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)