him to stay the 2 extra days for Little Gymnast to compete.
    3. And while I do not want to disparage his achievements, based on states, I do not feel he would medal at Regionals. If I felt there was a strong chance of him really doing well and coming away feeling successful, then I would have fought harder to go. But he will going against the top gymnasts in the region, some who have been competing on this level for 2-3 years, while he just got here. So I chose to wait, knowing he had already decided to compete this next year and feeling optimistic that in waiting he would be much more successful at this level.
    4. It was a very hard decision, and I did not make it lightly. I realize with this post and this blog that everything is zeroed in on the finances, but believe me I look at everything before I make decisions regarding my kids…EVERYTHING. I would sacrifice anything for their success, but I am learning to be smarter about it.

  • Reply Mary |

    I think your decision making is flawed and all over the board. I’d really like to see you go back and do some serious planning-what are your goals and what are the actions and costs associated to support those goals. On the one hand, you mentioned one of the goals was that he might get a college scholarship. If that is a goal, then you need to determine what events he needs to enter on an annual basis, what the outcome needs to be and what the associated costs are with those items/trips. If that fits in the budget, then he competes with the bigger picture in mind. Instead, one of the goals is a scholarship, so you take the family on a trip to DC, spend money and then when he advances, it’s a no go. That’s not right. If you weren’t going to allow him to advance, why did you spend money to get this far?

    Some annual planning is in order. If you set a goal, then you need to break down what you need to do to meet those goals and then your action items (monthly, daily, weekly) need to support that. Instead, your big picture goal is to pay off debt and your daily actions are looking and researching housing to be able to support more foster children. There is no right or wrong answer, just make the your actions support your goals.

    In the case of the gymnast, there wasn’t any mention of any costs associated with this trip or any alternatives. Kids who participate in traveling sports teams or basically any sports that require travel is going to cost more money. I am certain there are other parents in the same boat so perhaps you can figure out how to cost share some of these trips. If you can’t share costs, are there hotels that are giving a discount rate for these regionals? Also, are we talking a one day event, two day event or what? Does the gymnastics group have a bus that is taking some of the gymnasts to the event? Have you placed a call to the higher ups and explained your situation? Perhaps they know of another family going from your area? When money is tight, you have to explore all of the options. You start with how you would normally take the trip and write down associated costs and then go back and try to figure out on each line item if there are alternatives that you could do to save costs. In the future, if this is the path that he will be going down, then take some time at these events to make small talk to try to find other parents from the area for future cost sharing.

    While it’s great to be focused on paying off your debt and being gazelle intense, I think you need to look at everything surrounding this. If that’s the goal, then you shouldn’t have taken the trip to DC and allowed him to compete at all but to jump ship on him in the middle doesn’t seem right or fair. With regards to all of the kids, raising kids and doing all of these activities cost money, Even if you get out of debt, it’s still expensive. Perhaps now you can better understand why people aren’t supportive of fostering more children when the costs of raising children is so high. Also, perhaps this might be a time when his Dad could get involved and take him to the regionals, thus accomplishing a few goals-time with his Dad and a free trip for the gymnast. Let his Dad handle the trip and expenses while the rest of the family stays put. Just a thought.

    • Reply Hope |

      Please read my previous comment addressing much of this. I weighted all the outcomes and felt this was the right decision for this year.
      But I need to add one more caveat to your comment…my ex-husband is not an option. I am not going to expand on that here, but let me be very clear…dad is not an option. I will let you make the assumptions based on what I have shared about our past here. I don’t want to talk about it, it’s not part of this journey, but I want to be very clear that due to other circumstances beyond money, dad is not an option.
      So I must do what I can, that is all.

  • Reply Jenna |

    I am pretty irritated at the people commenting basically implying that Little Gymnast DESERVES to go to this competition. This activity is an extra, and one that he is lucky to participate in. It is enough of a sacrifice and investment to keep him on the regular schedule; it is not a necessity.

    It’s an important lesson to learn that sometimes you are great and you CAN do something, but it costs money, so you can’t do it. For me it was a foreign tour competing in another sport. Kids are resilient and the ones that learn the fundamentals of money and life are better off in the long run.

