When Did My Friends Get So Expensive?

Back in May, as part of our road trip around the western U.S., Daniel and I spent five nights in San Francisco visiting friends and exploring the city. Many of our best friends live in the Bay Area, and we were excited to catch up with them in person.

Two of our good friends are a couple – one a director for a prominent tech company, the other an account manager for a financial services firm – and I suggested that we meet up one night.

“Dinner somewhere?” our friend texted.

“Definitely!” I replied. “We’re unemployed, so something on the more affordable side would be preferred.”

“How about this place? Very good, moderate price.”

“Sounds great,” I replied, not having looked up the restaurant.

From the back seat of our UberPool toward the Financial District, I searched for the menu on the restaurant’s web site.

“Oh, jeez,” I told Daniel, “this place has a Michelin star!”

We had a lovely dinner with our friends. It was fun to see them, and it was great to reminisce and catch up. The restaurant’s rabbit curry ($38) was delicious – and perhaps large enough to satisfy the appetite of a three-year-old. I resisted ordering more than one beer at the $9 per bottle price tag. Ninety minutes and two hundred dollars later, we hugged our friends and said farewell.

“Welp, that was an interesting way to blow a big chunk of our monthly travel budget!” Daniel laughed.

One of our main goals for traveling this year has been more time with our friends and family. Over the past few months, we’ve spent time with dozens of people we wouldn’t normally see, and it’s been one of the most satisfying parts of our experience. We wouldn’t trade it for anything.

But, man, when did time with my friends get so expensive? “Socializing” might be our single largest category of travel spending – maybe even larger than “Places to Sleep.”

In some cases, we’ve expected it. There are certain people in our lives who have very different spending habits from ours. When we’re with them, we’re used to spending more money or suggesting alternative activities. For my cousin and her partner in Los Angeles, for example, walking to the wine shop down the street and spending $100 on a couple bottles is a completely normal weekly affair. In our experience, friends like these still tend to be receptive to a simple reminder that we’re not working right now and would prefer to keep things affordable.

But there’s been a more surprising culprit, too. When traveling with friends and family – even the more frugal types – there’s a huge difference in the way we’re approaching our travels:

They’re on vacation. We’re not.

The mindset of full-time travel is quite different from that of a week’s holiday. We’re far from ultra-frugal, but we’re also not staying in fancy hotels or resorts. We’re not dining at all the finest restaurants. There will be no spa visits or massages. We might not see every single museum or roadside attraction along our route, and that’s fine.

We can’t afford to treat every day like a special occasion.

Even if we could, we wouldn’t want to. “Specialness” wears out pretty quickly when it’s an everyday experience.

Take our week in Utah with Daniel’s parents, for example. For them, it was a rare week away from work, and each night was cause for a celebratory dinner with $25 entrees and a bottle of wine. For us, it was just one of many nice days exploring our National Parks. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that we didn’t greatly enjoy their company. We just can’t afford to treat every day like a special occasion.

More recently, we met my college friends in Istanbul. For them, it was their only real vacation of the year, warranting the occasional upscale hotel, restaurants with sunset views, and an $80 two-hour boat cruise along the Bosphorus. Nothing crazy, but many more splurges than during a typical week at home. For us, it was just one week of many in a beautiful new city. We loved their company, but we can’t treat every day like a special occasion.

Gritting my teeth as we enjoy a pleasant and overpriced boat tour around Istanbul

Gritting my teeth as we enjoy a pleasant and overpriced boat tour around Istanbul

We’ve also been traveling at a blistering pace, moving rapidly from site to site to check as many boxes as possible during our friends’ brief holidays. It’s been fun and exciting, but frankly, I’m exhausted.

Our last travel companion flew home from Budapest this morning, so we’re finally traveling solo again. With the exception of a happenstance meet-up with Daniel’s extended family in Slovenia, it will be just us for the next two months – by far our longest period of travel without friends and family in tow. My hope is that we’ll be able to slow down our travels significantly – and more carefully manage our full-time travel spending without the pressure of the vacation mindset.

Are we alone in struggling with frugality when with friends and family, or do you have similar experiences? We’re all ears for your advice.


