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Help - my friend is always broke!

He's not cheap and he's not a mooch. We enjoy his company and are always happy to have him along when we go out. No one ever twists his arm to come with us. But he never has money and winds up ordering the least expensive appetizer on the menu. Then we all fee guilty for ordering apps and entrees. Should we just get over it and order what we want? He'd never let us order him anything.

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  1. Based on your description, he seems to me to be a good guy. You enjoy his company and he obviously cares enough about yours to want to be included in the events. But he can't afford your level of the bill. I think he is acting appropriately, joining to the extent he can afford and not wanting to make a precedent of having the group subsidize him. If he is smart, he is probably girding himself by partaking of a "dollar-menu" something before joining you so he isn't distractedly hungry, or maybe after... You have determined that he is not cheap nor a moocher and is a valued member of the group -- let it be.

    5 Replies
    1. re: nosh

      great reply, I agree with your view of the situation 100%.

      1. re: nosh

        My husband and I are in our late 40's & early 50's. At this point everyone we socialize with is our age and have disposable income. However, we are friends with another couple who only order the cheapest thing on a menu or just appetizers to save money. We really feel uncomfortable ordering "normally"...which for us means whatever we feel like and always includes dessert and appetizers. So now we just take them out for special occassions and invite them to our house for dinner. And they happily invite us over to theirs for dinner, too. Although they travel extensively this apparently is their way of saving money.

        1. re: DaisyM

          It is also a way of saving calories, which could be an issue for some...

          1. re: susancinsf

            It might also be just what you are most willing to spend money on. When it comes to food, I'm much more willing to spend more money on it than I would on clothes, entertainment, etc. But I know some people would probably blanch on what I spend for food, while I know I've blanched on what friends spend for clothes. No one is right or wrong; it's really what gives you the most pleasure.

            1. re: gloriousfood

              I totally agree. I love to travel and while I'll spend money trying lots of new restaurants on a vacation, usually when I'm in my hometown I budget more because I don't eat a lot and know I can go back to the restaurant at a later date to try other things on the menu. Plus it's almost impossible to get some of my friends to stray out of the Cheesecake Factory/PF Chang realm, which quite frankly aren't good enough to merit me spending a ton of money!

      2. Couldn't you just split the bill occasionallly, say it's for a special event like a birthday or promotion?

        1. Although not mentioned, jfood assumes

          1 - that everyone pays their own and this good guy is not paying for more than his share. If that is not the case then you have the subject of another thread.
          2 - this person eats his app and then sits at the table while everyone else eats their entrees.

          jfood has a couple of suggestions:

          1 - Why doesn;t the group have any dinners at one of the houses of one of the more financially well off people. Ask the good guy to bring a pie or ice cream for dessert.
          2 - could you tone down the price point of the restos you go to. if the avg entree is mid 20's this person probably feels worse than if the entrees were mid-teens.
          3 - Family style. Every now and then try a family style resto, usually italian. Then order the chix parm and when the heaping plate of parm arrives insist he has some
          4 - Instead of dinner, every now and then think about going out for dessert. This will not be as expensive but will also not have the time that a whole dinner would have.
          5 - "Gee, I have an extra ticket to the ball game". Buy some tickets to a minor league baseball game if you have in the area. They are inexpensive, you bought an extra "by mistake" and would he like to join. A hot dog is a couple of bucks and on a beautiful day you have a few hours with the gang.

          But to the question at hand. It is inevitable that you will feel guilty. First, people feel guilty passing a homeless person with a sign on the street, so here your friend is struggling and you're not supposed to feel guilty. If you have no sympathy, that's the subject for a different thread. Second, on ordering the app/entree. It appears that he is comfortable with the situation so now it's how do you minimize your guilt. If you feel more comfortable ordering a salad and half order of pasta or two apps, go ahead.

          Remember as jfood has mentioned in many threads, the food is secondary to the friends. If you feel better ordering less, then do it. Jfood is glad the economic differences have not stopped either of you from enjoying the company of the other.

