When a Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity Trumps Debt Payoff
Michelle is committed to paying down her debt, but a chance to attend the Democratic National Convention puts a kink in her plans.
If someone tells you that large debt payoffs can be simple if you just “follow these three easy steps,” you have my permission to run for the hills (or at least laugh in the person’s face). Because here’s the honest truth for you: Paying off any kind of debt is one of the most difficult things you will ever do in life.
If debt repayment were as simple as reading a book, taking a course, or paying for an expert to handle our financials, a whopping eight in 10 Americans wouldn’t have debt weighing them down, according to a 2015 Pew Charitable Trusts study.
Part of the reason it’s so hard to stay straight on that path to killing your debt is because that path doesn’t exist. Let me give you an example:
In March, we got a cash windfall from a tax refund and resisted going out for an entire month. But in April, we dealt with a damaged car and took a planned vacation. One step forward, two steps back. Two steps forward, one step back.
But then May happened, and we relearned just how easy it is to stray from our debt-payoff goals.
Back in early April, I was selected to be a state delegate and attend Wyoming’s Democratic Convention. It was amazing! I was inspired, motivated, and driven. I even made some new, like-minded friends and potentially picked up a client for my freelance writing business.
However, as I was climbing socially and professionally, I fell back a little with my debt payment goals.
The convention was still a moderately expensive trip with food, gas, hotel stays, and a babysitter for the weekend I was gone. And while I diligently set aside savings from extra jobs I took on to cover costs, it still meant a reduction to our debt payoff to the tune of about $400.
It seemed to both my husband and me that getting ahead in the areas of our lives that meant the most to us came at the cost of spending some money. But making those decisions to let go of our tight grip on our hard-earned dollars was one of the hardest decisions we have had to make as debt payoff-ers.
But our May debt payoff recap doesn’t exactly stop there. At that same convention, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.
This is an event you can’t even buy tickets to. It’s harder to get into than “Hamilton,” and more exclusive than a secret Kanye show.
And as someone who is politically minded and aspires to run for office, it is a dream come true to be handed credentials and a spot to attend.
That said, I think you can guess what the flip side of this is.
Attending conventions, although you are going in service of and representing your state, is 100 percent self-funded — an estimated $4,000 to $5,000 for the four-day event.
Yes, you read that right. Much of that price is the cost of hotels, airfare, and food — all of which is insanely pricey because of the demand of the convention. Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways to cut costs, either, because of strict security rules that dictate where you stay and eat.
I had about five minutes to think it through — just enough time to call my husband and desperately go through the scenario with him. Taking this opportunity would mean putting our debt payoff plans on hold while I save for the trip. It would also mean giving up our family vacation in September that we were about to book and tapping into a small holidays/gift savings account.
But as my dad said, “It’s not every day you get the chance to do the thing you most want in life. You better take the good chances when they come to you. It’s not that hard to see that.”
With that in mind, we are in a debt-payoff freeze starting at the end of May and going through July.
We still managed to pay down $457 for May, bringing us to a total of $12,521 toward our goal of $20,001 by the end of the year. We still have $7,480 to go for 2016. Check in next month, when I’ll be hustling my butt off to make my expensive dreams a reality while keeping our finances in check.