On Debt … and Tough Decisions

Tomorrow is the day we were supposed to leave for our road trip to Georgia. Today was supposed to be spent packing, cleaning, getting ready. But instead, I am standing in my kitchen wearing one child on the back and one on the front because they both refuse to ‘effing nap. In all likelihood, they’d probably be refusing to nap even if we were leaving tomorrow, but I probably wouldn’t care as much – hoping they’d be so exhausted they’d sleep a good chunk of driving time in the car. But as it is now, I’m totally pissed. They haven’t been going to bed until 10 or later, and when I let them go without a nap they can’t make it past 5pm without a total meltdown. So here I stand – holding 55+ pounds of kid, praying – FORTHELOVEOFGOD – that they pass out and stay there a while.

Because ya’ll .. I’m about to lose my mind. And my back.

So yeah – about that trip.

A couple of weeks ago I read this book and it totally inspired me to do whatever it takes to pay off the $100+K in student loans I racked up from undergrad and law school. So we started looking seriously at all our upcoming expenses, trying to determine where we could cut corners. And we realized that our upcoming trip was one of the most expensive things we had looming over us.

Someone told me once that it was always cheaper to drive than it is to fly. So months ago, when we started adding up rental car costs for our two-week long trip, we cancelled our existing flights and decided we would make a family vacation road trip out of it. Even though our tickets were nonrefundable, we wouldn’t lose the money – we could always use it in the future. Trying to be budget-saavy and not break the bank, we began searching for friends who would let us crash for a night or two on the way and planning out free activities along the 1100 mile route. We thought we could drive a couple hours then stop and let the girls run around for an hour or so, then drive a few more hours.

Then we started really planning the trip. We started looking at the map, looking at where our people lived, where we could stay for free, how long it would take us, and just how much money it would cost to drive there and back. Between gas, hotels, and food, we were looking at spending no less than $2500. And that’s on the relatively cheap side of things. We would be away from home for 16 days … and although we’d be staying with some friends for 5 of those days, and in a cabin for 4 more, the rest would be completely on the go. I was trying to plan meals using my rice cooker …. it was NOT shaping up to be a vacation. Now don’t get me wrong – I think had we not basically been living on the go the last 6 months, that I might be all excited about road tripping for 16 days and being as creative as possible about how to not spend money. But after the life we’ve lived the last 6 months – I just want to go somewhere and be for a while.

So we talked about it. Because our plane tickets and our cabin were already paid for, the only extra expense we would have by flying would be food and a rental car. If we kept the trip at our existing 2-week time-frame, we were still looking at spending a good chunk of change. The only way we could possibly do this trip without exceeding our limited cash budget was to shorten it to the time frame surrounding our family reunion. That was the whole reason for the trip in the first place. So we made the very difficult, and yet only responsible, decision to shorten our trip from 16 days on the road to 5.

Sometimes responsible adulting means you don’t get to do the things you really want to do. And in a lot of ways, that sucks. It means we won’t get to see many of our people – because we will only be in Atlanta for one night. It means we won’t get to do any of the things we said we would go back and do … no Botanical Gardens, no Zoo, no High Museum of Art, no Piedmont Pool. It means we won’t get to get adjusted by our favorite chiropractor of all time.

But we will get to see a few of our people, we will get to see some family (for what promises to be one heck-of-an-awesome reunion), and we will get a tiny little vacation in the mountains of Georgia. We will get to cook most of our meals – except when we eat at Mellow Mushroom and Willy’s … and maybe a couple other favorite restaurants we’ve been planning on for months. And even though it won’t be the trip we originally hoped for, our life back home won’t be stifled because of the debt we accrued while on our trip.

And in a small way, we are beginning to leave a new legacy for our children. A legacy of hope and freedom and responsibility that will serve them well for all of their lives.

Photo Credit

Crystal Rowe

wife to D, mama to A & E, sister, daughter, niece, aunt, follower of Christ, writer, book lover, beloved child of God