Author Topic: Need advice -- taking advantage of friends?  (Read 1504 times)

frugalfoothills

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Need advice -- taking advantage of friends?
« on: November 05, 2018, 12:09:31 PM »
Each year I organize an annual ski trip for a large group of college friends. Now that most are married, some have kids, etc. this is often the one time each year where we can all get together in the same place and have a good time... it's become an awesome weekend that we all look forward to and I am happy to put it together.

That being said, it's a huge pain in the ass to plan. I have to find a date that works for anywhere from 15-20 people. I have to find a house that can accommodate us depending on dates, availability, and final # of people (and not a ton of places comfortably sleep 20 adults, by the way.) I have to put down a deposit, which I just go out of pocket for since it gets returned after the trip and I'd rather not have to screw with refunding 15 people $50 or whatever. I have to chase people down to get them to commit, I have to chase them down to get them to pay. People drag their feet paying so I end up laying out cash for them and feeling like a jerk badgering them to send me their money.

We usually do a t-shirt, so I end up designing it (hard to come up with a new design every year!) and going out of pocket for it until folks pay me back for that, too. There usually ends up being a couple people who, at the last minute, either decide they suddenly do want to come or decide they actually can't come, so there's all kinds of rebalancing of the cost or stress about not having a place for everyone to sleep. This year we are doing a murder mystery dinner party one night, so I'm trying to shop around for a game to buy that suits the number of people we've got. Basically it's just a pain in my ass, but I'm *mostly* happy to do it since it means so much to everyone and we always have such a great time.

This year I'm drawing a harder line, though, to make things easier for myself... if you want to come, you MUST commit by X date, and you MUST pay by Y date. The cost will include lodging, the t-shirt, and the cost of the murder mystery game. I'm also doing a no refunds policy... if you pay and you end up dropping out at the last minute you're not getting refunded. I'm considering adding an additional $10 per person just to make sure I don't end up out of pocket when things are all said and done (which has happened in the past, either for the t-shirts or because people back out and need refunds and then I have to bill people $7 each to make up the difference and people don't pay, etc.) I also am just tempted to do it because honestly it's a commitment (and hassle) for me to plan it to begin with.

Has anyone else done something similar when planning events for large groups of people? I don't want to feel gross profiting off my friends, but I'm also not trying to end up $x out of pocket each year just because I have the misfortune of planning the whole thing. I'm thinking that if the cost per person ends up being $190, I'd just round up to $200, and if that means I end up with an extra $150 in my pocket then I just consider that my fee for spending months putting this shit together. Am I an asshole?

Goldielocks

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Re: Need advice -- taking advantage of friends?
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2018, 12:20:39 PM »
It's not being an asshat.  Especially if you let people know ahead of time.

Some people who organize get a complimentary room or dinner as their reward. 

What I would do, however, is charge the extra up front (and more like $20 than $10, too), and then after when the bills are sorted out, host everyone who paid money to come to an appetizer / drinks event.... where you use the extra money to pay for some of the appetizers.

Or, you can send the excess to a charity of your choice and tell the group where the $$'s went.

frugalfoothills

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Re: Need advice -- taking advantage of friends?
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2018, 12:35:57 PM »
It's not being an asshat.  Especially if you let people know ahead of time.

Some people who organize get a complimentary room or dinner as their reward. 

What I would do, however, is charge the extra up front (and more like $20 than $10, too), and then after when the bills are sorted out, host everyone who paid money to come to an appetizer / drinks event.... where you use the extra money to pay for some of the appetizers.

Or, you can send the excess to a charity of your choice and tell the group where the $$'s went.

I like that idea! Charge the extra and if I end up pocketing it, host a dinner party or something and invite everyone over. That way it doesn't feel so much like profiting off them ;)

therethere

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Re: Need advice -- taking advantage of friends?
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2018, 12:57:37 PM »
Use the money for a food/booze fund on the weekend. Maybe to fund a family meal or more g? Or some kind of grab bag gifts as  door prize? Then you won't have to organize a second event.

Catbert

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Re: Need advice -- taking advantage of friends?
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2018, 02:52:09 PM »
Think it's fine to add $10 or $20 to the estimated bill for each.  Giving firm deadlines is really a must in these type of situations.  If there's a relatively small amount left  just pocket it and don't feel guilty.  As you know from the years you came up short, it's difficult to plan and spend down to the penny. 

Be sure to put as many of these costs as possible on a travel credit card of your choice - better yet, get a new card and easily earn the signing bonus.   

raffmaster

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Re: Need advice -- taking advantage of friends?
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2018, 03:11:12 PM »
My DH does something similar - "Mancation" every year with 40-ish guys. They announce the next year's dates nearly a year in advance so people can plan their other vacations around it. They do a first-come, first-serve sign up for beds - whoever pays their deposit first gets dibs on rooms. Everyone else couch surfs or trades off beds with a friend. Not sure what they do about refunds/dropping out. They usually have a flat amount that covers their space at the cabin and food, and any extra money goes towards favors (like your shirt) and more food or drinks.

Have you asked your friends for help? Maybe delegate the t-shirt design to one of them, or go without. Put someone else in charge of planning the murder mystery and give them a budget, so you can handle charging people for a single deposit vs. pay for one thing at a time.

chemistk

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Re: Need advice -- taking advantage of friends?
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2018, 06:08:03 AM »
First off, I just want to say, you're an awesome friend for doing this. If none of your friends remember to tell you, please take it from me. I would kill for someone among my friends to go out of their way to organize something like this. I'm on the other side of the coin (wife + 2 kids) and I just don't have the cash reserves to do the planning myself. Being on that side of the coin, I'm sure many of your friends with families appreciate this trip you plan way way more than when they didn't have souses/kids. Keep that in mind.