    • Reply Marcelle |

      I agree with Jenna. Hope, I think you made a great, sound decision, for your family, and your financial situation.

      Congrats to your little gymnast for doing so well! That is definitely something to be proud of.

    • Reply Jen From Boston |

      Me, too!! Also, he is only NINE. If it were my Mom, he wouldn’t be going, either, for all the reasons Hope outlined. Mom would NOT have been comfortable sending a child that young a multi-day trip and staying with people she doesn’t know well.

      To this I’d also add that the competitive pressure and stress will be higher at regionals, and at his age he may not be ready for that yet. I’m leery of pushing kids too hard competitively.

      Hope, I think you made the right call.

  • Reply Jen From Boston |

    Jenna wrote, “It’s an important lesson to learn that sometimes you are great and you CAN do something, but it costs money, so you can’t do it.”

    I just wanted to comment on that. In grade school through high school I was ALWAYS at the top of the class. I may not have been #1, but I was always in the top 5. And this includes attending prep schools and taking AP courses. So, yeah, I could have gone to an Ivy League college. I had gotten accepted into one, and wait-listed at another, but I decided instead to go to W&M, a public VA university. Even though I would be an out-of-state student it still cost less than the Ivies. For starters, they had a better financial aid package than the Ivy that accepted me (which I later found out didn’t do need-blind admissions and nickel and dimed their financial aid students). Second, even though I knew I was smart enough to get an Ivy League degree, I also knew that doing so would put me at risk of graduating with substantial student loans.

    I might have been able to afford those loans, but at 18 I couldn’t predict what my first job would be, nor could I predict what future financial aid packages would be. I picked the more affordable option.

    • Reply Jen From Boston |

      Not that W&M is shabby… But, really, if I couldn’t have afforded W&M I would have gone to UMass, which is much less prestigious, but much more affordable. My point is, just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it.

      • Reply debtor |

        hey hey..umass alum here…go easy (unless you mean boston or lowell – then go right ahead)

        • Reply Jen From Boston |

          LOL… It was UMass Amherst. UMass Boston doesn’t have dorms, and I wasn’t ready to live on my own in the big city at 18, so that was out. And I didn’t even know University of Lowell as it was called back then was public. But, yeah, now that I know more about UMass Amherst I kind think maybe I should have gone there after all. Then again, getting out of New England for four years was probably good for me.

          In the 90’s I worked at Sears in central CT. Whenever UConn had a playoff game we could wear UConn stuff and jeans. You’ll be glad to know that when UConn they played UMass I wore a Minuteman T-shirt 🙂

      • Reply scarr |

        My thoughts EXACTLY.

        It appears some people want to disagree with Hope no matter what she says.

  • Reply SAK |

    I think it was a good decision – primarily because *you* – who know all the facts and circumstances – made it. But also, it sounds like the fact they he even qualified for regionals was unexpected and so no pre-planning was done. He’s 9 – he’s improving – there will be other opportunities and you are committed to being prepared for them. I think sometimes the idea that you have to say yes to every opportunity is how many get in debt and stay there. IMHO And congrats to Little Gymnast!

  • Reply Lori |

    Your explanation makes a lot more sense now. If there is pretty much no chance he could place and you would have to pay for the coach, etc. then I probably would have said no too. I thought initially that he was at the same level as the other competitors and could have placed, etc.

  • Reply Anum @Current on Currency |

    I think you made a sound financial decision for your family and I applaud you for standing by it. He is only 9 after all, and he’ll definitely be getting a lot more chances to showcase his talents in the future. Happy for you!

  • Reply debtor |

    “I think sometimes the idea that you have to say yes to every opportunity is how many get in debt and stay there.”

    SAK you hit the nail on the head.

  • Reply Jen |


    I support you in this decision. You know what is best for your family. Don’t let those that are critical get to you. Life is about making hard decisions that are best for your family (not just one child). I am proud of you because it would have been so easy to say yes and to ignore your financial situation (what parent doesn’t want to give their child every opportunity?) keep up the good work!

So, what do you think ?