          9 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            Way back when, I would also order only an appetizer and maybe a cup or bowl of soup and they would serve it as a main course, that is still done today, so the friend may not be sitting and not eating with everyone else. (Come to think of it, sometimes The Mister and I still make a whole meal out of appetizers only, especially at Happy Hour, when appetizers are half off)

            Another thought is the friend may not be financially in distress, but merely frugal and spends money in ways other than food. I have actually met people who eat because they have to, for energy and to stay alive and don't care about flavors.

            He/she is not being antisocial. Food just isn't a priority in their life, but being with friends is. That is a good thing in the overall scheme.

            1. re: Cathy

              Agreed with the possibility that there may be something else going on other than financial distress. The friend may have certain dietary restrictions and prefers to eat at home first instead of inconveniencing the group or he may have a strict food budget because he prefers to spend his money elsewhere.

              The OP may want to try heading to a cheap hole-in-the-wall place and see what the friend orders. If he still goes for the cheapest item on the menu/small appetizer, it's probably not finances. Whatever his motivations are, there's no reason why you can't order what you want.

              1. re: Cathy

                He's got a crappy job and makes a lot less than the rest of us. But he loves good food!

              2. re: jfood

                I agree with the general tone of the thread. He's not mooching, he's living according to his finances, and enjoying the presence of his friends. One thing to watch about family meals is that the bill is then typically spread evenly, which is likely to make him pay more than he chooses to independently.

                1. re: thinks too much

                  I think the answer is to leave the issue alone. It is still not clear that finances are his issue. There are other things that could keep him from ordering more.

                2. re: jfood

                  We do plenty of dinners at each other's homes and we don't always go to $$$ restos but sometimes we all decide to go try a new place that's kind of pricey. We usually all pay for what we ordered. I'd never make him pay for my wine or dessert. But you're absolutely right. I need to get over it. We love his company. We'll make it work.

                  1. re: southernitalian

                    great attitude, & response, you seem like a good friend to this individual. I have no doubt your group of friends will work it out.

                    1. re: southernitalian

                      jfood wishes there were more like you in his neighborhood.


                      1. re: southernitalian

                        that seems like the best thing you could do - except possibly all help him find a better job - unless of course he really is happy doing whatever it is he does.

                    2. I have been that person.

                      At the time, my friends were understanding enough to know that while they were well-established in their jobs and/or careers, I was still in grad school and couldn't afford much. I would order a small salad or a cup of soup or maybe an appetizer.

                      I was there for the camaraderie and companionship and to visit people I loved and cherished. Everyone knew this was the situation and people knew that I was content with my salad or soup or appetizer.

                      Please, please, please. Do NOT call attention to him. Simply accept that not everyone is financially able to afford a full meal at restaurant A, B, or C for a variety of reasons.

                      Order whatever you want, but cherish his attendance and his friendship.

                      That is a bazillion times more important than an entree.

                      1. I agree with the previous posters who said let it be. If your friend is truly in a financial bind, you may only hurt his ego/pride by bringing his finances up. You may also make him feel like he's being watched and make him insecure enough that he doesn't want to go anymore.

                        1. Of course, we're doing a lot of supposing here, but I think don't go to the town dump so he can eat better. He may enjoy going to places with the group where he would not want to go alone just to order an appetizer and a cup of soup.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: yayadave

                            I think it'd be gracious to occasionally suggest a lower key place, or let him pick a restaurant - just in case it is a purely financial issue.

                            I have to admire the guy for sticking to his guns. I suggest you all follow his lead and continue to order the way *you* want to!

                          2. I agree with the others in letting him pick the restaurant or trying to go to a less expensive place. This is the exact reason why I think that people should pay for what they consume when going out in a group setting. Some people think the bill should be split evenly, saying that those who complain are being petty, etc. I think that's in poor taste as you may not know what the other person's finances are.

                            1. It may be that he is self confident enough to spend time with his friends and not be concerned about what he cannot afford. If that’s the case, then I would just enjoy his friendship. I would welcome this friend.

