We’ve been learning some hard lessons here at the Faulk house.
If you know us, you know that we’re fairly conservative, especially when it comes to finances. We don’t use credit cards. We only buy pre-owned cars, and we pay for them in cash. We pay extra towards our mortgage (our only debt) than our monthly payment requires. Both of our girls have had college funds from the moment they were born. And we don’t spend more than Wes makes, ever.
All was good and well until we started saving up for our next vacation. Walt Disney World is affordable. It’s REALLY affordable when your children are one and two and you can go in the middle of the off-season because they don’t go to school — which is what we did back in 2009. As we began to plan and crunch numbers for a 2011 trip, we discovered something. WDW is a bit more expensive when both of your children are ticketed and on dining plans and when they can only go during the summer because one of them is in school. Still, though, we were confident that we would have no problem saving the money…
… but is that the best use of that money? Our car is great, but it’s not going to last forever. We can go to Disney every year for the next four years (at which point our car will be seven years old and reaching a questionable mileage), OR we can choose vacation options that are a bit less expensive, saving money in the process to pay for a newer pre-owned vehicle in cash, saving more of Wes’s paycheck for retirement investments, saving more for college, and saving more to pay off the mortgage. It is clearly wiser, at this point in our lives, to give up the dream of annual visits to WDW. There was no celebrating in the Faulk house when we came to this conclusion. (The girls are just as excited about a vacation to the Tulsa Zoo and Blue Bell factory in Broken Arrow as they were about WDW, to be honest with you. It was the two older Faulk kids who were sad about the change of plans!)
I’ve been reading through Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, and I’m more and more convinced as I read that we’re on the right track. I’ve recommended the book to several people without actually reading it myself (which is never a smart idea), and now that I’m reading it, I’m seeing that we’ve done some of the steps out of order. (I won’t get into it too much because I plan on reviewing the book in July.) Now that we’re reading the book, Wes and I are focused on building up our emergency fund to cover six months of expenses, rather than just the two months we have set aside now. It’s going to be hard work, cutting expenses in all areas, but we thought we were disciplined enough for the task.
Until the camp sheets, that is.
Because we have no twin beds in our house, Wes and I have each had to buy a set of “camp sheets” for ourselves to use when we go to children’s camp and youth camp. Wes bought a set of dinosaur sheets two years ago (which are deemed cool by pretty much all the kids), and I bought a set of pink sheets that matched a blanket we already own. Ana is going with us to youth camp this year, so we took her to the store and let her pick out her own camp sheets. This was a big deal to her, and within seconds of perusing the aisles, she had zeroed in on a set of Toy Story sheets. They were about eight dollars more expensive than the kind of sheets we have but were actually going to end up being twenty-four dollars more expensive since we were going to have to buy the matching blanket to go with them. What’s twenty-four dollars in the grand scheme of things, you say? What difference did twenty-four dollars make when we had the money anyway?
We spent a good fifteen minutes on the sheet aisle discussing this back and forth. Maybe we’re crazy, but we felt like this was a good test of how well we were going to manage our finances, especially in light of all we’ve been reading and discussing.
In the end, I showed Ana three different colors of the same type of sheets I have, all three of which matched two blankets she already owns. Once she heard she could take her monkey blanket to youth camp (thank you, Aunt Megan, for the monkey blanket that Ana loves more than she loves us!), she put the Toy Story sheets up and picked the blue set, telling me, “This will be PERFECT with my monkey blanket!” Twenty-four hard, difficult dollars saved. And our sad, sad lack of discipline revealed.
We’re better at spending money than saving it. But I’m hopeful that big choices (like vacation plans) and small choices (like camp sheets) will pave the road to a more financially secure future, where our girls can go to college without student loans, we can face old age without money concerns, and others can benefit from receiving what God has done with the money He’s given to us.
All that said, good financial decisions aren’t easy to make. But we’re learning.
How about you? What good but difficult financial decisions have you made lately? Please let us know that we’re not alone on this road!