What If One Friend Has Less Money Than the Others?

March 8, 2012 | By | Comments (1)

Say you plan – and pre-pay – a friends’ weekend getaway only to learn at the last minute that one person can’t afford to go. “Save me from being unduly rude!” wrote reader SJaneParker, who hopes she won’t be left footing the bill.

Here’s the setup: “I and another close friend took on the task (happily) of organizing a college friends’ getaway weekend in Sonoma,” SJaneParker wrote.  “We handled all reservations, paid for the accommodations and handled all preliminary planning (such as sending out options for activities and accommodations in a survey with estimated prices).

“One lady (‘J’), to whom I was never very close, mentioned that she felt the prices were too expensive, so we went for all the cheapest options and she gave the okay,” SJaneParker wrote. “However, this past weekend I heard from someone else that ‘J’ plans to join the trip late and only stay one night—and plans to pay for only that one night.

“We have only a week until the trip, and we cannot replace guests for only part of the time. As she never told the organizers and decided to do this so late, I feel she should pay the full price, but others don’t want ‘drama’ on what is supposed to be a nice weekend,” SJaneParker wrote. “How should I handle this?”

The best approach, SJanePparker, is to assume all parties had the best intentions. For instance, you informed everyone of prices ahead of time and went for cheaper options to accommodate concerns. Assume that J intended to attend until something – probably worries about the cost – changed her mind.

At that point, she should have informed you and asked if it was possible to find a replacement to attend (and pay for!) the nights she was skipping. By saying nothing, she put everyone in a bind. Someone has to cover the cost, after all.

Assuming best intentions, however, her reason for behaving this way might be embarrassment: she may feel badly that she can’t afford to pay for her share when all her other old friends from college can. If this is the case, you don’t want to make her feel worse.

I wonder if the rest of the group would feel comfortable chipping in to defray her expenses? This is, after all, a group of old friends, and it sounds as if other attendees may be more financially comfortable.

As the organizer, you should call J directly – today! – to confirm that she is planning to curtail her attendance. If so, reach out to the rest of the group and ask, discreetly, if others would be willing to pay a slight adjustment. Don’t go into the details; among old friends, news travels fast, so everyone already knows this is an issue. Just say, “The new price would be X amount.” If anyone has a problem with it, you’ll hear about it and can discuss the situation in more detail off-line.

Who should pay? How would you handle it? 

(image via Realsimple.com)