Debt and Disney?

DH = Dear Husband
DD3 = Dear Third Daughter
DD2 = Dear Second Daughter
DD1 = Dear First Daughter
            Every summer, DH goes to a city in the U.S. for a “get-away” with other franchise owners in his business. It’s an intensive series of workshops with a few special dinners and an awards night included. I accompanied him after his first and second years as a self-employed franchise owner, but since we started our journey out of debt, I have not joined him on his trips for years three and four. In February of this year, DH learned that the location for the 2014 get-away will be Orlando Florida. Hmmm . . .
            I remember being amused last year when a fellow teacher commented on the fact that she and her husband had not yet taken their daughters to Disney. Their daughters’ friends all seemed to have gone with their families, and she was struggling with a sense of having deprived her children. She was resentful too, knowing that the guilt was false and manufactured by marketers – but she still felt it. My daughters are much older than hers, and I tried to give her some reassurance. We’ve never taken our children to Disney World either. I cheered on her resolve not to spend exorbitantly just to keep up with the Jonses. I encouraged her not to cave to the brilliant pressure tactics of the ads.
            But when DH and I found out that his company would be holding its annual event in Orlando, we both started to think the same way. Let’s take the family to Disney World! DD3 has always wanted to go. She’ll be thrilled! It will be cheaper in July than during the winter. The hotel costs will be low because of DH’s business. Maybe the CEO will arrange for package deals to Disney for franchise owners bringing their families . . . In February, when we found out about the Orlando location, our debt-reduction was in high gear. DH’s business had been going strong for months, and we had been able to put almost $15,000 against our business debt in the previous two months alone. By July of 2014, we’ll have paid off the business debt, I thought at the time. We’ll be debt-free except for the mortgage. It will be a perfect time to celebrate with a family trip. When we told DD3 about our plans, it was like she was hearing angels sing. She was so happy! DD2 and DD1 were also keen to go, as long as the timing worked out for them – and it looked like it might.
            After February though, came March and April, and they were the slowest business months DH had had in a long time. We started to feel a panic. Was his business going to succeed? Through the late spring and summer, things picked up, but our roof needed to be replaced ($10,000) and our huge, rotting tree needed to be cut down ($2,000). To add insult to injury, our van needed a repair ($900) and our dog got kidney stones ($1,500). We avoided going back into debt to pay for these huge expenses, but we made no progress on debt-reduction for four months. It’s pretty clear now that we will not have the business debt paid off by next July. It’s pretty clear now that we shouldn’t make a family trip to Disney out of DH’s Orlando get-away. The best thing to do is to stay the course. DH will go on his own again. The girls and I will remain at home, and I’ll teach summer school.
            I pulled DD3 aside yesterday and told her that the Disney trip was not going to happen. Her eyes went wide in surprise and she asked why not, but as I explained everything, she just nodded her head. “It’s OK,” she said. “I understand.”
            Fortunately I’ve observed that children, no matter how old, are eager to be treated to a vacation by their parents. It will be a fine day for me when DH and I can gather up our offspring and head out to wherever it is we’ll go. But it won’t be Disney next year. 

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  1. I was quite touched by DD3’s accepting response to the news we wouldn’t be going to Disney. I believe that she has learned something about financial responsibility through this whole process. Thanks for commenting. (And I hope that you are gradually getting “unplunged” from debt : )

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