Dear Mouthy Housewives,
My husband and I love to go out with our couple friends, but the bill always gets out of control. We are on a serious budget and can't afford to blow so much money when we go out. How do we keep the bill down without seeming like buzz kills? Or do we just have to stay home and fire up the ole DVR?
Dear Pinching Penny,
Oh, sister, I think we all feel your pain. Just the other day I had to decline (yet another) invite to a jewelry party hosted by a friend in order to protect the kids' college fund. And I think even Mitt Romney has resorted to flying in airplanes with broken windows just to trim the budget a bit!
But on to your question: How to deal with such awkward situations? You have several options, and what you choose will depend upon the type of friends with which you are dining and how much you like to disclose about your own finances.
Option #1: Passive aggressively suggest separate checks because SOME OF US HAVE TO WORK FOR A LIVING.
There is something very practical about separate checks, and yet they are often the Kiss of Death when it comes to a group dinner. Not only does the waiter or waitress usually hate doing it (some even flatly refuse), but some of your more insecure or judgmental friends may use this as a signal to read between the lines. Trust me: This once happened to me when I asked for separate checks and my friend was convinced I was implying she is a terrible mother. (WTF?)
Option #2: Stay home and never speak to them again.
Firing up your DVR does sound like my kind of party, but it doesn't do much in terms of addressing the situation at hand. Your friends may misread your signals if you avoid them altogether, and this will only create more headaches down the road when, say, you need a babysitter or they win the lottery.
Option #3: Suggest a cheaper dining spot.
If the other two options are extremes, this one is your solid middle ground. You can try to take some control of the situation by choosing a restaurant or bar that is not as costly as some of the ones you've been frequenting as of late. Even better? Have a family member watch the kids for a few hours while you host the group at your house. It may be more work on your end, but the tradeoff may be worth it if you value your friendships.
And your wine budget.
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