I am doing pretty well on not spending money eating out, despite my slip up with the no alcohol challenge earlier in the week. It’s hard because I do love eating out, but I am getting more creative at home. Last week, I did go out once for a friend’s birthday party that was scheduled before my challenge. I feel like it didn’t count 😉
This is one of my best friends and of course I wanted to celebrate with her and make her day. She invited a handful of her closest friends to have sushi with her at her favorite restaurant.
Budget buster #1: eating sushi.
I LOVE sushi, but it’s so expensive! It was her birthday and she wanted sushi, so I had to say yes and tag along. I didn’t want to be so lame and such a cheapskate to make up some excuse as to why I couldn’t go, just because I was scared to spend money.
So I did what any rational personal finance blogger would do. I budgeted. I thought, I’m willing to spend $20 on sushi for her birthday. Mind you, that was just for food as I am not drinking. It sounds high, but the goal was $20 or less for my portion of the dinner.
When I arrive, I realize that everyone is feeling like eating ‘family style’ and we all pick a bunch of rolls. The rolls arrive on this huge, crazy looking boat. It was decadent and delicious. I enjoyed the savory morsels of fresh fish, the good company and conversation. I was the only one not drinking and I kept thinking oh dear god, how much is this going to cost?
After being fully satiated and celebrating with some cake, the check comes. Since it was family style, it was suggested that we all divide the check evenly. I didn’t want to make a big deal about it, but I meekly mentioned that I didn’t drink anything (when everyone else had at least two drinks)…so it was suggested that I don’t pay any tip to offset some of the cost. Didn’t really seem like a fair deal, but I agreed because I didn’t want to be a pain.
The restaurant had other plans! Because we were a party of 6 or more, 18% gratuity was added to everyone’s bill. Ugh. The bill comes and it’s $32.
Everyone is paying $32, including me, even though I didn’t have anything to drink. I was frustrated, but what could I do? I was essentially subsidizing everyone else’s drinks, while I went without! I went $12 over budget paying for other people’s drinks! I was not very happy, but I didn’t want to pull a Larry David and make some awkward social scene, simply because I am
a cheapskate frugal. Everyone wanted to head out to another bar, but since I was already over budget and wasn’t drinking, I politely declined. I walked home in the rain to save on bus fare and kept thinking about how certain social situations can be real budget busters.
Then, this week at work, I get an email asking for contributions for a gift for someone else’s birthday. It feels weird, as we don’t do this for anyone else. I hope I don’t sound like a jerk, because I want to be generous, celebrate and enjoy my friends. But overpaying, especially by $12 is a lot for me. That’s one hour of work for me right now. As I didn’t get her a birthday present (haven’t given my friends or anyone presents in years!), I could just think of it as an extension of a present, or the price to pay to celebrate her big day. I also know this friend has been generous and done a lot for me. So in the end, it’s not a huge deal, although a little frustrating.
I miss the days of being secure—if something like this would have happened a few years ago, it would be mildly annoying, but not upsetting. This time it felt worse, and left with me a sour feeling.
How can I manage social expectations without going over budget? Have you ever been in a situation where you have had to overpay?