  1. I hear you Matt. This was one of the reasons I wanted to get out of NYC. I was able to keep my costs down personally, but all my friends expected me to go to dinner with them and grab a few (or 5) $8 beers. It’s just “what you do” in Manhattan. It didn’t align with my larger long-term goals which started to become annoying in the end.

    • Totally, Fervent. It seems most common among my friends in big cities (NY, SF, LA). When no one has any extra square footage at home, and you’re surrounded by great bars, what else is there to do but go out for $14 cocktails? I hate saying “no” to opportunities to see friends, so I often just go along with it, though I’ve gotten more comfortable ordering bad beer once in a while to keep it affordable.

  2. We don’t have as many experiences in battling frugality with friends and family. Luckily, we aren’t in an expensive area so most restaurants are normally in the same price range, which makes it easier when it comes to food.

    One time I ran into an issue was at a bachelor party. We rented a house and the two we had to choose from was a much more expensive house that was on a hole at the golf course, or a much more reasonable house price wise that was actually closer to the clubhouse. There was literally no advantage to staying at the more expensive place, except that you could kind of see the green through the trees. I was the only one that mentioned I would rather stay at the cheaper place. My idea feel on deaf ears though as everyone justified it since we only get together like that every year or two.

    To me, when I am going to spend more money, I want to get equal value in return. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way.

    • Ugh, what a waste of money for that “green view” house! I’ve found bachelor parties to be particularly challenging. They’re usually insanely expensive, and they come with this added social pressure of a “once in a lifetime” celebration. “You don’t want to spend $400 to drive a Lamborghini around a racetrack with me? Wow, I thought we were friends…” As if spending $500 to fly cross-country and hundreds more on hotels and rental cars weren’t commitment enough!

  3. Glad you guys are slowing down! And I kinda want to have a little chat with your SF friends — who takes anyone unemployed to a Michelin starred place?!?! Expectations of spending are one thing, but you clearly expressed that you wanted to keep the price down. They just seem very tone deaf and insensitive! (Plus, is there a city with better cheap food? I doubt it!)

    I also think it’s totally fair if you guys need to be more assertive with people that you can’t spend on the stuff they want to do. I visited a friend in Europe once who was a student and broke, and I wanted to do stuff that she couldn’t afford, so I was happy to pay for it. Definitely wasn’t her mooching — it was just me wanting to do that stuff and recognizing that that’s what it took to do it. I’m sure it feels different, because you’re not a starving student, you’re someone with a large investment balance, but you also need that money to last you a very, very long time.

    • Haha, in my friends’ defense, I think they hadn’t realized it was a “you need to order 10 dishes for 4 people” kind of place. But they also live in a completely different world spending-wise (their rent alone is about 50% more than my average monthly spending on everything!) I should have done better due diligence before agreeing to their selection. I had originally suggested my favorite burrito place, but it happened to be Cinco de Mayo and we didn’t want to fend with the drunk bro crowds. Oh well — they’re great friends, and it was just a little pricier than we all expected 🙂

      I have a really hard time having anyone subsidize our expenses. I’ve happily been on the other side of it (bought concert tickets for friends so I would have someone to go with, paid for a friend’s Broadway show ticket in New York so she could join a group of us when she couldn’t afford it, etc.), but I can’t help but feel like we’re mooching a bit when we’re perfectly capable of earning more money (especially from people who know I’ve been making an above-average income previously).

      Regardless, you’re right that we could be more assertive on some expenses.

  4. Oh I am so glad you wrote about this. This is *huge.* I agree with other commenters that, especially in places like NY, SF, LA, that’s just what you do when you go out and you have a full-time, professional job — drop $50 on drinks alone, take Ubers/cabs everywhere, and go to trendy restaurants with tasty but honestly overpriced food. We have a hard time with this too, because for a lot of people who are working full-time, a dinner out is like their vacation.

    We had some friends meet us somewhere, and we took them to moderately priced, casual places (i.e. a nice Mexican place where entrees were $8-13pp). We did this for our budget, but also because they had a toddler with them. And when we were choosing the restaurant the next night the guy kept suggesting fancier places. First, we were not about to take a toddler to a nice restaurant because we’re not those people, but second I’ve also just found that it’s diminishing returns with entree prices. When was the last time you’ve spent $22 on an entree and thought, “Wow, that was REALLY worth it!”?