                              1. When I was a poor student, several of my friends were quite a bit older and well-to-do. They graciously invited me to their homes many times for excellent home-cooked meals, and would invite me along as a guest to upscale restaurants. I reciprocated by baby-sitting their kids and milking their cow when they were out of town (seriously, they had a VERY hard time finding someone who could do this). I was very grateful for their generosity, but I felt that I was pulling my weight, as well. I can't imagine that they (knowing my financial means) would ever have let me try to get by with just an app when they were having a full meal. Much sharing would have occurred.

                                1. If your friend isn't being cheap and mooching, I would let it go. Maybe he eats something before meeting up with everybody for dinner so he can keep his costs down and still enjoy your company.

                                  I have an acquaintance who always arrives for dessert because she doesn't want to spend $50-60 with our group but she's saved a bundle in the bank. That's her priority so as you asked, I would let it go.

                                  1. I just wanted to say that this would kind of annoy me. Especially if it happened all the time and no matter what price the restaurant. That said, I agree with the consensus that it's his decision re what and how much to eat and how to spend his money. I would try cheaper places (and cheap does not have to equal dives), to see if he is a little more generous when the overall prices are cheaper. If not, I would just continue doing what you are doing. If he partakes more when the prices are cheaper, then try to go to more often to lower priced places. Do you ever do family style or places where everyone shares all the dishes?

                                    11 Replies
                                    1. re: Val55

                                      It would kind of annoy me too. He sounds like a bit of a restaurant martyr. Does he drink your wine?

                                      1. re: bronwen

                                        This would definitely annoy me, too. If it's really a financial issue, why is he going out to dinner in the first place? Saving small amounts here and there is what gets you OUT of financial distress.

                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                          So a person who is not as well off as his friends and is having some financial difficulties can't go out with his friends if he takes a frugal approach. What's he supposed to do, sit at home and watch reruns on the Food Network. He is saving small amounts my maximizing time with friends while minimizing cost. sounds to jfood like he has that linear program prettyunder control.

                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                            Why would it annoy you? If you enjoy his company, wouldn't you rather have him be there than not for the sole reason that he can't "afford" to? It's not like his choices should be affecting you or the food. At least he's conscious of what he can and can't afford while enjoying time with friends.

                                            1. re: janethepain

                                              Again, to each his own. I don't have to defend my feelings to you, Janet. It would simply bother me.

                                              For example, I always get expensive wine with dinner. Should I not offer some to my friend even though I know he can't afford it? Or should I share but pay for the whole thing? I think both options would make both of us feel uncomfortable.

                                              If you're broke, stay home and save your pennies or come for dessert. A restaurant may be a social setting, but we're still there to eat.

                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                if the marginal benefit of "expensive wine" is greater than the marginal
                                                benefit of having this friend at the table, i guess the choice is clear ...
                                                as you say "to each his own". i certainly would go for the company
                                                of a friend. of course prefering wine bottle to your friends shouldn't
                                                make you defensive. you've got to do what you've got to do. you have
                                                to be true to yourself.

                                                but what i really wanted to say about this thread was lamenting the
                                                choice of the word "broke".

                                                to me that suggests somebody without control of his finances with
                                                maybe a hint of a mooch ... the usual scenario is the guy with empty
                                                pockets when the bill comes ... sprung out of the blue.

                                                but it seems like this is clearly a case of somebody who merely makes
                                                less money than you do and as a result has less discretionary income.
                                                i dont think that is best described as "a friend who is always broke"

                                                i believe the following are all different scenarios:
                                                1. person with "plenty of money" but different preference curves.
                                                an acquantaince who has a multi-million dollar house in the malibu
                                                hills and a very fancy home theather, but drives a beater car and doesnt
                                                like spending more than $30 on dinner. how he allocates his money
                                                is his business not mine and negotiations about how nice of a place
                                                to go to diner isnt that awkward.

                                                2. person who is "always broke" because of indisciplined spending,
                                                living beyond their means. i dont have that much sympathy for these
                                                people and i dont think it is that hard to make these people somebody
                                                elses problem.

