There’s no reason to feel guilty about sticking to your budget. We all have to decide how much we spend and how much we save. Sometimes, those choices are tough — not just for ourselves, but also for our friends and loved ones. Once, when I was between jobs, I had to decline an invitation to a friend’s wedding because I couldn’t swing the travel. She said she understood, but I could tell she was disappointed.
Inevitably, sometimes you’re going to disappoint people, whether it’s missing the holidays, skipping a wedding invite, or telling your friends you can’t afford the expensive bar they want to visit. That’s the nature of being an adult and having the freedom to decide what’s best for yourself, financially or otherwise. Your priorities won’t always line up with the priorities of the people you love. And that’s okay.
Of course, there are times when what’s best for you might be keeping the peace. There’s a type of expense I call obligatory spending: the money you spend on stuff that doesn’t directly benefit you, but makes your friends and family happy. It would be great if we didn’t have to spend our money on obligations, but there are cases where it can make your life easier, or function as necessary maintenance for your relationships.
Without boundaries, though, your obligatory spending can get out of hand or lead to resentment. One way to set those boundaries is to cap the dollar amount you devote to obligatory spending. In your case, you could budget an amount you’re comfortable spending to visit your family every year, or every few years, depending on what your financial situation looks like. You could even share this with your family so they know what to expect, and maybe ask them for input on when they’d like you to use those funds to pay them a visit.
Sharing your budget with your family can help all of you talk about this without hard feelings, because it puts the focus more on the numbers. It’s a clear way to demonstrate to your family that you’re staying put for the holidays because of your finances, not because you don’t want to see them. And they might be a little more understanding if they can see for themselves that your decision is a purely financial matter, rather than an emotional one.
My guess is you’ve already told them something along those lines, though. So maybe your challenge is to find a way to show your family you do love and care about them, despite not spending money on an expensive flight. Brainstorm some ways you can still make their holiday special from afar. You could, for instance, FaceTime them, send them a special package, or book a surprise flight for later in the year, when ticket prices are cheaper.
Regarding your mom: It sounds like she just wants to express her feelings on the matter. Give her a chance to tell you how she feels, without making it seem like she could convince you to make a different decision. Of course, if you think the conversation is likely to turn into a fight, that might not be the best idea — but if you believe you can both hash things out calmly and then move on, it’s worth trying to understand her point of view, even if you disagree with it.
If you have deeper issues with your family that are preventing you from visiting, then that’s a different story. But you shouldn’t book a trip purely out of guilt. That will only make you feel bitter about making the trip, which kind of defeats the purpose of quality family time.