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Ask Anyone

botched getaway

My girlfriend and I are going on a vacation this winter to an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean with another couple, and we all agreed to split the costs evenly. My girlfriend and I have enough frequent-flier miles to buy the airline tickets for all four of us. I suggested I would do that, and the other couple would pay me in cash for what their tickets would have cost. Seems fair to me, but one of our friends seems unhappy with the idea of paying us for something that cost us nothing. What do you all think?

—Carry-on baggage

The Shutterbug says: Ditch the couple. Instead you and your girlfriend could go to the Caribbean twice! Think about it, how fun would someone who is going to nit-pick about money and frequent-flier miles be in the Caribbean anyways? They’re probably a Debbie Downer. Save your frequent-flier miles for someone who deserves them: you.

Aberrant in Allentown says: Psychology has long recognized and studied this phenomena. Things with equal value are perceived as having different values based on the means by which they were obtained. It’s natural and happens to all of us: you’re going to tend to be more thrifty with $20 you earned than $20 you found on the ground. It’s the same value, but simply knowing where it came from alters our behavior, and for some reason our minds have an innate ability to separate the two even if there was that combined $40 in our wallet. So save the hard feelings, if any, for your friend—your idea is totally fair—but they’re only acting human. Use your miles another time, or for an impromptu psychology lesson in jealousy, use them to upgrade your seats to first class after you’ve settled out with your friends.

Ruthless says: While you shouldn’t try to profit from your friends, neither should you be expected to give them something as extravagant as two plane tickets for free. Presumably, you spent enough money with the airline in question to have amassed a certain amount of frequent flyer miles, while this other couple did not, and were you to buy only two tickets instead of four, you would use fewer frequent flyer miles, correct? So, in the first place, it doesn’t cost you “nothing,” you have been paying for it all along.

Secondly, I didn’t know you could use frequent flyer miles for vacation packages, so that’s cool. Perhaps there is a way to attach a value to these miles, as my esteemed colleague suggests. Or perhaps the other couple has frequent flyer miles on another airline that they can give to you for another time. The best advice is to try to split the difference, or bust, because if this other couple is already unhappy about the arrangements before you even leave, let’s just say I hope this vacation isn’t aboard a cruise ship. Tensions may get high.

holiday mix

My partner and I host a holiday party every year, and we’ve been doing it for 12 years. And lately he’s bored with the guest list. He’d like to revamp the party completely—different people, different feel. But we have a lot of friends who have been coming for years. I don’t think we can just cut them off the invite list to make room for new people. What should we do?

—Party Planner

Ruthless says: As we grow older, things tend to increase, like waistlines and bank accounts, and your amount of friends. If you want to keep them, increase your guest list accordingly. Hopefully your increased income will allow for it. (Tip: Consume less yourself to offset this, thereby also offsetting the aforementioned increasing waistline.)

The Sales Guy says: I am a bit taken aback by your cavalier attitude toward your friends. I’m all for expanding the friend gene pool but tossing your old friends like a used Kleenex is pretty disgusting. It sounds more like you have people you know that you’re friendly with, but you don’t have a clue what a real friend is. Face it, if you’d consider changing the feel of the party by dumping your friends instead of the music, menu, or decor, you and your partner’s pathology is the real issue.

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