- DH = Dear Husband
- DD1 = Dear First Daughter
- DD2 = Dear Second Daughter
- DD3 = Dear Third Daughter
Family vacation plans
We were all sitting at the restaurant table a few days before Christmas. It was DH’s annual “Thank you” to the family for accommodating his business in our home, and this year’s event was particularly special. “How would you all like to join me in Florida this July?” he asked. A whole-family meal at a restaurant is rare enough for us. A whole-family vacation of this magnitude has never happened.
DH goes on two annual business trips – one in the spring and one in July. For the past few years, the July location has been Orlando, and we have often wondered if we could piggy-back a family Disney experience onto that business trip. It would be a relatively frugal vacation – taking place in July when prices are lower, and having some expenses covered by the business. We actually made plans to go in 2013, but DH had a some slow business months, and we decided that “relatively frugal” wasn’t good enough. We were focused on debt-reduction, and that meant summer school teaching for me and flying solo for DH.
But this year was going to be different. We reached a milestone in our journey out of debt in June of 2015: Debt-free except for the mortgage! We would loosen up a bit and treat ourselves to some “wants” as opposed to just “needs” before buckling down for the mortgage-kill. In the fall and winter, we did some needed (to expand DH’s business space) renovations, and allowed ourselves to buy some wanted furniture. Another thing we had planned to treat ourselves to was this relatively frugal family trip to Florida in the summer.
Eyes around the restaurant table lit up as our daughters took in the suggestion. I could see their minds attempting to process the idea: Mom and Dad are going to pay the bill for a trip? What!? The concept was certainly welcome, and we made sure that each dughter would be able to arrange to take the time for it. DD1, who works out west, said that she’d be able make it. DD2, a university track athlete who has an intensive summer season, said that the timing worked for her. DD3 would book time off her part-time job – no problem there! She was the most excited about the proposed trip. She’s always wanted to go to Disney. So there was an added glow to the annual restaurant meal as we indulged in plans for one shared hotel room in Florida, with a hotel pool and Disney World close by.
The low Canadian dollar: a wake-up
The Christmas rush is always insane for DH’s business. It’s a welcome dose of insanity, but it takes its toll in terms of sleep deprivation and a complete absence of work-life balance. It’s all work-work-work. Still, the money is great, and we were looking forward to putting a healthy extra sum aside to beef up the emergency fund that we’re now saving. (According to Dave Ramsey’s steps to a total money makeover, after paying off all non-mortgage debt, it’s time to save up a big emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of income-loss.) We had some lingering renovation expenses to cover, as well as a vet bill and a car repair, so we knew the amount wouldn’t be astronomical – but we had every reason to expect it to be healthy.
At the beginning of January, DH reconciled his business accounts for the Christmas-rush months. His jaw dropped as he realized how emptied they were. The Canadian dollar has been in steep decline lately. Through 2013, our dollar was pretty well worth a U.S. dollar. A slow, expected decline warped into a sheer descent when the price of oil dropped in 2015. It’s still dropping, along with the value of our dollar. Yikes! For DH, it meant that all of the goods and services he had purchased for his business leading up to Christmas – most of which come from the U.S. – were that much more expensive. For every $1 in expenses, he’d paid $1.45. When those expenses are in the thousands . . . You get the idea. There was no extra to put towards our emergency fund. All extras were drained by the low Canadian dollar.
It was a sobering moment, and a reminder that anyone’s power over personal finances is limited. When international economic forces come into play, the only power we have is to respond to them – like surfers on the ocean, responding the waves over which they have no control. With this in-your-face wake-up to the impact of our low dollar, DH and I quickly realized that a family trip to Florida this year was just not a good idea.
For us, it was a minor disappointment, but I felt awful about telling our daughters. Yes, they’re all big girls – one in her teens and two in their twenties – but we’d all been so happy about the planned trip, and I hated the thought of going back on our word. “If it makes a difference, I don’t have to go,” said DD1, who was soon to fly back west. There was no way we would make the trip affordable by excluding her from it, but I couldn’t help but be moved by her gentle offer. What a sweet-heart! I explained the situation to DD2 in a text message. She had gone to Florida for training (on her own dime) Dec. 26, and she too had experienced the stark reality of a low Canadian dollar in the U.S. “I know. It’s brutal : (” She texted back. No complaint about the changed plans – just a first-hand understanding of the circumstances. DD2 has come such a long way in her acceptance of our situation and our goals for debt-freedom. DH was the one to tell DD3, the keenest of all of us to go to Disney (and facing a thwarted plan to go there for the second time). “How did she respond?” I asked him later. “She was fine,” he said. “I told her we’d do something else, and she just said OK.” In the time since, DD3 has had plenty of opportunity to complain about it to me. But she hasn’t.
I was expecting at least a sigh and an eye-roll. I was prepared for whining and complaint. But what our daughters’ responses tell me is that they are unspoiled. They’re accepting of our limitations, and gracious about our stymied plans. And that’s a silver lining I have to appreciate. It’s an indication of good character that bodes well for their future. It’s even better than Disney.
Have you ever had to cancel fun plans because of finances? Have you ever felt the impact of economic forces beyond your control on your own personal finances? Your comments are welcome.
*Image courtesy of HaloFan1993