    The thing we have to remember is that, for some of our friends, going out to a nice restaurant is the only break from the daily grind that they get. So we gently remind folks that we’re on a budget when deciding on places, and if that makes them think we’re cheap or poor so be it. It helped in the beginning for us to say we’re still getting our freelance careers off the ground, and that seemed to resonate more. And, if all else fails, being strict about separate checks helps too.

    • That’s a really great point about those splurges being like a mini-vacation for overworked professionals. I’ve been there myself, and I’m as guilty as anyone of having blown $50 or $150 in a night on drinks and Ubers once in a while when I was working. I’m with you on diminishing returns. My favorite restaurants are usually cheap, maybe even a bit on the divey side, but often have way better food than a white tablecloth experience.

  5. The parallels to my own experiences are eerie. I cook for myself for pretty much every meal, and since I started really getting into FI about 3 months ago, I spent maybe $100 in total on eating out. A few weeks ago, I visited some friends in Miami, and they had a new restaurant planned for lunch/brunch and dinner each day. I blew way past what I had spent in the last 3 months. It was an awkward feeling. I didn’t want to spend that much, but I really wanted to spend time with them and it wasn’t going to put me in the poor house. In another eerie parallel, I’ll be in Slovenia tomorrow (on points, though – I’m not derailing my FI plans on food and travel after just a few months).

    • That’s the dilemma I so often have: I don’t want to spend so much, but I value the time with my friends more than the money. Sometimes I’ve had success with suggesting cheaper alternatives (“why don’t we go to the grocery store and I’ll cook dinner for us tonight?”), and once in a while people even like that idea better than going out. Other times, it’s hopeless.

      Where are you headed in Slovenia?? We’ll be in Ljubljana next week. Would love any recommendations you have; we’ve never been!

      • Good tips. I do find that 90% of the time people just want someone else to save them the trouble of planning so cooking dinner together can work well! Unfortunately, I’m not a Slovenia expert, but I did see Postnoja cave, which was beautiful, but it’s horrifying to anyone use to the conservation measures taken at caves in American national parks (a train running through it, people freely touching the rocks, chandeliers inside, etc. I also went to Bled, which was beautiful. It’s not huge, but there are great views from every spot around the lake. It’s perfect for a walk or a run.

        • You’re right, Jason — some of my most fun hangouts with friends have just been cooking dinner at home together. We’ve even managed to do this a few times when visiting others; we’ll offer to do the shopping and cook at our friends’ places, and it gives them a nice break. That’s too bad to hear about Postojna. I’ll be curious to see it and compare. Plitvice Lakes in Croatia was mobbed with tourists when we were there a few days ago, but the park design was pretty good at preserving the natural beauty of the place in spite of the crowds.

  6. Your post reminds me of something my mom used to tell me, “Guests are like fish – they go bad after 3 days.” While it’s fun to travel with friends and family, I imagine the saying applies to them as well, though perhaps the timeline is a bit more liberal when they’re not staying with you 😉 I bet you’re looking forward to some alone time with Daniel as well!

    I’ve enjoyed reading about your travels, especially your particularly level-headed approach to traveling through a country that was recently subject to violence. Hope your future travels are restful, peaceful, and everything you hoped for!

    • Haha, that saying is right on, Pia! It might just be an urban legend, but I’ve heard of a Hawaiian tradition of leaving a pineapple on your guest’s bed when you’ve had enough of them and want to passively nudge them onward. Pretty funny!

      Thanks for your kind comments. We’re excited for what’s next!

  7. I feel your pain! We spent the long holiday weekend visiting friends who live in CT near NYC. They come to visit us a couple of times per year and we usually plan nice meals at home with only one occasional dinner out as we are trying to save money. But over the span of the three days we spent with them went out a total of 3 times and spent way more dinning out in one weekend then we have spent in the past few months. Was the food good? Yes. But we did not need to spend $35 for breakfast alone.

    Hopefully the rest of your travels this month are more reasonably priced.

