[-$38,300] Packing for Guilt Trips: Dealing with Debt and Family Expectations


It’s that time of year again, so yes, this post will be served extra ranty and with a large glass of whine.

This issue comes up for me every year, especially around the holiday season, but I’m also wondering how people deal year-round with having debt and pressure to meet family home-visit expectations.

When I was first starting out on my debt repayment journey, it was common for me to go home for the holidays once every other year. It was always a struggle to have that conversation and it came with guilt trips, of course, about my not visiting enough. Cross-country (coast to coast) plane tickets are expensive on a typical day. They become outrageously expensive ($1000+) around the holidays. My family never seems to care much about that.    

What’s the big deal?

I’ve already flown to the opposite coast twice this year. Once for a close family member who had major surgery, and again for another close family member who had a special accomplishment and celebration. Now my family wants me to fly out again for the holidays. I live the farthest away from my family geographically, so traveling to these family events takes by far the biggest bite out of my budget. Again, family doesn’t seem to care. Again, tickets are expensive. I’d planned (budgeted) to go ‘home’ only once this year. But the two events above came up and I felt I could not turn them down, and fortunately, I didn’t want to as both were important and good to attend.

Now this new request to come back again, financially speaking, is too much. If I say no, I’m going to get guilt tripped to no end. You know, the usual…I must not want to be around my family. But it’s the holidays. So and so is getting older, you should see them. I can just put the ticket on a credit card and pay it off later… (I’m already in credit card debt, in part because of the second plane ticket.) Side note: They won’t fly to visit me because ‘it’s too expensive’.

I love my family, but they can coordinate some first class guilt trips. Even the past few times that I’ve been home, at least one person has said to me in a critical tone of voice that I don’t visit enough or my visit wasn’t long enough, implying that I didn’t want to be there. Not a huge deal, but at least one family member always says something. Even when I spend the money $$$ and precious limited vacation time to be there, I get at least one critical barb from someone. You can’t win with family can you? Yeah, I know that I can be sensitive and that most of the barbs come from a place of love, but there are better ways to express oneself.

Where is this coming from?

I think some of this increase in expectations from my family is coming from the fact that I’ve gone on two international trips in the past three years, with most the recent one being earlier this year. Somehow, that might be feeding a notion that my financial situation isn’t as bad as it used to be and therefore I can buy tickets to visit them whenever I want to.

Or, maybe it’s embarrassing for them to tell extended family members that I’m not there because I can’t afford to be. A 40-something year old woman with all the advanced degrees that they used to brag to everyone about becoming successful, can’t afford a plane ticket; the over-educated failure. Maybe that’s part of it? Short of learning (more?) of my money troubles, it may appear to extended family that I’m not there because I don’t want to be. Remember, I’m single so I don’t have the spouse excuse. I have no excuse. You see, single women are not entitled to their own time.


I’ll admit, I do feel some pressure to have a certain lifestyle (house & spouse) when I’m at extended family get-togethers. Other family members my age and much younger have these things, yet I do not. I hear about younger cousins who have their own homes and cars and are hosting relatives for the holidays. The unspoken implication being that I should be doing this as well. They don’t understand why I live the way I do. They don’t understand why I have roommates.  My immediate family knows about my student loan debt, but not how much it is/was or anything more than that. I haven’t wanted to (and don’t plan to) make the details of my financial situation available to family as that can open up a host of other problems.

Will it end?

I have a large extended family so there will always be a young family member graduating from something or a holiday or reunion or event. Chances are, I’m not going to be there. I can’t be everywhere. I can’t do everything.  I have limited time and money. I have to make choices. I have to say ‘no’.

In the future when I’m out of debt, I plan to do a lot more international travel, likely solo. Will the guilt tripping continue around this because I shouldn’t travel without visiting them first? You know the drill. ‘Oh, she has money to go on vacation, but not money to go see this person over here and that person over there? She’s going on vacation by herself? Selfish. She should take (fill in name of relative here) and pay for him/her too’. Will it end? I don’t know.

But this post will end here.


How much do you share with your family about your debt? Even if they know you’re in debt, do they still have unrealistic expectations about how you should spend your money and your time? If not, how did you get them to understand?


“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW Archives)


Never forget. Elections have consequences…  VOTE on November 6th! (Ballotpedia)


  1. dbl04b · October 15, 2018

    I love It! ❤My parents won’t understand. I’ve visited them 2 years ago before my kids came. Sadly, they have yet to see the new additions in my life. With said… I don’t feel obligated anymore until I meet my financial goals. My wife and I didn’t just become part of a family unit, we also created one of our own. Lol #minirant🤗


    • Double Debt Single Woman · October 22, 2018

      Congrats on your little ones.
      If I were married or had a partner, my family wouldn’t guilt trip me nearly as much. I know that for a fact. A part of the issue with them is that I am single, which confers a quasi-child status, regardless of age.


