Dear Mrs. Riches:
I recently planned a trip down south with two other friends. Well, as chance would have it, I had financial difficulty, and, as a result, decided I couldn't go on the trip. We all booked our flights separately and I was able to cancel at minimal cost, given that I had ample time before the trip. However, we had planned to share a room and given that I am no longer going, my friends will have to pay a larger portion than they originally anticipated.
Now one of my friends is harassing me to give him the money he says I "owe" him for the room. He says it's only fair because I had an obligation. I say that I shouldn't have to pay for a trip I'm not going on. I am even more incensed that he is making such a big issue out of this because he's older, more established in his career, and has way more money than I do. Also, within this year he backed out of a weekend trip and was not asked to pay the money for his share of the room, nor for the cancellation fee for the second room.
Who's right in this case -- him or me?
Dear Cash-Strapped Student:
How much notice do you consider "ample"? Was it enough time for your friends to make some modifications in their own itinerary to keep costs down?
To me, the answers to these questions are very important in determining who is in the right, you or your friend. If you told them only a couple of days in advance, for example, then they couldn't reasonably change rooms or hotels to something less expensive. In that instance, while my feeling is that someone that much older and more settled should have a more generous nature (after all, the payoff for good karma is big), technically you should still pay your portion. If, however, you gave them a lot of notice, then I think they bear more responsibility for the hotel bill. They will enjoy the room, the travel, and the companionship, and it's not fair for you to have to foot the bill for that.
I would also wonder how much you want to maintain the relationship with these folks. If they're great friends (great enough to overlook the occasional snarl), then you may want to ask to make a payment plan for the entire amount or at least offer to split the difference. It will be a cheap price to pay to preserve a good friendship. If this situation has soured you on the relationship altogether, though, a conciliatory gesture will only make you burn that much hotter. In that case, stick to your guns and offer a hearty "Bon voyage!" with no money attached.
Regardless of what happens with your friendship, kudos to you for putting your financial stability above a vacation on your list of priorities. Often folks without the means simply use credit cards to get what they want -- enjoy now, pay later. Practicing delay of gratification -- while it won't have you sunning on an exotic beach or worrying about the dust mites in the hotel bedspread -- will help you achieve all of your financial goals, whether that's getting out of debt, establishing an emergency fund, or funding your retirement.
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