This past weekend continued what has been a very active winter travel season for us. Last summer after having paid off my wife’s student loan and entering a debt free marriage we set out to start having a bit more fun with our money. Specifically this includes budgeting more for travel every year.
In December we flew out to Hawaii and spent time on Oahu and Kauai. A few weeks ago we were in lovely Charleston, South Carolina and upcoming we will be in Arkansas for a friends’ wedding. And this past weekend we kept on rolling with a quick weekend getaway to Southern California. Although unlike the others this trip was not specifically for leisure. Instead we went out to celebrate my niece’s 1st birthday party. You see, in our first few years of fighting the debt monster we hunkered down and squeezed every penny we could out of our budget to get rid of debt from our lives forever. That included scaling down our travel plans during that time and being pretty much restricted to the Mid-West and its surrounding areas for small in price getaways.
Now that we are on the other side it is jaw dropping how easy it is to plan a trip and take it when you owe no one else a single penny. So this trip to So Cal was the first time I met my niece. And she did not disappoint. Without question she is adorable and knows exactly how to make her uncle’s heart melt. For her birthday my wife gave me free range on picking the gifts, so with cash in hand from our give envelope I purchased 3 items: a teddy bear dressed in a Chicago hoodie, a Blackhawks bib and a one-sie that reads, “I love Chicago.” When my niece (with the help of her mom) opened the bear she took one look at it, touched it with her little hands, and threw her arms around it, hugging it as if it were a long lost friend and she didn’t let go of the bear for the rest of the party. I was unbelievably moved, not so much that I got her a “thing,” but that I made my niece happy. I’m sure my wife looked on in embarrassment as I fought back the urge to cry tears of joy right there, but I have to say it was one of the best feelings in the world the be in at that moment.
The party itself was fun as well. I got to catch up with family, meet some new extended ones and see some friends I had not seen in years. In even more emotionally moving moments some family members opened up and shared about some of the struggles going on in their lives. Some health concerns, others job loss and others a history of not being able to handle money well. Each of these scenarios put me in peculiar predicaments. Between you and I, through this blog, I’ll shout until my throat is sore about smart and practical personal financial advice. With family, I am the “youngest” of my generation of peers (cousins, siblings, etc.) and I face the powdered butt syndrome. These family members were expressing their struggles in life, but weren’t necessarily seeking my advice. It was incredibly difficult for me to bite my tongue and listen while at the same time have my heart break for them. Although I firmly believe you have to put the work into achieving financial peace, a few of these family members had been gifted Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover,” my personal financial bible, by yours truly a few Christmases ago. But it still floored me emotionally that those close to me in lineage are struggling financially day in and day out.
It was quite an emotional rollercoaster of a weekend.
But in efforts like this I’m hoping I can demonstrate to my family that I am interested in their lives. From there I would love to build our relationships and hopefully be a center of influence to them, showing that there is a way to financial peace. I think that through our marital and my personal counseling that I am ready to begin making this journey in building even more relationships in my life, even if I have to baby step my way there J.