Help, our friends are costing us too much. How can we rein them in?

‘Help, our friends are costing us too much. How can we rein them in?’

Moral Money: our reader wants to convince their friends to eat in instead of dining out

Dear Moral Money,

My wife and I have become accustomed to dining out with another couple monthly. Part of the attraction lies in the frequency, as we remain genuinely interested in each other’s lives and anticipate the updates with interest. 

We tend to rebook the table for the following month as we leave our regular restaurant, and we always split the bill. I have noticed the cost has crept up recently, and we are spending a bit over £100 a month. 

My wife and I are revising our budget, having agreed an ambition to retire early and travel, but it means spending less on the lifestyle we have grown used to in order to achieve this.

Our friends are costing us too much

I cook and would be happy to host a gathering every other month, but I am unsure whether the other couple would be willing to reciprocate. 

We value their friendship and want to continue to meet monthly, but keep the cost down. 

Do you think it would be insulting to suggest that we eat in rather than dine out?


Dear reader,

I think the regular get-together and the genuine interest in each other’s lives sounds like the most nourishing part of your meals together. I love that it works for you as a couple, too.

It thrills me to hear you are planning your finances and have set yourself goals that mean you are getting more intentional about how you are spending your money today.

Finding ways to reduce discretionary spending and then using the savings for wealth creation is an effective way to boost your future financial security and choice. In fact, much of wealth creation is going to come from the difference between what we earn and what we spend. 

It can be tempting to imagine there are many complex and alluring ways to get rich, but in reality 50pc of the equation is about managing your spending. The other half is, of course, managing and maximising income and gain opportunities. 

As human beings we are naturally inclined to grow into our spending capability. For anyone interested enough to want to read up on the phenomena it’s called “Marginal Propensity to Consume” – but generally we all recognise it as spending what we earn or “lifestyle creep”.

How often have we spent an anticipated bonus several times over before it is received, or been lulled into a false sense of security when we know a pay raise is due, only to find there is no more room in the budget after the raise than there was before?

The type of financial planning exercise you and your wife have engaged in seems to have encouraged you to get a bigger picture perspective and start reducing discretionary spending today to enable it in the future. 

Moral Money: our reader wants to convince their friends to eat in instead of dining out

The hardest part of this for many of my clients seems to be keeping the longer-term vision alive and throbbing in their hearts with the same intensity as they experience short-term comforts and thrills. It can feel like deprivation and lead to resentment unless the choice is kept visceral by focussing on how great it will feel to achieve the long-term goal.

I realised when reading your story that I have been doing the eating in version for a couple of years. A friend and I get together periodically, taking it in turns to host. Usually we cook for each other. There have been some notable menu successes, the occasional flop and, on one occasion, a complete disaster that led to a takeaway. I think part of the reason we prefer being at each other’s houses is we include socialising our dogs as part of the experience – they are besties, too.#

The occasion we resorted to a takeaway made me think that if your friends are not as keen to do the cooking as you seem to be, then this is another possibility that would help reduce costs while keeping your dinner tradition alive. 

I guess sharing your long-term hopes and dreams with your friends will form part of the process of keeping it front and centre of your mind. It sounds as though you have the sort of friendship where this would happen naturally, and they would be keen to help you achieve your ambitions. 

Would it be too geeky to include some sort of tally process where you recognise the compounding effect of your regular saving? While it would not add up to much to start with I can tell you that £100 per month added to a middle-of-the-road investment plan could add up to more than £16,500 over 10 years (assuming a 6pc average annual return).  

It is probably much less fun than choosing your next date to dine and planning what you fancy to eat, but a discreet record of your accumulated investment pot as part of the routine may help you feel proud of your achievements and your eye on your goal. If you feel your friends would enjoy being part of the achievement then the tally could be less discreet; a shared acknowledgement to progress. 

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