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What to do when the restaurant's out of your budget?

Wonder if anyone has any input on this matter - I have a friend who's a great foodie, just like myself, and she's suggested a dinner date. The place she's suggested specialises in high-end, Heston Blumenthal-esque food, and they're promoting their tasting menu with wine pairings. Trouble is, this'd come to about £75, excluding tip ($150 at the current rate) which is really out of my league, and tbh it's not my preferred style of cooking. She's a good friend, and I want to be able to say "I can't really afford this, so why don't we go for drinks/eat somewhere cheaper", but I know she'll offer to treat me, and that would make me feel awkward. She earns much more than I do, but I don't want this to be an issue in our friendship. Any advice on how I can politely excuse myself without sounding like the poor relation, or like I'm asking her to pay for me?

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  1. I think you should proceed exactly as you've already suggested to yourself: say you can't afford it but you really want to spend time with her. If she offers to treat, tell her you're grateful for the offer but would feel better if you pay your own way. Trying to handle it any way other than honestly, it seems to me, is more likely to make money and/or the disparity in salaries an issue more than being up front about it. So long as you're making it clear that you really do want to spend time with her and to go out to eat with her, hopefully, it'll all work out alright and she won't feel slighted at all.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ccbweb

      Agreed. When a good friendship is involved, honesty is always the best way to handle every situation.

      1. re: mojoeater

        Here, here! Tell her straight up that's it's more than you care to spend and if she offers to treat, just pitch in what you can.

        Unless she's the kind who will bring it up later and use it for an excuse to get something out of you. If that's the case, she's no freind anyway.

    2. Ouch. I see both sides. She wants the pleasure of your company, and the chance to expose you to something she sees as a great experience, even if she has to pay for it. You don't want to feel like a charity case, and frankly don't think it's your style of food.

      I don't know when a "Ha ha, that's too rich for my blood" stopped being enough to make people drop a restaurant choice. Especially since she knows you make much less, I would think if you said that she would be polite enough to back off. If she offers it as a treat, just politely say "No, I can't let you do that. It's too much." If that's not enough, I don't know what would be.

      The only people I would insist on going as my treat would be my younger sisters. With friends, how much they make and what they want to spend on is their decision.

      1. I don't see why you should let money get in the way of friendship.
        This is how I would do it, assuming a normal, healthy friendship:

        Friend: Let's go to restaurant X.
        You: Oh, I think that's too rich for my blood.
        Friend: Don't worry, it's my treat!
        You (graciously accepting invitation): In that case, I'm all for it. Of course, I'll pick up the tab next time. Though I doubt it'll cost anywhere near as much!
        Friend: Oh please, that's what friends are for!

        Feel free to add or subtract exclamation ponts as appropriate.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Steve

          Well you if you do not want to be honest, why not just do some research and find an amazingly raved about restaurant closer to your price range that serves a cuisine that you know your friend will enjoy. Your friend will probably get why you made a new suggestion and will hopefully gracefully suggest going to your choice. Just say you have been meaning to try it.

          1. re: edbk

            I've been on the treating side before and trust me, if she's offering to treat it's because she wants your company and wants you to enjoy it with her. I was all excited to take my father to Bradley Odgen when he and I were in Las Vegas. I was VERY excited and I was treating. Well, my dad both being frugal and not wanting to take advantage all of a sudden wasn't hungry and ordered the cheapest thing on the menu but somehow had room for three servings of the free bread. Rather than having a great experience and enjoying a wonderful meal with dad, I ended up having a bad time because I felt like I was eating alone and was uncomfortably eating while my dad sat there hungry. It was easily the worst meal of my life even though the food was great.

            It sounds like it's not a problem for your friend to treat, so please let her. I bet she's hoping to have a very memorable experience with you and you declining or just ordering something inexpensive off the menu will kill the experience for her.

            1. re: Rick

              Similar experience, Rick, with my family. Only it was for a gift certificate!

              My father didn't like the prices at the place where we all went, courtesy of a gift certificate from a relative.

              So he sat there and said: 'I'm not hungry'. This was after we got a carafe of house wine. My father said: 'I'll just have breadsticks and the wine'.

              My brother got mad and left the restaurant. The rest of us made an effort to talk my father into having a meal but he wouldn't, so my mother and I left the restaurant.

              Final scene: my hubby and my father sitting there, wine and breadsticks on the table. My father to my hubby: 'why did everyone get mad and leave?'.

              The epilogue: My brother, hubby and I ended up using the gift certificate. No, my mother wouldn't 'dream' of eating out without my father.

              To the OP: yes, let her treat you and imo, I would proceed as per Steve's excellent recommendation.

          2. re: Steve

            That sounds like a good solution to me. I've always found the bit where the friend offers to treat very awkward. But you're right. If the offer is sincere, why not graciously accept? Sounds easy, but I know a lot of people have trouble with this one!

