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Sep 10, 2007 01:30 PM

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.