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The Unfortunate Effects of Debt

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The Unfortunate Effects of Debt
As an eighth grader, my son is in his last year of middle school and has the opportunity to go on his class trip to the east coast. It's a school-sponsored, educational trip that takes students to see the sites in Washington, D.C., as well as a short excursion into New York City. Everyone we've talked to who has had a child go on the trip has given it spectacular reviews. Given the recent changes for the better in our family's financial state, we could probably afford to save up the money to send him on the trip.

The problem is, registration and payment for the trip needed to be done last year.

Regular payments would have had to have been made throughout his 7th grade school year. Vonnie and I crunched the numbers several times, but with our finances as they were then, we just couldn't find a way to afford the trip. We sadly told Tristan that he would not be able to go.

With those going on the trip now preparing to depart, I couldn't help but wonder. Could we truly not afford it, or did we just refuse to sacrifice to give our son a once in a lifetime trip? Could we have cut or eliminated cable or done without cell phones for a year? Could we have cut back on dining out or taken measures to reduce our utility bills as much as possible?

Should we have?

In the grand scheme of life, maybe it's not that big of a deal. In all, only about 10% of his class is actually going on the trip. Maybe I just feel like I'm being selfish by being the person that created our family's debt problem by overspending, telling him that we can't afford the trip, and then continuing to spend on "extras" each and every month.  If it were just affecting me, I could handle it.  I created the debt, and I can deal with the consequences of my actions. 

I hate that my debt affects my son.

We've promised the kids that when we complete our debt management plan, we will take a family trip out to the Washington, D.C. area. I've always wanted to see all the cool things in that area, and I think it would be a great family vacation. I don't know if to him that would make up for not being able to go on the trip with his classmates and friends though.

All I can hope is that he understands and forgives.

Related Links:

Being Reminded of my Financial Mistakes

Sacrificing to Become Debt Free

Can't Cut Anymore!

Travis Pizel, Debt Management Plan Customer with leading provider of debt relief, CareOne Services, Inc. Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt and A Straight Talk on Debt blogs. He is also a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he’s learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family. You can also read more from Travis on the Enemy of Debt blog, where he is a featured blogger. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

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  • Hey Travis.

    I understand your feelings, but the trip you take in a few years with your family will be MUCH cooler to your son. School trips sound great, if you don't mind eating every meal at McDonald's and being hurriedly shuffled in a line from one thing to the next, all on a set schedule. I realize, like I'm sure you do, that every payment I make is essentially throwing away a small family vacation, but we're so close to the end--think about what it will be like when we have that BACK in our budget! (Even though most of it will likely end up in savings with only a portion back in our budget...:)

    Kids are great about forgiving, and especially forgetting. Don't beat yourself up about it. :) What you're doing now will be SO beneficial to ALL of you in the long run, and 10 or 20 or 40 years from now nobody will remember anything about the school trip that wasn't.

    Take care.


  • Travis, you shouldn't be so hard on yourself or feel guilty about making the decision you did.  Sometimes, as parents, we have to practice tough love and this was one of those times.  You know you made the right decision financially and for the entire family.  Congratulations!

    My husband and I went through this same thing when our 2 daughters were in highschool - they were 2 years apart.  They both elected to take French and the French teacher sponsored a trip to France every year.  The cost of this trip was $1,500.00  per person.  Needless to say, neither of the girls took the trip because it was not affordable for us.  I remember that we sat with each girl and listened to their side of the story - ALL MY FRIENDS ARE GOING! and then we explained our side.  

    It is amazing to me that there are parents who can afford such a trip for their children.  Even if we could have afforded the trip, I don't feel we would have said yes.  France is far, far away and these kids were only Juniors in high school.  I don't care how many parents would be going to help out, in my mind, there is just too much that could happen.  Case in Point:  Natalie Holloway and Aruba.  

    You taught your son a life lesson and that is very important when you are raising children.  They need to know that, as parents, we do the very best we can for them and there are limits.  Kids need balance not permissiveness to help them become responsible adults.  Keep up the good work!

