Am I being petty/over-reacting about money?
January 5, 2021 1:12 PM   Subscribe

My husband's sister, who I am close to, rounded up the amount I owed her and that makes me feel bad. Am I just being petty?

My sister-and-law and I consider each other friends. Money has never caused problems between us and I've never felt like either of us were keeping tabs on it.

About a year ago we both became interested in the same hobby that requires a lot of research. I was using the basic, free version of a research website that I showed my SIL. She called me later to say that she had signed up for a premium subscription, giving me her information so that I could use the subscription as well. Ultimately, the website was more useful to me as the research available matched more my needs than hers. I didn't end up dedicating much time to said hobby this past year and did not use the site that much, but when I did it was very helpful.

She emails me at the end of this year saying that the subscription is about to end, "What should we do?". She has a discount offer and so the subscription can be renewed for a lower price of 58 dollars. I tell her to renew as I am hoping to dedicate more time to hobby this year and I will transfer her the 58 dollars.

She writes back to me and says that actually, after taxes, she was charged almost 80 dollars, adding that "out of curiosity", she looked up last year's cost and it was 110 dollars. I write her back asking, "How much should I give you then?" since she never said a precise amount. She responds, "Why don't you just give me 80 dollars? That way, I'll have paid for last year's subscription, and you this years."

Now, I am finding it off-putting that she decided to not give me the actual amount she paid and instead, rounded up and asked me for that. (I now have access to the bill from my account and saw that is was 74.42 dollars and those feelings are intensified.) The difference of 5ish dollars is nothing between us considering all the lunches, birthdays, Christmases and vacations we've shared... that is perhaps precisely why it is making me feel so bad that she would take 5 dollars off the top!

Am I being weird about this and over-reacting? Is it petty of me to even be noticing this?
posted by Blissful to Human Relations (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes, you are being weird and overreacting.

If I understood your message properly, the price for the current year is almost $80 once you count taxes. It is not $58. So you are paying the cost for this year, give or take a dollar. She also covered the cost for last year, which was more money. She's being nice. Time for you to stop thinking about this and send her the money.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 1:17 PM on January 5, 2021 [54 favorites]

Am I being weird about this and over-reacting?

Yes. By your own words, the website is more useful to you than her. Even with the bill of $74.42 this year and $110 last year, an even split would be $92.21, not $80.

Some people have a weird aversion to calculating costs exactly. I don't know why that is. However, it is a thing, and when that aversion results in you paying less money for something that you are more interested in, then it's not really appropriate to complain about it.

Especially for $5.58.
posted by saeculorum at 1:20 PM on January 5, 2021 [23 favorites]

Response by poster: Just a quick note to add, I have already sent the money (the full 80 as requested). I was never not going to send the money.
posted by Blissful at 1:22 PM on January 5, 2021 [5 favorites]

The total cost for the two years was $110 + $74.42. You're paying less than half. You're certainly over-reacting.
posted by caek at 1:22 PM on January 5, 2021 [8 favorites]

It's kind of petty, but I admit that I would be irritated by the weird inflation of the price as well.
posted by ktkt at 1:25 PM on January 5, 2021 [4 favorites]

It's ok, you were just conceiving of it differently. It turns out the fair thing is probably to split evenly the cost of both years now, and the cost of each year going forward. You probably got twisted around only looking at this year, whereas she probably got twisted about last year. But it is small and it's all fine, and I don't think you're even out of line to see it differently at first, because the first year was more of a 'hey I paid for this do you want free sharing' kind of deal.
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:28 PM on January 5, 2021 [9 favorites]

I would see it as weird too (I round down in situations like that, not up) but so many people have such different approaches both to money and to math that it's basically impossible to read into their behavior unless it's part of some much wider patterns. I'd be annoyed but also resolve to help myself not be. (Maybe she was annoyed at you not chipping in, even if belatedly, for last year's subscription and her own pettiness expressed itself this way and you are united in pettiness; maybe she's bad at math; maybe this is how her parents always did things so that's how she does it; etc. etc.)
posted by trig at 1:29 PM on January 5, 2021 [9 favorites]

I get why you feel weird about it. You agreed to pay $58 dollars, and she paid more than that without asking you and then rounded up (unless the 74 odd doesn't include tax?) It feels ungenerous to round up, rather than down. Personally I wouldn't have asked you for more than 58, its not cool to spend other peoples money.

