The Surprise Invoice For Grandma’s Party

by admin on March 27, 2014

We opened up an email from my husband’s sister that read:

Grandmother’s 90th Birthday! Hosted by her grandchildren (7 names).

After viewing many options (casinos, clubs, & homes) this is the most inexpensive & pragmatic option I could find & hope it’s not unreasonable. No venue was available that allowed us to bring our own food or catering. Limited only by our budget.

Without having to do any cooking or cleanup, the cost is $175 each (7 siblings= $1225) Please plan to have your cash, check or transfer to my bank by no later than April 21, so I can make the final payment.

RSVP is not required since only providing hearty appetizers at that time of day at a Cafe (2pm to 4 pm). The price includes, appetizers, non-alcoholic drinks, full sheet cake, candles, balloons bouquet, card box & corsage. Mariachi band for guest at the party with no charge to us, but will take tips from our guests.

Help! We knew nothing about this and need advice for a response. 0323-14

I’m assuming your husband is one of the seven grandchildren of the guest of honor?   Well, this is certainly a difficult situation your sister-in-law has imposed upon your family.   If you decline to cough up your share of the money, you are in danger of being labeled troublemakers within the family and others grandchildren will be forced to take on more expense to cover what you do not give.   To keep the peace, you may feel compelled to sacrifice spending money in one area of your budget to cover this unexpected cost.

My advice is that if you have the money, give it.   Now is not the time to potentially mar grandmother’s birthday with family disputes.  However, as soon as that party is over, a family pow wow is in order to address, in a straight forward manner, the issue of assuming upon other people’s wallets without any input.  I believe in trying to be at peace as best as possible with family but there are also times when there needs to be direct communication to resolve issues and to make it known that certain kinds of behavior within the family are not acceptable.   Basically, you may have gotten used this time but afterwards you will make it known that this is the last time you will be surprised with news of this kind.  I have a sneaky suspicion that you are not the only ones caught off guard by this revelation.

If you do not have $175.00, your husband needs to appeal to his sister that he was not apprised of any plans to honor grandmother , that he had no input into the plans or the costs and therefore this surprise invoice for his share of the co-hosting is ill timed and not payable.   I don’t see anything wrong in stating it forthrightly that you can either choose to fund your share of grandmother’s party or choose to heat the house/put food on the table/make a car payment and that in springing this surprise on you, this is the choice dear sister has given you.

{ 99 comments… read them below or add one }

another Laura March 27, 2014 at 5:17 am

I’m tempted to wonder just how thoroughly sister searched for less expensive venue if she didn’t even run it by all grandchildren before renting cafe. It seems like someone in their connection would have a home to use for the occasion big enough to host 20 or so people. I don’t know how many additional guests she has invited. Homes usually let you bring your own food. $1225 for venue rental for two hours plus the cost of a cake, some appetizers and sodas, juices seems high. Could sis be planning to pocket some?

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lakey March 27, 2014 at 11:23 am

I agree that the price is steep for what they are getting, but venues that provide the kinds of services described are expensive. That is why I am a fan of people who don’t have a lot of money self-catering in a home or a church hall type of place. You can by types of food at delis, grocery stores, or food brokers that are mostly already prepared. If you don’t have the time or energy to handle this along with decorating, then cut the guest list.

If you want to spend money on this type of party at a venue, that is fine, but everyone who is expected to participate needs to be in on the planning and decision making. In my family, some grandchildren would have difficulty coming up with the extra cash.

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Jazzgirl205 March 27, 2014 at 3:36 pm

I agree. Someone’s house is a much better venue. Look at it this way. The family can stay as long as they want, play the type of music that is significant to Grandma, and decorate in a beautiful, meaningful way. Between all the grandchildren, I’m sure some will have a punchbowl, some silver, a pretty cakestand, vases, dishes, a vintage tablecloth – maybe some of those things once belonged to Grandma herself.

My old house used to be the go-to house for those type of parties. Give me two days and I can put together quite an elegant family event.

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Heather March 27, 2014 at 5:56 am

I also don’t understand why it costs so much for appetizers in the afternoon, non-alcoholic drinks (I take that to mean water, juice, soda), sheet cake, balloons, and other relatively small accessories. A café where appetizers, soda and cake costs $175 in the afternoon?! You bet, in addition to the rudeness of the supposition, that a conversation needs to be had at some point in the future, regarding input into organizing family celebrations.

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The Elf March 27, 2014 at 7:28 am

I’m assuming it’s a BIG party for that cost.

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Sammy March 27, 2014 at 6:05 am

I probably would also contact the sister and ask, if any of this has been discussed beforehand. I mean in the sense “have I missed the conversation about this” not in hostile way. I know in our family it is not rare to just have communication mishaps. My mother calls my sister and brother and tells them about thing X. Later on she calls to my sister again and talks about thing X. Now she has feeling that it has been discussed 3 times => all the kids know about it. And I mix sometimes up whether I discussed something with my mother or my sister.

So I think it would be good to find out if there was some kind of innocent problem with this, Sis1 thought that you knew because Bro1 should have called you, but Bro1 thought Sis2 was in charge to discuss with you. I would think that with 7 siblings this is not impossible something like this to happen. It does not change the fact that you might or might not have the money and admins advices are good. But it might make the difference how you view the sister. Because something in the wording makes me think that Sister assumes you know about this party plan. She goes straight to the budget and options talk, rather than opening with something like “I think we should throw a party for grandma and I looked the options”. I might be wrong though.

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INeedANap March 27, 2014 at 6:09 am

One more thing — check with the venue to ensure that the price of the party package does indeed add up to the stated $1225. Whether by intention, oversight, or assumption of hidden costs, verify that your money is indeed going to be spent on the party as detailed. If someone asked me for a payment directly to their bank account I would ask for a receipt.

And mention to the other grandchildren that the pow-pow shouldn’t reach Grandma’s ears. Let her keep a lovely memory of the party. Good luck OP!