  2. Juhli · October 15, 2018

    Practice saying, “I’m sorry but I can’t make it this year” and, in response to guilt heavy comments, “I’m sorry you feel that way”. Repeat as often as necessary in a calm and quiet voice. Do not feel guilty. Do not justify your responses. Simply repeat them as often as required. Do not have a further conversation about your financial situation, trips already made, their unwillingness to visit you, or their desire for you to travel when they want you to. Change the subject of conversation! Those pressuring you are 1) really wanting to see you and not seeing your finances as an obstacle to fulfilling their desires, and/or 2) are manipulative and enjoy getting people to give in to them (the I got my way syndrome!).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sandy ONeill · October 15, 2018

    My family used to do guilt trips until I stood up and said no more. When they saw it wasn’t going to work they stopped, after a few months of being angry. You have your reasons and that should be enough. No need to explain. You are an adult.


  4. Tammy · October 15, 2018

    I’m with the folks above. If it doesn’t feel good or make sense to go, no one will truly benefit from you being there. It’s hard to build good memories and real connection under those circumstances. Life is entirely too precious to be doing stuff out of guilt. Hang in there. 🙂


  5. Maria · October 16, 2018

    That’s rich, guilt tripping you for not coming more often while not being willing to visit you because it’s too expensive. SMDH.

    I also think people on some issues get stuck in the past. They’re so used to the narrative of “DDSW doesn’t visit often enough!” and they don’t really change their perspective even though you ARE visiting more often now. Some inherent lazyness and/or defensiveness towards a change in their perception of reality I guess. Sigh

    If you can pull off the “I can’t afford to” period, no excuses, no justifications, I applaud you. If not, could you pull off a somewhat phony but maybe effective something like: “Omg, I’d love to see you all during the holidays! Unfortunately I don’t have the money. Maybe you can afford to come and see me? Do you have a couple of dates in mind that could work for you? Or, if you can pay for half my ticket I think I could make it work. Let me know what you think!”

    Best of luck whatever you do. Family can be so trying.


  6. czanclus · October 16, 2018

    Girl, you do you, and never mind the haters. Most people have ZERO idea what you’ve been through and what you’re still going through. My life path was somewhat different, what with getting unexpectedly pregnant at 28 and all, but the penultimate zen of mind-numbingly slow climb out of debt, I relate to and feel with every inch of my personal nervous system every day.

    Anyhoo, yes, family trips, the holidays, and hopeless all-around oblivion of the reality of (in my case) 7 days a week work till debt prison release. I mentioned missing my sister’s baby shower late July for lack of plane ticket funds and time to take off work for such luxury. The baby arrived last month, cute as a button, and I’m thrilled to be a first-time aunt. My sister too, his mom, is a wonderful person, who offered to foot the bill for the tickets. We are set to visit for Thanksgiving (unpaid time off anyway). I’ll allow the help for my kid, but taking her money for my ticket is beneath me. $400 ding to the budget. Been working relentlessly, taking all available subbing and teaching assignments to pad the income side of the books and keep the savings untouched. Feeling the burn of the burnout big time.

    Uncle/aunt within a five hour driving vicinity keep checking if we’re coming for winter holidays… or hey, any weekend inbetween – please, stop by! Because, for the 20%ers in America (and they are more like the top 10% wealth-wise), weekends are free time! Their one and only, comfortable 6 figure salary jobs they each have, of course, allow for weekends off. Even my mom, who’s practically been my therapist throughout this agony of debt repayment on underemployment salary of three gigs and knows the numbers of debt and work hours intimately, every now and then slips and tells me I’ll get all the other crap in the pipeline of my life done on the weekends. But mom, I work, full days, on weekends! And during the week! Or that a certain clothing item is something I can wear ‘at home’. Lady, I AM NOT AT HOME for more than an hour at a time unless I’m sleeping! ‘Right, right, sorry, honey…’ she replies, ‘it’ll get better, you’ll see. It’ll work out. Life always works out. Everything happens for a reason.’ bah… 😡 Would that, ANYTHING at all, happened for a reason. Dead-end conversation there, but I respect opposing views to the causality structure of life nonetheless.

    That said, no explicit guilt tripping, just ‘casual’ reminders of ‘plans’ to visit (overseas) next summer. Maybe take a vacation in southern Italy, they got good deals flying out from Europe.

