Derailed Budget → Closed-Door-But-Open-Window Phenomenon

DH = Dear Husband

Our plan to buy cross-country ski gear

In November, DH asked me what I thought about the idea of buying two sets of cross-country skis this winter. I was all over it! I used to love cross-country skiing with my dad in my late teens and early twenties. Winter never appeared more beautiful than from a ski trail. And there was something powerful about physical warmth from exercise in the cold, and a gradual shedding of hat, scarf, gloves, and jacket.

A wave of happy nostalgia hit me when DH suggested the purchase. And it was sweet of him. He finds cross-country skiing boring – nothing like snow boarding. He was doing this for my benefit.

Money was looking good in November, and we started to plan when we’d buy our new ski gear. With frugal intentions, we decided it would be best to wait until after Christmas. “The sales in January will be good,” my sister advised us. “If you wait until February, they’ll be even better – but you might miss the best of the skiing season.” January or February. That was our plan.

Unexpected expenses

Money stopped looking so good after a few unexpected expenses came our way. Our dear dog Rocky had a couple of chronic infections that just would not go away, and we made one, two, three, FOUR trips to the vet – adding up to hundreds of dollars. And then our car needed some work. Another several hundred dollars unexpectedly gone.

Laurie wrote earlier this week about her budget plans for February “going off the rails.”  She and her husband had faced unexpected expenses that amounted to several hundred dollars too. “These may not seem like huge overages to some,” she said, “but for those on a mission to get out of debt, this is a lot of cash.”

In our case, we had to make a decision. Could we manage our unexpected expenses and still buy the cross-country ski gear? Yes.

Could we also, at the same time, stick to our debt-repayment and savings goals? No.

So we didn’t buy the ski equpment. Ugh!

Disappointment when budget “goes off the rails”

Sometimes, doing the right thing means sacrifice. DH and I have been on a mission to “makeover” our finances for almost 5 years now. And for the most part, our more frugal and mindful lifestyle has not required sacrifice. It’s no sacrifice to give up excess of small-to-no value. But cross-country ski equipment would not have been excessive. It would have been a purchase of high value – especially for me.

For these years of financial turn-around though, I have no doubt we’ve made the right choice. But it is disappointing.

When “unexpected” is positive

In the pf bloggosphere, “unexpected” is almost always used in its negative sense. Unexpected expenses, accidents, lay-offs, illnesses, legal troubles . . . It’s why we encourage saving up emergency funds.

But sometimes, the unexpected is positive.

DH’s friend brought two sets of snow shoes over to our house a couple of weeks ago, and after he and DH had been out on some nearby green space (white space now), I asked if I could try. For the first time in years (decades?), I snow-shoed – and I loved it! DH’s friend said he had no use for his old pair of snow shoes, and offered to leave them with us.

It’s a small thing in the grand scheme, but it makes me think of that line from The Sound of Music: “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” Although I won’t be cross-country skiing any time soon, I have been snow-shoeing almost every day. I literally walk out my back door, and I’m free to go for 20 minutes, an hour, or more. Rocky, now back to good health, joins me every time.

So if you’re facing the disappointment of closed doors in your quest to become debt-free or financially free, don’t lose heart. And stay on the look-out. Don’t miss the open window.

Have you ever felt disappointed by a sacrifice you’ve made in order to pay off debt or save? Have you ever had a door-closing-but-window-opening experience? Your comments are welcome.


28 comments on “Derailed Budget → Closed-Door-But-Open-Window Phenomenon

  1. Among my recent unexpected negative events was the death of a laptop. My wife and I share our desktop PC, but the laptop was a good way for the other person to access the internet while the PC was in use. So we had planned to replace it, but other unexpected negative events all came up at the same time. We’ve now put off the purchase of a new laptop indefinitely, and that’s somewhat disappointing. Although the ski gear would have been a great purchase, I’m glad that your “window opened” and you have the snow shoes.

    1. Thanks, Gary. I hope your window opens too! Maybe in a similar way? Any friends with too many laptops? Putting off the purchase indefinitely is proof to me that you deserve it.

  2. I’ve never cross country skied, but I have snow shoed. Love it! That was such a nice gift! What a great way to pass the time until those skis appear. God is GOOD! 🙂

  3. Its important to look for those window opening experiences. Too often we get bogged down in the negative of the door closing experience that we fail to see those other smaller opportunities to be thankful for. I hope Rocky stays healthy. Happy snow shoeing. I’ve never tried, but looks fun.

    1. That’s right Brian. Keeping my mind de-cluttered enough to see the “open windows” can be my challenge. Not everyone would love snow shoeing – but I do : )

  4. Love this story, Ruth! What a great, unexpected gift. I agree with Brian – it’s important to pay attention because sometimes the window opens, we’re too distracted and we miss it. Wishing Rocky continued good health and happy snowshoeing to you!

    1. Thanks Amanda. “sometimes the window opens, we’re too distracted and we miss it” – That’s me too often, Not this time though. I’m appreciating this “great, unexpected gift” 🙂

  5. Ahhh, this is the reason our budget goes over most months. Usually we don’t have “fun” expenses as the cause; it’s usually something that’s necessary or extremely useful in the long run that requires an upfront cost. Sigh.