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admin March 27, 2014 at 7:04 am

Good advice. I coordinated the party for my father-in-law’s 90th birthday. I personally did the catering which did consist of fruit, meatballs, cheese and crackers,sugar cookies, other mini sweets, beverages. The total cost for building use, refreshments, specialty cakes and decor was less than $700.00.

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Whodunit March 28, 2014 at 8:47 am

The cost sounds reasonable especially if a lot of people are invited. I would do it too, sounds steep, but someone did it and you don’t have to worry about a thing now. And I’m just betting, at some heavy food laden event, someone in the family said to sister, ” yeah, if you want to do this so bad, you go ahead and plan it and just let us know the cost” and so she did. I recently hosted a similar party, but had dinner, and it cost about $3000, so this sounds entirely reasonable.

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o_gal March 27, 2014 at 6:25 am

I would amend the excellent advice from the admin to say that if you have the money, you should pay and have the family pow wow afterward. However, prior to the party, when you are paying SIL, she needs to be told very bluntly that what she did was wrong, using the same words the admin gave if you were not going to pay – you were not apprised of plans, you had no input, and the surprise invoice is ill-timed. She actually needs to hear this at the time of payment from as many of the siblings as possible. Then afterward you all have the come-to-Jesus meeting about planning family get togethers. Also, I want to know if those heavy appetizers and cake are gold plated with edible gold, because that’s what $1225 should buy you for a measley 2 hour long party.

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Raven March 28, 2014 at 8:46 am

I get your point, but I disagree that the conversation should take place before the party. I agree that SIL should get an earful at that time, but my concern would be anything ruining Grandma’s party. Having it out like that beforehand could cause a huge commotion, which would then ruin a really important event. Have the party, enjoy the really special time together, and then go at it once the dust has settled. That way, Grandma’s memory of her beautiful party will not be soiled by fighting amongst her grandkids.

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lkdrymom March 27, 2014 at 6:31 am

I don’t agree with giving the money if you have it. You need to discuss this with the person who sent the email immediately. What happens if you decide to go along for ‘family harmony’ and you find that two of the 7 can’t pay….now are you on the hook for more money (another $70)? Where will it end? No one has the right to spend you money.

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Susan T-O March 27, 2014 at 8:12 am

I’m with you on this. I would explain to Sis that it’s rude to dun people for an expense they hadn’t agreed to pay, or to presume someone else will be hosting a party without any input on said festivities.

My dad used to love visiting a local mountain town but hasn’t been able to do so for many years. For his 90th we took him there, treated him to lunch at his favorite restaurant, and spent the day seeing the sights & reminiscing about the time spent there in younger days. I’m sure that was much more meaningful to him than two hours eating appetizers in a rented cafe, and certainly didn’t cost $175 per person.

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The Elf March 27, 2014 at 2:19 pm

You make a good point, so it would be a good idea (while handing over the cash, assuming OP can afford it) to say that you fully expect that will completely cover their share of party expenses and that there will be no more forthcoming if anything “pops up”.

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The Elf March 27, 2014 at 6:54 am

I agree with the admin that if you have the $175, to give it. I would normally stand on principle about being extorted (and for that sum!) but how often does anyone turn 90? That’s a birthday worth celebrating for sure (assuming you like Grandma).

But I’d totally talk with the sister about pulling this kind of stunt afterwards. The worst part, IMHO, is that the seven people expected to host were not consulted before being asked to pony up.

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Lo March 27, 2014 at 6:55 am

$175… I’m still in awe over this amount. Especially in these times, who would assume that a family has $175 to cough up with no prior notice?? That’s two weeks of groceries in our household. That’s a car payment.

Your husband should contact his sister immediately and ask why he wasn’t given any say in the planning. How is it right to surprise people with an invoice like this? Maybe she thought she was doing everyone a favor by doing the work and sending them the bill but if I were one of the grandchildren I’d surely be miffed at being left out of the planning.

When my own late great-grandmother hit 90 we celebrated with a big backyard party with the whole family. Everyone brought food and contributed. There’s absolutely no reason this milestone needs to be such a financial burden. If the whole family agrees to pay this cost then so be it, good for the family, but to assume the responsibility of hiring a venue for family members who have no knowledge– that’s overstepping a boundary.

If I were your husband I would call up my sister right and now call up some of the other grandkids and say hey, lets get together and talk about this.

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Miriam March 27, 2014 at 9:40 am

I second Lo – I would call all the other grandkids [siblings or cousins] – what if the other five cannot/will not contribute their $175? Are you then going to be expected to pay $612.50?

It might be worth doing some research on venue-only costs yourself, if the other grandchildren can’t/won’t afford that sum each, but would be willing to bring food…

I only feel bound by someone else’s demand for that much money if I have agreed *in advance* to plan a party, and it’s not too late to have the discussion *before* handing over the cash (especially if your husband/your sister-in-law are the only ones able/willing to pay up).

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Otterpop March 27, 2014 at 11:06 am

That amount sounds high for the celebration your SIL describes. For $175 I would at least expect a meal. Check with the venue before paying anything. If you do decide to contribute (I would if possible, this time – to keep the peace) tell the family you don’t appreciate them spending your money without your consent.

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kingsrings March 27, 2014 at 3:43 pm

I completely agree! I fail to see why this birthday would be any less special or enjoyable if it were to be celebrated at a family member’s house or backyard instead. In fact, it might be better for everyone since it’s at a personal place and not a cold business venue like a catering hall. Such a birthday just seems more meaningful to me if it’s not at the venue.

And it’s absolutely unacceptable that one person would make this kind of decision for the whole party without input from anyone else. If you accept it, then you’re giving Miss Inconsiderate free reign to do this again at another time. Sorry, but sometimes you have to put your foot down and stand up to people.

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The Elf March 28, 2014 at 6:50 am

Well, you’re assuming that someone has a house big enough for entertaining or a backyard. Depending on where you are in the country, entertaining space can be hard to come by.

But I do agree that it is unacceptable that one person made all the decision making and then expected everyone else to just write checks.

