Money and Relationships: Financially Surviving Vacation With the In-Laws

Money and Relationships: Financially Surviving Vacation With the In-Laws

I love my husband’s family. Honestly! They are all kind, fun, caring people who I am very happy to now call “My Family.” I know, I know; I am one of the lucky ones, and I count my blessings every day. That being said, however, in-law vacations can still be taxing, especially when it comes to money issues. Let’s look at some ways to handle your cash during in-law family vacations.

Pick Up the Tab

One of the first problems that many couples encounter during family vacations is that Parental Purchase Problem. You know, where your in-laws insist on paying for everything. Maybe they realize you are struggling financially as newlyweds or maybe they still want to play the parent to their adult children by treating them. Whatever the case, you wish to spread your wings and treat them for a change.

This is where you have to strike a fine balance. Of course, you don’t want to insult them by snatching the bill from their hands…or “wrastling” (yes, I spoke in hillbilly) them to the ground like some WWF wrestler. You might instead want to offer to pay, as nicely and firmly as possible. So how can you and your spouse accomplish this? Here are a few ways:

  • Have Your Wallet Ready: Whenever you know a purchase could be open to a potential in-law swoop-and-pay, you can have your debit card out and at the ready. The quickest draw often wins.
  • Tell the Waitress: Another way to snatch the bill without a fight is to take the waitress aside and request the bill be given to you. Careful, though; this could be construed as sneaky or uppity.
  • Claim Dibs Before You’re Seated: When an activity comes up that you would like to pay for, tell your in-laws in advance that you wish to pay. A simple “My treat!” or “My turn to pick up the tab” should do wonders.
  • Have Your Spouse Do the Arguing: This is a favorite of mine: my husband actually physically snatches the bill from his father’s or brother’s hand. Their dynamic has always been this way, and they enjoy the little dinner-payment squabbles. (The in-laws would frown on me if I tried to steal the bill, but they find Mike’s thievery charming – and rightly so!)

Be Open and Up-Front About Any Issues

Sometimes your financial situation may not allow you to treat your in-laws to anything. If you are strapped for cash on your upcoming vacation, let the folks know as soon as possible. This will allow them to plan cheaper accommodations, activities, etc.

Of course, if you can strike a lower-fee vacation deal with the family, you should pay your way as much as you can and offer to pick up the tab where possible. This may leave you only treating for snacks and lemonades, but the effort will be very much appreciated.

This may only be touching the tip of the iceberg on the in-law vacation issues, but if you at least have a money plan, you’re one step closer to a peaceful week. So offer to treat where you can and tell in-laws in advance about any financial problems. Your sanity may thank you.

Any other tips out there? Any in-law vacation nightmares you’d like to share, finance related or otherwise?

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Paula @'s picture

Paula @ wrote:

Thu, 06/16/2011 - 06:05 Comment #: 1

I agree -- sometimes, if you can't pay for the "big" items, people appreciate seeing you pay for the "little" things. I know one "parent" who took everyone to dinner and paid the tab, so I paid for the group's coffees the following day. The bills didn't even come close, but the thought was appreciated.

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Tue, 06/21/2011 - 17:49 Comment #: 2

Paula, I agree: people in a group dynamic always appreciate the "little" things! Thanks for weighing in!

Finances and Relationships - Taking on Tough Topics | MomVes's picture

Finances and Relationships - Taking on Tough Topics | MomVes wrote:

Sat, 01/21/2012 - 18:00 Comment #: 3

[...] with the in-laws can be a challenge in the best of times, but how do you survive a vacation with them? We've got you [...]