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Dear Wendy

An expensive vacation with her family…

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This topic contains 15 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by avatar Bittergaymark 5 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #716901 Reply

    Dear Wendy,

    My girlfriend and I have been together for about two and a half years, and recently moved in together, which is going well: we’re happy and enjoying spending the time together. Recently, her parents invited us on an expensive family vacation in the Caribbean, and I’m unsure whether a. to accept, and b. if I do accept, how to divide the cost of it.

    We’re both relatively financially stable for our ages (early twenties), but she earns almost double what I do and has capital in investments and a rental property. I’m “merely” debt-free, with a few months savings for emergencies and a paycheck which covers my share of expenses, some savings and some leisure.

    We split rent/bills exactly 50-50, and aim to split groceries/dates/vacations 50-50 (taking turns paying and trying to make sure we’ve each put in about the same over a month, and monitoring much more closely for vacations, which are split exactly 50-50). We also aim for 50-50 for chores, though I may end up doing a little more occasionally, e.g. if I’m home earlier one night. We’re happy with the 50-50 split: we aren’t married, and aren’t ready to combine our finances yet. We live within my budget, and the savings she makes are hers for the time being, and may be ours in future, if everything continues to go well.

    The per person cost of this vacation is approx $1500. That is far beyond my means as far as my income relates to my lifestyle, Usually, I simply wouldn’t go, but my girlfriend would like me there, and, while her family would understand if I said I can’t go because I can’t afford it, I also don’t want to be rude to the gesture of including me or impede building a relationship with people I hope will one day be my in-laws.

    Her parents will be paying for her to join them, and I am welcome to join them. My family tend to give money as gifts, particularly if the money is earmarked for a particular occasion, and my parents and grandparents have offered to gift me $200 dollars each (ie. $400) for Christmas for this trip. My girlfriend offered to pay my share, but I’m uncomfortable with that. I was thinking about the option of splitting our joint share ($3000) minus our combined family contribution ($1900). I could just about afford the $550, but I still feel a little like I’m taking advantage of my girlfriend, and possibly that it isn’t the best use of my limited resources (ie. maybe I should put gifts from family into boosting up my emergency fund).

    My question is twofold – 1. Do you think I should go on this vacation? 2. If yes, does the above arrangement sound fair for splitting the cost? If not, can you think of another alternative which might be fair? (I’d appreciate any alternate suggestions as ways to think about it, obviously there isn’t necessarily a right way to do it, and it will depend on how my girlfriend and I feel about it, but basing a conversation on models might be an easier way to discuss it.)


    #716914 Reply

    I don’t get why you’re comfortable paying 50% of everything when she makes double what you make, and why you’re not comfortable with her paying for the trip? And I say that as someone who makes double what my partner makes. I’d have no problem at all treating him to a trip my family wants to go on.

    YOUR money would be better spent building up your savings to at least 6 months of living expenses, and maxing what you can contribute to a retirement account, than going on a trip with her family. I’d honestly say don’t go if you can’t afford it. But better, let your girlfriend pay for it! You could use your Christmas money to pick up things like rides to and from the airports, maybe a special excursion or dinner, stuff like that.

    #716916 Reply

    I generally lurk here but the topic of splitting expenses is something I feel strongly about so I’m jumping in. First, and not in response to your question, I think people should split expenses by percentage of income. You decide how much you need to cover your monthly bills and figure out how to get there using the same percentage of your income. Then in a way, you’re both experiencing the same cost.

    In response to your question, I agree with Kate that you should go and you should let her pay for your part. If she has the money and she wants to have the experience of you being there with her family, which could be very important for her, then I don’t see a problem with you accepting her gift to you. I definitely paid for some trips with my now husband when we started dating because travel is important to me and I enjoyed experiences more with him there. It was a win/win for me.

    If you’re in your early 20s and not in debt that’s amazing and you’re very lucky but one big unexpected cost could quickly change that and building up your safety net would be my priority. If you ultimately aren’t comfortable with her paying for your share then I would politely decline and let her know you hope she has a great time without you.

    #716917 Reply
    Leslie Joan

    If her parents are paying for her, and she’s offering to pay for YOU, then the way I see it is that she’s paying half the amount, in net. And presumably she’s offering because she wants you there.

    Do not decimate your meager savings or spend more than you are comfortable with in order to come along. Do decide if you want to become comfortable with the idea of accepting a gift that is freely offered by your partner who makes more than you do.

    #716925 Reply

    Don’t go and strongly reconsider this relationship. No one not extremely entitled invites someone in their early 20s to an expensive Caribbean vacation without offering to treat them. It’s a gesture from people who are either enormously inconsiderate or completely oblivious to the money concerns of those less well off than themselves. They are going to perpetually be expecting you to foot the bill for events beyond your means or looking down on you from accepting financial support from your girlfriend.