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Meegs March 27, 2014 at 8:03 am

The might be beside the point, but it sounds like either you are getting fleeced by the venue or the organizing sister is trying to make a few extra bucks off of her siblings. We just threw a birthday party for my mom at a really nice restaurant, where we offered a full open bar, sit down dinner, custom designed cake, balloons, flowers, decoration, customs invitations, etc. (in other words, no expense was spared). The total for all this was just under $1500. And we live in one of the most expensive areas of the country. OP, if I were you, I’d ask to see the breakdown of expenses.

As to the issue at hand, I agree with the admin – if can afford it, I think you should contribute to the party. But a family meeting is definitely in order, because no one should be planning an event wherein other are expected to contribute a sizable amount of money, without getting everyone on board first.

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sue March 27, 2014 at 8:09 am

I agree, call the other GK’s and maybe you will find out that EVERYONE except sister would love to have it at another, more reasonable venue.

DH is one of 3 kids -for his parents’ 60th anniversary party (at a home) – we were told on the day of the party what our share would be. We were not involved in the planning in any way. We paid. The family knows we have limited income. At the party, one of his sibs mentioned to MIL that the party was from all 3 of her kids. She did not believe we had contributed. That hurt worst of all.

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Teresa March 27, 2014 at 8:16 am

It is not okay for one member of a family to obligate other members to pay for and/or host a party without some prior discussion. The OP’s husband and his other siblings do not seem to have been asked whether they wanted to help host a party, nor do they appear to have been asked their opinion regarding any part of the planning. The sister-in-law does not mention how many people are being invited, for instance.

This email is lacking the section where the sister-in-law says, “Here are the plans I’ve line up. If everyone can contribute, it will cost $175. Let me know what you think.”

I think the OP’s husband should call his sister and say, “I don’t understand. This is the first I’ve heard of a party. I really wish you had asked me what my opinion and budget were before making firm plans.”

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DGS March 27, 2014 at 8:37 am

What Admin and PP’s said…that being said, I have recently organized a lavish bridal shower for one of my dearest friends (recent cancer survivor and military fiancee of a paratrooper) at a restaurant with a hot lunch (choice of chicken piccata with pasta and vegetables, steak medallions with mushrooms, vegetables and mashed potatoes and spinach quiche with vegetables, salad, rolls, soda, iced-tea and choice of white or red wine, two types of desserts and edible favors – chocolates in personalized boxes), and the cost of the whole thing, including invitations, tips to the wait staff, decorations, gifts for winners of bridal shower games and cupcakes for the kids who were there, etc., for about 50 people was close to $3000 (and the food was good, and we live in a costly Northeastern town). Split between 8 members of the bridal party (matron of honor (me), maid of honor (sister of the bride) and 6 bridesmaids), the cost was about $375/person, although those of us who are older, more professionally and financially established discreetly pocketed a higher share of the cost (I’m not about to stick a 22-year-old who just got her first job out of college with a $400 bill – she can contribute what she can afford). No drama, all agreed upon well in advance, budget set well in advanced, researched thoroughly after all the parties were consulted.

What I’m saying is, 1) it is possible to research all well enough in advance, communicate all thoroughly to all involved parties and come up with a budget and cost distribution that works for everyone without drama and surprises being sprung upon unsuspecting family members and 2) the price quoted above seems excessive for what is being offered.

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Cecilia March 27, 2014 at 8:47 am

I think a discussion should happen immediately. I work at venue that is rented for this type of event quite often and you can get the same thing, minus the balloon bouquet, corsage and card box for $40o, for up to 50 ppl. You could certainly purchase those 3 items for less than $825.

If Grandmother does *not* know about the plans yet, I would definitely talk to the sister and other grandchildren ASAP and try to find a less expensive option. If Grandmother already knows the plans, I would say go with Admin and contribute, *if you can*, to give Grandmother a nice birthday memory. It would pretty hard for me to come up with that amount quickly.

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Gen Xer March 27, 2014 at 8:49 am

Even if you do have the money I would be cheesed off with the presumption that I will just cough it up no questions asked. The problem is that the planners count on people ponying up because they don’t want to make waves or be known as the heartless ones who refused to contribute to Grandma’s 90th birthday party.
Where was everyone in the planning of this event? Before any plans were made it should have agreed upon how much each party was willing or able to contribute.
This kind of financial hijacking is a major peeve of mine. Honestly I think waves do need to be made….we say “oh just pay it and then talk later” but what if it was $500? Or more because a 90th birthday should be celebrated in grand style with a limo, Moet and caviar at the Fairmont?
I really think saying no – that’s too much money and I should have been consulted beforehand is the only way of preventing this kind of stuff in the future. Let them scramble to make adjustments, find ways of cutting costs or coughing it up themselves. They probably won’t pull that again!
I realize people will worry that they will come off as Grandma hating, stingy party-poopers but I bet of lot of people will actually be glad someone took a stand!

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lkb March 27, 2014 at 8:52 am

I agree with all of the above comments. We hosted do’s for our now recently departed relative for her 90th and 100th. The 100th was a big do and there was no way it could have cost $1200! Based on those experiences, I’m willing to bet that Grandma would be content with a cake and all her loved ones around her — no balloons or a Mariachi band (free or not, really?).

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Kimberly March 27, 2014 at 9:06 am

If you can afford it, I would cough up the money, but I before I would do that, I would send an email, (reply all), and ask some questions.

#1 – Did I miss something? When was there a discussion about this event? I don’t mind participating, but if you are going to ask me to cough up cash, then I should have been informed before hand.

#2 – The amount seems high for a two hour event with only appetizers, cake and minor drinks. Has anyone else checked out different venues?

#3 – Who is included in the guest list?

Before I send money to anyone’s account, I want more information on an event that I am part of that I had no knowledge of.

I don’t think it is wrong to ask these questions or state the above and I have to wonder how many others of the grandchildren will feel the same way.

If you simply cannot afford to contribute, (which I totally get in this day and time, because right now, I could not contribute that much cash), then I would let all involved know.

