As a rule, if you lend someone money, it's safest to assume you'll never get it back. Lending a family member or close friend money with the expectation they'll pay you back is a fast-track to resentment. Which is why it's only good to help people out if you're willing to part with that money and call it a gift. This requires being deeply honest with yourself, which is easier said than done.
In a popular post on the AITA subreddit, a woman asked if she was wrong for snapping on her BIL after he tried to charge her and her husband for a "family trip." She wrote:
My husband and I are quite well off and childfree by choice. Neither of us was born into a particularly wealthy family, but we both prioritized learning to manage our finances and have invested a lot of effort into our careers.
My husband’s brother (I’ll call him Sam) ended up in a tight situation 5 years ago, he had an alcoh*l problem to begin with, and then his GF accidentally got pregnant and they had twins to deal with - and they were barely managing to afford the rent on a 1 bedroom with a roommate. Plus student loan debt.
My husband wanted to help his brother, because his parents couldn’t really afford to, and I was okay with it because we did have money to spare, and I really did feel for them. We supported them for almost a year - they lived with us, and once Sam recovered from his add*ction and they moved out, we still gave them significant financial help.
Over the last few years, they’ve been doing better and better - they have paid off most of their debt and own a small home. A few weeks ago, they invited us on vacation with them - I was happy to see the twins after so long, and my husband was happy to spend some time with his brother.
It was a weeklong stay at a nice resort, and I was surprised and pleased that they’d gone from no cash at all to being able to afford a holiday for 6 people. Two days after we got home, Sam sent me a message saying that we should pay $1500 for our share of the trip. I was shocked, because they didn’t say anything about us paying when they invited us.
It also seemed strange that they’d split the cost including both of our airfares, when my husband and I live much closer to the destination and had much lower airfare costs than Sam’s family did. I wrote back saying that we would not be paying because we thought they were inviting us as family, and not as paying guests.
I said they should have mentioned us paying our share before the trip if they wanted to. He wrote back quite angrily and said family is all very well, but family doesn’t mean you can take advantage of someone’s kindness. This rubbed me the wrong way, so I went through some of our old financial records and sent him an estimate of how much we’d spent on his family over the years.
I said if you don’t want to take advantage of anyone’s kindness, then please start paying us back for all this and we’ll pay for the vacation. He didn’t respond, but apparently called and yelled at my husband over the whole thing. My husband thinks I was needlessly petty and that it was cruel of me to rub it in their faces that they needed help from us “a long time ago.”
He says we should just pay and forget about it, because it’s selfish of me to expect them to feel like they owe us for something we did of our own free will. And it’s true that I would be less annoyed about them asking us to pay, if not for how much we helped them in the past. Am I the AH for “holding this over their head?"
NTA. If he wanted y'all to go Dutch, he could have said so upfront. He didn't. Also, he wants you to split his airfare costs? Hell no. He sees you and your husband as a piggy bank if he couldn't handle the scorekeeping (which is what he did when asking for reimbursement AFTER the fact).
Also, 5 years isn't "a long time ago". That's still pretty fresh. Moral of the story for him: Don't invite people to a vacation you can't afford. If he wanted to split the cost he needed to communicate that upfront.
NTA. I was going to say ESH, but changed my mind the more I thought about why he didn’t tell you he expected you and your husband to pay ahead of time. It seems to me he was basically trying to get you and your husband to subsidize his family’s vacation.
It is interesting he just sent you an amount not actual invoices. I have been on many family vacation with my siblings, their spouses/SO, and their kids. Basically, if the vacation is to be a shared expense we decided where we are going to go together, decided if we are going to rent a house/houses together or each book our own rooms, and the dates of arrival.
It is then up to everyone to book their flights/ or decide if they are going to drive based on financial reasons or closeness to the venue, and book their accommodation if we are not sharing a house. We do this bc some need more room, or want a more expensive/cheaper flight or hotel accommodations than others.
The only time one person pays upfront and others send cash to that person after the fact would be if we split renting a space. Even then we decide ahead of time how the expense will be split, by person, family, or bedroom. The only time I have been on a vacation where I had no say or idea of the cost upfront was when I was not paying or expected to pay.
Like when my brother took all of us to Ireland when he sold his business for big bucks. As a thank you for all the help we gave him when he first started out and he was struggling, he wanted to treat us to a vacation. Which seems like what you thought was going on here, and BIL did nothing to dispel that idea, in fact he actively encouraged it but not having one conversation about costs up front.
Not discussing even the basics of what something is going to cost, what is the other parties budget/ limits is, is not something you do if you expect other people to pay. You don’t wait till after the fact unless you are trying to pull something.
He didn’t tell you ahead of time bc he DIDN’T want you to book any of your flights/ accommodation separately, because if you did you would not be subsidizing his family’s.
This was not an offer of a family vacation per say, but an offer of helping to subsidize a vacation he and his family otherwise wouldn’t have been able to take. Yes, is was petty to bring up the help you freely offered to provide in the past, but I get the anger bc your BIL made what you thought was gesture of thanks for that help into an issue.
I think you are not mad at being asked to pay, but bc you are recognizing that this trip was not planned as a way to bond as a family and enjoy each other’s company, but that you were being used so BIL could go on vacation. Inviting you wasn’t an act of love or appreciation, rather to get something from you.
ESH I am constantly amazed at the amount of people who don't have an upfront conversation about money and paying their way. My friend invites me to the cinema, I expect to pay for my ticket and ask how much I owe for the ticket. If I invite someone somewhere and expect them to pay their share I say, "do you want to do xyz, it's £50?" So they know the cost and expectation to pay.
Or I'd say "my treat" if it's nbd and I'm covering it. Sounds like your BIL has conveniently forgotten what you've done for him in the past but you also can't spring a $1500 bill on someone after the event. You know he doesn't have a lot of money and thought it odd he could afford a holiday for 6 and never thought to ask how much it'd cost you.
NTA. It seems like Sam is trying to get you to pay more than your share of the trip, and when you just didn't agree to, he went to a "moral tangent" he had no right to. I think you need to firmly discuss this with your husband and clear the air with him.
Explain to him how his brother's "families shouldn't take advantage of each other" rubbed you the wrong way, and how him not making it clear from the start, that you'd have to pay, also rubbed you the wrong way. And yes, Sam owes you a lot for how much you have helped him, and he should show gratitude instead of shouting at you.
NTA. It’s typically that if people are expected to pay that should be shared with them upfront. However, now you know they could not afford to take y’all on this trip and are expecting to be paid back. While unfair you should pay then what you owe them.
Ask for receipts of purchases made. Get the cost of your airfare, hotel, activities and food and pay for that. Moving forward you should be told what your expenses will be beforehand. It’s up to you how you choose to handle this situation but I suggest that you hurt the hatchet…this time.
“Hello X, hubby and I have talked and I want to apologize for throwing our previous trips in your face. That wasn’t fair of me to do. I agreed to the trip to spend time with you all but I was also under the assumption that you and x were footing the bill, as hubby and I have done in the past. I realize that this is not the case and I want to apologize again for my overreaction."
"Moving forward, I would appreciate if the costs associated with the trip are brought up before any Lyme to are made. That way we can avoid this situation in the future. If you want to further chat about this I’m definitely open to exploring how we can both improve.”
If you want to be ‘petty’ you can stop paying their share moving forward. Now you can all be on equal footing because you know now the favor (probably) won’t be returned and you can move forward with an adjusted set of expectations.
OP is NTA here, but this sounds like an awkward and loaded dynamic all around.