Ask Helen: Vacation finances

Dear Helen:

I agreed to go on vacation with a friend in another state. The place we chose was a compromise, as she is a doctor and I live on much more modest means. We agreed to go Dutch, though not to worry about splitting every meal down to the penny. I made reservations for one place and she for the other. On a daily basis we both paid out and shared money for excursions, meals, admission fees, etc. One of the big draws of traveling together was that she was supposed to get a special rate at a timeshare that her company owns an interest in, a savings of many hundreds of dollars each. When we did the final accounting, the “special rate” was no discount at all, and was in fact much higher than similar places I’d found online. She was very breezy about it, and I was too embarrassed to confront her. But now that I am home I feel angry at her for the mistake/deception and at myself for being too mealymouthed. Is it too late to assert myself?

Taken for a Ride

Dear Taken:

Most of us get mealymouthed when caught unaware, or confronted with embarrassing circumstances re a friend, close or not. There’s always a sense of shame around dealings with money, especially if the other person has a tendency to make us seem cheap, poor or just not a good sport. It’s OK to let small amounts slide, assuming they slide in both directions and equal out over time. But when you’re talking hundreds of dollars, it’s not OK to be a schnook.

Though I think you’re unlikely to get any recompense from your friend, you might feel better if you say something. Let her know, via email/phone/in person, that the financial side of the trip is not sitting well with you. Be clear about what she told you (quote it if she gave prices in an email) and that you would have made different choices with correct information. You can give her a chance to step up and apologize, offer to refund some money or provide a future treat. Be very cautious about traveling with her again but don’t hold a grudge. Life’s too short.

Helen: A resident of Eugene since 1981, Helen is a member of Temple Beth Israel, where she studies and speaks on Torah. She claims to have black belts in schmoozing, problem solving and chutzpah. She’s a writer and an artist ( Please email your questions to

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