28 muggles in search of a payments app

Organising diaries and payments for a 28-strong group outing to the Harry Potter studio tour was a less than magical experience. But next time, it'll be a lot better.

WhatsApp Group Dread

When the ‘Harry Potter Trip!’ WhatsApp group invitation arrived, a familiar dread set in. Because organising events involving lots of kids and parents usually means a) endless, often competitive, diary juggling – ‘The kids have gymnastics, swimming and football on Saturday, and I’m training for the Barnsley Half Marathon on Sundays!" - and b) some kind of complicated scheme to sort out who’s paid for what.

Taking the hint

After years of hints from our children – dozens of Hogwarts-themed birthday parties, a blur of Hermione, Harry and Hagrid World Book Day outfits – we’d decided to tackle the long-haul task of booking a Harry Potter tour for them at Warner Brothers Studios.

Long-haul because getting a weekend slot for 28 of us meant a 6 month wait, and the price – about £75 for one child and an adult – suggested a bit of saving up was in order. We gave ourselves a term to scrimp before doing anything.

The first task

First topic for the WhatsApp group was diary planning: when were 28 of us all available on the same day, same time? The first absolute life-saver for this kind of event organising, calendar scheduling tool Doodle.

The brave parent who’d created the WhatsApp group gave us a Doodle link with five date options, then all I had to do was mark those I could make and that was that. A day after the link arrived, we had fixed the date. Task One, tick.

Pay day

Next was the Death Eater-ish job of payments. That business of IOUs, messy money transfers and nagging that can suck the soul and joy out of any group event. Even after the business of exchanging bank details, wrong amounts and forgotten references we’d still face the challenge of group payments for travel and whatever potion-themed mocktails and snacks our kids would all want when we arrived.

So, we just muddled (muggled?) through. A few weeks of chasing, a lot of questions from the organiser about mystery or missing payments, but it happened. Painfully.

Accio HyperJar!

If I had a Time Turner necklace, I’d do it all differently, with HyperJar. I would create a Group Jar to share with the 13 other parents way before we made the booking. It would have made the scrimping and saving-up phase so much better. As well as leaving notes for each other – reminders, links or inspiration to keep going to reach the goal – you see exactly who has put in what and when. And when the day comes to book, whoever’s been lumbered with the admin task can just link their HyperJar card to the Group Jar and spend from it directly without having to take that massive, albeit interim, financial hit before getting paid back. No chasing, no IOUs.

Easy expenses

Same for when you arrive at the destination and want to hit the Chocolate Frog Café – I could just whip my HyperJar card and pay for all the caffeine hits for parents and Butterbeers for the kids (those are disgusting by the way - even the children balked at the sugar content).

It really was a magical day out. We’ve opened a Harry Potter 2 Group Jar for next time.