“Sorry, that will not be possible for us at this time. Next time, please involve us in the discussion and planning of an event that you want us to contribute to, so that we have time to work the amount into our budget”.

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~Dessa~ March 27, 2014 at 9:16 am

My sister tried to pull a stunt like this one year for our mother. Sis told every sibling to pony up $75 for family pictures. The problem with that was that, out of five siblings, only she had the money to spare. The rest of us were supporting our own families on minimum wage and welfare. When she got told no, she went whining to Mom, who called all of us greedy ingrates for refusing to pony up for a gift.

That said, I have no advice.

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Cat March 27, 2014 at 9:23 am

I am uncomfortable with other people deciding to spend my money and then sending me the bill.

Sorry, this is her party and she can pay for it, including tipping the band. I would have a party for Grandma in my own home or take her out for a nice lunch/dinner. “Gosh, Sis, I am so sorry you didn’t tell me about this. I had already planned a party for Grandma and was just about to send you a bill for your share.”

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livvy17 March 27, 2014 at 9:48 am

Personally, I’d call my sister and say “what’s this?” in a non-aggressive way. “When was this decided,” and “who was consulted” would also be questions I’d ask. Then, after explanation, (assuming I had the money), I’d say, “ok. I’ll chip in, but it will be the last time I’ll do this without being consulted first.”

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Marozia March 29, 2014 at 1:29 am

Perhaps sister took it upon herself to arrange this party on behalf of everyone. Or no-one else wanted to arrange anything for grandmother’s birthday. But $175 each is rather a lot! I’d be questioning that before paying up.

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just4kicks March 27, 2014 at 9:48 am

Holy cow! My hubby and I put our wedding (17 years ago) for less money than the total of Grammy’ s party! That seems like an awful expensive party. I can see how a 90th birthday is certainly something to celebrate grandly….but two thousand dollars?!? Sheesh. Sounds to me like said party is mostly for the sibling that is hosting it.

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just4kicks March 27, 2014 at 10:05 am

Oops….$1,225.00….not two thousand….still alot of moolah….

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Jaxsue March 27, 2014 at 9:50 am

Wow. For that price, I’d expect a lot more. If I received this “invoice,” I’d have to decline. I wouldn’t be able to afford that right now without putting my fiscal health at risk. And the suggestion of tipping the band, yeah, you can figure that that would raise the cost to $200 each.

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Elizabeth March 27, 2014 at 9:55 am

Yes, cough it up if you can, but I wouldn’t do it easily.

Two weeks before the deadline: “Oh My, we had no idea this was in the works. We’ll need to give this some thought. Were others aware? This expense is a surprise.”

Let her sit on that for 10 days. You’ve made the point that yes, you sprung this on me and now I’m on the spot. Then pay it on the deadline.

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sue March 28, 2014 at 8:02 am

I like this.

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starstruck March 27, 2014 at 10:04 am

the sister in law should have sat down with eveyone and discussed how much everyone could afford. that seems a but much to me. ofcourse, my family is low key. when my grandmother turned eighty we had all of her kids and grandkids over for fried chicken dinner and cake. and we played games. she was very happy. iam sure grandma wouldnt want you to spend money you dont have .elderly people are usually just happy that their family is together and everyone is happy.

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hakayama March 27, 2014 at 10:09 am

A lot if not most of the above PLUS:
The “card box” makes me think that a rather large crowd is expected, and that invitees (as opposed to guests) are expected to come up with monetary gifts (appropriate, of course, to the occasion. ;-))
Revolting all around. And, how completely different from a 90th birthday celebration in my small community: son and DIL covered it all, including an open invitation on the bulletin board at the post office. Said invite stated clearly “your presence is present enough”. Knowing that the wonderful older gent had been active in the volunteer fire department, I wrote a check to them “in HONOR of…”
(I’m stressing HONOR since so many people muddle things with “in NAME of” when giving to worthy causes.)

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Basketcase March 28, 2014 at 1:40 am

I may be cynical, but I also wouldn’t put it past SIL to ask invitees to help pay for the party too…

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Karen March 27, 2014 at 10:13 am

Since the sister’s email states … “this is the most pragmatic option I could find & hope it’s not unreasonable”..

She is using “I” statements which says to me that she came up with this on her own and is springing it on people. I would be hesitant to fork over $175 on one siblings say so. Perhaps OPs husband should contact the other siblings and talk to them before feeling obligated.

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Justine March 27, 2014 at 10:26 am

I agree with Sammy. I would start an email with “Had we discussed this before?” If Grandma has been good to you and you really want her to have a special day, then I might do it. BUT, as the admin said, I would have a conversation very shortly thereafter stated that my money is not to be volunteered. I am an adult. I am to be ASKED and not told.

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Yarnspinner March 27, 2014 at 10:34 am

Granted, it has been a few years since we hosted my parents’ 50th anniversary party….our caterer was local and known for their sandwiches and veggie macaroni sides, which my folks loved., ditto the florist and we rented the local church hall for about fifty people. A friend called and asked if she could supply the cake, which we were quite prepared to pay for, but she turned us down flat.

Total cost for the entire shindig was probably about $750.

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Basketcase March 28, 2014 at 1:44 am

My dad threw a 50th birthday for my mother earlier this year. 50 people, all booze and food paid for (and it was a full, divine sit-down dinner). Cost him about $2000. Someone donated the cake.
If we had done it at a local hall rather than a cafe, and self-catered, we totally would have had it in for under $500, but he decided to splash out.
Basically – it was expensive because it was easy (it was a surprise party) and in a nice venue that my mother has enjoyed eating at before. Not because it was the “most inexpensive and pragmatic” option

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EllenS March 27, 2014 at 10:52 am

I would regard this as a proposal/pitch, rather than an invitation. If someone is asking you to pay for something co-operatively, you are a host and aren’t really being “invited” anyway. What a great idea, Sis, to throw a party! Who are we inviting?
I would definitely want input if I am helping to host, and treat the discussion as I am Sis’s equal in helping to plan.
However, for someone who had the money and honestly didn’t want to deal with the details, I think just pay, go, enjoy is the easiest and most positive way to go.