          3. I have the same situation with a friend with expensive tastes in food. I can't begin to afford 50% of the places she suggests, and she insists on treating, but I'm not comfortable with that. She has told me how much pleasure it gives her to be able to introduce me to new foods, and restaurants, and I can't remember exactly how she phrased it, but in essence, I was not being a good friend by always turning her down. So now we have an arrangement. When we go to a "low-end" place I treat, and for special occasions she lets me choose a restaurant that I have wanted to try and she treats, but I pitch in on the tip. And on her special occasions I treat, but we go to a mid-price place. She is giving from her heart, and does not see me as a "poor relation." It gives her joy to do this and who am I to deny that - but I certainly will never abuse it! It has worked for us for years. And I might add that even though some of the places where not what I would have chosen, I have always been pleasantly surprised.

            2 Replies
            1. re: danhole

              Am I correct in reading between the lines that that took some conversation between the two of you to come to that (very excellent) arrangement? Seems to give a big nod to being honest and up front about all of it and trusting in the friendship....that way everyone come outs happy. Hopefully the OP can do the same!

              1. re: ccbweb

                Yes, it took a heartfelt talk after I refused to go out with her after about 5 invites. She was hurt, I was broke and depressed and didn't feel worthy. We hashed it out and that is what we came up with, and we have been friends for about 11 years. My last birthday, she told me that the greatest gift I gave her was the honor of taking me to nice places, and how glad she was that we had worked it out.

            2. I have a friend in law school with me. I like to do stuff with her, but I know she is on more of a budget than me. Since my law school is paid for, no-loans, rent is paid for, I often just have more discretionary income. I treat her to dinner, manicures and other things because I enjoy her company and would like someone to go with since I don't want to go alone and I would preferably go with her than someone else. I would let her treat you. We do it because we want your company, but we don't want you to worry about money. I feel like getting her company is a bargain for the meal. I figure in the end it will all work out, there will be sometime she will treat me, or sometimes she makes dinner at her house for me that is awesome and is an added bonus. You shouldn't feel bad about her treating you, it is her way of getting to share your company and have fun doing something she wants to do and probably doesn't want to do alone, and thought you may enjoy. The only way it will become an issue of your friendship is if her making more money than you bothers you. It obviously doesn't bother her or she wouldn't offer to treat you. And if it bothers you that much, that is something for you to work out with yourself on why it makes you uncomfortable and try to fix that.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ktmoomau

                I think you are both generous and open about it with your friend. But I'm going to (hopefully politely) disagree with one point; there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to pay one's own way according to one's own means. People who feel that they want to do so shouldn't be made to feel as though that's something to fix.

                As I wrote in a reply above, honesty is the best course here (as in most things). Not wanting to have someone else treat doesn't mean the OP doesn't want to spend time with their friend. Talking about will hopefully lead to an arrangement that works well for both; but no one should start from the position that it is a problem for someone to not wish to be treated to something more expensive than they could afford on their own.

                And, in the case of the converse, simply having more money should never lead to the expectation that one should always treat their less affluent friends.

                1. re: ccbweb

                  I didn't mean that exactly the way you took it, but I did mean it in a similar fashion, I guess. And actually I agree with you completely. I just meant that if it wasn't that you liked to pay your own way, or that it was habitual and you thought it was extreme, but you were hostile to someone treating you in general, even one time, especially if that person makes more than you than it could be that you are jealous, or feel you should be doing more with your career. This isn't the case in most cases, but it could be the case for someone reading this thread, so why not mention if you feel this way perhaps you need to sort that out with yourself and figure out if you should have some new goals or talk to someone about it. This is not the norm, but if someone reads this, thinks deeply about it maybe that will help them. I don't assume to know people's mental states, but like to cover all bases.

              2. There have been a number of good suggestions; in particular,the issue with relatives is different. The reality is that regardless of what advice you take, it really is essential to discuss this with your friend in an honest manner and then "play it by ear." Your information is not adequate to make the best decision unless you have her intake on the issue.

                1. Like with any big $$ purchase, I save my money until I can afford it.

                  I saved a month or so for a $300 dinner at Saloon Steakhouse in Chicago last month, and am now saving my $$ for another dry aged steak eating feast at David Burkes Prime House in Chicago.

                  Put off the dinner until you can afford it.

                  1. definitely tell her how you feel, and maybe instead of your friend treating for everything maybe you can pay for the drinks or dessert, or tell her you will treat next time, maybe at lunch or a brunch date.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: cmarie

                      To update on the original post, I emailed my friend and confessed that while I loved to go to dinner with her, I simply couldn't afford this particular place. So we're going to do something less pricey this time around. I think with stuff like this you can easily overestimate the importance of it, but many thanks to the posters who suggested that being honest and upfront is the best course of action, it's so true!

                      1. re: babybat

                        Good for you! I hope this will bond your friendship as it did mine with my friend.

                    2. I'd feel a whole lot more comfortable at someplace that's closer to my budget ... no, I really can't accept that, it's lovely of you to offer but I'd feel guilty with every bite. Let's find someplace we can relax a bit more."