The infamous bride doll. A symbol to keep or sell?
- DD2 = Dear Second Daughter
- DH = Dear Husband
- DD3 = Dear Third Daughter
Over the last two months, I’ve referred a few times to a significant new expense that we would soon be taking on. I clearly didn’t want to give the details about it though, and I’d follow up the reference with a coy “more on that later”. Well, “later” has come.
DD2 is going to start living with 3 housemates in a rented apartment downtown. She’s moving out today. DH and I are going to pay for her rent, utilities, and food. I hear a stern frugal voice asking, “What are you doing THAT for? How does that make sense when you’ve still got six figures in mortgage debt to pay off?”
I’ll answer that voice. (Is it yours? Or is it mine?)
Suburban commuting blues
We live in a west-of-city suburb that is a significant distance (about 30 km – 18.5 miles) from the downtown area where DD2’s university is located. Buses from here to there are not bad, but DD2 has more than her studies going on. She’s a varsity athlete, and her training schedule is intense. It requires her to get to facilities in an east-of-city suburb and in the south-east end of the city. In the winter, when snow storms slow traffic down, it can take her as long as two hours for a one-way trip to her training.
She has wanted to live downtown since she finished high school 3 years ago. But at that time, we were still new to our journey out of debt, and she was, frankly, a disaster with money. She would have to stay home and stick out the hours of commuting by bus. There would be stress for her and for the household as a result, but we’ve done it.
Our changing financial landscape
Fast forward to today, and the landscape has changed. In June, we reached an amazing milestone in our trek towards debt-freedom: We finished paying off all $102,000 of our consumer and business debts – not to mention $29,000 in regular mortgage payments. That milestone was doubly significant because it meant that we had passed the half way mark for our total debt. Our original grand total of $257,000 was down to a $128,000 mortgage. And as for DD2 – “a disaster with money”? She has also changed. DD2 gave me permission to write a two-part series about her money-smarts transformation a couple of months ago over at Fruclassity. Check it out to get a sense of what we’ve dealt with and done. She is ready to take on the responsibilities involved in living away from home.
High stress and prayer
Our decision for the move came after an episode of stress that was intense enough to frustrate me to an extent I can’t put into words and to bring DH to his knees in prayer. (Who dealt better with that one?) His suggestion of supporting DD2 in moving out shocked me. Was this DH? The tough parent? The brick wall? The one who drew the hard lines? There was nothing hard in his manner as he explained his idea. “It’s the best thing for [DD2],” he said simply. I brought up the negative impact it would have on our debt-repayment plans. “Somehow, I just think it’s all going to work out,” he said. Yes – DH. The logical, careful, rational one.
The shell-shocked look on DD2’s face when we offered the suggestion is not one I’ll forget soon. “How can you do that when you still have your debt?” she was considerate enough to ask. We assured her that it would all work out for us and that we were doing what we thought was best for her. I managed to convey more confidence in the plan than I felt. In truth, I was torn.
DD2 has been in a state of incredulous happiness leading up to today. Such a weight lifted! All of those hours on the bus – gone! Going to school, and going to her training, and going to competitions will now be so much easier! And she’s eager to set up her own place. She’s been preparing. She sold her hedgehog on E-Bay. She gave DD3 a bunch of her clothes (which is just fine by DD3). She’s thrown out bags of garbage. She’s given me items to sell at a garage sale. She’s started looking for part-time work downtown. (Her current job is near us.) She’s doing everything I could hope she would do.
My angst and Laurie’s (aka The Frugal Farmer’s) support
“How are you doing?” asked Laurie, with whom I co-host Fruclassity, in an e-mail at that time. I told her how unsettled I felt about our decision and how inconsistent it seemed with our goals to become debt-free. Laurie, not one to be reserved in expressing her faith, responded with a depth of true concern to my angst. She said that although I feared our plan would throw us off “by thwarting your financial efforts . . . in reality, what it’s going to do is make things better than ever, financially and otherwise. Sometimes God’s plans don’t make sense to us b/c we can’t see the long-term big picture . . . All of this doesn’t make sense to you now but if you’ll get on board attitude-wise . . . it has the potential to bless your family immensely in the long run. This is what I feel in my spirit.”
My husband believed in this plan. My daughter was thrilled by it. My Fruclassity blogging partner confirmed it. I got on board for real.
On a strictly rational basis, let’s take a look at what this move is going to entail:
First of all, DH figures that with what we will save in food, car insurance for DD2, gas, and utilities, we will end up saving about $200 per month on our own homefront.
Furthermore, let’s consider interest payments. Although our interest rates have been very low, they’ve still added up. 3 years ago, we were paying:
- $40 interest per month on Debt #1
- $40 interest per month on Debt #2
- $200 interest per month on Debt #3
- $380 interest per month on the mortgage
That’s a grand total of $660 per month in interest payments on our debts. (Ouch!) Now, on the other hand, we’re paying less than half of that amount in interest on our mortgage – $300 per month. Based on our changed interest payments alone, we are in a much better position to afford the expense of our daughter’s living downtown now than we were only a couple of years ago.
Another furthermore, DH has had his best business year to date. (His year ends August 31.) “My gross revenues this year are higher than the gross income of my highest paid year in high-tech,” he told me recently. What a sense of redemption that news brought! For well over a decade, we’ve accepted a significantly lower income than we earned in those high-tech boom days. Gross revenues aren’t quite the same as a gross income. Factor in expenses, and the resulting take-home pay is not equivalent. But it’s very encouraging nonetheless. So in terms of income too, we are in a better position to take on this kind of expense.
And for a last furthermore, we have earned more income in the two months since we made that decision than we EVER have before in a two month period. DH’s business went ballistic in June. It was his highest earning month in six years of business. A whopping 35% higher than his second highest month. And July has been lucrative too because of continued strong business combined with my summer school earnings. If we were to put all excess income over these last two months in a mattress, we’d be able to draw from it enough to pay for DD2’s new living situation for the two years we have offered her.
What about that doll?
When DD2 cleaned out her room a couple of days ago, I noticed the bride doll still on her dresser. “Are you going to take this with you?” I asked her. “No,” she said. “We can just put it at the end of the driveway. Someone will take it.” I took it, saying I would sell it at that garage sale I keep saying I’m going to have.
But maybe I should keep it. You see, that doll has symbolic value. It represents everything I did wrong as a parent in terms of teaching money wisdom to DD2. I bought it when she was 5 years old and we were at the store buying a birthday present for her friend. After selecting a porcelain doll for Erin, DD2 wailed. She wanted one too! She wanted the bride doll! On her back, legs kicking, screaming at the top of her lungs . . . and me with an infant DD3 attached in a sling. Ugh! I bought that doll because DD2 raised a fuss, and she learned her lesson well. She raised plenty of fusses over the years. Until DH and I got on the same page and set the boundaries necessary for our debt-repayment to go into high gear. So hard! So worth it. But what to do with the doll? Keep it as a symbol of DD2’s progress? Sell it as a symbolic good riddance to the bad old days?
I was the one who really needed to be firm with those boundaries. And two months ago, I was the one who needed to be convinced that we were in a position to extend a little grace. And I am convinced. The proof is abundant. DH had it right. “Somehow” it’s all working out.
Have you ever struggled with a decision to spend as you’ve tried to make your way out of debt or towards financial freedom? Do you think we’re making the right move? What should I do with that doll?
At Fruclassity: Time Travel Therapy for Debtors. A post about how the yuppy phenomenon of the ’80s negatively impacted my money habits.