  8. I’ve often felt this way about socializing. I’d love to spend more time with friends but I feel like everytime I do I have to buy dinner or a cup of coffee. Ok, I admit I’m a bit of a tightwad. Buying a cup of coffee from starbucks makes me cringle a little.

    When I spend time out with friends that’s when I get to truly see how much people spend. Now that I’m never in shopping malls, going to one seeing people carrying bags from three DIFFERENT stores! That’s nuts!

    I don’t know what the solution to the expensive friends thing is, honestly I’d love to spend time washing my car with someone or doing chores but I don’t think anyone would come to my house cleaning party ha!

    • I should probably get in the habit of suggesting coffee rather than dinner. I’m willing to put up a few dollars for an espresso once in a while if that’s the extent of the damages 🙂

      Thankfully, I’ve never enjoyed shopping malls. I’m usually bored within minutes, unless there’s outdoor gear on sale.

      The funny part about your car washing suggestion is that’s totally something I would do with my closer friends… But it’s definitely a little weirder with acquaintances or when just visiting town for a day or two.

      • I really like going grocery shopping with other people, and I particularly like checking out new-to-me grocery chains when I go visit people. I just like to see what they have! So I’ve had luck in the past when traveling with suggesting that we go explore the local grocery store so I can get my weird grocery store fascination fix and then I’ll offer to pick up ingredients for dinner at the store and cook for us.

        • That’s a great idea, txmegan! And you can usually leave the grocery store with the makings of a gourmet meal for a fraction of what you’d spend at a restaurant. I’ve been enjoying perusing foreign grocery stores (usually with my Google Translate app open) and finding unusual and unexpected items all over the place.

  9. It depends on the friends. When we lived in Colorado, our friends always wanted to do outdoorsy free things such as hiking. We would go to breweries after but even then it was only $4-5 a beer. We rarely went out to eat. It just wasn’t a thing there. Socializing with friends from the East Coast and now Bay Area however is very different. It always seems to resolve around food which can add up (and make me feel sick from eating out so much). We did a vacation to Orlando with East Coast friends two years ago which was super fun but with alternating back and forth picking up the check for lunch and dinner we spent $150/day easy. I don’t have an answer for how to manage that because you can’t really change cultural expectations around socializing without changing your friends.

    • Good point, Julie — we have at least as many friends who prefer affordable activities and outings, and they definitely skew geographically toward the Pacific NW and away from CA and the east coast.

  10. You face an interesting challenge. We face this challenge all the time on the home front, but it’s way easier to just say “hey, we’ll cook over here!” if people suggest meeting out. Vacation is another matter. We try to be frugal on trips (eating mostly at local grocery stores), but we definitely don’t know what it feels like to not be in that sort of “vacation mode” on trips (certainly not Michelin Star!). I want to say that’s insensitive, because it was, but some people really don’t “get” it at all when it comes to ANY level of frugality. ESPECIALLY on vacation. I have to say: not drinking alcohol helps us avoid this problem tremendously. We are never expected to “go in” on the expensive wine!

    • We’re slowly getting better at killing that vacation mindset ourselves — including staying longer in each destination, cooking for ourselves, and not being on our feet exploring 12 hours a day. It’s been tougher when our companions are in a different mode, though!

      Not drinking is huge for cost-saving, especially when someone wants wine! I’ve been cutting back a lot while traveling internationally (partially because I wasn’t feeling well for a while, partially because we’re spoiled with great craft beer at home) and that’s been helpful for the budget.

      • When we travel we generally do a 2 days “on” 1 day “off”. Our off days are spent doing laundry, relaxing, reading, shopping and cooking. And we only do 1 activity a day. If we want to see 7 things in a city, then we need to stay 10 days. I’m ok skipping a few good things, because it gives us a good reason to come back. I’ve done a few mad dash, sightseeing trips. And it’s fun for a weekend. But it’s not a lifestyle. We just got home from a 6 week US road trip with our 5 kids and dog. =)

        • I love that approach, Ms. Montana! We are getting more into that rhythm now. We’ll have a lazy morning and then explore the city for a few hours, usually including one attraction. Then we’ll come back and rest for a while before going out again in the evening. Much more sustainable than 10 hours on our feet bouncing from one site to the next!