                                                3. person who simply makes less money either because of
                                                career phase [still in school, go back to school], or career choice
                                                these legitimately can be somewhat awkard scenarios.

                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                  "Oh but for the grace of God goes me"

                                                  One person's sharing an expensive bottle of wine is considered empathy, another person's looking to include friends in a social setting is theirs.

                                                  Reminds jfood of a scene from Trading Places when Dan Ackroyd is looking in on a fabulous meal. It was touching.

                                                  No one is asking people to defend anything, to each his own. And everyone has a different spending paradigm and to castigate those in different financial circumstances is very unfair. Jfood was taught a long time ago that there are always people with more money that him. does that mean that jfood cannot break bread with them? Oh he hopes not, and does not because he gathers with friends on a weekly basis. Likewise with people who have and earn less than jfood. And the interesting part is, that at social gatherings jfood does not know which ones are which. we're friends not data points in a social spending experiment.

                                                  but just like jfood giggles at those who order expensive wine as buying into PT Barnum's theory, he enjoys their company, and if they want to spend $300 on "Chateaux de Scam '68" more power to them. likewise if jfood knows that if one of the people at jfood's table is struggling a bit financially, he would do everything possible to include them and make them feel at home. everyone needs to be comfortable in their own skin and this guy sounds like he has it under control.

                                                  Tell them to stay home and then tell them to only arrive for dessert? Jfood has a major brain cramp with that level of condescension and can not even fathom the thought process to arrive at such a conclusion.

                                                  But hey to each his own

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    Jfood - thank you! I was left so speechless (can you say that about typing?) by invinotheresverde's last post, I kept looking at it trying to compose a response but my mind was numb. Your response, perfect.

                                                    This comes up in one form or another in posts with some frequency. Unless it is some sort of obligation/required meal, if I am dining with someone it is because I value their company. That is heart of it. With some friends food shares an important common interest, with some not so much. Our connecting is the focus, what we are doing is secondary.

                                                    The only concern I would have in the situation of the OP would be if the fellow was comfortable and enjoying himself. It seems as though he is & IMO has his priorities right. He is more concerned with spending time with those he cares about rather than overly focusing on the event.

                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        Thanks jfood - you expressed my feelings exactly too.

                                            2. Is it me???? No, seriously, I know it isn't, but I can relate to the "poor" guy. I have a friend who thinks nothing of dropping a bundle on dinner, along with pricey glasses of wine. I was in a really bad spot, no money and no self-esteem, and I kept declining her invitations. She asked me why and I told her the truth. (She does not mind treating me, but after awhile it gets to be embarrassing.) So now we go to a salad bar, or someplace that I have a coupon for, if I'm in a tight spot. If I have money we go to the pricey places. If we had ever gone out and I ordered an appetizer and she made a fuss over it, I would have been mortified! If he is happy with this arrangement, then that's a good thing, and I applaud you for including him!

                                              1. I agree that this guys sounds like a good guy and you should let him be. Maybe offer him tastes or bites of your food from time to time to make him feel more welcome and give him the opportunity to try things.

                                                Also, make sure that when he's invited you never bring up "splitting the bill evenly" - when I go out of my way to just order something to be social, I hateeee when people bring that up!

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: Chew on That

                                                  I think this debate sparks a bigger issue -- why is anyone paying so much attention to what (and how much) others are eating? Are you going out to eat as a group in order to enjoy each other's company or keep score?

                                                  I have some in-laws who (also) obsess over this. When we make our annual trip to see them over Thanksgiving, I know that my plate will be scrutinized by more than one nosey person ("why arent you having any _____?"), and when we eat in a restaurant, I can already hear one of them say to the other "oh, dont order THAT". This is the same guy who actually told his teenage son that he couldn't order a certain steak in a restaurant because it was too expensive, and who pulls out a calculator at the end of the meal to determine everyone's share (down to the pennies in the tip) to be sure he doesnt pay for anyone else's anything. .

