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Executive Decision


Remember how I mentioned that my family was coming out to visit for a long weekend this past weekend (they were here from Thursday afternoon until Sunday morning)? It was so, so, so good to see them! Usually when someone comes to visit its my mom flying solo. This time it was my mom, my step-dad, my sister, her husband, and their 10-month-old baby (whom I’ve only seen in person one time, last Christmas, when he was less than a week old!!! Boy how babies change over 10 months!)

While we seriously loved getting to see everyone, having that many people visit created some logistical problems. Even with blow up mattresses, we just don’t have enough room to accommodate that many visitors in our house. So they opted to stay at a nearby hotel. Obviously this has pros (e.g., beds and bathrooms for everyone) and cons (e.g., don’t get to see each other as much as if you’re staying in the same place). With baby 2/day nap and toddler 1/day nap schedules (and the nap times didn’t always sync up), by the time Sunday morning rolled around I felt like we had barely seen each other! Instead of feeling like I’d gotten a good family visit and was satiated, I felt more homesick than ever! It really is hard living so far from family! I consider my sister and mom to be my best friends and I don’t see them nearly enough!

So after being pretty mopey and melancholy all week, husband and I talked and have made an executive decision of sorts. We’re gonna go back over Winter sometime.

I’ve been making a big deal about staying in Tucson all Winter and how this would be our first Christmas here. Honestly, I’ve been looking forward to it in some ways – actually getting to start our own family traditions and really be here for the holiday. But after feeling like my family visit was more of a tease than anything else, I just long for home (“home” meaning Austin, where both my husband and I are from and our immediate family reside).

We’re still talking over the details – we may go for Thanksgiving and stay in Tucson for Christmas, or we may just do our usual Christmas trip. A decision in terms of timing hasn’t been made yet. But I did want to pop in and let you guys know about this little change-up as it has obvious financial implications. And, regardless of when the trip occurs, I’ll be posting the financials along the way : )

How close do you live to your family? We haven’t lived in the same place since 2007. First we lived in southern Florida (a 24-hr drive away) and now we live in southern Arizona (a 14-hr drive away). I measure distances in drive-time because husband hates to fly!

If you don’t live near family, how often do you visit? Until this year we’ve always gone back twice a year: once in summer and once in winter. This year we skipped our summer trip (instead going to Utah), and were planning to skip our winter trip but now that fall is upon us, I’m suffering from major homesickness!


  • Reply nsheils |

    Hey, we live about a 12 hour flight away if we fly direct. Since a direct flight is usually super super expensive it’s more like a 22 hour trip to see them. We try to visit my family once a year, generally in the summer because they all live within about 15 minutes of each other.

    We visit my husbands family once every 1-2 years. All of his family are spread out all over the globe, so it can be tricky to get everyone together at the same time.

    We flew my mom and grandmother over for the birth of both of my kids. As our debt repayment progresses ($114k and 16 months to go), we’ll free up funds to have people come over and visit more often. I can’t wait to be able to bring over more family and spend more time back in the US!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Wow, I cannot imagine having family so scattered about! We are definitely lucky that way! Even though husband and I grew up living only about 15 minutes apart, we never knew each other while we lived in Austin (we were in different school districts, too). Instead, we met at college a couple hours away. The way we got together was by discovering we were both from Austin, so we’d drive back together for occasional visits – started out as carpool buddies/friends : ) We’re very lucky our family all (for the most part) live in the same area so we can visit both in a single trip!