  11. Affordable is such a relative term. If you’re blowing $200 each night for a dinner, a $50 dinner is considered ultra cheap. Boy I wonder what your SF friends spend regularly on dinner if they think a Michelin 1 star restaurant is moderate price. 🙂

    I totally get what you say. When you’re traveling full time, that’s your life style, so you try to be as frugal and spend conscious as possible. For people that vacation infrequently, traveling means a luxury. So they are OK to splurge slightly. I have to say though, when we travel for vacation we still keep a daily budget and try to stay below it. When we went to Japan for 2 weeks last year we budgeted $60 CAN worth of food per day per person. We ended up spending below that amount most of the days. Because of that, a few days we thought we could “splurge” a little bit by spending like $80… still really low for most people I think.

    Most of my close friends are still quite frugal, despite having good paid jobs. I suppose that’s why I’m still close friends with them. 🙂

    • I’ll post in more detail about our “vanlife” expenses, but you’re right that it evens out over time. One fancy meal out didn’t break the bank or put us over budget for the trip by any means.

      Sounds like you’re cultivating the right friend group! We have a wide variety of friends on the spending spectrum but no one too outrageous 🙂

  12. This is why I’m so grateful that my immediate circle is on the more frugal end and/or just had babies. I enjoyed company tonight and helped them bake while getting time holding their infant. A very pleasant and free way to spend a few hours.

    • That definitely helps, ZJ! We’ve been to about twenty weddings in the last three years, so I suspect we’re about to enter the “hanging out with friends’ babies” stage shortly. Definitely fun and affordable.

  13. I’ve totally experienced this! I’m really vocal about saying I want to see friends, but would prefer to hang at their place or mine. I host a lot of movie nights, pot lucks and plan a lot of hikes for friends. If I leave the planning to them, it’s always dinner and drinks out. Luckily most of my friends are also interested in saving money, and know that the every day doesn’t have to be over the top. It’s been working out, but it’s definitely a challenge!

    • It’s amazing how receptive people can be when you take charge and make the suggestion to do something less expensive. It’s a little harder for us when traveling in the van, but we could still be more assertive with suggesting venues. Glad you’re making it work!

  14. That’s why I only have a small circle of friends these days. Could care less about showing off. Most friends gave into lifestyle inflation

    • It’s a tough balance. Thankfully, most of our friends aren’t doing too much spending just to show off, even if their spending habits are different from ours. Friends are important to us, so I think they’re well worth the price even if it’s a bit over-budget.

  15. I can totally relate!

    I just made a friend CRY after I expressed why I can’t hang out with her so often. And let me tell ya, it had nothing to do with my words as I was extremely cautious to avoid said tears, but I think she has just begun to realize she can’t hang out with herself either! Reading this post inspired me to write my latest which is the very conversation that brought her to tears.


    Hopefully it helps someone out of the same situation! Our lives change as do our finances and what we once did in our 20’s no longer works in our 30’s and beyond. Of course, there are exceptions as you mentioned, like special occasions and vacations, but I can’t live on a perpetual vacation budget. You’re right – it’s exhausting! Vacations are mostly spent bopping around to this and that place to see. I require more down time now.

    If you’re still in Budapest check out one of the thermal baths – what a great place to relax and enjoy a slower pace. But if you’re moving on to Slovenia, Ljubljana is amazing and be sure to check out Postojna caves. Amazing!!

    • Oh my gosh, Miss Mazuma, that is rough! It sounds like you struck a chord with her in some way — maybe from other people who have told her the same thing. I wonder, too, if you highlighted her own insecurities about money in sharing your wishes. Anyway, enough psychoanalysis… I totally agree about the vacation pace. We’ve slowed down a ton since our friends left, and it’s been great to relax. We spent half a day at the Széchenyi Thermal Baths and loved it. Definitely different from any public pool I’ve ever been to! We’ve been in Ljubljana for almost a week now, and we’ll see the caves in a few days. Loving it here! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  16. PhysicianOnFIRE

    July 15, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Meetups like this are one reason I’m targeting a larger than FI retirement number, with 40 to 50 times our typical expenses before retiring. That will allow us to experience some lifestyle inflation, even if it is only temporary (i.e. while visiting or traveling with friends with different spending habits) and give us a huge safety margin.