                                                  1. re: Cheflambo

                                                    Sheesh! Sorry to hear that! I used to know someone who was that anal and always broke out the calculator when the bill showed up to do the exact same thing! (she was in good shape financially too!) Glad *that* friendship is over!!

                                                    1. re: Cheflambo

                                                      "This is the same guy who actually told his teenage son that he couldn't order a certain steak in a restaurant because it was too expensive"

                                                      Eating out with teenagers takes some assertion at times. I have been known to say that to the BF's kids where the order is inappropriate. Many restaurants put out that one steak as a sop for the conservative diners who are afraid of the food the restaurant is known for. I can think of it as the equivalent of the token hamburger, but at the highest end of the scale. My opinion is that you should order the most expensive entree on a menu only when it's something that the restaurant does especially well... and sometimes it is steak. Teenagers often play the most conservative card, and I like to encourage them to broaden their horizons. Sometimes it takes a nudge and other times a shove.

                                                      Your in-laws do sound like pains, but that one comment touched something off in me. Hope I didn't sound too harsh.

                                                      1. re: Cheflambo

                                                        jfood would not broad brush all of these categories into a single entity. various points that you bring up.

                                                        jfood is guilty of always looking at other plates. Heck how can he know for next time what might be better in a resto. Scenario of looking at the menu upon seating and the table next store gets 8 entrees. Jfood looks and sees how they look. Then back to the menu to decide. If jfood is eating with family and someone has not touched the meal, this indicates either the food is bad or the person is not feeling well. Why not ask how the meal was? And jfood always wants to hear what others think of a meal if he is in their neckof the woods. granted you have to take some opinions with a greain of salt, but data gathering is an important aspect of learning. If a place has great home-made onion rings jfood wants to know it, if they take ore-idas out of the freezer and throw them in some oil, jfood will take a pass. Or, "the chicken parm is a frozen patty with a ton of cheese" great input. Not keeping score at all, just learning and having conversation.

                                                        Wrt the son ordering the steak. Jfood's teenage daughters always ask jfood if its OK if they are ordering at the higher end of the menu price points. jfood views this as respect and learning the value of a dollar. How can teenagers learn what is acceptable resto manners if not taught by their parents? When jfood has little jfood's friends out to dinner and one orders the $40 prime fillet, it shows that that friend could use a little dose of etiquette-training.

                                                        And jfood agrees with your last point on the tip, especially with the pre-tax and post-tax numbers. jfood looks at the easiest number to read, does a quick calculation and rounds up or down. No biggie and takes less than 10 seconds. At the end of a relaxing meal with friends and family jfood isn't going to loose any sleep or take away from the table talk over the price of a subway ride.

                                                        1. re: Cheflambo

                                                          Those in-laws sound extreme. But as someone who's been on both sides of the debate, I think it's good sometimes to note what others are eating.

                                                          For example, if my less well-off friend comes to dinner and only orders an inexpensive dish and no wine or dessert, I want to make sure that he/she doesn't subsidize everyone else's meal. Obviously, I do this discreetly and never make a fuss, but it's important. I know that some people are a little too quick to suggest splitting the check evenly when there's someone at the table who may not be able to afford that, and I know I appreciated the consideration when I was that person.

                                                      2. I'd vote for "get over it and order what you want." He seems like a good guy who, for whatever reason, orders the cheapest thing. It doesn't matter to us what the reason is, and he shouldn't have to explain. He's not mooching off you or saying subtle or not so subtle things to get you to share your food.

                                                        I would be totally comfortable with this. He appreciates your friendship and company, and you respectfully don't let him pay for your food (see other threads about bill splitting). Neither you or he should feel uncomfortable. Just ignore the differences.

                                                        If you start changing how you order, then (1) you may start to feel that you are compromising your choices, "what I really want is that $25 steak, but I'll order the $12 pasta instead, so it won't look so obvious when he pays $6 for his appetizer" and (2) he will notice, "Hmm, they've been ordering differently these past two times. Maybe I'm making them feel uncomfortable. OK, next time I'll say no when they ask me out."

