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Mrs. Maroon

April 13, 2015

Like Bills Through the Breeze… This is the Money of Our Lives

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My dad’s family is planning a trip together for this summer – a family reunion of sorts, though no matching t-shirts (that I’ve heard of yet). We do have a particular event drawing us together… My dad’s maternal grandmother will celebrate her 100th birthday. First, I have to stop myself all the time to marvel over what she has witnessed during the past century. The power of Google (try explaining that to someone that had grown children before the microwave came to exist) tells me that she was 27 years old when the Slinky was invented, though she has always lived in a world that included the zipper – but only by two years. Pyrex was invented the same year she was born. Crazy! Nearly four months ago, I was privileged enough to watch her hold Mini Maroon #2, five generations apart, as they celebrated their 1st and 100th Christmases together. Oh, and I should mention that she still lives alone…

 

So, How to Celebrate?

We get the whole family together – but I’ve already told you that! Without going into the details of the whole family tree, here’s the breakdown… my great-grandmother has two children, five grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren. After adding in spouses, we are looking at 25 adults and 5 kids for this shindig. We all live in three pockets around the country, so travel is required. Thank heavens we abandoned the first idea offered up – a cruise. I’m just not taking my minis on a cruise. Plus, there were concerns about the guest of honor being able to attend. Face palm. I have no words for planning a trip to celebrate a birthday where the birthday girl cannot attend…

 

The Drama Begins

Fortunately we decided to gather near where my great-grandmother lives – just east of St. Louis in Illinois. Some of the other folks also live there, but a fair number will be traveling in for the event. In most families, this setup would be ideal… We have family houses where we can gather, even if we don’t have quite enough space to all sleep there. We can plan a low-key, long Labor Day weekend where we leisurely hang out and enjoy each other’s company, while watching the kids play together. No elaborate plans or events necessary. After all, isn’t this about getting the family together??

 

WRONG! My great-aunt, who lives in the prime hosting house, is rather neurotic about hosting. She’s fabulous at it, don’t get me wrong. But she is a major planner and stresses herself out to the max about it. No joke, should you casually mention in a Christmas card that you might want to come visit in the summer, expect a phone call about 0.5 seconds after she opens the card to inquire about the date and exact time of your arrival so that she can start planning out the gourmet appetizers, paired with the perfect beverage, that will be awaiting you upon entering her home. And know that for the next six months, she is meticulously planning every meal plus snacks, grocery shopping, libations, sleeping arrangements, and advice on how to brush your teeth while you stay with her.

 

So my well meaning parents suggested that we stay in a hotel over in downtown St. Louis (about a 30-45 minute drive) so as to alleviate any perceived (not real, but only perceived) pressure on the Illini folks to host the rest of us. Sounds great in theory. My dad and his uncle have been the ones making plans thus far. I admit I haven’t been active in the planning process, but this email from my dad 10 days ago kicked me into gear…

 Apparently everyone else thinks money grows on trees...


Apparently everyone else thinks money grows on trees…

With a quick estimate, the hotel is going to be knocking on the door of $220/night after accounting for parking and fees. For a HOTEL ROOM! That’s likely 300-400 square feet with a bed, TV (who cares anyway) and a bathroom. Oh yes, and to commandeer my car in the valet since we are insisting on being downtown. I’m sure most of the others think this is a great deal – discounts on both the rooms (normally $200+) and the parking. But no one is asking WHY we want to spend that much in the first place, no matter how deep the discount may be.

 

I should also point out that Mr. Maroon and I estimate that our combined income likely puts us in the top 3 of the 12 different households that will be attending. So, the problem isn’t that we CAN not afford it; we only CHOOSE not to spend it. In all honesty, I don’t see this expense being in the budget for a couple of the other households. And being even more honest, I think it is disrespectful of the planners to take this route knowing the financial situation of the rest of the family… nothing like being guilted into spending more money that you can afford in the name of a family birthday party.