  • Reply Jackie |

    Family is so important! I lived over 600 miles away from my family for 14 years. 8 of those years I got to visit them once a year for about a week. The rest of the time I was lucky if I could get 2-3 visits in and that was if they came to see me. Now I live about 10-15 minutes away from family and it’s very nice. I don’t get to see my sisters much due to busy lives but we do chat on facebook all the time. My mom I see about once a week. I tend to see my in-laws more since they are 10 minutes away also, but we go to the same church. The hard part for me when I moved back home it was due to financial hardship and my son stayed with his Dad down in NJ (he was about 10 or 11 at the time). I can deal with being away from my mom and family but being away from him was/is the hardest thing I ever had to do. I just didn’t have the resources to fight a huge custody battle–that’s what it came down to. We did see each at least in the beginning during summers etc. Now that he is almost 18 we don’t (that side of the family makes him feel guilty for coming up) but we talk on the phone daily. We are very close. Kind of ironic since we live so far apart, but he’s not close to his dad at all and he lives with him. It took me at least 8 years to not beat myself up about this situation–I felt like a failure. Glad to say now I am at peace with it now and he is too. I am so much happier being back “home.” I never realized how miserable I was down there. Plus I wouldn’t have found my current husband if I stayed down there.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Wow, Jackie! I can’t even imagine the emotional turmoil and struggle you must have gone through with your son! I love your optimistic attitude and the fact that everything sounds like its worked out well!

      • Reply Jackie |

        It did work ok. In hindsight I would have done things way differently starting when I got divorced. That’s when I basically got stuck down in NJ. The only family I had down there was my ex and my son. It worked out and things would have probably turned out differently if I moved back at a different time. It definitely made me stronger!

  • Reply christa |

    I live 2.5 miles from my parents and about 6 miles from my brother and sister-in-law and nephews. I see them all at least once a week and I feel so blessed to be able to have them all that close.

  • Reply Hope |

    I completely understand this dilemma. My ex and I moved here to VA because I knew that if we were going to have kids I wanted them to grow up with family around, something I never had. Since my parents decided to move to Texas, we’ve lost that, but I am eternally grateful that my kids had their grandparents as a large part of their lives for their younger years.

    Despite the debt pay off, I think this is a good idea. It’s how I spent my summer…going to see my family in Texas.

  • Reply Scooze |

    My sister (and her family) and mom live a two-hour flight away. I go there about 3-4 times/year and they come to see me once plus we meet up at our Dad’s once or twice a year. It’s a whole lot easier when you’re single and fancy free like I am, but even when I was making a very low salary I was traveling this much. I get to see my nieces on average every other month and that is important to me. I figure I spend $1500-$2000/year on flights to see family. No hotels, just lots of fun.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Sounds crazy, but if we had the resources I’m sure I would too! Hey, probably get the A-boarding class from Southwest with all the frequent flying! ; )

  • Reply Ms. Mintly |

    My parents are in academia and moved far away from their parents when they got their first university jobs. Since then, it seems like our family is repeating the cycle – my husband and I moved across the country for an academic job as well (his, not mine, but I found work as well!). It is beyond hard. Raising a child with no family support system is so difficult (as I’m sure you know!). Additionally, my parents live in the northeast, my mom’s parents are in the mid-west, and my dad’s parents are in the south (but still 12 hours away from where we live in the southeast!). Everyone’s getting older, my daughter is growing up, and we only see family once or twice a year. We do skype and talk a lot, but travel can get expensive.

    On the other hand, I’ve gotten a lot more willing to consider brief trips – instead of waiting until holiday breaks, taking off from work on a Friday and Monday and then driving across the country to at least see our relatives for a couple of days would be better than not seeing them at all. Time flies, and I don’t want to be old and looking back and saying, “If only I had made that extra effort…”

    The biggest expense of traveling by car is the time (in my mind), but gas isn’t so bad (in the big scheme of things) and we’re fortunate to usually be able to stay with our relatives.

    Good luck working out a way to travel – and while it’s an expense, I agree with a previous poster: family trumps money!

  • Reply mary m |

    My parents live 5 minutes away from us, and 1 sibling lives an hour north, and the other an hour south. So we see them all very regularly. My other sister lives across the country. We only see them once or twice a year (they always fly here–but my sister is a dr and so it makes sense to do it that way). We try to get the cousins together more often, as the oldest 4 cousins can all fly unaccompanied minor now.

    Family is so important, and if my sister wasn’t able to come out yearly, I’d go out there more often. It’s been almost 3 years for me to go, but for instance my kids flew out this summer and spent 2 weeks there.

