Dining With Friends Who Can’t Afford It

When friends have a big difference in their financial situation, going out to meals can be problematic. Modern Manners Guy has 3 tips on how to treat your friends to dinner without making it feel like charity.

Richie Frieman
6-minute read
Episode #276

Whoever said that talking about money isn’t a big deal was wrong. So wrong. Like on a scale of 1 to 10 - where 10 is being completely wrong - they are somewhere around 65.

When two friends have a big difference in their financial situations, with one friend being able to afford a much nicer lifestyle than the other, that's when it gets even more uncomfortable (around an 80 I would say).

And when it comes to dining, that's where the financial disparity becomes even more pronounced (and even more uncomfortable). Friend A can afford a high-end restaurant with not even a dent in his wallet, while friend B tries to make one takeout order last two days.


So what happens when you go to a meal and one friend is not financially suited to handle their share of the bill? Should A and B never go out together? No way! Should A never invite B to a “nicer” restaurant because he doesn’t want B to feel embarrassed at not being able to afford it? Absolutely not. The proper solution is to remember that friendship always trumps financial status.

Of course, that's all fine and good....until the bill arrives. So with that, check out my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips on how to properly treat a friend to a meal and not make it seem like charity.

Tip #1: Choose a Reasonable Restaurant

One Modern Manners Guy fan emailed me complaining that none of his friends could go to fancy dinners with him because they couldn’t afford it. He enjoyed high-end dining and was upset that no one would (or could) join him.  I had to remind him that he was being unrealistic. He knew his friends couldn’t afford a certain level of dining but kept bringing it up anyway, as if they had a choice in the matter. This caused a major divide. I told him to consider it from his friends' perspective and next time, pick a more cost-friendly establishment.

When you know your friends can’t afford a certain level of dining, never make it an issue. You don't want to highlight the financial disparity by pointing out your reasons for choosing a cheaper restaurant, “Hey guys, I picked this place because it’s more wallet-friendly, if you catch my drift.” That will definitely turn people off from hanging out with you.

As well, never try to convince them to splurge on an extravagant meal. “Oh come on, you’ll like it! Just save up this week and go big.” That's wrong on soooooo many levels.

Instead, simply suggest less expensive places when you dine with a friend whose income is limited.

Instead, simply suggest less expensive places when you dine with a friend whose income is limited. Get creative with it too. Go on Groupon or LivingSocial where you can often find amazing deals at expensive restaurants, which could make a splurge much more realistic. Also, keep up with new openings or “Restaurant Week” deals in your area that offer discounts for certain time periods. Lastly, research on Yelp.com for ideas. You can select a price bracket and find a ton of restaurants whose menu prices fall into a happy medium. Chances are there are more places that offer great food and a reasonable price than you thought.

And please, don’t act like you’re so “above” eating a reasonably-priced restaurant either. If you look at anything less than $50 an entrée as beneath you, you will alienate people that have been around for a long time and stood by your side when you weren't rolling in it.  If that’s the case, then you and your snobbish taste buds should find some fancy new friends.