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Ask Dave

This Decision Requires a Grownup

Jessica and her husband are starting the Baby Steps. Jessica's husband has an old family friend who's having a Bat Mitzvah in Israel soon. Is this a trip they should try to make sure he goes on or skip?

QUESTION: Jessica in San Antonio and her husband are starting the Baby Steps. They’re both in new jobs and on a tight budget. Jessica’s husband has an old family friend who’s having a Bat Mitzvah in Israel soon. Is this a trip they should try to make sure he goes on or skip it due to the budget?

ANSWER: Let’s take two steps back. Number one, as a husband, he should make a mature decision that’s good for his family. He shouldn’t be like a little boy coming to his wife to get permission to go to this thing. He needs to grow up a notch in his decision-making here. We don’t need to put you in a position that you’re the only grownup and you have to put your foot down. That’s silly. He needs to look at this and say, “My family is broke. We’re trying to get ourselves under control. This is a very emotional and very important trip to me. How does it weigh out against … as a grownup?”

I know that his emotions want him to go. I get that. I’ve been in those kinds of situations myself where I really, really, really want to do something. I had a ski trip planned with eight guys—it was going to be ultra-cool, ultra-fun—the first week of January, but I had some stuff come up here at the company that I had to deal with. It broke my heart, but Dave got to be a grownup and stay home and get his work done. I had to make a difficult decision to cancel that trip. And it was difficult because it’s eight guys I love hanging out with, and I love skiing. It would’ve been a blast of a week. I’m still bitter.

You’ve got to look at it and go, “Okay, as a grown-up man, what’s the good thing to do here for my family?” In my case, it was for my company. It was something I had to deal with. I didn’t have a choice. I had to do it. It would’ve been plain irresponsible to go with my emotional little boy self and gone skiing.

You have a substantial amount of debt and a slightly below-average income. You just started this whole thing. I’m thinking this trip will cost $6,000. I don’t know how that fits when I look at it. It’s just a matter of saying, “Okay, as a grown man with a family, here’s my family situation. Can I go do something that tugs at my heartstrings that’s very important to me because these people are close to me and it’s a childhood friend?” Certainly, a trip to Israel is a wonderful thing. I loved going to Israel. But is that appropriate in these numbers? You’ve got to weigh that out. There is a weight here that I can’t feel and that maybe to an extent you don’t feel like he feels. But I’m going to call on him to be a man and not be a little boy and weigh that out. This is his connectivity. For me just looking at the numbers, it makes no sense whatsoever. If it was his daughter, maybe. I could feel the weight of it then.

You’ve got to make the call. You’ve got to decide, and I’m not one of these guys who says you have to live in a cave, collect lint, and only come out on triple-coupon Thursday, but part of this whole Total Money Makeover thing is making better decisions. There’s always a no. You have to learn to say no to yourself and to other people to win. There’s always a no. No’s are always harder than yeses until you have to pay for the yeses.

I can’t give you a definitive answer. I would say 75% weight no-go. That would be my answer. I’ll leave 25% open for you two to discuss it, but again, I’m going to have the discussion, and I would strongly suggest the two of you don’t have the discussion of you’re the wife who has to put her foot down. You don’t need to be the only grownup here. That’s dangerous stuff because then you’ll end up bitter later while you’re paying this thing off, and he’ll be just skipping along like life is great. He needs to make the decision with his wife as two grownups in this household—is this something we can afford?

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