    Turn them down and take this as an opportunity to start setting strict boundaries for what they can use the implicit pressure of social expectations to get you to do. If they really want you there they will pay for you to come. They have absolutely no grounds to take offense at someone at your age and financial situation refusing to blow thousands of dollars on an unnecessary vacation.

    If you plan on continuing with your girlfriend, you should use this opportunity to have some frank discussions about spending on these kinds of events. If you are married and her parents want you guys to go to Europe with them will you guys be expected to go along with it? Will she support you in setting financial boundaries even if it contradicts her family’s expectations?

    #716928 Reply

    I’m also going to take a wild guess here that your girlfriend’s investments and rental properties were not self funded.

    #716931 Reply
    Northern Star

    I agree with Fyodor, to an extent. It’s not welcoming of her parents to pay her way while “inviting” you (but not really, because “you’re welcome to come” means “I don’t care if you come or not).

    That’s the message they’re sending. So don’t blow all your fun money on a trip you can’t afford with people who aren’t really interested in your presence anyway.

    I don’t agree that you need to re-think the relationship, because it’s not your girlfriend’s actions that are at issue—but your gut is telling you not to take this trip for a reason…

    #716935 Reply

    I don’t know @Fyodor and @Northern Star, that seems a little harsh. They’re only in their early 20s, and have only recently moved in together. Yes, it would be nice if they offered to pay, but in my early 20s I wouldn’t have expected a significant other’s family to shell out $1500+ to take me on a trip (or thought they were unwelcoming and uninterested in me if they didn’t offer to pay). They’re not married. I can understand the LW’s hesitance to accept so generous a gift from the GF, but I think in this circumstance, you should take her up on the offer. If she really wants you to come and it’s not a hardship to pay your way, then let her. Then you can do what @kate said, and pick up the tab for a nice dinner out for everyone.

    I actually think this is one of the more delightful letters we’ve gotten in awhile. This LW seems thoughtful and level-headed, and financially responsible, and everyone here is more or less considerate of everyone else’s feelings (although perhaps the GF’s parents are a bit out of touch with the concerns of the Common Man). How refreshing!

    #716937 Reply

    Just going to add my experience, in case it helps you at all. I’ve made a lot more money (2x, or even closer to 3x) than my now husband from the time we met. We moved in together after a year and about a year after that we took our first big trip together. What worked for us, and actually still pretty much works for us, is that we split day to day expenses like rent and groceries 50-50, but then I pay for big expenses, like when we got a new washing machine or went on vacation.

    The way I see it is, we’d realistically never be able to take a nice vacation if it had to stay in his budget. Plus, I obviously wouldn’t want to go on a trip without him! So I am very happy to pay for him. But he still likes to contribute to the family by splitting the rent, utilities, etc.

    I know this might not work for everyone, but for us it’s been good.

    #716939 Reply

    You seem way overly hung up on everything being perfectly equal in your relationship. If you always think that way you or your partner will eventually be miserable. Relationships are not a 50/50 split 100% of the time. You even mention sometimes you do a bit more chores if you are home early. Like who the heck cares. How do you even know that exactly. It’s so odd to me. Relationships are about feeling loved and cared for, no only doing your half of the dishes. What happens when she is injured and you do all the chores for a month? You going to keep track of that too?

    You need to stop keeping tabs and just let your relationship flow more naturally. If you do so you will avoid resentment and get to go on trips.

    #716941 Reply

    @vathena, they are living together and have been dating for three years. They are at the stage when people would normally vacation together. The parents know that inviting her creates a strong social expectation that he come along. I suspect that they have the intentional obliviousness of people affluent enough to buy their daughter rental properties as to the financial constraints of others or are deliberately trying to contrive a situation that is difficult for him. This is not going to be the last time this happens and at the very least he needs to make sure that he and his GF are completely on board with how they are going to navigate it.

    #716945 Reply

    Well, I don’t necessarily disagree with that. But I don’t think there’s any reason to go looking for offense, with the facts that are given. If LW chimes back in with more details about his relationship with them so far, we might have a better idea whether they are being oblivious/cruel or just don’t want to pay for the vacations of non-married/engaged partners, which is maybe not awesome but kind of their prerogative. (I mean, I would do it for my daughter’s serious live-in boyfriend, but not all parents feel the same.) And yes, should the relationship progress, they will need to be on the same page about how to handle finances/financial boundaries as it relates to the parents. As far as being anal about splitting everything 50/50 (as @Janelle pointed out) it seems like just-moved-in bean-counting right now. Maybe as they settle into their shared household, things will kind of take on an organic “division” that won’t be so strict. They are probably just kind of figuring out what works for them right now.

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