    I do think it’s quite lame that your friends basically ignored your request to keep costs low. If I were the friend, I would have insisted on picking up the entire tab, or would have honored your request and gone out for a place with happy hour specials and $5 beers. We were also in and around San Francisco in May; we found plenty of ways to save money there and I turned that experience into 2 posts.


    • I totally respect that approach, PoF. Being too conservative with our savings ignores the realities of outlier expenses like this or would force us to spend less time on the things we value (being with our friends). You’ll probably end up with a growing portfolio even in retirement, but I’ve heard of worse fates 😉

      I really enjoyed your two posts on San Francisco. I grew up in that area and have spent a ton of time there, so I know there are cheaper ways to have a great time in the city!

  17. This post hits home! We love our friends but would rather go hiking together than to a fancy dinner. For better or worse, though, a lot of them have kids now and prefer to eat at home or at casual places where they can bring the little guys and this keeps things manageable.

    I see you’re in Slovenia–we were there and loved every minute. Have a great trip!

    • Totally — I would love to suggest things like hiking or picnicking, but it’s tough when we’re just meeting up for an evening on a work night. I’ll be curious to see how socializing changes for us as more of our friends have kids and “settle down.” Glad to hear you loved Slovenia; it is so picturesque here I can hardly believe it!

  18. I’m right there with you. Some of my friends have no issue spending to the point that’s a bit excessive for me when we all get together on trips. Like you, I can afford to keep up with them but usually it’s a personal preference of mine to make sure I keep spending in control.

    • Yeah, sometimes it’s preferable to just bite the bullet. Most of our friends know our preference to keep things on the affordable side… but we also try to avoid sounding like a broken record every time we’re considering a meal or an attraction. The last thing I want is to be the Debbie Downer of travel!

  19. What I don’t like about spending above my threshold when eating out with friends is the lack of creativity of the whole event. Anyone can overspend on an overrated restaurant, right?
    One little-known fancy place we go to has a killer view of the Sydney Opera House. And we book the best table by telling them I have guests from overseas (even if we don’t). We get a great meal and killer pictures too.
    If we have time to prepare, we take our folding bikes, our vintage picnicware, pack a gourmet barbecue and invite our friends to the park!

    • Ha, that’s a good way to think about it, Ro. I have that thought about most “fancy” things — yeah, your luxury car or thousand dollar watch look like status symbols, but anyone can go out and buy those things. Yawn.

      That Sydney restaurant sounds lovely. Australia is on our list for the next few years, though my jaw drops a bit every time we see how expensive it is there! (at least compared to the places we’ve been traveling so far)

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  20. When going out with friends, there will very often be someone who thinks the place is over his/her budget. I have been that person when I bought an apartment and needed to rehab from living on working expenses…
    I like your insights where you say “for us, it is just another day of seeing a new city…” Good i sight on how long term travel could play out.

    We are off to Budapest next week. Any frugal or must see places. Till now, I have been to lazy to read on it , shame on me…

    • We’re definitely shedding the mindset that we must see and do everything in a city before moving on to the next one. It’s exhausting and expensive, and we find ourselves forgetting what we even saw when we pack in too many things.

      Budapest is great! On the Buda side, we enjoyed a long walk around the castle and main square. We paid a few forint to go into St. Stephen’s Basilica. No need to pay for Fisherman’s Bastion, as you can get the exact same view at a cafe on the north side for free (with no obligation to buy anything). The Pest side has tons of fun areas to explore. The Parliament building and surrounding square are beautiful, though we did not do the tour of the inside. We liked the Synagogue (the largest in Europe), and we also went to the House of Terror Museum, which was good but not amazing (might have been better if we understood Hungarian). Also spent half a day at the Széchenyi Thermal Baths — a bit on the pricier side as far as Budapest attractions go (I think 15 or 16 EUR per person), but a really relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Hope you have a great time there!

  21. I feel your pain! During college all of my friends were on a serious budget, so we all found ways to have a good time without spending money. But now that they’re in the adult world and have paychecks, it’s hard to hang out at bars and fancy restaurants when we’re trying to pay off debt.