    I think I’ve felt disappointed about “sacrifices” I made at the time because I didn’t know an alternative way to do things (ie. switching from a national carrier to Google FI). But it’s all been worth it in the long haul.

    1. Good point, Mrs. PP. We weren’t able to buy something of value, but it wasn’t a case of “no food on the table this month” or anything remotely close to that. Speaking of an “alternative way to do things”, you’ve got me thinking … Maybe we should buy used cross-country ski equipment when the time comes anyway. Thanks : )

  6. I’m not sure if this is exactly the same thing, but a couple of years ago, I was watching an episode of the HGTV show, House Hunters. The family was looking in a beautiful area, at a beautiful time of year, and at beautiful houses. I remember them looking at a house with a particularly lovely master bathroom, and I felt kind of envious, thinking about how much I could enjoy my time in such a lovely space. (I know, it’s weird, right?) However, all of a sudden I realized that while I don’t love all aspects of the master bathroom in our house, we have a nice, large soaking bath tub that I never used, despite loving baths. I don’t know why this was the case, but in that very moment of envy over a gorgeous master bathroom on tv, I realized I could enjoy my use of our somewhat less beautiful master bathroom, too. I’ve been taking one or two baths per week in it since then!

    1. That is a perfect example, Amy. As Brian and Amanda commented, sometimes we don’t even see our “open windows”. For me, it’s a case of needing to clear my mind to see them. I think it’s so interesting that you never used that bath tub before. Again, I can relate – but what’s with that? I’m glad you’re choosing to enjoy it now, replacing envy – those marketers are good at what they do! – with contentment : )

  7. I’ll be cross country skiing when there is snow in Australia. In relation to disappointment, we had just paid a debt and my husband’s cars engine blew. We had to replace it.

    1. That really does suck to pay off one debt and then have to take a step or two back in. Ugh! Some day, you’ll have a nice, big emergency fund to cover the costs of things like blown engines. Thank you for reading and commenting, Tash. (I have never been to Australia, but I hope to one day : )

    1. Thank you, Mackenzie. I was surprised at how much I like it : ) Just getting outside and shaking off the cabin-fever cobwebs is pretty good at this point!

  8. It is amazing how other windows open (even small ones) in ways we never expect. That’s pretty cool. I had the same thing happen a few months ago too. I was needing to buy a new chainsaw to start cutting firewood but didn’t want to get one new. After about a month of looking on Craigslist one that had only been used once came up for sale and was the same model I was looking for. And, I was able to save $150 in the process.

  9. I’m sure I have, but can’t necessarily think of a time. I do know there there are some jobs I didn’t get back in the days I was freelancing that I was really disappointed not to get, but in the long run they were totally not right for me and I would have been miserable. So it’s similar. I’ve never been snowshoeing before!

    1. Yes, the disappointment about jobs is in line with this too. I’m glad you had that open-window perspective for those times. Tonya, you’ll have to go a bit north of the LA beach to try show-shoeing : )

  10. The design of those snowshoes is beautiful!

    I have an opposite type of story – my current car is the first one I’ve ever financed (2/3 of the cost), and it was done rather hastily because I discovered I detest car shopping and trying to be the first phone call on good deals on Craigslist (there were some REALLY good deals, but dang they were gone in minutes!) and dealing with car salespeople etc etc. I knew what I wanted and when I found one, I just went for it. For MONTHS I was so annoyed with myself that I’d financed such a big chunk!

    It was just in the last couple months that I realized if I hadn’t asked my credit union about used vehicle financing, they wouldn’t have offered to look at refinancing my mortgage. It certainly wouldn’t have occurred to me to refinance my mortgage when I was adding more debt. BUT that refi is saving me at least $63,000 in interest on a $89k loan, and I now have enough equity in the house to pay off the mortgage entirely if I sold way below market.

    I’m still annoyed that I didn’t exercise better patience in car purchasing (and I had a working vehicle that I was giving away so there was no hurry) but in pure numbers it worked out to my advantage anyway 🙂

    1. Thanks for that comment, Katscratch. I understand how a not-so-wise decision can turn around. We bought more house than we needed, and when DH lost his job, the mortgage became a big burden. I wished we’d gone for a smaller home, but when DH started a business, he was able to run it from home because of the space we had. He’s moved from a small den on our main floor to what used to be our living room and dining room. If we had a smaller house and he had to rent office space, it would be a big drain on his income. So our big home has served us well. That’s a whole lot you’re saving in interest payments! I’m glad there was an “open window” in your experience : )

  11. What a cool perspective and good ending to your story. There have been times when we had unexpected expenses that delayed our goals and that bothered us, and then we received a gift, bonus, or side hustle opportunity that helped allay that. Or I decided no, I don’t need to buy those new clothes, and then I receive something similar hand-me-down.

    1. It used to be that we never “denied” ourselves – so we gave no room for this provision to play out. It really is wonderful to see it come into play – as you have several times : )

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