Who pays? How have you transitioned who pays for things with your adult children?

I was talking with a friend yesterday who is struggling with the fact that her elder daughter and her husband sort of “expect” them to always pay/treat if they go out, order pizza, whatever. The younger daughter and her husband do sometimes chip in or treat the parents. Thrown into the mix is the fact that the younger daughter and husband make significantly more money than the elder and hers. Elder has two boys as well.

Now, my friends have absolutely set a precedent on that and have always done a lot for their two daughters. The elder daughter is now 32 or so and the younger 30. They all live in the same town and near each other. They spend a lot of time together. The expectations and attitudes of the one husband are really getting on her nerves lately, though. It’s expected they will treat in expenditures both large and small. I think they should have made a shift long ago, because now she is feeling rather resentful and unappreciated.

I am not asking for a solution to her problem but I am thinking proactively about this. I don’t yet have a dil, and our ds has a good job. He has treated us to dinner a couple of times, but we don’t see him constantly like they see their adult kids. He lives on the opposite coast from us.

Just thinking ahead and musing about how folks transition into more shared patterns of payment (or if they do) as their children move out, marry, procreate, etc. and how that subject gets broached. I mean, there would be times that I would want to treat my ds and/or his future family, but I wouldn’t want to do that all the time. So how does your family of adults deal with expenses on group meals, outings, vacations, meals while on vacation together, etc.

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We have a kind of socialist thing going on, even before my kids are adults. Everyone contributes sometimes, usually we are the default but not always, and my kids also sometimes contribute to each other. Just last month my older daughter bought my younger daughter a plane ticket to camp. She did it because she had the money when we did not, and to also save me from having to drive her sister if the money didn’t work out. For small things like food (we don’t eat anywhere expensive) we pay except when they’ve specifically asked to treat me/us.


We have 3 kids - one married, one with SO and one single. 2 of them a couple hours out of town so we see them maybe monthly.

On casual dinners out, ice cream outings, etc. we usually just pay. We don’t do it that often and we enjoy doing it. We are not fine dining. Just good local casual places. H and I do not drink for the most part - nothing against it, just don’t. So after the kids became of age we sort of adopted the “we pay for dinner, but you can pay for your alcohol” arrangement.

That’s not to say that they never pay for food or that they don’t invite us to their place for food - they do!

I’m someone who much more enjoys treating someone and don’t need to be “treated” myself.

On vacations we have set a budget for what we are willing to pay for a place. This is not often. If the place we all decide is more than that budget the kids agree to chip in. We take turns buying the food and cooking for different meals.

I’m telling ya take the alcohol off your bill and it’s SO much more reasonable!!! :slight_smile:


I think my h will always plan to pick up the tab if we are out together for our 2 and families if they have them someday. It would be nice if someday they would offer, but I don’t think we would expect it. They are only 18/20 now. Although we don’t see H’s mother often we always pick up the tab at the restaurant and I don’t recall any time that she has offered. My mom tends to offer to buy if we eat out, but that is not often either. H is usually rather generous and tends to pick up the tab when with his brothers as well.


But sometimes that alcohol is really, really needed. :yum:


Ha. I always expect my parents to pay for me/family if we are ever together. H used to offer, and I’d elbow him to keep silent. On the flip side, I will always pay for my kids if we go out to eat. On the other hand, we do treat my in-laws to dinner from time to time, but that is known up front and they insist on paying the tip.

I think it also partly comes down to who is in better financial shape. If one of my Ss’ becomes a millionaire, he’d better be treating me to dinner! We are in better shape than my in-laws, so I wouldn’t expect them to pay. My parents OTOH are in better shape than we are.

This year is our first vacation with older S being independent. We invited his GF and fully intended to pay for everything. He insisted to pay for the plane tickets and I about fell out of my chair, as he is stingy! I declined, but he insisted that it was important to him.


LOL, @gandalf78 as non-drinkers, this is not something we can relate to! Dessert on the other hand…

Venmo has also made it so simple to pass cash and “our share”.

I don’t want it to be a situation where we are comparing “who makes what” to determine who pays. Maybe what needs to happen there is removing the restaurant expectation. If the treating person has a 4 star restaurant budget - fine! If the treating person has a pizza budget - fine!

I love treating my kids - but also hope that we have raised them to want to treat others too within their resources.


Nobody says it out loud, nor do I calculate anything to the penny. The difference in our case is huge. I just don’t feel badly if my parents pay for me. My inlaws OTOH don’t have much. And for my kids, I’ve also told them they never have to buy me anything for my bday, xmas or Mother’s Day if they don’t want to. I just want them to be my travel/hiking buddy at least once/year on my dime. I’ve told them Id happily accept their hand me down clothes as gifts! (And I’ve gotten some of my nicer things this way) They don’t need to spend a dime on me and the millionaire thing was half in jest. Just in my mind, they will always be my kids and I’ll pay for them

We always treat our kids (and DILs). I use the same line my mom used with H and me: “Right now I can do it and I enjoy doing it. If/when I ever get to the time when I can’t, then I expect you to do it, otherwise, pay it forward later.”

Our kids only get drinks if we get them too and they never order the most expensive thing on the menu.

It’s exactly the same way I was raised and how my mom and dad (divorced, but similar) were with my sister and I and how their parents were with them.

