Dividing all the little expenses on a group charter can be a pain. Here's an easy way to keep it all equal!

Dividing Expenses on a Charter

More and more often, groups of friends or family are going in together on a bareboat charter.  It’s a great way to bring down the cost per person and to share both the work and the fun.

And while I don’t want to get into all the logistics of chartering with a group, I do want to pass on one tip that a friend gave us before our first charter with another couple.

No matter how well you know the people you’re chartering with, money is always a touchy subject. Now, usually the charter company will accept separate payments and each person/couple/family can make their own travel arrangements. It’s even pretty easy to divide up a provisioning bill, or get separate checks for a dinner at a beach restaurant.

Where it gets tough is all the little day-to-day expenses that are incurred by the boat as a whole:

  • Mooring or anchoring fees
  • Cruising guide (if not included in the charter)
  • Cruising permit (if not included in the charter)
  • Taxi to/from the airport or parking (if shared)
  • Ice
  • Fuel or water costs
  • Group activities where priced as a group (taxi to a restaurant or beach, guide for shore excursion, group price for snorkel or dive trip, etc.)
  • Extra provisions purchased along the way

You don’t want to have to get money from each person (or couple) every time one of these expenses comes up. It’s also a recipe for disaster to say “we’ll get it this time, you get the next one” as inevitably someone feels that they’ve paid more than their share. Yeah, you could all write down what you paid for and then square up at the end of the trip . . . but some things will be forgotten.

A much simpler solution is to have a kitty for those group expenses.

What we did was to come up with an estimate of what the total for these would be, added some extra for good measure and then rounded up to a number that was nicely divisible by the number of people (if memory serves correctly, I think it was about $100 per person — but that was over 15 years ago).

We put the money into a Ziploc that we put in a somewhat hidden place and whenever it was time to pay one of the “group expenses” we simply went and took the money from the bag and returned any change there. We didn’t bother to keep receipts with only two couples on board; we trusted everyone. If you think there could be controversy about what’s paid from the kitty, it’s a good idea to keep track of the expenses on a sheet of paper stuck in the bag.

Towards the end of our week, we discovered that the kitty needed more money — we’d underestimated taxi rides and shore excursions — and everybody pitched in another $20. At the end of the trip, there were just a few dollars left in the kitty; instead of dividing it up, we gave it to the person whose car we’d all ridden in to the airport.

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  • Rick Garvin
    Posted at 17 March 2016 Reply

    Wed is this approach for years, and it works well. Once we’re provisioned, $100 per person is a good starting point for us.

  • Carolyn
    Posted at 17 March 2016 Reply

    We also found that in the Caribbean islands, getting seperate checks was not the norm. We voted one person the Purser and gave them a pad and bag for the money. Each couple would put in a designated amount. Between $300 and $500. This was used for all expenses with the exception of beach bar tabs. The Purser would be responsible to pay all the dinner tabs and daily expenses and keep a record. This would keep everyone happy since the I’ll pay tonite, you pay tomorrow would inevitably be lobster one nite, burgers another and be unfair. If the Purser ran out of money we would all kick in some more. Of course, everyone was on the same page, and didn’t order outrageously.

  • Michelle Rene
    Posted at 17 March 2016 Reply

    Super idea!!!

  • Will Sugg
    Posted at 17 March 2016 Reply

    Sharon Birzer Brad Benz Renee Sutherland Acosta interesting idea that might be useful in the future….

    • Brad Benz
      Posted at 17 March 2016 Reply

      That’s EXACTLY how we used to do it on big whitewater trips. Everyone pitches in a “seed” amount to the kitty, and adds equally as necessary. it’s a simple thing of beauty.

  • Dave Skolnick
    Posted at 17 March 2016 Reply

    +1 on the kitty.

  • Janet Salmon
    Posted at 17 March 2016 Reply

    Using this approach to our camping trip with friends … A great way to keep the air clear ….

  • Eve
    Posted at 02 November 2016 Reply

    Great idea if you want to only use cash … but let me propose an easy, user-friendly tech solution. For our past few years of charter trips we used a great free app called “Cost Split – Group Expenses”. It’s for iPhone but might be available on Android too. You can use the app offline so as long as you have battery in your phone, you don’t need wifi or cell service. There are other similar apps, but we liked this one the best.

    The benefit of the Cost Split app is that no one person has to be the purser… just make sure to have a designated envelope for everyone to put receipts or notes of cash payments so you have backup in case anyone questions the accounting. You enter all the expenses into the app and it will calculate who owes how much to who, with the fewest number of people making the least number of reimbursement payments at the end of the trip. It allows for the flexibility of people using their credit cards or cash and allows everyone to participate and even allows you to designate when an expense is only for a few people versus the whole crew. It was MUCH easier than what we used to do with an Excel spreadsheet.

    We used this app in June for a Bahamas bareboat charter where we had 12 people aboard. During the 7 day charter, some people paid for a lot of things, and some people paid little … at the end of the trip, we had a concise accounting of everything and everyone was happy with how easy it was to account for the expenses. I was really happy because I paid for most of the big expenses using my mileage credit card and then got checks or cash from my crew at the end of the trip. Everyone in your crew can use the app so there is transparency, and you can print reports as well. It’s a free app so it can’t hurt to try.

  • Sue Peterson
    Posted at 15 February 2017 Reply

    Great idea!!

  • Shawna Smith
    Posted at 30 September 2017 Reply

    We did this when sharing a charter and it worked out splendidly.

  • Cathy Coyne Wehle
    Posted at 30 September 2017 Reply

    We’ve been doing this lately. Excellent. And the company we chartered with allowed each person to order their alcohol and pay for it. Win win

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