“Should we split the check?” This dinner table cliché is just one part of an age-old sharing conundrum: should group costs be divided evenly among all parties, or allocated based on actual usage?
On holiday vacations with friends or other families, we are frequently confronted with these anxiety-inducing decisions. Items like lodging and transportation are often paid in advance, and a single person will often purchase groceries or supplies for the whole group. To add to the confusion, people will occasionally lend each other money (“Don’t worry, I’ll cover you and you can pay me back”).
It’s never pleasant to deal with these questions after the fact, so allow me to present some original research and a helpful tool that should take the stress out of settling the bills. While some cost-sharing choices remain a matter of personal taste, there is broad consensus on how to share the most significant vacation expenses.
Some Expenses Are More Equal Than Others
Nearly everyone surveyed agrees that groceries, cleaning supplies, gas and rental cars should divided and shared equally, while restaurants, takeout meals, and activity costs should be paid for individually (more on groceries in the next post).
The “socialist” items at the top of the chart are less expensive, and individual taste doesn’t play much of a role in what is purchased. The “capitalist” items lower on the list are more expensive and individuals have very different tastes and opinions about what should be purchased. This seems like a good general principle for categorizing group expenses.
Sharing alcohol is a potential source of conflict. People who don’t drink much will not appreciate being billed for a lot of alcohol, but no one wants to keep track of exactly what they drank over a multi-day vacation. Our survey shows it is best to discuss this ahead of time and set expectations. A nice compromise between usage-based and communal approaches might be for everybody to buy or bring a little more than what they expect to drink themselves, and then share all alcohol communally so as not to worry about it in the moment.
How To Share A Vacation House
Shared lodging costs (a beach house, a ski lodge, a motel, etc.) may be your single biggest expense. Some properties are rented by the day, while others are rented by the week, or by the month. What factors should be taken into account?