We also tend to pitch in for FIL, but that’s not because he’s unable to pay. He has a ton stored up for his retirement, that H and BIL will inherit someday. FIL’s problem is he can’t bring himself to spend it. He’ll go to a place where he doesn’t like the coffee as much simply because it’s 10 cents cheaper and he picks what he eats in places based upon coupons or sale - even if it’s not what he’d really like. Grapes and chicken can’t be bought for more than 99 cents/lb and 59 cents/lb respectively. He even saves coffee for days, watering it down at home each day, in order to save money.

If he were barely making ends meet I could understand it. That’s hardly his situation and telling him, “You’re 92 (soon to be 93), these ARE your retirement days - use some to get what you like/prefer!” goes nowhere, so, we tell him we’d rather go “wherever” and treat. And we buy groceries when we’re there, leaving him with “what we didn’t have time to eat.”

He was a child during the depression when his family had to be creative and stretch things. We think he can’t get past that. In the old days MIL used to do the grocery shopping.


That’s exactly what my Dad used to say to us, and now we say to our kids. Right now, thy don’t make much and are single, so we don’t even think about it. But it’s good food for thought down the road.

Unless my kids earn drastically more than we do, or we are on a fixed income, we will pay for them and their families. If they do earn drastically more, I wouldn’t out and out say you pay. But I just wouldn’t go out if I felt we were being taken advantage of. I’d just invite over for dinner. Then it makes it even more awkward if one son doesn’t make much and the other does.

DH has always been generous. Will always pick up the bill. Sometimes it annoys me when I feel he’s being taken advantage of (I’m talking to you BIL).

Interesting subject.


My father in law never let us pay for anything when we were with them. We were doing fine (he was retired on a fixed income and we were making nice salaries). It was an old school thing with him, the patriarch pays!

At this point we always treat our only daughter (and friends if she is with anybody). We have plenty and she is saving for the rest of her life.


I won’t ever ask my daughter and when she marries her spouse to pay, but she’s an only and I can afford it.


We were just talking about this! My H and I came from polar opposites with our parents. My parents always wanted to pay for everything. We used to fight over the bills at restaurants. Kind of became a family joke as to who could get to the server first to pay for stuff (people got creative ; )). My inlaws, who were much much wealthier, expected us to always pay our own way and split the bill. Even when we were students in college and really couldn’t afford it. They still expect us to split the bill so we just tend to pay for it all as I find that awkward.

I think we will always err on paying for our D (and an eventual family) unless she specifically wants to treat us for an occasion. (I do remember it feeling very nice to be able to treat my parents to meals and more extravagant stuff so I don’t want to deprive our D of that down the road ; )).


We always pay as mine and DH parents always did- we would argue with our parents but they insisted and now I know how they felt- it’s just really nice to be together and treat everyone. My kids are very generous with each other which really makes me happy.and they always offer to pay and are very grateful to us.

I remember in college a friend of mine told me how upset her dad was with her boyfriend because he brought no money with to pay for golf while visiting them at a vacation home ( they owned 3 homes)- her dad ( a doctor) knew full well the bf was paying for a big chunk of his education and heading to medical school . My dad would never have allowed any of us to pay for something like that at that age ( and he wasn’t a doctor and didn’t own 3 homes). But, to each his own.


We always pay even though our kids make more then we do now. We like to continue this as long as we can afford


I always let my dad (and my FiL) pay when they are hosting others, including my brother and SiL, although there is another convention that when we meet as a family in my hometown or my brother’s, the “host” pays. When it is just my parents and my family I normally pay, more so after my parents retired. Right now, D is finishing up an entry level research job and will be going to grad school, so I anticipate paying for her and her BF (going to BSchool) until they land real jobs. S will start a high pay job after graduation, so I’ll expect him to offer to pay for some casual dinners, but if I choose a fine dining restaurant, I’ll pay. At some level, my W and I figure no matter what, we are spending our kids’ money at this point, so when we buy anything expensive, including nice meals with them, we jokingly thank them.

This is us, too (more or less). Both my parents and my ILs are much more financially comfortable than we are. They always pay when we go out to eat. We do host them for meals and holidays at our home fairly often (much more often than the other way around).

I expect (and look forward) to do the same for my girls and futures spouses/families, if that’s in the cards for them. I expect them to be financially independent of us within a few years of finishing school, but I will enjoy treating them to indulgences the way our parents treated us.

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This is our approach as well. Our kids insisted on paying the few times we went out on one of our birthdays or on mother’s/father’s day. Otherwise, we’ve picked up the tab for joint vacations as well as meals out. We’ve also sent money for airfare and expenses for their visits.

When our own parents were alive, H insisted on paying for them the rare times we went out. We didn’t have money to burn, but his parents finances were tighter and my mother always poor mouthed. It made for a more pleasant time when we paid.

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My parents and/or my mil always pick up a tab when we eat out. She does the same for my husband’s siblings also. Our son is still in college but I assume we’ll do the same. His nickname is “freeloader.” But I noticed he is generous to his friends as he often treats them a dinner or snacks. (no he doesn’t have a family CC so it’s coming from his own checking account)

When I was talking to my co-worker who is in mid/late 20’s she said her parents are still paying her cellphone bill and she doesn’t know how much it is, and I was shocked. But later I realized it must be a family plan and she’s still on it. My son will be the same I bet he’ll be on our “family plan” until we boot him out.


I will always pay for my kids if we go out. They’re paying for cars and houses and saving money for the future. My house and car are paid for and I am no longer saving. I enjoy their company and I can afford it. My husband feels the same way.