  • Reply Meghan |


    I don’t know if it is the best decision. If you all four travel out there not only will you incur the cost of travel but lots of other costs as well. The cost of gifts for people you might not have bought for otherwise due to your debt journey, plus you have mentioned how quickly costs add up when you have family gatherings and you run out just to pick up a few things, and what about the costs of picking up a hostess gift when going around to dinner at different family member’s homes? I just think that even if you do try to budget for these things, say the trip costs $1000 in total, that is $1000 you could use to make debt disappear forever. Will you be able to budget for this trip between this month and next month’s income? Especially living on last months income? Which has dwindled quite a bit from a few months back? And is expected to drop more as your husband’s business enters its slow season and your pay structure has changed for one of your jobs?

    I understand that you just saw your family and that is making you a little homesick, but how nice will it be when you can plan to visit whenever you choose because you have no debt at all? Are you planning to stay with your sister? Because otherwise you will run into the same napping schedule issues as you just had. You had seemed very committed to your decision not to incur the costs of traveling to see family this holiday season and it seems that this sudden desire to go is just a knee-jerk reaction to the thought of not seeing family around the holidays brought on by feeling you did not get to see your family as much as you had hoped on their recent visit.

    I do agree with the other readers that family is very important, but I am also surprised that others are not saying this. You went to visit family in Utah because they financially contributed and your family also just came to visit you, I think you should stay home in Tucson as originally planned. If it turns out that you really feel that it was a horrible decision, then you and your husband can plan a visit for the spring when you have had time to save for the trip and before his busy work season begins again.



    • Reply Ashley |

      Not a bad idea; something to consider.
      One other (maybe silly) thing that stood out….am I a terrible person for never having bought a hostess gift for any of our family members when we go over for dinner??? Is that a thing?! Now I feel awful like I should have done this, but no one in our family is a big drinker (on either side), so we’d never pick up a bottle of wine, for example. Would something else be customary? Like a plant or something??? We have never done this and now I’m worried!!!

      • Reply Jackie |

        I would say it depends on your family dynamics. My family would be horrified if anyone even thought of a hostess gift. It’s just not done up here. We do have some potluck dinners and stuff. They never would think to have someone who is visiting from far away bring a hostess gift.

  • Reply KLM |

    How will this affect your employment? Can you do both remotely? Or will you limit your job search to schools near your new home?

    • Reply KLM |

      Oh wait, I understood that you were going to MOVE back, not go back for a visit. Nevermind!

      • Reply Ashley |

        Well now that you mention it, I would LOVE to move back and have actively been searching for employment in the greater-Austin area. For now, yes, I meant just returning for a visit. But if a good employment opportunity came along (like a full time, well paying position with benefits), I’d probably leave my part-time stuff (at least some of it) and take the full time position. It would be a big adjustment and a lot more logistics in terms of husband’s job, etc., but I’d give up a lot to be able to have a permanent position back by family.

  • Reply Laura |

    If it was just a regular vacation I would say what were you thinking, but to visit family I actually think its a good idea. Your kids are only kids for so long, and pushing your debt repayment back a month or two isn’t that big a deal in the long run

  • Reply Walnut |

    I agree with Meghan that this seems a little knee jerk. Would it make sense to see how the income shakes out over the next month or two before committing to travel plans? Since your husband’s business slows down in the winter, it makes sense to travel, but have you considered making this trip a reward for paying off your vehicle or another one of your debts? Plus, if you travel to see your family in January or February instead of over the holidays, you’ll avoid incurring the costs of gifts for everyone and their brother.

  • Reply AT |

    Traveling during the holidays is the most expensive option. Go for New Years if you must, that gets you off the hook for a lot of extra gift giving and lets you start your own traditions too.

  • Reply SAK |

    I think a trip is a great idea – but not at the holidays. You two have flexibility in your schedules right now – so go between the two holidays or after x-mas and save money. I goofed this year and while our winter vacation is non-peak – we have to fly to the starting location January 2nd – a crazy expensive time.

  • Reply Susan |

    I think it is important that your girls see their family often. But, I agree with the other posts that advise you to visit sometime other than holiday time. Travel is HORRIBLE at holidays and everything is more expensive — gas, hotels, etc. Plus the logistics of lugging hidden gifts to Texas and then lugging them all back home again. Ugh! We lived 24 hours away from family when our son was a baby and we mistakenly went home for his first Christmas. It was horrible … I felt like a racquetball on a court going back and forth and back and forth. The next year we made the decision to stay in our own home for Christmas and visit in January. It was so nice! No stress and strain of the gifts, having to be at this house and that house and the other house, and most importantly, my husband and I got to enjoy our son and our Christmas Day together.