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EllenS March 27, 2014 at 11:06 am

Further to that idea, if Sis had sent an email saying,
“Hey, guys, what do you think about us going in together to throw a big shindig for Grandma’s 90th? I’ve done some research and we can get a nice afternoon party with (list amenities) in a good location for $1225 (which breaks out to $175 from each of us). I suggest the date X.
Let me know if you’d be in for that, or call/email me separately if you want to discuss further”

That would be perfectly fine and tactful. So personally, I would just pretend that was the email I got.

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Ashley March 27, 2014 at 11:15 am

I’m a little torn on the idea of ponying up the cash if they have it, because what if they do but then another grand child does not. Who makes up that cost? I mean, yay family harmony and all that but whoever sent the email is just assuming people have this money and there seem to be literally zero plans for if they can’t all scrounge up that $175…

I’d be calling the meeting about the costs BEFORE giving it out, to make sure that A) Everyone is contributing and I won’t have to make up costs and B) To ensure that a situation like this never happens again

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Yet Another Laura March 27, 2014 at 11:23 am

Over a grand for a two-hour party and it’s bring your own food? I’ve never heard of a venue charging that much and I’ve planned a lot of parties. Nothing comes close to a grand and we rented those places for pennies on your sister-in-law’s dollar. We brought in food, we had the places to ourselves for longer than two hours. You could rent event space at a hotel and have bar service for less than that.

I notice she says “…this is the most inexpensive & pragmatic option I could find & hope it’s not unreasonable.”

Maybe your husband could call her and tell her it is unreasonable to ask for that kind of money without any input from anyone else. I’m assuming there’s enough lead time to make a counter suggestion for venue that won’t lead to defaulting on loans.

If you do end up coughing up, see if you can arrange to pay it directly to the venue instead of to your sister-in-law. I can only hope she’s including a lavish gift for Grandma in that ridiculous price. She really needed to talk to people first about everything.

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cattlekid March 27, 2014 at 11:59 am

Did anybody ask Grandmother if this is how she wants to celebrate her 90th birthday? Sounds like a lot of hoopla (mariachi band?) that may or may not be wanted.

If she’s anything like my Grandmother, who is two years short of 90, she would die of embarrassment if she knew that her grandkids were getting fleeced for $175 each to celebrate her birthday.

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flagal March 27, 2014 at 12:21 pm

I agree with the others…something smells very fishy about this $1225 total cost. Either the venue is overcharging, or sis is.

For what it’s worth, I just got married at the beginning of March. Our Rehearsal Dinner was held at a very fine local steakhouse for 29 people, including kids (no kids menu offered). We had a plate each of 3 different types of appetizers, including shrimp, offered, and paid a straight amount for salad, rolls, entrees and desserts. Entree options included 3 kinds of steak (filet, ribeye, and ny strip), shrimp, chicken, and fish of the day. Open bar provided. Total bill with tax and 18% auto gratuity was 1487. We gave an extra 50 each in cash to the two kids who handled all the serving, so total bill 1587.

That is a $362 difference between my RD and OP’s grandma’s birthday party, and the birthday party is apps, non alcoholic drinks, balloons, cake, and corsage. Something isn’t right here.

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Brit March 27, 2014 at 12:23 pm

The mariachi band will take tips from the guests??? Is this ok for a party? It sounds just as tacky as the email, I don’t go to a party to cough up for the band the host chose.

Second the cost query. Sounds really over-priced. Threw my mum a 60th party, 40 guests, all-night champagne, fantastic food, service, flowers everywhere etc in a beautiful farm in a national park. Really pushed the boat out. Everything – absolutely everything – for about $2k. That much money for some appetisers in a cafe? Really??

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kingsrings March 27, 2014 at 3:53 pm

I also have a problem with that. I’m not responsible as a guest for what the host chooses to spend. This sounds like the money dance or money tree at a wedding! And what is the band and the host going to do if the guests don’t pony up their anticipated tips? Start passing around a hat or plate? Make an announcement over the mic that tips are due? Just plain tacky.

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JeanLouiseFinch March 27, 2014 at 12:50 pm

If you trust your SIL and her taste, you might want to kick in, but I agree with the other posters that this sounds way too expensive. If you don’t trust her, you might want to pay a vendor directly. At one point, my brother had a friend of the family call me to demand that I pay several thousand dollars to rent a venue for our mother’s birthday. Given my brother’s history of drug use, cheating and stealing, I responded that I would be willing to pay the vendor directly if I could speak to them. Guess what, I never heard anything more about it and he never threw a birthday party except for his own birthday.

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Molly March 27, 2014 at 1:20 pm

How well do you know your sister in law? Is she someone you don’t like or trust? I see nothing wrong with replying to the email and asking for details of the other places she’s researched and the costs so you get a better picture of what you’re paying for. If I had the money I’d just chip in for it and not mar the day by causing a family feud when a 90 years old woman is at stake. If I didn’t have the money I’d just say so and ask if there was another way to contribute towards the party.

Honestly, having someone else do all the calling and planning and inviting (and no cooking or clean up!) would be worth $175 to me.

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Dee March 27, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Something’s fishy here – it sounds to me as if at least some planning has been done by more than one party – including the OP. Otherwise, how is it that all 7 grandchildren are listed as hosts, and there is no date for the party? What if OP can’t attend that date? What if none of the grands can? How can they possibly be considered hosts, then? I kinda think there has been some preliminary discussion already, and just this facet of it – the details and the cost – is a surprise. Nevertheless, I would NOT pay for anything I had not agreed on, mainly because I would want to KNOW that this is something Grandma and the other hosts are comfy with before I would agree to even put my name on it, let alone my money. I see potential for Grandma to be horribly embarrassed at the cost to others (and the Mariachi band?!?) and that she will blame all the “hosts”, even the ones that didn’t plan for this, and then the other “hosts” will pile on and blame those who enabled this fiasco. And OP will have earned such wrath, if she does nothing to inject common sense in all this. Is that what OP wants hanging over her head? Such bad feelings over a birthday party is really no gift to Grandma.

