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Something’s Come Up


I’ve written this post several times in my head but have had a difficult time putting it down on paper. First, because it’s a difficult subject to discuss. And second, because while I have tried to be as open and honest with y’all as much as possible in many regards (you all know more about my financial life than just about anyone in my real life except my husband!), I don’t think it’s fair for me to bare all the details about other people’s business.

And so with that being said, I’ll tell you now…something has come up.

A very close family member is experiencing pretty debilitating health issues, the full extent of which has yet to be determined. This was a semi-gradual thing, as I started noticing warning signs and symptoms over a year ago. But in the past few months things have reached the next level.

I don’t know what will happen next in terms of this person’s health (though I hope for the best, my fear is that the incident that brought this all to light is really only the beginning of a long road ahead). But I can tell you, in terms of my finances, that I’ll be incurring some additional expenses I hadn’t previously anticipated.

To be more specific, hubs and I have decided that we are going to be making a trip this summer that was previously unanticipated. In the big scheme of things, this won’t be too costly. We went on a trip this past summer and again over Christmas time. So from that perspective, it falls directly in line with last year’s spending habits. It’s just the fact that we hadn’t thought about or planned to take a trip this summer so its money that would otherwise have gone directly toward debt (not to mention the no-income month of May).

I will also say, with the limited medical information I have at this time (hopefully I’ll learn more soon), I think this could have future financial implications as well. I won’t dive into “what ifs” until more is known, but there is a possibility of future trips as well (not just the one this summer).

Our time is so fleeting here on Earth. Remember back when we had 4 new bloggers and we were doing a weekly Q&A series? One of the questions asked, “What is the hardest sacrifice you’ve made to get out of debt?”

We never did get around to answering that question as a group, but even at that time I absolutely knew my answer: Not living near family. THAT is my biggest sacrifice.

When I was in graduate school my #1 goal in life was to graduate and immediately move back by family. When we had kids (during my last year of grad school), that feeling only intensified. But things change in life. Husband’s business was growing and by the time I graduated in 2013 we really weren’t in a financial position to pick up and move. It just didn’t make sense to leave husband’s income and move to a place where he had none. What would we do? Move back in with parents? That wasn’t a desirable option for either of us. The much more reasonable and undoubtedly financially sound decision was to stay put. Husband keeps working his job, I keep working mine, and we keep chipping away at our debt.

But it was a tough pill to swallow.

During 2009-2010 (our early years in Arizona, before we had kids), my grandfather suffered from a series of health issues. He had 3 strokes – each worse than the one before. He had to have multiple surgeries. He ended up living on-and-off in different rehabilitation clinics so he could regain strength and motor ability following each of his health set-backs. Being so far away during that time crushed me. Not only did I hate not being there for my Grandpa, but I hated not being there for everyone else, too. You see, a major health issue like this affects the ENTIRE family, not just the afflicted individual. My poor mother was killing herself to try to be at my grandfather’s beck and call (mind you, the woman still works a full-time job, too). My sister had to run errands, buy groceries, cook food, and help with his meds. My brother went over to mow the grass, check the mail, and walk the dog. And on and on and on. You know who didn’t do anything? ME.

Granted, not for lack of caring. Of course I’d like to share in the burden and help my family! But the distance is extremely difficult. I’d call and chat and try to lift spirits a bit. We visited a couple times a year. But I was unable to help in any of the day-to-day duties that ended up piled on my other family members’ shoulders. That type of guilt is a difficult thing to overcome.

And so here we are again. A different situation, granted – different person, different health issues, different treatment and prognosis.

This type of storm would be so much easier to weather if we were debt free. Absolutely! It’s a big motivator to get out of debt.

But at the same time, it’s a big reminder that life does not wait until after the debt is gone. You can’t just push “pause” and hope everything remains the same for multiple years until the debt-monster has been eradicated.

So I will try to take a balanced approach. Nothing in my debt plan of action will change – I will continue on as usual (paying $500/month toward my balance transfer loan, as much as possible toward my car loan, and all else will be minimums), but I may end up traveling a bit more than anticipated, which means we may have a little less to put toward debt during those months than during others.

All we can do at this time is wait and see what happens. Visit more doctors. Gather more information. Come up with a health plan-of-action. And hope for the best.

What’s the hardest sacrifice you’ve made to get out of debt?


  • Reply Walnut |

    First – prayers for your family. Second – it might be a good time to think about the cash cushion. Perhaps any payment you were going to make toward the car this month would be better put toward the cash cushion. It seems like there are a lot of things spinning that are beyond your control and the best bet might be to stockpile some cash, be it for travel, stop gap until the business picks up, whichever.

    The worst that can happen is that you don’t need the cash and you can use it to make a larger lump sum debt payment in August or September.

    • Reply Matt |

      Ashley- I hope for all the best with you and your family.

      I couldn’t agree more with you Walnut- I had thoughts similar to what Ashley is ACTUALLY going through a couple weeks ago that made me think hard about doing savings vs. debt payoff. I sided towards keeping the debt payoff going, but now I’m re-thinking it again.

  • Reply Jean |

    I’m sorry that you’re having to deal with this. It’s not fun. I’ve spent many hours on the road in the past couple of years helping take my dad to various dr appts (it’s 6 hrs round trip). My brother is the one that doesn’t live close (6 hrs away), although we’ve never talked about how he feels about not being able to help (my sister lives closer than I and also helps out). My husband would like to move to a more temperate climate at some point but I won’t leave my sister ‘saddled’ with having to be the sole caregiver for my parents. If anything, I would buy a duplex and move them in with me.

    I like Walnut’s suggestion of slowing down your debt repayment to build up your cash reserves.

    Prayers to your family for strength & wisdom for whatever lies ahead.

  • Reply Jen from Boston |

    Oh, Ashley, I’m so sorry your family is going through this. It’s scary and awful, and I hope for the best.

    I also think Walnut’s suggestion to slow down the debt repayment is a good idea. It’s more important that you spend time with your loved ones now than aggressively attacking your debt. Maybe halve the extra you’re paying towards and use that for travel?

  • Reply CJ |

    One suggestion for you is if you anticipate multiple trips to see/help the family member; contact the airlines once you know more and see if you can negotiate flight costs. I had a friend who traveled home from Chicago to Detroit every other weekend for a few months and an airline worked her out a deal that was around $50 a trip. They had to buy the flights ahead of time but then at least they knew their schedule and when to expect to be there (which helped the people at home too know when they would have additional family help too).

    • Reply Ashley |

      OMG, thank you so much for this comment! I’m not sure what to expect yet in terms of travel, but this is excellent information to have just-in-case.

  • Reply Judi |

    I’m sorry for your family members illness and will keep you all in my prayers. Sending good thoughts and love!

So, what do you think ?