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Ask Dave

Vacation Isn't a Deal Breaker

Liz and her husband have two kids they've never been able to take on vacation. Liz wants to know if it would be okay to take them. Dave thinks they can use this as a teachable moment.

QUESTION: Liz in Pittsburgh and her husband have two kids they’ve never been able to take on vacation. They’re hoping to have half of their debt paid off this year. The kids are starting to ask when they’re going to go on vacation. Liz wants to know if it would be okay to take them. Dave thinks they can use this as a teachable moment.

ANSWER: They’re going to have to have counseling if they go on vacation at 16? No, I don’t think so. You know what I think? I think you guys are tired. I think you’ve been fighting a bear with a switch for a long time. I know that feeling. You get emotionally tired. Add to the fact that you’ve got to manage teenagers in the middle of it … Lord Jesus help us. They’re good. They’re teenagers though. I had really good teenagers, too, and that’s almost an oxymoron, but I really did. They do add drama to your life. And they are more susceptible at 14 to peer pressure and caring that the neighbor went on vacation and they haven’t than they are at 6. At 6, they don’t care. But they start to notice those things at a whole different level because they start to be defined.

You can do whatever you want to do, Liz. You guys are on track. You’re doing a really good job. You’ve turned the corner. You’ve got your incomes up. You’re attacking this. You’re making traction. You go on a $2,000 vacation and you drive somewhere to the beach and you drive back and you do all that, it’s probably not going to offset your $100,000 debt deal that much, so it’s probably not the end of the world. However, I probably wouldn’t do it.

You’ve got to make that decision. I’m not going to be mad at you if you do. The reason I wouldn’t is I probably would use it as an opportunity for a teachable moment with the teenagers. Just say, “Hey, we’re on track to hit a goal. When we hit that goal, we’re not going to go on some little half-vacation. We’re going to go on this great big nice cruise or whatever it is, and we’re all going to pick it out together. We’re going to set that as our two-year goal, and we’re all going to work together to hit that goal.” That could change their lives because they could remember that for the rest of their lives.

I never saw the ocean until I was 14. I really don’t feel deprived. I don’t feel like my childhood was bad. We were not poor people. We were middle-class people. People didn’t travel back in the dinosaur ages like they do now. I never rode on an airplane until I was about that age. Now I wish I didn’t have to. I’m okay with that. It wasn’t because my parents were bad parents or because they did a bad job managing money. It wasn’t any of that. It was just the way things were then. Of course, I didn’t live in a neighborhood where everybody did it and I was the only one not, so that does make a difference.

I’m okay with it either way. That’s my discussion for you. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, and I think it’s okay for you to look at your husband and go, “You know, I’m emotionally tired, and it’s part of the reason that I want to do this vacation too.” That’s an okay thing to say out loud. “I want to do something for our family in the middle of this.” Y’all can talk it through. I think there are some advantages both ways that are valid.

It’s not an open-and-shut thing. Conceptually, no. You work your debt snowball and don’t go on vacation. You bear down. With the numbers you’re giving me, it’s not a deal breaker. If you were wanting to go on vacation this month and you were going to be debt-free by June, I’d tell you to shut up your whining and do it until June. But this is a two-year program and you guys are making huge traction and you’ve turned the corner. There are a lot of variables in my fudging here, if you will. If you’ve got a four-year plan, that makes it even more reasonable to take $2,000 and go do something. You’ve just got to measure this out and think it through because you don’t want them to leave home and miss that opportunity to a degree. The interesting thing is it really doesn’t matter much. When they’re 30 years old, it’s not what they’re going to tell the therapist on the couch. It’s just not going to come up.

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