BUT in the grand scheme of things, its a minor weirdness. She probably thought "oh, its more like $80" in her head as she paid and then didn't remember the exact amount when texting you. Its not worth dwelling on.

(But I don't know why people are including last years subscription in the calculation, you never asked for that, it was generous of her to share her login but you don't "owe" her the money for that. "Hey, let's split this going forward" is in fact a more reasonable approach imo).
posted by stillnocturnal at 1:29 PM on January 5, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I don’t think your feelings are weird. Feelings are real. Or maybe they are real and true but also weird.

Perhaps your strong feeling is tied to other feelings that are less orderly and rational?

If this happened to me I would definitely feel uncomfortable.... but not just for the rounding. I would feel embarrassed that she had paid 110 for something that I used and I paid her zero, I’d feel like I took advantage of her and that goes against my values.

But then I’d probably feel angry at her for not setting a clear expectation of splitting costs. How was I to know she expected to split this cost.

Then I’d feel ashamed that I’m so shy I did not take the first move and clarify or offer my thanks and financial support for the first year.

Then I’d feel confused about the rounding up... is that somehow because I owe her for the first year being more expensive because no discount?

Then I would be furious with her for assigning a debt to me that I was unaware of! I hate being in debt and double for family! Even for $20 it is the principle! Has she been harboring resentment about me not paying half of the $110? Am I such a monster that I’m unapproachable and the only way to communicate this massive rift in our relationship trust and communication is to get another $5 and change from me!

Then I’d spiral for a while wondering why relationships are so hard for me, I’d feel broken for a little bit until I remember to eat something.

Then I’d write back and say “sure! It’s no big deal, what’s your Venmo for the $80. And next time I see you let my buy you something to make up for the first year costing more, that subscription was really helpful.”

Then I’d try and go to bed because ugh this stuff is so hard for me sometimes.
posted by sol at 1:29 PM on January 5, 2021 [76 favorites]

You definitely shouldn't say anything, and I think it's a fair amount of money to pay, but you are also right that it is weirdly though microscopically hostile, and I don't think that's just in the dollar amount but also the sidestepping into it rather than just laying out the facts and letting you decide what to do.

But, you know what? Almost everybody is weird in some way about money. She is, you are, I am, none of us in exactly the same way, it can make it so so so hard to talk calmly and concisely about it. I think that's what happened here.

Give yourself a couple days to have a moment of WTF? and then let it go.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:31 PM on January 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

I don't think it's weird to notice, but I think (given all the backstory) it would be weird/petty to say anything to her.

I do think it's weird that she rounded up, though, if the agreement was that you pay for this year and she paid for last year. Presumably it's not a big deal to her, or she doesn't like math/numbers, or she's not as much of a details person as you and I are.

If she had wanted to split the cost of the subscription entirely, she should have asked if you wanted to chip in last year when she offered you her login information. Is she someone who wouldn't ask that directly? Is it possible that when she offered you her login information last year she expected you to offer to split the cost?
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:32 PM on January 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

I often round up or down when paying debts to close friends, especially if we're settling the debt in cash. They usually do the same for me. It's normal.

To be honest, sometimes it feels more rude to ask for the exact amount -- saying "hey can you transfer me $16.42 for lunch last week" makes it sound like I care about settling all debts to the very last penny, rather than asking for a round amount to keep things more or less even while trusting in the give and take of the friendship.
posted by mekily at 1:35 PM on January 5, 2021 [34 favorites]

If she paid $110 for the first subscription and she asked you for $80 to cover the second, that's more than fair from a financial perspective. However, I think what's bothering you is more the way it played out: she didn't tell you directly how much she'd like you to pay, or offer any explanatory/conciliatory words like "I hope you don't mind paying $80 instead of $74.42, because I paid more last time and that seems fair to me." Instead it sounds like she was hoping you would immediately offer to pay $80+ once you heard the details without her having to directly ask you for it, because that's easier to handle.