 

I’d also like to add that I am good with the plans for the baseball game, despite the very high price. We will be able to take advantage of the various refreshments. Children three and under do not need a ticket, so the ballpark is definitely losing out on that deal – just wait until they see what Mini #1 can eat! The set up will provide relief from the stifling heat in St. Louis over Labor Day weekend. Plus it is an experience. Not a place to sleep.

 

Is There an Alternative?

After getting the email on a Tuesday afternoon, I spent most of the evening in the doldrums about what to do – I don’t want to spend the money. But what other options do I have?? The next day, I spent most of the morning scouring AirBnB for inspiration. I actually came across a duplex with two three-bedroom units. I thought it would be perfect for 2/3 of the family. I found another three-bedroom unit nearby that could accommodate the rest of the out-of-town guests. I was under the impression that the folks that lived up there had no intentions of coming into the city.

 

Those three-bedroom units provided answers to several of my concerns… first, they were about the same price for three nights, yet would be spread across multiple households. They also offered the convenience of individual bedrooms. I firmly believe in early bedtimes for the minis. Mini #2 will be just a couple days shy of her first birthday for this event – she has to go to bed at a reasonable hour. A traditional hotel room leaves some adult sitting in the dark, alone and quiet, for hours so that she’s not left unattended. That’s hours someone is missing out on socializing with family (remember, the whole reason we are going in the first place). Plus a condo/house gives us the flexibility to escape the bedroom into a living room and kitchen when someone (ahem, Mini #2) wakes long before her daddy or big brother want to rise. And we now have a kitchen so that not every single meal must be eaten out. This prospect made me one happy momma!

 

Ideas Come Crashing Down

Upon sharing my discoveries with others, I got a hearty congratulations from Mr. Maroon for finding a good alternative that meets our needs. My mom was enthusiastic about the prospect. My cousin, with another young child, was also completely onboard. My dad was less than impressed. Turns out that the fabulous (yet neurotic) host great-aunt and uncle intend to come over to stay at the hotel. My dad doesn’t expect that they would leave their house just to come over to stay at another house. And last night, ten days later, my cousin is singing a different tune, despite falling into that category of a household being ‘guilted into spending more money than they can afford in the name of a family birthday party’.

 Nothing like getting a guilt trip from your mother...


Nothing like getting a guilt trip from your mother…

Despite being shot down for the whole family, I am still STRONGLY considering doing our own AirBnB rental. A one-bedroom unit fulfills all of the perks above – price, function, space, etc. Even if the rental did come to the same price as the hotel, I’d still advocate it because I’m getting so much more for my money. That hotel gets me a fancy room. I know that is a large part of the appeal for my dad (as if it’s not already obvious, this little corner of the internet exists completely without the knowledge of any of our immediate family). It just doesn’t appeal to me…

 

My Self-Induced Soap Opera

I want to be a team player. I am definitely a people pleaser. I don’t like ruffling feathers. But I also don’t like spending extra money on things that don’t bring extra value. So here are all of the thoughts swirling around in my head. I need your help…

  • Am I crazy for not wanting to pay that for a hotel?
  • Am I isolating us from the rest of the family if we choose to go the AirBnB route?
  • Is it selfish to want to do something different, specifically to accommodate my children?
  • Will I regret staying somewhere away from the rest of the family?
  • Is this whole thing going to turn into a cluster…?
  • What would you do?

Or am I making a big hullabaloo over nothing??

 

~ Mrs. Maroon

 

Discombobulated
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  1. Comment by Chela @SmashOdyssey — April 13, 2015 @ 9:07 PM

    Yowza! Looks like it might turn into a cluster with or without you! I completely understand the predicament, and no, I don´t think you´re making something out of nothing. I would definitely NOT want to stay at the hotel either, for the sake of the cost, especially–and thought of the AirBnB route before I came to that line of your post. I guess it really depends on if your family is into lots of drama, or if they´re pretty chill. I don´t see why you couldn´t still spend time with them at the hotel, and maybe even have them come over to the AirBnB house one night. Uff! I hope it all works out!
    Chela @SmashOdyssey recently posted…Featured Sidehustle: Housesitting / PetsittingMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    I intend to open up our house for folks too. I’m sure we’ll go spend time at the hotel. I’d like to say that they are chill…

  2. Comment by Fervent Finance — April 14, 2015 @ 7:50 AM

    Do what’s best for you and your family, the others will get over it. 🙂 That’s how I usually make my decisions and no-one has disowned me yet.
    Fervent Finance recently posted…My Millionaire To-Do List!My Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    I’m sure I’m making the choice harder on myself than it needs to be. My first priority is to the little family that sleeps in my house every night. So long as I take care of them, the rest will all be A-OK.
    Thanks for the perspective!