  • That's true, Mike - the class trip is very jam packed and rushed.  But it is with his class, which is a unique experience.  The thing that bugs me is that our debt made the decision for us - we didn't even really need to evaluate it on any other basis than money directly because of the bad choices we made  We will have a really awesome trip when we do go, and I hope to make some really great family memories. :)

    Thanks for the support, my friend.

  • Isn't it funny, Tiqiue, how in the beginning "everybody" is going.....but as the deadlines approach so very few end up actually going?  I asked Tristan about the trip recently and it turns out that not many of his friends are going.  Although, I think he still would have liked to have gone.  You're right in that we did make the right choice for our family as things are NOW.....but what would have been our decision had our situation been different?  I don't know the answer to that question.....

  • My dad left when I was 11. He went to Korea for the military and moved on without us. We went from a family with two incomes to of with one. He elected not to pay his child support or ANY of the family debt.  Since he was out of the country for the military the creditors could not go after him so they came after my mom. I am the youngest of 5 girls and my mom was a teacher. You can imagine how hard that must have been for my mom.  Well, I could not. As I watched the things I treasured get sold - our RV (my hiding place from the pain of the divorce), our boat, the VW Bug that was supposed to be mine someday and finally my house. I grew very resentful. The problem was that I did not believe we were really broke. My mom was always talking about how broke we were. She would say things like "I don't know how we are going to get groceries next week" but we always had plenty of money. My sisters got new track shoes at over a hundred per pair. My sister got a $500 letterman's jacket with a fully embroidered back. There were prom dresses at hundreds of dollars and my sister got two new (used) cars in a week because she totaled the first days after getting it. We went out all the time and there were plenty of extras. It seemed to me the things that were important to me got cut because they were not important to her. She never sat down with me and showed me that the RV I loved so much had a cost of $500 a month PLUS insurance or that the boat had a $300 a month payment and while the bug was paid for it needed a new engine. When I finally understood this, years later, all that resentment went away.

    We have gone through tough times as a family but I always make sure to get kids input and let them know how and why we are deciding the way we are. We have a family meeting where I tell them the basics and ask for their opinions and see if they have questions.  I make it clear the decision is not theirs to make. They should not feel responsible for our finances. Then we end the meeting and Daryl and I have our own meeting where we discuss things in depth and make the decisions. We then have another family meeting where we explain the decisions and again ask for opinions or questions. I have found them to be remarkably unselfish and understanding. Being a valued member of a family is so much more important to them than any trip - however cool. I also think they learn a lot about being financially honest and responsible when we include them. It is not something that is happening to them but something they are a part of.

    All that being said - It totally SUCKS when we cannot give our kids what we want. Especially when they are such good kids!

  • I know how you feel, Travis, we've had some of that same guilt with our kids b/c of our financial mistakes.  But the good news is that you're teaching them a tremendously valuable lesson by getting things on track now, and they'll thank you for that later.  And I agree with Mike: the DC trip will be much more fun with the family.  Thanks for a great post: it's helped us to stay on track in our debt freedom plan!

  • It does suck, kimmer5000, when we cannot give our kids what they want.....of course we don't want to spoil them,  but not being able to do something for them because of finances.....directly because of our bad choices, makes it even harder.  Sounds like your mom made some decisions based on priority when you were younger, and it seemed to have turned out pretty well - kudos to her!  Your story certainly lends itself to explaining why you keep your kids so involved in the family finances - I admire you for that, and really want to do a better job of involving my own kids.  BTW, that subject would make a GREAT blog post.  :)

  • That's my silver lining, Laurie - that our kids will have an excellent takeaway from the whole experience of seeing what the consequences of not managing your finances are....PLUS that it's never too late to take control of things, learn from your mistakes and recover.  I smile every time you comment on a post of mine, Laurie - having a connection to another Minnesota blogger is so awesome.  Looking forward to meeting you guys.  :)

  • Yeah, it's nice to know that there are other "crazy" people who choose to live here as well. :-).  Not sure quite what we're thinking, living in the frozen tundra, but it's nice to have other blogger friends who are just as crazy as us, LOL :-).

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