An Uncomfortable Conversation

With me sitting on the edge of our bathtub, and my wife brushing her teeth as she prepared for bed we began a very serious budget discussion. We were on day three of a week long visit from our Kentucky friends and were burning through our discretionary funds at an alarming rate. We needed to reign in our spending, and ensure we kept ourselves on budget, or we were going to run out of money fast.

The next day the four of us were planning on going shopping for the supplies needed for Thanksgiving Dinner. As a group, we had already discussed the menu, and there had been an obvious distinction made between what each of the two couples were going to contribute to the meal.

We were concerned, however, that while shopping our friends would suggest the ease of throwing everything in one cart, and splitting the bill in half.  As much as we love them, our friends are not list shoppers. Entering the store, they become what I like to call “grazers.” Walking up and down every aisle throwing in anything that looks good. This leads to an unnecessarily high bill, as well a lot of uneaten and wasted food. For us, the result would be a blown budget, and with the current state of our funds, we could not afford for that to happen.

I was adamant that we would maintain separate grocery lists and bills. Vonnie was more than a little skeptical.

When it came time to go shopping, it was suggested that in the interest of time just myself and my friend Justin would run to the store to pick up the needed items. I displayed my list, and our friends started making their own. Suddenly, Justin’s wife started adding things to my list because, “she didn’t trust Justin to get the right thing.” By the time they were done, my list had doubled. Our fears then came true, as she mentioned it would probably be easiest and quickest to put it all in one cart, and just split the bill.

I saw Vonnie’s eyes start to well up with tears. I hadn’t been clear enough in stating that we were only planning on getting the items on my original list. I had been too embarrassed to say that we were not in a position to keep up with their spending and that the items on the list were all that fit within our budget. As I put on my shoes, I saw Vonnie go up the stairs and head for our room. As Justin and I walked out the door, I heard our bedroom door shut.

I was a huge failure.

As we drove to the grocery store, I knew what I had to do. Our friends know we are enrolled in a debt management program. I explained that we have to budget every single item we purchase. The items on our list were the things that we had budgeted to pick up for Thanksgiving, and that it would cause us some amount of difficulty if we went over that budget.  I requested that we use separate carts, and pay separately.   I told him that conversation was very uncomfortable for me, and thanked him for understanding. He looked at me square in the eyes and said, “You know you don’t have to beat around the bush with me. It’s fine!”

As we walked around the grocery store he began to spontaneously put items not on his list into the cart.    From oysters to egg nog, and even diarrhea medicine for his toddler. While some of the things were certainly generous of him to pick up and add to the enjoyment of our Thanksgiving, other items were purely personal.  Things I would have paid half of had I not been honest with my friend.

That conversation had indeed been uncomfortable.  But frankly, being in debt is a constant state of uncomfortableness. The only way I’m ever going to successfully eliminate my debt is to continue to have conversations just like that one with my friends, my family, and myself. I just keep reminding myself that just as the conversation and the feelings that accompanied it were temporary, so is my state of debt.  One day my debt will be gone, and so will that feeling of uncomfortableness.

Unfortunately, despite my uncomfortable conversation, I still went over budget on my trip to the grocery store.  By just 43 cents.

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20 Responses to “An Uncomfortable Conversation”

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  1. Jackie Walters says:

    Good for you Travis! No matter how uncomfortable it can be it must be done. You and Vonnie rock!

  2. Brad Chaffee says:

    Travis I swear you are an amazing dude! I truly appreciate your posts because what you go through and then write about is what all of us deal with on a regular basis — whether we have debt or not. You ARE what Enemy of Debt is about my friend and I appreciate your willingness to share such thoughtful posts with EOD readers.

    This is an AWESOME post Travis!! Thank you for sharing! 😀

    • Travis says:

      I appreciate your support, Brad! I hope that by “opening up the hood” and writing about this experience, maybe it would give someone else the strength to have a similar, but needed conversation in their own life.

  3. Michelle says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! Kudos to you for doing what was necessary to stay on your debt-free plan. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about minimizing debt and living withing a budget. Best of luck to you and your family as you eliminate your debt!!!

    • Travis says:

      You are welcome, Michelle, I’m glad you liked the article. The nice thing is, you would think I’d only have to have such a conversation once…the next time mentioning to the same friends that we couldn’t do something due to budgetary constraints would be easier because they know our situation and would understand. Thanks for the well wishes!

  4. Scraps says:

    I am so happy and filled with joy reading this. That is what “true” friendship is about – acceptance and then fulfillment. Your “friend” accepted your information and then fulfilled his understanding of friendship by doing what a friend should do – if they can. What is that – making sure to brighten your day without your requesting it be done.

    Boy, I am fulfilled. Thanks

  5. Brad Moore says:

    Really cool, Travis. That’s not EASY TO DO. I am guessing your wife was thrilled with what you did, hugh?

    Thanks…great story.

    • You’re right, it wasn’t easy to do – but I felt so relieved after it was over. I think my wife was more surprised than anything – I’m not a confrontational person, so it was rather out of character for me. 🙂

  6. Kim says:

    This is a great post! Thanks for sharing with us. Great job on staying focused.

  7. Travis says:

    Thanks, Kim – it’s always hard to stay focused, but even more so when there are external pressures such as the holidays or friends who are in a different financial position. Really looking forward to the day when our debt is dead and buried!

  8. Great post! It actually made me a little teary eyed. It’s so easy to avoid this conversation and just go along with the flow. You stand as an inspiration!

    • It would have been so easy to just get all the stuff and split the bill. But I’ve done that too many times, and then had to deal with the shortfall of funds later. Vonnie’s reaction just flipped a switch of sorts… just seemed easier to fix the problem before there was one. Thanks for your kind words and your comment Ashley!

  9. Travis,
    As always I am so proud of you and Vonnie; you make getting out of debt look easier than it is with your constant positive attitude. This post shows that an everyday task such as grocery shopping has to be carefully planned and deviation from the plan can derail your entire budget. I know this uncomfortable conversation was not easy but you made it through with flying colors!

  10. Penny says:

    Good job! That’s a hard thing to do, but in the long run it gets you out of some even harder situations.

  11. Leisa says:

    Good on you Travis for facing up to a difficult situation and dealing with it as best you could. Who knows maybe you have planted a seed in your friend’s mind that will one day germinate when they need to reassess how they grocery shop if their situation changes, he may come knocking on your door asking you how to do it :-).

    • That would be awesome! The thing that I would tell him is, even if you have extra money, why would you want to waste it on things you don’t need? While it’s certainly nice to splurge a little (especially on something like Thanksgiving Dinner), there is such a thing as going overboard – be aware of what your spending your money on, be smart with your money and instead of being wasteful, save that money and do something useful with it!

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