    It’s OK though, ain’t nobody’s fault we signed them papers back in undergrad… ain’t nobody’s fault but mine to keep my child and reject the ‘spouse and house’ (or, rental, in my case, no rich sponsor there) to accompany. Only 1401 more days to go, all sweet outcomes conspiring.


    • Double Debt Single Woman · October 22, 2018

      Thanks for this, czanclus. My personal nervous system feels it too!

      I also don’t want someone buying a ticket for me. It would feel like a leash to me. They would want to dictate how long I stay and might bring it up/throw it my face whenever I do or say something they don’t like. No. I don’t want that. Even if the person didn’t actually do those things to me, just knowing that they could do them, would make it ‘weird’ for me. I don’t want to feel like I owe someone.

      Yeah, we signed the papers. We gotta pay the piper and everything that goes with it.


  7. Isabella · October 17, 2018

    Just say no. Rinse and repeat. I put no pressure on my four adult children about visits, holidays etc. My in-town daughter can’t make it on Christmas Day this year because she is going to the in-laws? No problem. We celebrate together 3 days after Christmas, and it really is the most fun, relaxed day. It’s like a bonus Christmas for us all! Parents really must understand that family and financial obligations fall on our kids, and they can’t do it all.


  8. Michelle · October 18, 2018

    I feel so badly for you! Family can be so difficult. I love my family, but the demands on my time are sometimes overwhelming. My Uncle lives only 4 hours from my mom, but he refuses to travel to see her and vice versa. I have to drive her to see him. Which means taking time off of work, gas, hotel rooms, etc. I hope your family eventually understands.


    • Double Debt Single Woman · October 22, 2018

      Wow. Sounds like a story there. I hope they both appreciate what you are doing for them.
      And thank you.


  9. VickieTori · October 18, 2018

    Sadly for both of us, I can relate SO MUCH to this post. “Single women are not entitled to their own time”. SPOT ON. And yes, I also have siblings (both older and younger) that seem to be doing “so much better” than me. It sucks. And then there’s the comments and expectations of family. . . . Oh yes, “Guilt trips. . . I’m a Frequent Flier”. I hope you can find the strength to stand up to your family and do what’s right FOR YOU. You deserve it!


    • Double Debt Single Woman · October 22, 2018

      Sometimes I really envy the laid back families that realize that people have their own lives and don’t hold a grudge about it. Thank you. And you hang in there too.


  10. The Bookworm · October 19, 2018

    At the end of the day, you are trying to better yourself. That’s to be commended. If someone is truly guilt tripping you with the intent to make you feel bad, they deserve a FREE cell phone cell call/face time during family events (at best). Save your money.


  11. zeejaythorne · October 21, 2018

    Two family members never moved out of the state that the rest of us HATE. We still sometimes go back, but those assholes never visit us. Even though two of us settled within a mile of one another. The only interaction I ever get from them is passive-aggressive.


  12. Double Debt Single Woman · October 22, 2018

    LoL! It’s the most inflexible family members that give you the most grief. WTH?!


  13. akrynn · November 3, 2018

    No, it will never stop unless you stop it now. It seems they feel they are entitled to your time and money just because you are family. It is a very one-sided relationship. Relationships of every kind are 2 way streets. The only expectations that matter are yours about your own life. They are crossing some major boundaries. “No” is a full and complete sentence. Keep moving forward to get where you want to go in life. If that includes multiple trips home every year, then good. If it does not, then so be it. Trying to make everyone happy will drive you crazy especially when there is no effort on their part.


  14. Dolores Gonzalez · November 17, 2018

    Ugh, I’m sorry! My dad was bad about this too. I would have this huge dread over calling him because whenever I called him it would be minutes and minutes of hearing “You don’t never call!” I couldn’t say to him I’M CALLING NOW CAN WE JUST TALK OR WHATEVER?!! And he used to guilt trip me too about not coming home. “Dad’s getting older, I’m not going to live forever.”

    ..And then he died. It’s the guilt trip that will last me the rest of my life. The last time I spoke to him, he asked me when I was coming home and told me he wasn’t going to live forever. I’ll always regret that I didn’t make more effort. I really did think he was above harm: my stodgy old dad, chain smoking Pall Malls from the age of 12. If those didn’t kill him, nothing could! I think they did, though. He just didn’t seek treatment for it, and I wasn’t home to see how much weight he had lost.

    So, anyway I came home. He died 6/15/2010, and I bought a house back home 4/29/2011. It’s too little too late but I’m here now and my life has been incredibly blessed since then.

    This post hit home for me. I wish people wouldn’t do this guilt trip BS because it really just drives you away and gives you that dread surrounding coming which makes you resist it more. And yes, eventually the day will come when someone dies and to have that in your head, their last words to you guilt tripping you it’s really unfair.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s