So perhaps you're mad because she couldn't give it to you straight, considering how close you are, rather than because she 'overcharged' you? If that's the case, maybe you can feel better by considering she's not mean, just bad at communicating in an awkward situation: talking about money isn't easy for a lot of people, and it's also something people that can cause a lot of stress and lead to secrecy - maybe your SIL has money issues right now that she doesn't want to talk about, which make her more likely to be awkward bringing it up. Just a possibility that might help you reframe it.
posted by guessthis at 1:44 PM on January 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

I think on this one there are enough ways to interpret the situation or divide the cost that you can safely attribute your sister’s actions to anything but malice, or trying to pull on over on you.
posted by raccoon409 at 2:00 PM on January 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

Money can be weird between friends and family. She probably feels like she was doing you a favour by only asking for $80 when if you had gotten the subscription by yourself it would have been much more.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:03 PM on January 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

I would be a little annoyed at the bill suddenly being $80(or close to it) when I'd made the decision to subscribe based on $58.

But I would not feel hard done by by the SIL rounding $74.40 up to $80 when it was she who paid all of the $110 for the first year, and you were the main user. Sounds like she did you a solid (and is still doing it, as you'd be paying more if she weren't hooking it up with her discount.) Have you thanked her?
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:03 PM on January 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

It sounds like your SIL got a series of disagreeable surprises. First, the cost of this year is more than you both expected (~75 instead of 58). THEN she noticed belatedly that she'd payed even more (110) last year, and it was for a service that benefitted you more than her, and she felt like this was not what she'd signed up for originally.

So in an effort to make herself feel less duped and resentful, she split the difference of the two years but kept it in your favour. She probably talked herself into feeling this was an arguably fair compromise that you could both live with.

As to why she didn't just set it out clearly - some people are just bad with keeping track of expenses and others feel it's shameful to talk about money and ask for what you want. So instead of doing you the favour of clarity, they hem and haw, and without consulting you they come up with rounded numbers in a way that feels like a compromise to them but like shiftiness to you. I'm that way and it's not a good thing. Maybe she has a bit of that going on, too.

If you think this might be true, and your SIL might be trying to be polite and fair to you while sticking up for herself, maybe see it as a belated Christmas present. A small cash gift that carries your forgiveness and generosity.

If she were generally stingy, I would answer differently.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:10 PM on January 5, 2021 [6 favorites]

Money makes people behave badly. It was 58, then @ 80, then 80, and I understand that wait, whaaaa response. Rounding to 75 would have felt better. But it's fair enough, so tell your inner money-clenching fist to chill. I sound harsher than I mean. Your Feelings are kind of off, but your behavior is fine, and you are not a bad person, you're typical.
posted by theora55 at 2:37 PM on January 5, 2021


Just as a data point, this would be flames on the side of my face territory, even if I would in practice peel off 4 20s and not bat an eye to pay someone back $74.42.

I get your gut feel on this. It's not a reason to cut that side of the family out of the will, but when I read this my initial reaction was UGHHHHHHHHH. I get it.
posted by phunniemee at 2:41 PM on January 5, 2021 [7 favorites]

Given your reaction, and to avoid damaging this relationship in the future, next year you should subscribe to this service in your own name and pay the bill yourself.
posted by heatherlogan at 2:50 PM on January 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To push aside any concerns about intellectual property, the details of how we share the account aren't important for the ask but we definitely aren't abusing the license or getting around intellectual property protection! It's more like my SIL's subscription enabled her to link our accounts.
posted by Blissful at 2:51 PM on January 5, 2021

I believe some people have genuinely poor math skills or a genuine lack of interest at precision in math. Or the amount is (seemingly) insignificant (to her) to bother calculating precisely.
We can't know her motives. Avoid finding malice what can be explained by incompetence.

Also the last 9 months has put a lot of smaller grievances into better perspective for me, personally.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 2:58 PM on January 5, 2021 [6 favorites]

She did say "almost $80" in the first place. The rounding-up happened when she was thinking of it as her money, not when she asked you to repay it. When she offered for you to pay this year since she paid last, you then trusted that $80 was an appropriate approximation. That would have been the point to ask "it was $80 even, then?" and probably she'd have pulled up the actual bill/card statement and realized that, when she wasn't feeling so shocked by the amount of taxes on the alleged $58, it was actually $74.42. I'm not trying to blame you for going along with it; I just think it was an innocent mistake and probably if she ever notices she'll want to make it up to you.
posted by teremala at 3:32 PM on January 5, 2021 [8 favorites]

She rounded down. $92.21 would split the cost evenly for each year, but she decided (for whatever reason--perhaps she felt it would be weirdly specific and petty) not to charge you exactly that. She charged you $80 probably because that felt right, recouping some of the loss from what she's not charging you but not making it higher than what she'd already said. The "why don't you just" suggests to me she sees this as her doing you a favor and asking for less than you owe her.