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RedDevil March 27, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Ok so Sis is clearly in the wrong here, with the way she’s worded her email and her general approach to the whole thing… BUT, I have to ask: why is it that Sis-in-Law felt compelled to organise a party for Grandma? What were the other Grandkids, or for that matter, Children, doing? Was nobody else thinking of doing anything for such a milestone birthday?

So, I would suggest (if there’s still time), that you contact Sis-in-Law, and other Grandkids, and say well hey that’s a great idea but it’s quite expensive and Grandma might not like that if she found out. How about *this other idea* which is less expensive, and Grandma will love equally as much?

Get in on it, I say. Steer the whole thing towards something that’s way more reasonable in cost for the corralled Grandkids, and then talk to Sis-in-Law later about her bad form in expecting anybody else to pony up cash for something they didn’t offer to do so for.

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Shyla March 27, 2014 at 2:21 pm

I get the idea that Sis is a little bit of a snob. This is the best she could come up with because it would be beneath her to use a fire hall or church basement or even someone’s home. That’s why the cost is higher than many of us would expect. The venue had to be up to her “high”” standards. No one else was consulted before because you might have suggested something crass like sandwiches at the fire hall.

I totally disagree with the mariachi band. Grandma and her friends won’t be able to chat. Their hearing is bad and all they’ll hear is the band not voices. Plus the band will play and then stand there waiting for a tip? No. No. No.

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Rebecca March 27, 2014 at 2:28 pm

That’s crazy. I’d write back and say, “What? I wasn’t in on this! That’s a bit steep without consulting everyone first.” And I would question the $175 for a couple of hours in a cafe with light appetizers and non-alcoholic drinks only. Can probably do that at someone’s house, and bring in caterers if nobody wants the work of prepping food/cleaning up. How many people are invited to this shindig?

And I suppose there will be an additional invoice for a lavish gift not of the OP and husband’s choosing.
I think a big party for grandma’s 90th is a lovely idea, but you don’t get to impose your own budget for a party you choose to plan on someone else without consulting them first.

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Cathy March 27, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Definitely ask for a cost breakdown from the venue. That sounds really high for what you would be getting, unless it’s for a huge crowd. I’d expect a full meal and partial bar for that kind of money.

We did our son and DIL’s rehearsal dinner for 30+ people at our house for around $600. Yes, we had to set up and clean up, but I just couldn’t see spending $1200-1500 on one dinner. And we had a great time.

I have relatives who do this sort of “favor” for everyone and it’s pretty annoying, so I’d also second the family pow-wow afterwards so it doesn’t happen again.

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Kendra March 27, 2014 at 2:57 pm

I disagree with the admin. I also think the cost is beside the point. If it was cost, what if sis had said it would only be $5 from each grandchild, would it be ok then? I think no. From the email it sounds like sister just went off on her own and planned a party, without any outside input, and then just informed everyone that “this is what we’re going to do for G’ma’s 90th birthday.” A 90th birthday is kind of a big deal and not appropriate for just one person to go off on their own and just plan a party. What about the next generation up (parents to the grandkids, children of the grandma)? Maybe they wanted to do something special for their mom for her 90th. In my opinion, sis should have contacted everyone, parents and grandkids, and said “Hey, G’ma’s 90th birthday is coming up. What should we do to celebrate?” and let the planning go from there.

Where I disagree with the admin is the pay up and talk to sis later aspect. I think the OP should call a family meeting (Parents, siblings, cousins) and actually plan the celebration. If some say “just let me know what you decide and what my share is”, that is fine. It should be opt-out not opt-in. Don’t let sis influence planning with “I’ve already planned this and put down a deposit….”etc. Well, that’s why she shouldn’t have gone off the reservation and planned this thing without input from the rest of the family. If, and it’s a big if, everyone decides to go with what sis has planned, that is fine, or if you come up with something completely different, that is fine as well as long as everyone who wants a voice has one.

Hope this helps.

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admin March 27, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Creating relationship drama right before Grandmom’s birthday party serves whom? The OP, obviously. Does it serve Grandma to know there is conflict going on between her grandchildren and it’s her birthday that is the catalyst? Happy Birthday, Grandma! We gave you loads of family angst for your birthday! No, it does not benefit Grandma in any way.

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Kendra March 27, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Well, of course you would keep the “angst” away from Grandma, but wouldn’t it be polite to at least find out if her children already had plans for Grandma’s birthday? Anyone who would go running to Grandma with complaints about her birthday would deserve to be catapulted into the deepest pit of ehe!! It just seems weird for me that a grandchild would take it upon herself to plan an important birthday celebration without any input from the rest of the family.

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Dee March 28, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Grandma will absolutely know of the drama if the party continues. She will see the incredible expense, just for starters. And there is no chance Grandma will not hear about it; the indignation of the OP as well as the various commenters here guarantee that there will be many, many people resenting the SIL and her tactics and thus, this party. My own friends of this age are old, yes, but not dumb, and I would never patronize them because of their age. NostalgicGal’s post below echoes this. I think it is kinder to Grandma to cut this drama off at the knees than allow her day to be spoiled with this party and the bad feelings it engenders in others that absolutely will spill over onto her, whether intentional or not. In this case I apply the “do unto others” rule; I would be humiliated and ashamed to know a party such as this was planned in my name.

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Enna March 31, 2014 at 12:25 pm

I have to admin I think the drama will only serve the sister and make her look a bit silly if any drama happens. I wouldn’t be very impressed if my sister decided to do something like this without talking to myself and other family members first as well as the guest of hounour.
What other decisions could the sister make if this pecedent is set? Just because everyone agrees to do it, doesn’t mean it will run smoothly. I am also suspicous of the amount of money the sister wants.

