Debt and Disney? No (for a 2nd time)

  • 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.

Silver Lining

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

 

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26 CommentsLeave a comment

  • How mature of and understanding of your daughters. We had to adjust vacation plans often during our debt repayment. We often stayed local and did free things, one year we sent the kids to visit their grand parents while mom and dad stayed home and worked. The funny thing is we all survived. I’m sure Disney will be there in 2017 🙂 or whenever you have the means to make it happen.

  • I feel for you all, but what mature responses on ALL your parts lol. We have been dreaming of going to Arizona for about five years, and now that we are debt free we thought that this would be the year, but the Canadian dollar had other plans. Add to that the upheaval in the stock market and the rising cost of food, etc. and Arizona is slipping into the distant future. But, there is still beautiful Canada to explore, so all is not lost.

    • That’s too bad, Nancy! If anyone has earned a nice trip south during the winter, it’s you and your husband. But it sounds like you are “surfing” these larger circumstances well. Will you do some winter travel within Canada? or wait for the spring or summer? I hope you’ll let me know when the time comes. That will be a fine moment for a debt-free couple : )

  • Your girls will always love family vacations that you pay for (and even those that you don’t provided that you go cheap enough). Just look out if any of your girls have serious beaus, family vacations might involve grandkids in the not too distant future 🙂

    I didn’t realize how far the Canadian dollar had dropped. Last time I was in Canada, the Candian dollar was something like $.96 to 1USD, but that was in 2001 or 2002. I hope that the Canadian dollar recovers soon, both for your sake, and because a lot of tourism money depends on that relationship.

    • That’s the truth! So many Canadians travel south during the winter normally, but this year, I think there will be fewer going to sunny spots in the U.S. than there have been in a long time. For Americans, however, it’s a great time to travel to Canada. Some wonderful skiing, people! And my city has a skating venue that is 10 miles long there and back. Any takers?

      • My brother-in-law and all of his brothers are considering a Canadian ice fishing trip in early March… I’ll let them know that it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do.

        • Cool! I have never gone ice fishing. Tell them to make sure it’s good, solid ice! I’ve been hearing news of falling through around here lately – dogs mainly. (And then the danger of their owners running out to rescue them. Yikes!)

    • Thanks Jayson. The thing about wise decisions is that a decision really can be wise in a given context, but then when the context changes (like the value of the dollar taking a plunge) it becomes unwise. So then, it’s wise to decide to cancel or change. I’m glad your kids are open minded. (But I’m sorry to hear you’ve had “many times of late cancellations.”)

  • If it’s any consolation Florida in July is BRUTAL weather-wise. I get the disappointment though. I had to cancel going to fincon in New Orleans because of finances, then got to hear how it was the “best Fincon EVER!!!!” from everyone. But you and I both were smart and didn’t just go anyway because you had it in your mind that you already said yes. Too many people do that and get themselves in trouble financially later.

    • That is a consolation, actually. Believe it or not, our city – the coldest capital in the world – is a sauna in the summer, but I’m sure Orlando is even more so. We were going to hang out by the pool all day and then go to Disney in the evening 2 or 3 times. I feel relieved now that we’re not going. It was clearly the best decision to make. As for Fincon, I don’t think that finances are going to be an obstacle for you this year : )

  • What wonderful girls you’re raising up, Ruth! I hear you. We really wanted to take a vacation or two this year, but now we’re thinking to finish the debt payoff is a much smarter idea. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but one I think we’ll both be glad we did.

    • I sometimes try to convince myself that we can do it all – indulge in the treats AND pay off debt. It doesn’t work like that though. There really is a choice to make. And for a relatively short period of time (meaning several years) the choice for debt-freedom is a worthy one. You’re close now!

    • Thank you, Kalie. I find I can play tricks on myself with regards to what our “limits” are at times. With the low dollar, it became really obvious that this trip was outside those limits.

  • Oh, man, that’s terrible. When I was in Europe the dollar’s power really limited what I could do, but at least I got to go. Good on your girls for being so mature about it, and I hope it happens for you guys soon!

    • Femme, for an American who loves to travel, Canada is a good destination these days. Your dollar will go far here! (The thing is, it’s pretty cold just about now.)

    • Thanks James, but you know – I don’t think of us as being out of debt. We still have a six-figure mortgage to pay off. My husband has been to Florida many times (his parents were snowbirds) but I have never been. Some day . . .

  • Aww I”m so sorry that has happened! I know the heartache of wanting to give them something amazing and not being able to do so. My past is full of similar stories. The only silver lining – as you pointed out – is the character building…accepting that you can’t always have what you want. Little comfort though, I know. Be blessed.

    • It’s actually a lot of comfort : ) You’re right about wanting to give them something amazing . . . but maybe that whole notion has to be re-examined. Maybe simpler things are really just as amazing as the “amazing” things we’d like to give our kids. Thanks, Laura Beth. Although I’m sorry that you’ve been disappointed by similar situations, there is a reassurance in knowing an experience is shared.

  • Sometimes we have to just bite the bullet and change plans. We had planned a trip to Hawaii in the spring of 2012. Everything was in place but I then started a long desired encore career that I really loved and didn’t want to jeopardize the project I was on by leaving early in the process for a couple of weeks. This past fall we decided 2016 was our time to go and now this market collapse happens which caused us pause. Fortunately I held out cash dedicated to fund this trip so we are going to plan the trip. I hope you can all enjoy a vacation like your initial Orlando plans soon.

    • Thank you, Tommy. I’m glad you’re able to go on a trip this year – and I hope you enjoy every minute of it!

  • That exchange rate can cause all kinds of headaches! Sorry to hear about it. On the flip side, I’m glad that your daughters were willing to be patient. Not only does that say a lot for how you have raised them, but it also implies that they’ll do well financially themselves. Good work!

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