    Do think about a trip say in the second week of January or so. That would be a better time frame after the Christmas “letdown”.

  • Reply Mary |

    I think family is very important. I know it must be hard living so far away. That being said, I think you need to think this through a bit. Any time you want to do something, you should try to answer the following questions: How much is it going to cost? Where will the money be coming from? (Is it in the budget?) Can I do it cheaper? Does this fit into my goals? I don’t think you have the answer to any of these yet. Figure out how much it would cost to visit them, then look at your goals and your budget. While one month may not be a deal breaker in terms of getting out of debt overall, I have to agree that going at the holidays, might be an even bigger budget buster. I ask myself these questions all the time when I want something, lol. For example, last night I was tired and wanted a pizza. I wanted to order it from my favorite place. Well, for pizza, a tip and delivery, it’s expensive. So I thought I could do it cheaper by picking it up but it’s too much work to put my son in a wheelchair, put the wheelchair in the van, etc. Next, I could have used a coupon and ordered it someplace else. I also had cash on me to pay for it so I knew I could afford one if I wanted to however I hate spending all that extra money for a tip etc. I could have gone to the store and bought a frozen pizza for less but then I’d have to go out and it’s a lot of work getting my son together. In the end, I decided to save my money and just make a tuna salad sandwich at home, lol. I use this example just to show you the thought process.

    I’d rather you figure out how much the trip would cost. Let’s say it’s $1000. Can you do it cheaper? Yes, if you weren’t going during the holidays which would be the most expensive time. Is there a time of the year that would be cheaper? Or, in terms of saving money, is there any other way you could connect with your family instead of a trip? Perhaps a Skype call where you could see them and talk to them? Next, is it in the budget? Not right now, but it could be, lol. Does it fit with my goals of paying down my debt this year? ….this is how I would think about it. Once you know how much it’s going to cost and thought it through a bit more, then I think you would be more clear about your decision. So let’s say, the trip was $1000 and you really wanted to go. You could put it off until 2015 and budget $333.33 a month for three months and go in March. Then everything would be paid in advance and you’d have the money. You’d also feel the pinch of taking $333.33 away from your budget every month. You also did this perfectly last month with the whole shampoo issue. You were out of shampoo and didn’t have the money in the budget. You figured out a way to do it cheaper and used your sample sizes to stay on budget. You reminded yourself of your goal to pay off your debt. In the whole scheme of things, a bottle of shampoo wouldn’t have impacted your debt as much as an unplanned trip.

    And finally, I think part of the reason this may have come up is that the decision to pay off the van is a little further out than other debt. If I recall, the license fees was a few grand and if your goal was to pay that off instead of the van (meaning paying off another debt by Dec. 31st), you might have been pushing so hard towards that goal, that you might not have wanted to spend money on a trip right now. Don’t know the answer but I am just saying that since the van payoff date is further off, there isn’t a sense of urgency to get it done and hold off on other things.

    Lots to think about for sure. At the end of the day, it’s about making sure that our actions are lining up with our goals. It’s also about finding balance in our life. Only you can figure out what to do next. Good luck with your decision.

  • Reply Misti |

    My feeling is right now you are making an emotional decision not a thought out decision. i understand that you feel you did not get to see your family a lot during their visit; can you plan better; while the toddler and infant nap schedule may not occur at the same time; was there an additional reason that the infant did not nap at your house in a bedroom? That way your sister and you could spend some one on one time and get to know your girls better; and then when they nap you have some time with her infant. I think you put this off until the beginning of next year. Start traditions at you house and maybe one of them could be SKYPING your parents when the girls wake up and start opening gifts. Your goal is to be debt free so that you have more choices in life; while spending $1,000 may not seem to impact the goal buy a lot; it is really the thought process that is impacting it. It makes it easier to make similar choices in other circumstances.

So, what do you think ?