  3. Comment by Mrs PoP — April 14, 2015 @ 10:54 AM

    Eh. For stuff like this sometimes I get myself in a tizzy the way you seem to be and need to stop and ask some other questions to try and see the forest through the trees.
    – How many nights in a hotel are we talking? One? Two? Ten?
    – How are you getting to the reunion location? If you’re flying are you renting a car? Or can you get away without renting a car if you stay at the same location as everyone else?
    – Alternatively, if you do have a car on site, what’s the rate for daily/hourly parking at/near the hotel? You may be paying the same cost as hotel parking (or more) to stop by the hotel and spend time with your family. (Hence your delta may be smaller than you think, eaten up by the incidentals of transportation due to being “off-site”.)
    – Can you figure out some travel points card to churn between now and then to offset the “non-value” spending?
    – Is there another less expensive hotel within easy walking distance to the hotel your dad has arranged? Can he get a suite in the expensive one and host “hang outs” while everyone else stays somewhere a little less expensive?
    – How much is drama reduction worth to you? And how big of a baby can your dad be when he doesn’t get his way? Could you (with a straight face) tell him you’re concerned with how expensive the trip is going to be?

    Weddings are usually what bring up this annoyance for us, so we generally have a rule. If we’re in the wedding party, we stay with the wedding hotel for at least the night of rehearsal dinner and night of wedding and move on to other (often cheaper) lodging after that if we’re extending our stay. Coordination is so much easier with others for the big event that way. Luckily friends close enough to have us in their weddings are usually cognizant of that and don’t pick super expensive hotels.
    If we’re not in the wedding party but can’t get out of going without looking like asses, we look for a cheaper nearby hotel as long as the savings is worth the extra effort to get there.
    Mrs PoP recently posted…Reflections on Building Inspectors and Code EnforcementMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    I know, so many details!
    – We will be there for three nights over Labor Day weekend.
    – We are going to drive (1,000 miles roundtrip) so we will have our own vehicle.
    – I had thought about the fact that we will end up paying to park when we do go to the hotel – sigh.
    – Mr. Maroon and I also thought about CC churning, though that’s never been our style. But then we quickly went back to the principle of the idea of choosing a place that expensive. Plus the complication of kids in a hotel room.
    You’ve hit the nail on the head though with asking if I could tell him with a straight face that I think it’s too expensive. Even at 31 years old, I’m not confident in being so direct with him. But now that I actually write that out, it seems ridiculous. Therapy by keyboard…
    Thanks for all your insight!!

  4. Comment by Rebecca — April 14, 2015 @ 11:34 AM

    I just had a very similar family experience, also in St Louis. The entire was getting together and wanted to stay at the same hotel. My MIL offered to pay for the hotel, until she saw how much it cost. I didn’t feel like we could afford to pay $400 for a hotel room, but at the same time we didn’t really have any alternatives. The entire family HAD to stay together, even those who lived in St Louis, so we could spend as much time together as possible. My husband said it wasn’t worth having a conflict with his mom over the hotel room. We are stuck with our family members, and she doesn’t easily get over perceived wrong doings.

    I really liked Fervent Finance’s comment, but my husband’s family isn’t the type to “get over it”.
    Rebecca recently posted…Dining Room and Entry ProgressMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    Every situation is different. And being stuck with family, especially your MIL, that holds on to the grudge makes it all the worse. There are certain things in life that are worth spending a little extra money on – and those are different for everyone. But in the end, we all have to be happy with ourselves. If staying in the hotel saved you some peace of mind, then it was worth spending.

