Author Topic: How to gracefully give back money?  (Read 5114 times)

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BC12

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How to gracefully give back money?
« on: October 15, 2012, 02:52:53 AM »
In short, my sister-in-law gave us a check for an amount greater than what I feel she "owed" us, and I don't know how to gracefully give her back some (or all?) of the money.

Long version/background: Some months ago, my husband and I had made some loose plans with his immediate family (mother, father, sister and her husband and child) to visit Town A for a weekend trip to celebrate his mother's birthday. Conditions in Town A were not favorable, so it looked like the plan was going to be cancelled when my parents offered to let us use their vacation home in Town B. This worked out wonderfully for everyone, and I took on the role of hostess (with my husband as Assistant Hostess  ;D )

Saturday night, we all went out to a restaurant for my MIL's birthday dinner. The agreed-upon plan was that my husband and his sister would split the dinner bill 50/50, which sounds fair in theory, but doesn't end up very fair when my husband and I order a few cocktails while SIL and her husband have iced tea. So when the bill came, we just paid for the whole thing and told her not to worry about it. It was kind of expensive for us, but not that big of a deal, and nothing else was really said about it.

Well, just as we're all leaving to go back home after the weekend, SIL hands my husband a personal check, which he doesn't look at right away. Later, he tells me that the amount of the check was equal to the entire cost of the dinner and drinks for the whole table, not half.

I'm interpreting this as a token of their appreciation, since we saved them the cost of a hotel and provided the majority of their meals (which was also a bit expensive for us.) But SIL did contribute quite a lot to the weekend. She and her husband brought a substantial amount of food for the house, they drove us around, and she was awesome with helping out with dishes and cleaning. They were really great guests, and apart from the whole restaurant bill thing, I felt they contributed almost as much as we did and I don't feel right accepting any extra money from her.

To put it in perspective, let's say her share of the restaurant bill, realistically, would have been around 50 bucks. The check she wrote was for $150. How do we give her back $100? Or should we just tell her thank you, but we're not going to cash the check at all?

Or is this a gift we should just politely accept, much like a birthday or wedding gift, maybe?

Any thoughts at all are welcome.

sweetonsno

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Re: How to gracefully give back money?
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2012, 03:05:03 AM »
I'd ask your hubby for advice on this one. He probably would have a better idea about what his sister was thinking and how she would react.

BC12

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Re: How to gracefully give back money?
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2012, 03:16:53 AM »
I'd ask your hubby for advice on this one. He probably would have a better idea about what his sister was thinking and how she would react.

We have talked about this, and we're both in agreement that we shouldn't take the full amount. My husband suggested that we cash her $150 check and then put $100 in an envelope and stuff it into her purse while she isn't looking. 

So that's why I'm asking ehell. ;D
« Last Edit: October 15, 2012, 03:19:56 AM by BC12 »

NyaChan

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Re: How to gracefully give back money?
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2012, 03:31:52 AM »
ooh tricky.  It's hard to tell whether she made a mistake, in which case the definite answer is to return it and wouldn't be awkward, or if she is making a gesture of thanks, in which case, it might be a bit ungracious to send back all or part of the money.  I don't think she made a mistake in this case - if she was just trying to pay her 1/2 of things, I doubt she would have overestimated by so much.  I think it is likely that it was her way of saying thank you and treating you to dinner.

I definitely would not sneak the money back to her.  I would call her up and mention that you were surprised by the amount for the check.  Remind her of the actual total and tell her that even if she insists, you couldn't possibly keep all this money.  Then suggest just splitting the bill between the two of you. 

PastryGoddess

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Re: How to gracefully give back money?
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2012, 06:19:19 AM »
If you guys live in the same city, can you use part of the money to treat her to something nice?  Lunch, spa day, mani/pedi, etc.


SleepyKitty

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Re: How to gracefully give back money?
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2012, 08:07:20 AM »
If you guys live in the same city, can you use part of the money to treat her to something nice?  Lunch, spa day, mani/pedi, etc.

I suggest going this route. Sneaking the money back into her purse could trigger a chain of money being passes back and forth. After all, if from her point of view she genuinely owes you this money, she may be happier overpaying you. I know that I would rather be comfortable knowing that I didn't owe someone than feeling like I did. Not to mention, handing money back might make her feel slighted or offended (although of course OP knows the relationship best).

The only caveat I would make is that I would try and have it be something that treats husband and wife - it sounds like from the OP that Husband helped out a lot too, and it's very likely shared money. So, a nice bottle of wine that both enjoy. I noticed they have a child - what about offering a free babysitting night? Or taking the child out for a special day, your treat?

