The hardest part of our journey to getting out of debt and back on our feet is saying "no" to family and friends. We want to spend time with everyone, but it's hard to say, "no, we can't go out and eat at that nice restaurant tonight" or saying, "no, we can't come visit this month." It's so difficult. It breaks my heart to tell those I love that we cannot go out and do fun things. It hurts even worse to tell them I cannot see them.
When you are trying to get out of debt, and your biggest feat is a lack of income, you have to prioritize your time and money. Soon, we'll be paying back my student loan debt. We've just established Baby Step #1 in building a $1000 emergency fund. Yes, we will have income coming in soon. But we still have bills to pay and a savings to build up for a home. We have to put money into maintenance on our car. We have been very lucky that my parents have paid for the car insurance. We would like that to end. We also need to save up money so that we can have health insurance. Gas is super expensive - so traveling is just not in the hand we've been dealt right now.
I know family and friends are not in our shoes, so they don't see it like we do. I know they don't mean any harm. But there comes a point in time where they get tired of hearing "sorry, no." We've tried to balance everything the best we can. It's just hard to please everyone. I wish that people would give us a little more time. It isn't like we don't appreciate our family and friends. We want to spend as much time as possible with each and every one of them. But we just cannot afford it. Everyone else is established in their lives. We've cut back drastically. This year is dedicated to getting on our feet. I know many people don't understand it completely. I try to stay in touch through e-mails, Facebook, and phone calls. I try to explain that it isn't because I don't like them or that I'm not upset with them. But here is the time where that brick wall hits. They think we don't want them in our lives because we cannot afford to travel. They think we don't want to spend time with them because we never go out with them. And it's always the same reason: we cannot afford it right now. When that time comes, it's hard on everyone. Others see this as an excuse. We say will come see them as soon as we can afford it - but it comes across like broken, empty promises - even though it is genuine. After all, how many times does it take before you get tired of hearing the same excuse?
I'm not upset with anyone because I understand how they feel. At times, I'm at a loss for what to say. Some individuals have been pretty harsh towards us. Some have created a huge fiasco over it that I have officially pulled myself away. It makes me feel bad when they refuse to see things from my point of view. It isn't like debt is going to go away overnight. It isn't like we'll have extra money to spend in a snap. But here's a great perspective that I have....
My father once told me, "it's more convenient to see everyone else than it is for them to see you." This is a sarcastic comment. It means that some people expect YOU to go out of your way to see THEM. Not once does it cross their minds to say, "I know they've hit a rough patch financially. Maybe I'll go see them and we can do something that doesn't cost money."
Dave Ramsey talked about this on one of his talk shows. He said that there comes a time where you have to start saying no if you want to get out of debt. You have to learn how to say no to people. It is easy to rack up debt and blow money when you go out with the people you enjoy being around. Think about it. A couple of close friends ask you to go out one night. What happens? You are more inclined to spend money you cannot risk spending. You might buy an adult beverage to be social. You might go to a nice restaurant and spend $12-15 on your meal. You might feel more inclined to go out to see a movie. That money adds up - especially when you have an "income problem."
Not everyone is going to understand. It's a hard road to travel. But you have to keep telling yourself, "this will all be worth it in the end." Don't fall back into old habits. Now is the time to keep pressing forward. Later on, those who truly care will see where you have been and what you accomplished. There will be a day where you won't have to worry about gas for traveling. When that day comes, everyone will see it. You won't have to say anything. For those that don't get it when that day arrives... well, you can decide where the relationship will go from there.