Many people are willing to sacrifice almost anything to be with their family during the holidays. After all, there’s no place like home for the holidays, right? But the truth is, sometimes it isn’t worth the financial sacrifice to make it home. If you just can’t justify the costs of traveling home this holiday season, you’re not alone (although it might feel like you are). Perhaps you’re surrounded by friends and family who pull out all the stops for the holidays and expect you to do the same. Or maybe you’ve already ensured everyone that you’ll be there, and you’re worried that your change of plans might land you on everyone’s naughty list.
Two years ago, Johnny and I were faced with the fact that we wouldn’t be making it to our parents’ homes for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Johnny had just started a new job, and his company strongly discouraged him from leaving for the holidays. We wanted to make the responsible financial decision and keep Johnny in good standing at his new job. And so we had to tell our families that we wouldn’t be home for the holidays.
Tell them sooner rather than later: Even though you might be dreading telling your family that you won’t be coming home, delaying the inevitable won’t help the situation. The closer to the holiday season, the more likely that your family will have made plans around your arrival. They’ll appreciate a heads-up. And who knows — maybe the extra time will give your loved ones a chance to put a holiday box in the mail for you (Please, Mom?).
Break the news as personally as possible: Two years ago, Johnny’s family was expecting us for Christmas. When debating how to tell them, we realized the most personal approach would be best. So we video-chatted with his family one Sunday to break the news. Because we took the time to video-chat, they were able to see our genuine disappointment, and much to our relief, they immediately understood. If we’d told them by text or email, our explanation might have seemed less sincere.
Find ways to let your family know you care: Despite being by ourselves, Johnny and I still wanted a way to connect with his family at Christmas. We had a tight budget, so we headed to a dollar store and bought everyone funny (OK, maybe just weird) gag gifts. We sent other gifts to our Secret Santas, but the gag gifts helped everyone know we were thinking of them. They all opened the box on Christmas morning, and everyone had a good laugh over video-chat.
So if you have to choose between a new dishwasher and a plane ticket home this holiday season, it’s OK. Your family will be OK. And though it’s not ideal, you can still find ways to celebrate together, even if it’s not in person.