  5. Comment by Hannah — April 14, 2015 @ 12:46 PM

    If it were just the adults, I would just suck it up and stay in the hotel, but with kids in tow, I also question if that’s a good idea. Does the hotel have a pool and other kid friendly areas? What about a nearby park?

    If not, I would firmly tell your family that the hotel won’t work for your family because of the kids, and you are going to stay somewhere that is a bit more kid friendly.

    With one baby, we’ve been fine in hotels, but on our most recent vacation (with family) our whole family rented a very large beach house with one room per family. This worked out well because the adults with no kids got to sleep in, and those with kids got to take them out of the room and into the kitchen/living room as soon as they awoke. It was much less stressful for everyone. It’s also much more relaxing to be able to eat breakfast from a home base- kids like to eat breakfast in their jammies too much to try for a new routine.

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    The hotel does have a pool. And I was targeting an area within a couple miles of the hotel for the AirBnB search that was very close to a city park, complete with playgrounds, a wading pool, and splash park. I fully expect to go take advantage of the park.

    We recently stayed in a hotel with both of our minis. We made it bearable by having an adjoining room with Mr. Maroon’s family. But when the baby was raring to go at 5:30a, all of a sudden so was Mini #1. We made it work, but definitely not my first choice.

    Large beach houses are the way to go. This particular family has done that on multiple occasions. So I’m a little stumped as to why this idea has fallen so flat this time around…

  6. Comment by Gen Y Finance Guy — April 14, 2015 @ 12:48 PM

    I say you do what you think is best and makes you feel most comfortable. You will never please everyone.

    Now backing up to the exciting piece about your 100 year old relative. I love talking with people with so much experience and memories that span 10 decades of innovation.

    I personally have a goal to live to 100 myself (and longer if I am able bodied and mentally sharp).

    Have fun no matter what.

    Cheers!
    Gen Y Finance Guy recently posted…The First 6 Months of Blogging – By The NumbersMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    I consistently have to remind myself to do what is best for me, and MY immediate family. After getting married and having babies, that immediate family no long extends to my parents. My first priority is to the people that sleep in my house each night.

    My great-grandmother is pretty incredible. I’m thrilled that we are going to have the opportunity to celebrate her ten decades. With the right body and mind, as she has, I think it would be wonderful to do the same.

  7. Comment by Debtless in Texas — April 14, 2015 @ 2:42 PM

    Am I crazy for not wanting to pay that for a hotel?
    NO! That is way more expensive than it needs to be.

    Am I isolating us from the rest of the family if we choose to go the AirBnB route?
    Nope, you will still be able to spend plenty of time with them.

    Is it selfish to want to do something different, specifically to accommodate my children?
    No, it is smarter!

    Will I regret staying somewhere away from the rest of the family?
    That is up to you!

    Is this whole thing going to turn into a cluster…?
    Maybe

    What would you do?
    Exactly what you want to do. We have a similar situation coming up later in the year and will be staying by ourselves in an Air BnB place for everyone’s sanity and making it easier.

    Do what you know is best for your family and your children and don’t worry about anyone else. You can’t please everyone, no need to agonize over it.
    Debtless in Texas recently posted…The Refrigerator Repair EpisodeMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    “You can’t please everyone, no need to agonize over it.”
    I need to stamp this into my forehead!!

  8. Comment by Robin @ The Thrifty Peach — April 14, 2015 @ 4:00 PM

    I’m mad for you. I know if I went ahead and splurged for the hotel, I’d be pissed off the entire time… Not to mention that it sucks hardcore to have a baby in a hotel room. But if you opt for the duplex, you might feel left out.

    In conclusion, I am clearly no help.
    Robin @ The Thrifty Peach recently posted…A Thrifty Pep TalkMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    You summarized my internal debate in about 30 words whereas it took me over 50x as many…

    Lightbulb moment: I have control over what we choose to do and how we spend our time with the family so as to not feel left out. I can’t control how much the hotel costs or how limited the space may be, but I do have an option to avoid those things. So, focus on getting the most out of what I CAN control!

