Gee, Can I Please Walk Over a Bed of Hot Burning Coals?

I often find people who question why we go to the extreme budget cuts we do, and live the lifestyle we live, in order to better our situation.  For many, they just don’t find it worth the several years of extreme frugality that we’re “subjecting” ourselves to in order to reduce/eliminate our debt.

Don’t misunderstand: I can totally see where they’re coming from.  I too wonder some days why on earth we’re tormenting ourselves.  Especially when I look at the fact that we’re only at the beginning of what may be a very, very long time of counting pennies and eating ramen noodles.  Given our colossal amount of debt, we’re not just talking about a year or two of this type of  frugality.

There are days when it just seems like it would be so much easier to just keep making minimum payments, or even just file bankruptcy, so we can quickly alleviate the stress of our situation and enjoy a whole bunch more freedom from a financial standpoint.  There are days when we are so very discouraged that we seriously consider giving up, or on the flip side, moving to a house that’s barely above the state standards as an inhabitable residence just so we can escape the debt.

So, why don’t we just give in? One very important reason is because of the kids.  There are a number of things we feel we can teach them if we stand strong and face up to this mess now rather than later, or rather than not at all.  What are those things?

1.  Integrity.  The fact is that we created our own situation due to years of not being frugal and responsible money managers.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking help to get your finances in order, but we also don’t want to give the kids the impression that the mess we’ve created is not our responsibility, or that there’s not consequences to our actions, money or otherwise.

2.  A respect for money and how it’s handled.  The last thing we want for our kids is for them to fall into the same money mistake patterns that we’d fallen into.  We’re hoping that by making our debt-free journey an open book, they’ll see the struggles and the pain that debt causes and not repeat our mistakes, but instead choose to manage money wisely, which through this process we’re teaching them to do.

3.  The importance of not giving in to impulse desires and instant gratification.  There are SO many benefits to teaching your kids not to give in to the desire for instant gratification: selflessness, charity, discipline, and most of all, we’ll be teaching them that life can be just as happy without all of that “stuff” as it can with it.

4.  A better life in the future.  We long for a life when the kids are grown and have families of their own that we can be in a financial situation to not only help them out with big things like the first kid and the first house, but also to plan vacations and/or dinners out where we can treat the entire family.  We also don’t want them to be in a situation later where they have to add “supporting my parents” into their financial plan.  Travis over at Enemy of Debt spoke specifically about the relief that flooded over him when his dad sat him and his brother down and shared with them that he and their mom were well-equipped financially (due to good planning and keeping an eye on spending) to take care of themselves during their golden years.

Many people think that by going on a debt-slaying journey that they’ll be denying their kids the things that “all the other kids” get, or they worry about what others might think if they start an extreme journey out of debt, and those thoughts are just too painful for them to start their “getting out of debt journey” now.

But for us, the short term pain is well worth the long term gain.  Now that we’re on a budget and working diligently to get out of debt, I watch those around us who have chosen not to take the mountainous path to debt freedom, and the thing that sticks with me the most is that, at this point anyway, they have decided that they don’t want the pain, stress and darkness of debt to end.  But as for us, we just can’t live that way forever.  At least this way we know that there’s an end in sight from the torturous weight around your neck that debt is.

Yes, the road to debt free may be hard, both for you and your kids, if you start cutting out sports, vacations and other toys and gadgets.  But look at what you’ll be giving them in return: a life with a valuable lesson, a stable financial future, and a life free from the stress that extreme debt causes.  That kind of a gift is priceless.

48 comments

  1. Matt Becker says:

    I completely agree with you that you are giving your kids much more than if you simply gave in, declared bankruptcy, and got back to spending on all the “normal” things. You’re owning up to your mistakes, facing the consequences and following a plan to fix them. This example, as you say, is far more valuable than anything else you can give them. I wish more people had this mindset.

    • Laurie says:

      Me too, Matt. It saddens me so much to see others struggling over and over with money, when the fix, although tedious, is so very simple. Take the chance, people – it’s SO worth it!

  2. You just keep rocking it like you do Laurie. The problem is many can’t see long term gains. They don’t do well with it because we have been ingrained with instant gratification. Frugality and budgeting doesn’t really provide for that all that much. When you are in debt, your focus is on one thing and that is ridding yourself of the debt. Don’t worry if people question your lifestyle because it is yours.

    • Laurie says:

      Grayson, that really helps, thank you. We sure do feel like we’re alone on a boat some days here, that’s for sure. But I know that when we cross the finish line, we’ll be glad we sailed. 🙂

  3. When I was growing up my parents really skimped on a lot of things – buying a house below what they could afford, driving cars for 15+ years, never taking many vacations, etc. This way they could afford to splurge on my education and save for their retirement, both of which are incredible gifts that I’ll always be thankful for.

    • Laurie says:

      It’s so wonderful to hear a story like that, WHB. Thanks for sharing how you are reaping the results of financially responsible parents. It’s a great encourager for us, and many others too, I’m sure!

  4. Great post Laurie & I echo Grayson’s sentiment. Let the people question you, but you are living life in light of what you want…what you want your future to look like. Keep it up Laurie – you & Rick are doing great!

  5. Mackenzie says:

    Great post Laurie!!

    We are trying to get rid of our consumer debt as well, and it’s a hard road but it’s gotta be done. It also is a money lesson I can teach my daughter when she’s older.

  6. Sicorra says:

    I think you guys are doing a great job Laurie and you have chosen to pay off your debt rather than ignore it for the right reasons. People will always question other people’s decisions, but really they should just be minding their own business.