    • Totally, Mrs. PP! Part of me misses those days when all my friends and I were broke but we had a great time anyway. I imagine that working to pay off debt makes those “splurge” expenses even more painful.

  22. This is not just a vacation problem for those of us who do live in cities where the culture revolves around eating and drinking out. I’m in Dallas, and resisting dinner out or and drinks on a patio at a nice restaurant is a weekly struggle (and not just on the weekends!). The crazy thing is that ALL my friends complain about this and say they want to go out less and yet ALL of us succumb to it repeatedly.

    Here’s a tip I’ve noticed people use effectively though. You go out, but then you announce you are on a cleanse of some kind – juice cleanse, alcohol free month, fasting day, whatever. This prevents you from being forced to share overpriced entrees or apps – sorry I’m not doing meat/gluten/dairy/calories today! – and also shuts down any argument on the subject. People seem to respect health reasons for abstaining from food/drinks more than financial ones, especially if everyone knows you have money.

    The good news is that now that we’re in our 30’s and people have mostly coupled off and bought houses, it’s a lot easier for people to accept and extend invitations to grill out or have a cocktail on a privately owned patio. After all we aren’t all trying to meet anyone anymore; though for my single friends it’s another whole issue, feeling like they have to go out and “put themselves out there.”

    • Totally, Elizabeth! We’ve been living near some of the best dining in the country for years now, and it’s hard to resist at home, too. (And we’re suckers for great restaurant meals, compounding the issue.) That’s such a funny but brilliant idea about the “cleanse”; I’m going to have to use that one!

  23. I live in NYC and going out for drinks can definitely set you back some. I realized I spent $500 last month ($500!!!!! argh) just on business meals (which will be reimbursed thankfully) and going out with friends. I very quickly turned all my upcoming lunch and business meals into coffee dates this month. Spending wayy less money for sure–there’s only so much fancy coffee you can buy!

    • Embarrassingly, I’ve had occasional months far worse than $500 on drinks and dining, especially while traveling in places like NYC. If your employer pays for meals, that’s one thing (and a great way to get those fancy desires out of your system), but if it’s your money (or you run your own business — effectively the same thing), coffee dates are a great idea!

  24. If you ever drop by Kuala Lumpur let me know and we will do street food!

    Once my brother came to celebrate my birthday. He invited people that am not even close with and end up with a large bill in a restaurant that I need to help pay. -I am not a frugal person but I don’t need a Celebration meal. ?

    • Um, yes, when can we meet up?? 😉 I’m hoping we’ll get out to SE Asia early next year. Will definitely let you know! That birthday meal sounds like the opposite of a gift; that’s rough!

  25. I have mixed feelings on this. Friends from out of town don’t visit often, and downtown has some great (non chain) restaurants. For me it’s more fun to have the experience with friends. I came up with a list earlier this year of restaurants I can recommend with links to the menus so people can check out the prices and compatibility with any dietary restrictions.
    That is the other part that keeps me from cooking at home. A few weeks ago a “mostly plant based, gluten-free dairy free ” friend met up with me for dinner. I can do vegetarian dishes, and am generally gluten-free myself, but dairy free starts to stretch my known recipes (I like a bit of butter in my fried rice, cheese in tex mex etc) and I didn’t want to try a new recipe on them. Downtown has some restaurants that are very accommodating to food issues so it was just easier.
    My dad and step-mom visited recently so I got skim milk which I don’t usually drink but am finishing off, a half gallon of oj, and bacon I need to find a way to use. If friends are just here for 1-2 nights, sometimes it’s just easier to go out for breakfast.
    I have had a local friend over for dinner a few times now which worked out well. One day we walked around the local park first & another time we watched a movie after.
    I also buy either inexpensive wine or a case at my favorite place & get a discount so having a drink after dinner at home even if we go out gives some cost savings.
    Enjoy your travels!

    • Sounds like you’re finding a good balance, Jacq. For those rare special occasions with out-of-town guests, we wouldn’t hesitate to go out, either. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  26. No one has suggested playing board games yet..

    • I like the suggestion! We definitely break out the board games with friends … though at times, it’s been accompanied by expensive bottles of wine or pleas to go out to a bar afterward.

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