  9. Comment by ARBM — April 14, 2015 @ 4:16 PM

    Oh families, eh? The decision really depends on your relationships with the members of your family… but in the end, you really have to do what is best for you and your little ones. Would you lose the opportunity to go to the baseball game if you didn’t stay at the hotel?
    ARBM recently posted…Blogging Etiquette?My Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    We shouldn’t lose out on the baseball game if we stay elsewhere. Our ticket prices may go up by $15, but that’s less than a day of valet at the hotel.

    Families… Love ’em. Want to wring their necks some times. Oh the fun!

  10. Comment by The Professor — April 14, 2015 @ 6:14 PM

    Love the tone of this article! I feel like I know exactly what you’re going through. If it were me, I’d do what your family wants. I’m definitely on the more spend-friendly end of the personal finance community, to be fair, but you don’t get to see your grandma turn 100 too many times. I’d forget about money and focus on family this time.
    The Professor recently posted…Asset Classes Available to InvestorsMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    Thanks for the dissenting opinion in contrast to everyone else. In the last five minutes, I had an “Aha!” moment when responding to Robin… I can put forth extra effort (free) to make sure we spend time with the family and get the most out of our time together. I can also control the costs and accommodations at a different location. So I think I can get the best of both worlds by staying at a place that works best for our immediate family and also doing my part to participate with everyone else. I’m the one that wants to do something different, so I will put forth more effort to make it all work the way I want.

  11. Comment by Jon @ Money Smart Guides — April 15, 2015 @ 5:41 AM

    Ahhh, family. I agree with the above commenter that said you have to do what is best for your family. Not the extended family but your family. They are who you answer to first now and everyone comes second. Not saying this is easy, but that is how it should be done. I get that you want everyone to be happy but they have to take into account your concerns as you do theirs. But at the end of the day, you, your husband and the minis are #1.
    Jon @ Money Smart Guides recently posted…Strategy vs Luck: Which Is The Better Investment Approach?My Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    You’re exactly right. I’m responsible for four humans now. They are the ones live in my house. And all of my allegiances and priorities relate directly to them. A part of growing up is making that change, and expecting the people you used to live with to do the same.

  12. Comment by Kalie — April 15, 2015 @ 7:12 AM

    I’d feel the same way. That is a crazy amount to spend per night. I think the rental place is a great idea. In your shoes I bet we’d find a local campground. Not sure if you’re campers but that is the cheapest way to stay, unless you have hotel points for a free stay. For Labor Day weekend you do have to book ahead of time for campgrounds.
    Kalie recently posted…Live Like Grandma ChallengeMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    We haven’t ventured out into camping with the minis yet, though Mr. Maroon is very antsy to do so. Camping was a big part of his childhood, so he is eager to share the same experiences with his children. Do you camp in a tent or camper? Do you have small children? The age of the minis has been our limiting factor thus far. I’ve always been concerned about how well they would sleep while camping…

  13. Comment by Even Steven — April 15, 2015 @ 9:01 AM

    I think the best thing to do is exactly what you are doing, pushing back. So many family outings are really decided by one person and does not consider everyone involved. Best of luck
    Even Steven recently posted…A 401K Millionaire RebuttalMy Profile

    Mrs. Maroon Reply:

    Thanks!

    Thinking about the whole situation, I’m reminded of an article I read lately about how every single second is a “Once in a Lifetime” opportunity…
    http://www.whitecollarfreedom.com/2015/04/the-in-lifetime-trap.html
    So, while most folks use that as an excuse to rationalize a decision (anything, but mostly spending extra money), the same could be said for just about anything. Yes, we have the privilege of gathering for a special event. But that doesn’t justify blowing money for it!