Adelaide

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Re: How to gracefully give back money?
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2012, 09:44:40 AM »
I definitely wouldn't sneak it back into her purse. If that happened to me I'd just feel weird about the fact that you feel the need to give back the money but in a covert manner. That is, if I happened to realize where the envelope came from in the first place. If you really feel like you were given too much I'd do what SleepyKitty said and get them a bottle of wine or something.

artk2002

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Re: How to gracefully give back money?
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2012, 09:49:07 AM »
What you're looking for is a graceful way of being ungracious. Yes, she may have given you more than what you thought you were owed, but that's her choice. She's chosen to be generous. Returning the money or, even worse, sneaking it into her purse is a slap in the face, nothing more.

The best advice here is to treat her to something nice the next time you're together. Don't let your discomfort at someone else's generosity lead you into insulting them.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Just Lori

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Re: How to gracefully give back money?
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2012, 10:15:56 AM »
Why not have an honest conversation?  Tell her you think she overpaid you and you'd like to return some of the money.  If she says no, she wanted to give you that amount, then let it go or maybe say the next dinner's on you.  If you discover that she overestimated the amount she owed, then you settle accordingly.

Hmmmmm

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Re: How to gracefully give back money?
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2012, 10:27:15 AM »
Why not have an honest conversation?  Tell her you think she overpaid you and you'd like to return some of the money.  If she says no, she wanted to give you that amount, then let it go or maybe say the next dinner's on you.  If you discover that she overestimated the amount she owed, then you settle accordingly.

This is what I was about to post. 

O'Dell

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Re: How to gracefully give back money?
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2012, 10:31:16 AM »
I guess I'm the only one who would ask her about it. "Did you mean to give us the entire cost of the meal? Because husband and I were responsible for the majority to of the bill. What would you like us to do with the extra $100?" Either you or your husband can ask.

One problem with spending the extra money on a meal or treat with her and/or her husband...I can see this snowballing where you and your husband try to pay for a meal with the money and she and her husband insist on paying for part of the meal and she sneaks you extra with a check which you use for a meal and on and on. If that's possible, maybe get a gift for MIL and put all your names on it or donate the money to a food bank/charity.
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
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bopper

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Re: How to gracefully give back money?
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2012, 11:12:22 AM »
You are thinking short term...I am sure over the long term there is some way you can be generous and pay them back.

Thipu1

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Re: How to gracefully give back money?
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2012, 11:36:37 AM »
We had a similar situation with MIL. 

You all seem to be on good terms, as we are with MIL.  If you ARE on good terms, I agree that a simple conversation is the best way to go.  Returning money isn't necessarily a slap in the face. 

'We thank you for your generosity bit it isn't necessary.  We were happy to treat and would like to return your check'. 

Almost any other solution is likely to lead to an escalation of 'treating'. 

TootsNYC

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Re: How to gracefully give back money?
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2012, 11:47:50 AM »
What you're looking for is a graceful way of being ungracious. Yes, she may have given you more than what you thought you were owed, but that's her choice. She's chosen to be generous. Returning the money or, even worse, sneaking it into her purse is a slap in the face, nothing more.

The best advice here is to treat her to something nice the next time you're together. Don't let your discomfort at someone else's generosity lead you into insulting them.

Actually, she is the one who has been ungracious. The OP and her husband gave a generous gift, and the SIL is reimbursing them for it. That's not gracious.

And OP--in the future, let people pay their own way, and you won't end up in this situation!
You can say, "Oh, we shouldn't split the bill halfway--we had cocktails! We'll pay 2/3."

TALK about money, and you won't end up in this situation.

However, I do think you risk coming across as ungracious. I think the only thing you can do is either accept it all or return it all.

So I vote for giving her back the check along with a note that says, "How embarrassing! We must not have communicated well that the dinner was our gift to you. We can't accept money for it! If you feel it was too generous a present, then perhaps you can treat us to dinner the next time we're together." (and then, don't order cocktails at that dinner)

amylouky

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Re: How to gracefully give back money?
« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2012, 01:32:18 PM »
I think you should accept it. It looks to me (outsider's view, of course) like your SIL is trying to rebalance the weekend by making up for some of your expenses.
What I mean by that is.. the weekend was meant to be a joint gift from you and DH, and SIL and BIL, for MIL's birthday, no? Meaning, the costs (and the hosting/hostessing) would have been split 50/50, as a present to MIL, and no one would have been the "host".
Then it turned in to you and DH hosting the weekend, providing the majority of the meals, and then paying for the entire dinner out, even though you had agreed to split it. I think if I were SIL, I'd feel a little like I needed to do something to contribute more.
It's a bit telling to me that you say "they were great guests". They weren't supposed to be guests, they were supposed to be co-hosts in the gift to MIL, and maybe she's just trying to reestablish that by paying for some of your hospitality.