That being said, you're doing well past what you need to do and I think it's totally appropriate to be asking for up-front payments and no refunds.

What I might do (not sure if it would work out completely for your group) is ask for 50% of the cost however many months out is needed for deposits and shirts, then 35% of the cost a week or two out, and the final 15% as cash when everyone arrives.

50% covers lodging and shirts
35% covers food and other amenities
15% cash slush fund covers booze, murder mystery, and other misc stuff - and you get to pocket the remaining

If someone backs out early they're only out half instead of 100%, if they back out close to the date, they're still not out the full amount.

frugalfoothills

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Re: Need advice -- taking advantage of friends?
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2018, 07:54:23 AM »
First off, I just want to say, you're an awesome friend for doing this. If none of your friends remember to tell you, please take it from me. I would kill for someone among my friends to go out of their way to organize something like this. I'm on the other side of the coin (wife + 2 kids) and I just don't have the cash reserves to do the planning myself. Being on that side of the coin, I'm sure many of your friends with families appreciate this trip you plan way way more than when they didn't have souses/kids. Keep that in mind.

That being said, you're doing well past what you need to do and I think it's totally appropriate to be asking for up-front payments and no refunds.

What I might do (not sure if it would work out completely for your group) is ask for 50% of the cost however many months out is needed for deposits and shirts, then 35% of the cost a week or two out, and the final 15% as cash when everyone arrives.

50% covers lodging and shirts
35% covers food and other amenities
15% cash slush fund covers booze, murder mystery, and other misc stuff - and you get to pocket the remaining

If someone backs out early they're only out half instead of 100%, if they back out close to the date, they're still not out the full amount.

Thank you for this comment! My friends are amazing and they do appreciate all the work that goes into it, they are always careful to point it out and be thankful, but I can't help but notice none of them have ever offered to plan it in my stead ;)

I like the idea of a phased approach using various deadlines... that might work better for some who are tight on cash, anyway. I'm going to be getting the quote for the accommodations tomorrow so I'll sit down and figure out what that would look like!! Seems like everyone is leaning toward tacking on an extra % and treating it as a slush fund to buy stuff for the house, etc. Love that idea. 

katscratch

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Re: Need advice -- taking advantage of friends?
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2018, 08:39:52 AM »
I love that you do this! I have a few friends who are part of big gatherings like this and it's such a great tradition!!

I don't have any logistics ideas to add on top of the other fantastic suggestions already mentioned, but a friend of mine bowed out from planning a 30+ annual gathering and his friends stepped right in even though they'd had no interest before that. It turned into a more collaborative thing with the planners with cash flow taking the reigns on location and deposits, the graphically inclined designing and organizing t-shirt printing, the family guys organizing meals, the not-sure-if-we-can-go guys in charge of last minute shopping lists on the way up, and the totally-not-into-any-planning guys in charge of finding one six pack of a new beer to try and pass around ;)

They refer to my friend as The Founder many times which is awesome and hilarious, but being a more collaborative event has brought them all much closer than previous events, partly just through having to communicate more via email throughout the year and getting everyone super excited the closer it gets.

Not that you're at that point yet, of needing to step down, and I'm sure there are other groups that just dissolve completely if one person doesn't keep it all rolling. But if you ever do need to pull back, maybe you'll be surprised :)

Jouer

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Re: Need advice -- taking advantage of friends?
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2018, 08:51:52 AM »
I tend to be part of the planning group for events among my friends. Getting cash upfront is my #1 tip for planning. My speech to everyone is:
- payment is due X date
- you are not confirmed until you pay
- if we have fewer people than expected who have paid by X date, we will get a smaller place. So get your money in on time

It's a little rough but it works and everyone ends up having a good time b/c the logistics are solid.

To answer your question about taking advantage of your friends: no, not at all. You are just being responsible so that you are not out cash and that the whole group knows what they are paying up front - no cost changes.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2018, 08:54:33 AM by Jouer »

FIFoFum

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Re: Need advice -- taking advantage of friends?
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2018, 09:03:18 AM »
Lots of great advice - I agree about charging enough to cover costs with buffer that can later be spent or donated.

I also agree about more firm deadlines to confirm with actual money deposits. I think having deadlines and having to give $, even partial payment, is a good psychological tool for people to make a decision too. Are they actually available? Do they have the funds for this? Have they checked to make sure it's not the same weekend as Aunt Edna's 70th birthday party? And so on.

To make things easier for yourself, I agree with those suggesting that you start delegating more or relaxing the expectations. The focus is getting everyone together, enjoying the time there. Everyone cares that you have decent accommodations. For example, what's the worst thing that can happen if you don't get t-shirts or they aren't as attractive? If this is one of the PITA items, see if anyone else wants to pick up the slack in getting t-shirts designed and made. This year, you can walk someone through your process and involve them, so next year you don't have to deal with it at all. If not one person cares to step up for t-shirts, then maybe people don't really care that much about t-shirts. Repeat this process for other aspects of planning, especially things that you yourself do not care about that much, so if it doesn't get done (or done "right" in your estimation), it won't matter. 

charis

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Re: Need advice -- taking advantage of friends?
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2018, 09:37:19 AM »
I thinking requiring money up front is necessary and rounding up to cover your additional out of pocket costs is fine.  But I would use the leftover $ (more than like $20) for the group - toward food or drink.   I agree with cutting t-shirts unless someone else is willing to organize that project, but I can see that it might be simpler to have one person in charge.  If I were one of your friends, I would have no problem with you pocketing a reasonable amount of access funds for your time.