  14. Comment by Christina @ Embracing Simple — April 15, 2015 @ 12:38 PM

    Holy smokes! I don’t think you’re big hullabaloo over nothing. I would feel the exact same way and would be pushing back against it too. You do you and worry about your own little family!
    Christina @ Embracing Simple recently posted…Habits for HappinessMy Profile

  15. Comment by Sarah — April 15, 2015 @ 2:16 PM

    Wow!! I would feel the same exact way that you do. We are pretty lucky in that any family reunion we’ve attended, my parents have usually chipped in a lot with the accommodations for us. We went to Georgia two years ago (from AZ) and my parents paid for our cabin so we just had to pay for flights. Super generous!! If I were in your situation, I would either stay at the same hotel but do more of your own less expensive, kid friendly activities OR stay at a cheaper place but partake in some of the more expensive entertainment that way you have a chance to see everyone.

    We just got back from Boca Raton and it was SO NICE being at the same hotel as my mom and aunts! It just made things easier. But again…my mom paid for a good amount of our food AND I called and got a discount on the hotel! Maybe try that 🙂
    Sarah recently posted…Hobbies: Are they costing you money or making you money?My Profile

  16. Comment by Kalie — April 15, 2015 @ 7:45 PM

    We have a test (8 person size) and two kids, currently 3 and 1 years old. But we camped for a week last year when they were 2 and 4 months. I actually find they sleep better when we camp because they wear themselves out playing outside all day. We bring an air mattress for us, pack n play for the baby, a little white noise machine (when we camp with electric) and a fan.
    Kalie recently posted…The Futility of FashionMy Profile

  17. Comment by Kirsten — April 19, 2015 @ 6:20 PM

    We are also very firm about bedtimes (and naps!) for our littles and I have to say that no one else that we visit seems to feel like they should be quiet or respectful at all of those times. I would do what ever option gives me the most space, which is not to say square footage, but personal space. The hotel situation would bother me… Who is going to come knocking at my door or call the room phone right when I got the baby to sleep. Sigh. My stress level is through the rough just thinking about it. Good luck to y’all!
    Kirsten recently posted…Give Your Debt to God?My Profile

  18. Comment by Vawt — April 20, 2015 @ 9:02 AM

    I don’t think you shoudl be limited on where you stay in this instance. If you were on a cruise or went snow skiing, you sort of need to stay by each other in the same location. If you are just going to be in St Louis, you could stay whereever you want. I think Air BnB is a fine option, especially since I have two kids under 3 as well.

    Have you thought about opening a Hyatt, Marriott, or Starwoods card to get a sign-up bonus and stay for free (maybe even in a suite)?
    Vawt recently posted…Should I Buy An Investment Property?My Profile

  19. Comment by Petrish @ Debt Free Martini — April 29, 2015 @ 9:19 AM

    When it comes to family vacations I’m never excited and don’t expect to have 100 percent fun, but I guess 85 percent fun with the remainder drama. I was reading some of the comments and everyone seemed to have some really great ideas and solutions. Even though your tone was upbeat I’m not sure if you’re happy or sad about this vacation, but I hope that it turns out to be a blast.
    Petrish @ Debt Free Martini recently posted…Debt Free Martini Wants to Share Your StoryMy Profile

  20. Comment by Abigail @ipickuppennies — May 5, 2015 @ 3:06 PM

    Pretty late to the game here, but I think those prices are pretty painful. I wouldn’t be happy about paying them. I think you should keep the Air BnB idea.

    If they really want to all do a single hotel, get on the horn to a Holiday Inn or something more affordable. I know that’s not as nice. But I’ve never had a bad room, and you get free breakfast.

    I’m impressed that you’re okay with the baseball thing. I know refreshments are pricey, but $85 a person? Youch. That’s more than a night in the proposed hotel!

    Honestly, some of the other family members are just too embarrassed to say anything. I think you should (politely) stick to your guns. They don’t need to know that you technically can afford it.

    You can just say that due to some other pressing priorities — left unsaid: NOT spending that much money — you’re not comfortable with the price of the hotel. Tell them again that you’ve found this particular arrangement which is more suitable (or find a more affordable hotel and quote that). Maybe make this a family-wide email, which might encourage other attendees to speak up.

    You’re right that the planners are being thoughtless about other people’s situations. Everyone should be in a good mood for such a monumentous occasion. Not fretting about how they’ll pay for this later.
    Abigail @ipickuppennies recently posted…What are your ideal finances?My Profile

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