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Anonymous March 27, 2014 at 3:57 pm

I’d say no. Paying “this time” is inevitably going to set a precedent for future events, even if you have the “come-to-Deity” meeting about not spending other people’s money (because Sis sounds very manipulative), and honestly, if you do the come-to-Deity thing, whether it’s before the party or after, you’re going to make waves. Honestly, I think those waves need to be made–otherwise, the same thing will happen every time it’s time to celebrate anything. This “no” could come in the form of, “No, but why not have the party at a park/my house/the community centre/XYZ Cheaper Location I found online?”; or if that doesn’t work, it could be a flat-out no, to both helping to finance the party, and attending it. I wouldn’t stay friends with someone who did that to me (and others), so the rules shouldn’t change just because “it’s faaaaamily.” If Sis replies that all the plans for the party have been made, then OP and her husband only need to reply that all the plans for their money have been made. It’s a classic case of “Lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.” Later, the OP and her husband could take Grandma out for dinner or something instead of attending the party. Maybe this approach would damage family relationships (although it shouldn’t, in a normal, non-toxic family), but Sis’ manipulative behaviour is already having that effect, so at least this way, it’d damage family relationships without also damaging the OP and her husband’s financial health.

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Kara March 27, 2014 at 4:09 pm

$175 is a lot of money. And I wouldn’t just fork it over, even if I had it.

I would want to know details.

What is the venue?
What is the venue contact information (email address, website, name and phone number of whoever SIL talked to there)
What are the details of what is being offered? (e.g. I want to see a menu, I want to know volumes, I want to see cake pictures, heck I want to know what this “balloon bouquet” will look like!)
How many people are being invited to this party?
How many are expected to attend?

And finally even if I decided that the shindig was worth the money, I would pay my portion directly to the venue. Not to the SIL. (I have been burned a couple of times by people who were “skimming off the top” and intending to keep part of collected funds for themselves.)

The SIL is giving very little actual information… which makes me very suspicious and would make me less likely to contribute.

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cathy March 28, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Yes, yes, yes to paying the venue directly if it all checks out!!!

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Ekf0516 March 27, 2014 at 6:07 pm

I think this is definitely out of line. I just want to mention that lots of the comments suggest that the $175 is very steep for venue costs or that the venue is somehow being shady…I don’t see any reference to the number of invited/anticipated guests, though, so it is hard to say that for sure. Are we talking about 20 guests or 200?

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NostalgicGal March 27, 2014 at 9:58 pm

I didn’t read the 56 comments… don’t need to.

My dad’s side of family, his sister and the wife of his younger brother, were famous (IN-famous even) for the two of them getting together and planning big elaborate expensive things; and not really contacting the other two possibly involved (widow of one other sibling, and my father) about showing up for the big powwow; or calling him and expecting him to drop everything and drive 3.5 hours to show up at meeting between the other two.

Widow had already told them to shove it, she had 8 kids to deal with; so. They expected my dad to pay the brunt of everything. (let’s toss the open house, let’s see, you bring the paper and plastic, I’ll bring buns and chips; and Bro can provide 150# of ANGUS burger and the charcoal and cook. Sure, that sounds marvy…. ) and couldn’t understand why they got told no; then they’d go ahead anyways and send a bill for half or more (well he didn’t come so he can pay for the watermelon, the drinks, the burger, AND the grill rental). Two notable cappers were the All Family; and the anniversary/birthday bash for grandparents (50th wedding, etc). All Family, about every 10 years we got the entire extended in to a big weekend, and I am not kidding at 1000-1500 attendees. We would take over one city park in this one town, roughly doubling the population also. The two schemed up a ‘package deal’ with a catered meal, some printed tchlotchys and a teeshirt, and roughly $100 a PERSON for this. (at a time when $600/mo was good take home for a family of four to six) Sister calls my dad to put the $ down for the tees, Frisbees, hats, and mugs. Run of 1500. Dad shredded the invoice and the info on where to send the $ and told her don’t call me I’ll call you. On the date, they had 13 reserve; and we all went to the OTHER park instead and had the usual get together. Sis’ husband had to take that as a farming loss, she had the stuff made up, and the caterer was cancelled but no refund. Then there was the anniversary; no matter Grandma was in bad health, and didn’t want this mess; no matter whatever she did choose the two opted for the most expensive option instead. We were supposed to pay about 80% of it when it was said and done and show up and serve. Dad offered he’d come clean up. And he did, he drove there to clean up the mess…and left because the two hounded him, demanding that he pay them RIGHT NOW for his share. Grandma had to go to the hospital as it had been too much for her, he took her there and came home; then we were sent the invoice for most of the food and decorations and the band. Dad ripped it up and sent it back registered, return receipt, and signature.

When Dad passed one of these was the one that was trying to book a fancy funeral so they could be the grieving center of attention. As per last wishes, there was cremation, no memorial and no funeral. I had to drive up there to shut that down.

No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No and No. Don’t give a crumb. No input; you do NOT have the right to spend my money without me saying yes–hold this line, OP. If they want to throw it, they can pay for it. You may be a grandkid OP but you are NOT obligated if you have no knowledge short of ‘oh here’s the bill’. Else more will come.

If there WAS a meeting and you couldn’t make it, but knew about it, then it’s up to you; but I still say, no vote no money, OP. Or it will happen again and again.

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The Elf March 28, 2014 at 6:56 am

OP didn’t say that there was a history of this kind of stunt. I agree, if SIL is known for doing this sort of thing, don’t give in now or ever. But if this is out of character, that changes the circumstances. Then you know it’s probably coming from a place of ignorance of etiquette/desire to do something great for Grandma rather than manipulation and greed. I assumed this was a one-time thing.

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Cat March 28, 2014 at 2:45 pm

The terrible thing is that this sort of fiasco always starts with the first one. The next time SIL decides to do this, she will start with the knowledge that they all gave in before.
If you set a precedent, you have a hard time saying no the second time. Look at how many times dear old Dad said no and was still sent bills and invoices for party after party-they even billed his family for his own funeral. Again and again and again. Some folks don’t know the meaning of “no”.
In the words of Barney Fife, “Nip it! Nip it in the bud!”