                                                        1. I have been this guy.... I felt that I had other things to spend my money on, but, I still wanted to go and have a little treat. Yes, I did eat before I went : ) I never wanted anyone to call attention to it....I would have died!!! ... I wanted to be there having fun and not feeling like I owed anyone... I just stuck a little $$ aside for our trips out... I also use to think after we all went home that I was glad that I had not wasted my money that way.... So I would say let him just enjoy your group and let him choose where he wants to go now and then and have fun life is too short and we lose our frinds way too soon : )

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Kimala

                                                            While I completely agree that you should let this guy be, I want to point out that the OP indicated that this guy always orders the cheapest appetizer and, I guess, nurses it over an entire meal. It's perfectly understandable to feel uncomfortable in that situation. When I have to/want to not spend a lot of money, I'll order the cheapest entree and just water. Entrees are usually a better deal--more food for what you are spending and you don't stand out as much. And it's not all the time. That's why I'd be curious to try a cheap place. If he'll order the $8 appetizer, will he order the $3 appetizer even though the entrees are $8? I realize it doesn't really matter but I'd want to know. Btw, I'm not saying that I never order an appetizer and a side for dinner, but that's usually not because of budget.

                                                          2. I am so glad to hear that you're including your friend at restaurant dinners, rather than not inviting him at all. Your friend is obviously there for the company, and that's what's important. I'm sure it's difficult, but try not to feel guilty about ordering apps., entrees and dessert. Your friend doesn't seem to have a problem with what he orders, so you shouldn't either.

                                                            I commend you for inviting your friend out to dinner.

                                                            1. Personally, I would love it if someone would invite me out to dinner. I am currently unemployed, and my husband doesn't make a lot of money, so we have no disposable income at this time. However, I would gladly skimp on groceries one month, so that I could eat dinner out with friends. Since I'm unemployed, the invites have stopped. This is the worst time for me to feel isolated, and I would love it if friends would invite me out to dinner...believe me, I'd find a way to pay for it.

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: ctflowers

                                                                Why don't YOU organize a dinner out with friends? That way, you could choose a less expensive place.

                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                  Oh, I invite others to my house for dinner once or twice a month, and I always make the main course.

                                                                2. re: ctflowers

                                                                  I can sympathize, I'm taking the year off to be home with my daughter. so while my husband makes decent money, our HHI was just cut by 1/3, neccesitating some changes in our lifestyle

                                                                  What about inviting people over for dinner? It doesn't have to be anything too fancy with expensive ingredients. Risotto and other pasta/rice dishes can be impressive and filling yet inexpensive to make. If someone says "what can I bring" take them up on it, tell them dessert or a bottle of wine (their drink of choice) would be wonderful.

                                                                  Also, you could do a wine and cheese tasting at your house. Let everyone bring a favorite pairing, this would minimize your expenses. just provide some good bread, crackers, crudite, maybe a big salad since cheese is so heavy etc.
                                                                  It will get better, hang in there!

                                                                  1. re: SweetPea914

                                                                    SweetPea, thanks for the idea of the wine & cheese tasting...I really love that idea. I usually invite friends over for dinner a few times a month, and I make the main course and ask them to bring the side dishes. I'd just like to get out of the house for dinner at a restaurant once in awhile, LOL.

                                                                    1. re: ctflowers

                                                                      I hear ya! For my b-day my husband bought me a couple gift certificates to my favorite local restaurant so I could go out for lunch with the baby and/or girlfriends and not feel guilty about spending the $.
                                                                      Maybe you could pick an inexpensive place and suggest going with your friends next time you see them. I'm sure your friends want you to go out with them, but just don't want to put you in the awkward position of having to say no. I probably never would have thought to invite someone just for dessert at a restaurant as jane recommended, thinking that would be rude, so again, maybe if you brought it up it your friends would be receptive to the idea.

                                                                  2. re: ctflowers

                                                                    What? They don't even graciously extend the privilege of joining them for dessert only?

                                                                    1. re: janethepain

                                                                      Jane, I wish they'd at least invite us for dessert, lol