Paying off Debt: Make the Hard Choices

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If you’re in a situation where you’re paying off debt right now, you may have come to the realization that paying off debt often involves making hard choices.

We are seven months into our debt payoff journey, and we had a situation today that brought to the forefront of my mind just how important it is to make the hard choices when facing those spending forks in the road.

Handling Hard Decisions When Paying Off Debt


We were heading into town (we live in a rural area), which is a semi-rare occasion for us. We’d planned to celebrate our niece’s birthday, and then do the errands that involve stores in the big metropolitan area that we only get to once or twice a month. Day planned, budget planned, right?

Then my mom called.  “Want to join us for our Monday bowling and out to eat outing?” What a great idea! I thought. We haven’t seen my parents in almost two weeks, and we haven’t seen my aunt and uncle, who are also on the bowling team, in months.  What a great opportunity to get together, since we’re in the city anyway. Two birds with one stone, right?

The thought quickly turned from excitement to hesitation as I remembered that we are on a super strict budget right now as we work to pay off debt.

Bowling for me and our four kids would be fairly cheap, $16 total, and dinner at the local “upper scale” fast food joint would run about $25. Ok, 40 bucks?  Not a good idea right now.  The decision was made.

Then mom chirped in “I’ll pay for bowling!” That little devil sat on my shoulder. Now it’s only $25 bucks! he said. Isn’t it worth it for quality time with your family? You haven’t been bowling in ages.

As much as we wanted to go, I knew in my heart it wasn’t the right decision. Even if we’d chosen to skip dinner and just go for bowling on mom’s dime, we’re still talking extra gas, etc.

Today was one of those days when we had to make a hard choice for the benefit of paying off debt and doing what’s best for our family. 

It wasn’t easy. It sucked, if I may be so blunt. But as that little devil sat on my shoulder trying to convince me to spend the money, a little angel came and sat on the other shoulder.

Your family’s future is worth more than a trip to the bowling alley and dinner at a fast food place. It’s your choice, but just remember that you’ll likely regret it tomorrow if you choose to spend that money instead of paying off debt with it.

Remembering What Really Matters


And then, I snapped back into reality, and I remembered that I really don’t want to be forced into working the fast food drive–thru in my retirement years.

I remembered that spending that money would be one more hour that my husband would have to work before being able to retire. I remembered that I love my family too much to stay in debt one more day than we have to.

This is not a post against doing fun stuff. Fun stuff is fine. It’s a necessary part of life, for sanity’s sake. But it’s important when you’re working to pay off debt that you choose your fun money spending based on what’s truly most important to you and your family. It’s the old adage of value-based spending.

So, we didn’t go bowling. Instead we invited my parents and aunt and uncle up to our house next weekend for a game night.  As is customary for family game nights, we’ll sit around, playing Trivial Pursuit, making stupid jokes and then laughing hysterically at them while non-family members look at us like we’re nuts, and I’m confident I can whip up some great food for my part of the potluck for under five bucks. Sounds like a great time, doesn’t it? I’m confident it will be.

What’s a recent tough decision that you faced while paying off debt and how did you handle it?


Photo courtesy of: Images_Of_Money

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.