Maybe framing it like that would help?
posted by brook horse at 5:23 PM on January 5, 2021 [10 favorites]

Money has never caused problems between us and I've never felt like either of us were keeping tabs on it.

So... why start now? I think you were both passive and awkward about something that didn't have to be (but often is) but I'm curious about whether this is really about something else.
posted by sm1tten at 5:30 PM on January 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you still owe her at least another $12.

Highly recommend you get a copy of last years bill, and offer to pay for exactly what you owe. Otherwise it will get worse. If you’re stewing this much over less that $6, think of how much she is stewing, being that you still owe her at least $12.
posted by weed donkey at 10:35 PM on January 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Alright, I am going to mark this as resolved and conclude that people are weird and have visceral reactions about money, me included.

I have to admit, I am surprise that people are saying I owe her money for last year's subscription. She signed up for the most expensive subscription without asking me if I would be interested in it, and then called me saying she had linked our accounts so I could benefit too. Like I said, I rarely used it, although it was useful the few times I did. I certainly would never expect someone to pay me something in those circumstances, certainly not a close family member, and would be embarrassed if they suggested it.

The implication that I owe her money is sending me into a spiral of "huh, but I regularly babysit my nephews, often taking them several days at a time which costs me money and saves her money!". And now I am reminding myself that this is mefi's interpretation and not my SIL's. She is neither the petty, or the stewing type. I don't want to be either.

So, I will be letting this go! I got panicked about suddenly owing more that I expected, especially since money is a little tight for me after the holidays, and that made me feel resentful that she didn't discuss it with me before spending that money but my relationship with my SIL is fine.
posted by Blissful at 11:09 PM on January 5, 2021 [11 favorites]

Yeh. Not sure I'm understanding this correctly but I think you owe her $110 + $74.42/2 = $92.21.

There's no way she isn't thinking about last year's money. It would be eating me up inside thinking about that unless it was explicitly given as a gift. Doesn't matter if you didn't use it that much. It's still coming out of her pocket and it looks like that hasn't been acknowledged. It looks like you don't think you have to pay for it? The rounding up (which is actually a rounding down) may have been a gentle reminder about last year. Friend or no friend, she's being very, very generous.

Edit- this was written before seeing the update above.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 11:23 PM on January 5, 2021

With your update I think you are stressed about money, and maybe she is too. These are hard times, I think our shifts in dealing with pandemic reality sometimes just makes us all more raw.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:56 AM on January 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

Yeah, to be clear, I don't think that you actually definitively owe her money, given the murky details (you didn't ask for it, but you did use it and do so more than her, so some payment would be fair but how much?). But that's why the money gets fuzzy, and why I wouldn't worry over $5.58. Given there's multiple valid interpretations of how much each person should be contributing, that feels exactly the sort of margin of error we'd expect when trying to decide how to handle a situation that could go either way in terms of who owes who.
posted by brook horse at 8:17 AM on January 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

Is it possible she thought that a round number would just be simpler for both of you? That was my first thought.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:26 AM on January 6, 2021

> To be honest, sometimes it feels more rude to ask for the exact amount -- saying "hey can you transfer me $16.42 for lunch last week" makes it sound like I care about settling all debts to the very last penny, rather than asking for a round amount to keep things more or less even while trusting in the give and take of the friendship.

I feel the exact same way, just as another data point for ways that people conceptualize money and arithmetic.
posted by desuetude at 9:59 AM on January 6, 2021 [4 favorites]

The implication that I owe her money is sending me into a spiral of "huh, but I regularly babysit my nephews, often taking them several days at a time which costs me money and saves her money!". And now I am reminding myself that this is mefi's interpretation and not my SIL's. She is neither the petty, or the stewing type. I don't want to be either.

I feel so bad for what I wrote. I am just speaking as a person who does stew. Well done for not being a 'stewer'. Genuinely.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 11:06 AM on January 6, 2021

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