Going to Restaurants With Friends Is the Best and Also the Worst

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Any time a group of people goes out for a meal, chances are somebody secretly hates you.

Not you specifically. The restaurant. Maybe you, just a little bit. But the Laws of Friendship state that whenever a group of people goes to a restaurant, there’s always at least one person silently adding up numbers, trying to balance what was once the pleasurable idea of sharing a meal with you with the frustrating reality that there’s no way to get out of this restaurant without paying $20, or $40, or $75.

Here are some of the things I’ve done to combat the problem, over the years:

—Been that person who goes to happy hour after work and doesn’t order anything. (I stopped doing that because it felt embarrassing, not to mention insulting to the server who would come by our booth and have to listen to me explain that I was only going to stay for a few minutes.)

—Been that person who says “no, I can’t, I’m trying to save money.” (This experience was best chronicled in an earlier Billfold story about the year I saved $10,000 and had no friends.)

—Been that person who says “no, I can’t, I have plans.” (See above.)

—Been that person who says “you know, if we go to this restaurant, there’s no way we’re getting out without spending at least $75 each.” (This doesn’t work, because the other people don’t care, or they’ve already decided the price point is okay with them. Or everyone else is fine with this and then they turn to you and say “do you not want to do this?” and you’re stuck with the burden of disappointing the entire group.)

—Given up. Expensive meals out are The Cost of Friendship, and I am able to deal with this mostly because I now earn enough money to buy into that cost. When you hang out with people, sometimes you’re going to go to a place where you end up buying a $7 cookie. What you’re really buying is social connection (plus, you totally get a cookie).

But let’s say you aren’t yet ready to lean backwards and trust fall into the expensive arms of friendship. (Or maybe you think that a $7 cookie is ridiculous and you’d like to change the group dynamic to avoid those places in the future.) What do you do?

That’s the question Jenn Bane and Trin Garritano attempt to answer in their latest episode of the podcast Friendshipping, appropriately titled “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems.” They offer some of the suggestions I’ve already tried, such as “saying no,” “saying no followed by an explanation of how you’re trying to save money,” and “looking up menus on your phone beforehand and trying to steer the group towards a more affordable place.”

And then they turn the burden of responsibility over to the rest of the friend group:

For everybody out there, in order to be a more considerate friend, whenever you’re picking places to hang out, remember that everything that costs money for you to feel not-awkward to be there, so like a bar, a restaurant, going whirly-balling, all of those things have a gate, and that is money. And you’ve got to put that into consideration when you’re making plans. Even when you’re going karaoke-ing. That costs money too.

It’s a great podcast episode because it acknowledges two important things: first, that nearly every place you go with friends costs money (the phrase “for you to feel not-awkward to be there” is apt), and that includes hanging out in someone’s home, because at least some of the time you’re going to want to bring over some pizza or brownies or a bottle of Southern Comfort, right?

And then Jenn and Trin ask each other why friends don’t talk about money issues more often, why it is so hard to say “I can’t afford this” or “I’d rather not spend this much money,” and come to the conclusion that money is like pooping. Everybody does it, some people are eager to talk about it, and some people would rather pretend like it doesn’t exist.

I mean, nobody wants to talk about poop at a restaurant, right? So there you go.

So check out the Friendshipping podcast and see if you agree with Jenn and Trin’s thoughts about friendshipping and restaurants. And, if you’re feeling extra brave, let us know if you regularly talk about your money habits—and your toilet habits, because I want to see if there’s a correlation here—with your friends.

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