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mark March 28, 2014 at 10:36 am

I tend to agree with you. Some people seem really good at spending other people’s money.

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Celia March 28, 2014 at 12:33 am

Given this is Grandma’s 90th birthday and it’s happening only a few weeks away, I would be shocked that no one in the family has spoken about this beforehand. That’s why I agree with others that this could be a simple miscommunication. E.g this particular sister thought she had spoken to everyone and had their agreement, but in actual fact hadn’t spoken to the Op’s DH.

Agree that it’s not cool to spend others money but very much agree with Admin that if you can afford to pay, you should.

If you can’t, given the short notice, then you need to speak to sister asap and explain. You can be curious during this discussion such as “it’s just not possible right now, and short notice. did we talk about this before?”

Agree with others, you can be curious without being hostile.

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Mya March 28, 2014 at 3:46 am

I am often in the same situation here. My sister and her husband are substantially better off than LeBoyfriend and myself (long story but short version is that his parents subsidised their house heavily and paid for all the renovations whereas LeBoyfriend and I have to fund it ourselves). My sister has expensive and extravagant taste where meals and things are concerned and so regularly books expensive places to eat then expects LeBoyfriend and I to cough up not only for us but for our retired parents too. It’s causing a lot of friction in the family.

If I were you, OP, I’d contact the other parties in this and find out how much prior knowledge they had of this arrangement. I’d bet money that at least half of them feel the same way as you. Strength in numbers. When you have all the facts I’d approach the organiser and explain that you cannot accommodate this sort of cost (especially if you have to factor in travel) and would like to help organise something less budget-heavy.

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Brit March 28, 2014 at 8:10 am

Say ‘No, I can’t afford it’. I never did understand why that phrase is thought embarrassing. ‘I can’t afford it’. Or ‘I don’t have the money to do that’. I say it whenever I need to. I’m not ashamed that I can’t afford it either. But I can’t. So I am not paying to do that. Because I don’t have the money and it won’t magically appear for me being harassed.

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nuit93 March 30, 2014 at 11:44 pm

Are you me?

Seriously, my sister and her husband are in the exact same boat as your sister and her husband and for the same reasons. Only when I say something is out of my range I get accused of being bad at managing my personal budget.

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Mya March 31, 2014 at 5:49 am

Funny, I get the same responses. Last time I mentioned that I couldn’t afford something extravagant my sister’s response was ‘Oh, I see, you can afford to buy XYZ for yourselves but can’t afford to pay £pricymeal’. She then got funny with me and told me I was being irrational. As it happens, I’d been given some money by my In-laws and my Grandfather for my birthday which paid for 75% of a Samsung Galaxy Tablet. Now bear in mind she thinks nothing of buying a £400 iPad but I agonised over adding the extra £50 to afford a £200 Galaxy tablet. It is also worth pointing out that I work in IT in web filtering and spending money on computing related purchases is relevant to my role, so she had a massive go at me for buying my tablet (even though 75% of it was a gift from others) yet expected me and my partner to fork out over £200 on expensive meals and travel. Just for food.

She doesn’t understand that our money goes on the house – my car needed expensive work doing, the boiler is on its last legs and needed a plumber, the cat got run over – that kind of thing. It’s not that I CAN’T afford it, it’s just that things tend to hit us all at once and I haven’t got the room in my budget for extravagances.

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nuit93 March 31, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Yeah, similar situation for me except I’m not a homeowner, just a renter whose BF had a lot of medical expenses and family who doesn’t understand that having insurance doesn’t mean that we don’t still get stuck with $1000’s in medical bills.

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Raven March 28, 2014 at 9:03 am

1. Spending other people’s money is rude and inappropriate. SIL has a lot of nerve.

2. Why is SIL in charge? Did she put herself in charge, or is this how it always is? If it’s how it always is, there shouldn’t be much surprise here. If she put herself in charge, that is a huge overstep – especially as the inlaw.

3. I say give the money if you can, enjoy the party, focus on Grandma, and pick the fight with SIL after. It would be horrible for Grandma to find out that her special birthday was causing such a problem.

4. After the party, get everyone together and hash it out. Who made these decisions? Why wasn’t there better communication? How was the money spent? (Ask for receipts/spreadsheet/something – that’s a lot of money to leave unaccounted for) How can this be avoided in the future? Depending on SIL’s nature, it might be a productive meeting or it might explode in your face, but hopefully everyone will learn something.

5. There is nothing wrong with telling SIL flat-out that your money is not hers to spend, and she does not speak for all the grandkids. Some people think the world revolves around them. Don’t let her get away with this, or it will become an expensive habit. Good luck!

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msdani313 March 28, 2014 at 10:42 am

Unfortunately, I too have family members who pull this type of stunt. My older cousin did this when I was in college. She told me 2 weeks before my grandmother’s surprise party that I owed her $200. When I reminded her that I was in school full time and barely working part time she told me that was not her problem. I had to save up money for the trip home for my grandmother’s birthday and surely could not afford $200 additional. Luckily my mother stepped in and paid.

Now that I am no longer in college and make a decent living my cousin still feels the need to count my bank account. She continues to talk about when I could not properly contribute to my grandmother’s party even though it was almost 10 years ago. When I bring up the fact that I was 18 and in college she brings up that she is now in college and still contributes. The difference is that she is 54 and we have not had a large party like that in years.

Family members counting others’ incomes is not a new thing. Although my family has no idea how much I make they were all “concerned” when I recently purchased a house. It is a phenomenon that is growing unfortunately. The cousin I mentioned before wanted to sit down with me and make up a budget because she was sure that I was living outside of my means. When I mentioned to her that I make more than she does she got upset and continued to badger me for the exact amount. She even when so far as to question my fiance about our finances. He is smart enough to brush off her questions. I now avoid her because she usually finds a way to bring up my finances and how she can help. HA HA ! No thanks!

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