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Splitting the Bill

The family (My wife, daughter and I) are considering a vacation. We would split a house near a beach with my sister-in-law (single) and a friend who is a single mom, bringing three kids. But, interesting enough, I am at a bit of a loss as to how to split the bill. Assuming the house is $4000 to keep the math easy, these are the choices:

So, the first line shows that if simply count people, it’s $500 per person and this is the split. But if we count bedrooms (there are 5), the sister-in-law uses one, we use 1-1/2 as our daughter would share a room with the friend’s daughter, and the friend uses 2-1/2, one for her, one for the two boys she has and one half split with her daughter and ours. In this choice we pay $300 less at the expense of my sister-in-law. The third proposal, that we each pay one third just seems crazy, why should my sister-in-law pay the same as the friend bringing three kids or the three of us? Last choice, the 40/40/20 split. This costs us the most, but seemed fair in comparison to the other choices.

I know this isn’t rocket science, how would you split the bill? Any other way I’ve missed?


  • Cindy Marsch February 2, 2011, 7:47 am

    What are the financial circumstances of the people involved? Most single moms struggle financially (and in other ways!) — is she in a better financial position than your family is? Is she EXPECTING to pay half the cost since she has half of the people?

    Are there relationship considerations here, or purely “roommate” ones? Will you be sharing any of the housekeeping chores or is everyone’s food separate from everyone else’s and a cleaning service will do the cleaning when it’s all done?

    If you were sharing the house “separately” because one group were to use it Monday through Tuesday, another Wednesday through Thursday, and the last Friday and Saturday, then splitting by thirds would make a lot of sense.

    Bottom line: talk to your wife, who probably has the relationship / circumstances thing well in mind already. 🙂

  • Frugalapolis February 2, 2011, 7:33 am

    If you were staying at a hotel it would be divided by rooms, so I think that’s how it should go. The other option is the 40/40/20 split. You may want to consider who will benefit most from other options like if there’s a pool – will the kids be using it more? If there’s a hot tub will the adults use it only. Considering other amenities of the property may help decide if it should be strictly rooms or split cost.

  • JOE February 2, 2011, 10:19 am

    My SIL is probably is worse financial shape than the single mom. Single mom has been renting in that area for years, so she’s been able to afford it, but SIL thinks single mom is struggling this year. My dilemma isn’t about paying too much, per se. I am looking out for SIL, but SIL is looking out for single mom. I suppose I could go further, split by adults, and offer to pick up half. I would care that I paid that much, but I’d wonder why SIL has to pay as much as single mom (whose third kid is actually the son’s friend).
    Thanks for sharing your thought on this.

  • JOE February 2, 2011, 10:21 am

    More great points to consider, thanks!

  • Darwin's Money February 2, 2011, 11:40 am

    That’s an interesting one! Since family – and roughly same size, I’d offer up to you have fam and sis in law take half (2K) and the other fam take half. The, amongst you and sis-in-law, determine split OF the 2K. This seems like a natural split amongst the parties and surely, less bickering or hard feelings w sis-in-law compared to the friend who may not know you guys as well.

  • JOE February 2, 2011, 1:32 pm

    This is a great solution, which reflects the “people” line above, with the friend and kids taking $2,000, and we can figure out the other $2000 between us. That line favors my SIL at the expense of the friend whom she’s trying to help, not that SIL has any money to spare.

  • Elle February 3, 2011, 12:17 pm

    What fun! Here I am snowed in but with an opportunity to plan someone else’s vacation. Joe, is that photo the actual house?

    I propose counting the living room area and kitchen as “common areas” equating to three other “rooms. The common areas are used about 1/8th of the time by each of the eight people. So each person is credited 3/8ths of a room for use of the kitchen and living room. Note that hotels include a bathroom and do not generally have living rooms nor kitchens.

    The new rooms calculation is:

    People 4 3 1
    Common area 1.5 1.125 0.375
    Bedrooms used 2.5 1.5 1
    Rooms used 4 2.625 1.375
    Cost $2000 $1312.5 $687.5

    Note that changing the common areas to a different room equivalent still results in the friend w/3 kids having to pay half the bill. Varying the “common areas” from one to five rooms results in paying up to $100 more for either Joe’s family or the sister-in-law.

    Women are clever though. Who is doing all the planning here? Who is making the deposit? Is the “friend” your friend or the sister-in-law’s friend? Who is the best cook and are they volunteering to be main chef? If all or most of the latter is your sister-in-law, I would give her the break, hence Jane V1, Joe, and Jane V2 kicking in her allowance pay $1350, sister-in-law pays $650, friend pays $2000.

    Maybe the most important calculation is that eight folks means two Scrabble sets will be needed.

  • JOE February 3, 2011, 1:08 pm

    Lots more to consider. Wow.
    That’s not the actual house, similar, I think. I might be the cook, I am in our house, but the friend is pretty opinionated about cooking, and I’d defer. I plan to be flexible and happy go lucky on this trip. The friend was first a friend of my SIL, but we’ve all spent time together and enjoy everyone’s company. Her two kids are a year older than J2 and they have a great time together.

    At this point, SIL is still asking to split 3 ways. We’ll see how it goes. Thanks again.

  • steven February 9, 2011, 11:28 pm

    I would split 50/50 with sil, and let her negotiate with her friend as to how much she should pay.

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