    As a kid my parents, specifically my father, was very frugal, almost cheap. Some people are just naturally that way. Anyways, my parents always lived in the same small house they had built in the 50’s and they kept it in excellent shape. The drove the same cars for 12 years at a time and rarely took an elaborate vacation or bought bit ticket items. They were saving and investing in their retirement. At the same time my mom had a relative that was wealthy and flaunted her money big time, while talking down to my mom. Today that relative is broke because she never saved a dime. Which person do you and I want to be? 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Wonderful and poignant story, Sicorra. Thank you SO much for sharing it. I for one will be glad to be standing with you on the side of financially secure, due to the decisions we are making today.

  7. What a great post Laurie. I really don’t think that continuing to add to our debts just to give our kids everything they might want will do them any favours in the long run. Kids need to be brought up in a life of reality or they’ll expect way too much in the future and ‘real life’ might just seem like a real let down. Thanks so much for the mention as well, I really appreciate it.

    • Laurie says:

      SO true, MR. I’d rather have them go into adulthood with a real expectation of what life will be like financially rather than a lie.

  8. A beautiful post, Laurie. I commend you and Rick for not only wanting to set a good example for your children but also create a financially stable life for them and yourself. Many parents want this as well, but are unaware their actions are doing the opposite. So don’t let naysayers bring you down! Today might be tough, but every day it gets a bit easier and the debt gets a little bit lighter.

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks so much , Shannon. Yes, I’m looking forward to a year or so from now, when we can really see a huge dent in the numbers. I know it’ll happen sooner than we think. 🙂

  9. Sheila says:

    You are teaching your kids so many very good lessons – not only the financial ones, but how to set, stick with, and achieve hard goals. I admire you for doing this! You will not regret it. We made a big switch after 9/11, when as an IT person my job became very unstable, although thankfully I never lost my job. We have never regretted changing our way of life, and love not having to lie awake at night worrying about finances. Another blogger that has made similar choices as you are, although for slightly different reasons, is the Peaceful Mom. Reading her site may offer you some encouragement as well, especially her series about living on $28,000/year.

    • Laurie says:

      Sheila, thank you SO much for sharing your story. And thanks for sharing the blog too – I can’t wait to check it out!! Have a wonderful day, friend!

  10. I didn’t know people criticized you for being so “extreme” because I get a lot of comments for not being “extreme” enough in cutting back my lifestyle lol. All that doesn’t matter though, because personal finance is personal and everyone does what works for them!You guys are teaching your children this wonderful life lesson and they may not appreciate it as much now but they will for sure appreciate it as young adults 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Oh, that’s funny! I wouldn’t say criticize so much as they just think we’re off our rockers. :-). But I’d rather be crazy and debt free than “sane” and in debt, LOL.

  11. In 30 years, your kids won’t remember stuff they did or didn’t have, but they will remember time you spent together. I think you are giving them lots of great life experiences with the garden and animals. It’s amazing that your daughter has already published books! They will respect you for making the hard decisions. My parents were VERY strict and had very high standards, which drove me crazy as a kid, but I certainly appreciate it now and realize how hard it must have been to do the right thing instead of what was popular. I think your kids will see that too.

    • Laurie says:

      Kim, that is so great to hear. I think they really do sometimes get a little annoyed with us for the mess we’ve made, but I’m hoping they’ll respect us for cleaning it up ourselves. Thanks so much for your encouraging words, Kim – I appreciate it so much. 🙂

  12. CF says:

    I agree – the long term benefits are far more important than the short term discomfort. Teaching them to slow down and appreciate what they have, rather than needing to be instantly satisfied with stuff, is a great lesson that they’ll carry with them as they grow older.

    • Laurie says:

      Yes, Holly, I think it will be too. No matter how long the journey ahead may be, I think continuing to stomach the debt would be worse.

  13. These are all great points. Doing this for your children is a great reason, and probably a good motivator, to get out of debt. You just have to make sure to stick to the plan, stay motivated, and celebrate the small victories!

    • Laurie says:

      We’re working on it. The kids definitely help. On those days when we feel like giving up, just one look at their adorable faces and we’ve got our fight back. 🙂

  14. Jim says:

    Soooo True Laurie, you are certainly setting a great example for your kids, just the fact that you talk about it with them is exceptional. We never spoke about money when I was growing up, so as a result I didn’t understand it very well. I think this will give your kids great perspective and appreciation for you and the great lesson you taught them! Keep it up.

  15. CashRebel says:

    I love that integrity is one of your reasons. Getting out pf debt sounds difficult, but id you can accomplish that, what can’t you accomplish?

    • Laurie says:

      Excellent point, Cash Rebel. Yes, we’re super dedicated to setting a good example for the kids. Whether good or bad, kids often think “Well, mom and dad did it, so it must be ok.”.

  16. I think you are taking a great path and I think your kids will learn a really important life lesson from the both of you so long as you involve them in it and teach them the reasons behind your frugal lifestyle choices.

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, Glen. Yes, we are being a total open book with the kids. It helps us to be accountable, you know? And it teaches them to make good choices too. Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂

  17. It’s definitely a tough thing to go through at times, but you are changing your family tree with what you’re doing. Your kids will have a great example for their adulthood that will make a huge difference in their life!

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, Jason. I know in my heart that if we just muddle through these days, we’ll be glad we stuck to the path. 🙂

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  19. I have so much respect for you guys for working your way through the debt and not taking the easy way out. Paying off debt is never easy and is all about sacrifices. You guys are sacrificing now to be financial rock stars later. Well worth it in my opinion!

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks so much for you encouragement, KK. It’s so incredibly helpful. I can’t wait till the rock star stage. 🙂

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