How can I tell my friends that I can’t afford to eat out all the time?

  • For Love & Money is a bi-weekly Insider column that answers your questions about relationships and money.
  • This week, a reader asks how to talk to friends who always want to dine out.
  • Our columnist recommends inviting them to dinner to spend time together.
  • Have a question for our columnist? Write to For Love & Money using this Google form.

Dear for love and money,

Our friends prefer to eat out, and when I say eat out, I mean every single meal. It’s so expensive, but they say it’s the same for eating at home, so they don’t want to change their ways.

My husband and I only want to eat out a couple of times a week because we can eat a lot less at home. Generally, we make it work, but it’s difficult because we usually do the caving and go out to spend time with them.

Having a relationship with them starts to seem like a choice between going broke or saving money and losing the friendship. What do we do?


Friend of gourmets

Dear friends of gourmets,

The intersection of food and finances is fascinating because while food is a relatively controllable variable in our budgets, it is also necessary for survival. Millennials have been sadly told that latte and avocado toast are the only things standing between us and home ownership, while other personal finance experts say that if you’re suffering from $ 5 coffee, you have more problems. large.

I suspect this emphasis on food in personal finance is due to how both feeding ourselves and managing our finances have come to reflect our value systems. Because everyone’s value system is different, when our values ​​collide with those of our loved ones, it feels like a question of identity. It seems personal.

So before I get into my tips, I want to encourage you to remember that while your friends are influencing you with their restaurant-inclined tendencies, it’s not intentional. They are not doing this to you; he just likes what he likes and what he likes is for someone else to make meals.

But since this understanding doesn’t change the financial burden of evening dinners out, I have three tips for saving your money and friendships.

First, invite them to dinner

I grew up with parents who always had friends over for dinner. My mother was a pastor’s daughter who became an officer’s wife, so even after my father left the army, hospitality remained an essential part of my mother.

Growing up in an environment where hearty, home-cooked meals with friends around the dining table were weekly, sometimes biweekly events, I moved into adulthood believing that hosting friends for dinner was part of being an adult. But it turned out that my friends were baffled and intimidated by the idea of ​​dinners.

While friends have always accepted my dinner invitations with enthusiasm, the invitations my husband and I received in return were always about restaurants and bars. Don’t get me wrong, I love little more than a lazy afternoon spent listening to live music in an outdoor brewery, but at your point, it gets expensive.

I addressed this by leading the way. I kept inviting my friends over to our house for dinner. I demonstrated how easy it could be by throwing a roll of paper towels at the table instead of cloth napkin origami. My guests were always in charge of drinks, and my husband and I had a handful of low-effort, crowd-pleasing, affordable meals that we had in rotation.

Between good food, relaxed surroundings and great company, our dinners were always fun. More fun, in fact, than a dinner in a noisy restaurant with a gruff waiter who will inevitably end in a clumsy battle for the check.

This is not my opinion: it has become the consensus of our group of friends. Because, after several dinners at our house, our friends are no longer intimidated by the idea of ​​reciprocating. And now the unspoken understanding is that restaurants and bars are the exception, but eating at each other’s home is the norm.

So, try inviting your friends over for dinner. If you are in a small living space, ask him a little at a time. If they initially seem reluctant to change things, play the best friend card and invite them to do so.

Be willing to host the first numerous dinners. If your friends are foodies, which is why they love restaurants so much, turn dinner at home into a culinary adventure. Invite them early enough to help you cook and experiment with the trending vegetable of the month together.

Before long, you will probably find that you have transformed your group dynamic.

Second, when eating out, be intentional

If everything about my first tip made you want to run away screaming, another option is to book restaurant meals for your friends.

You said your friends want to eat out every meal while you and your husband only want to eat out a couple of times a week.

Two dinners a week with your friends is all it should take to preserve your relationships. For the rest of the week, you and your husband can eat at home, allowing you to plan your time and money for those two dinners a week with your friends.

Third, talk to them

You said you always do the caving and do things their way. If this seems unfair, it is because it is. Tell your friends you don’t want to eat out. Don’t put this preference on finances because I get the feeling that’s when they pull you in the weeds of grocery costs versus restaurant costs. Be gentle but firm and remember that these people are your friends. If they don’t let you have your way 50% of the time, then maybe they’re not as good friends as you think.

That said, I don’t think food choices have to get in the way between you and your loved ones. No matter how weird we get when it comes to money and meals, a good friend will see you, listen to you and, if appropriate, follow your lead. Then take your friends back to the kitchen and share a fabulous meal.

I’m with you,

For love and money

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