The birthday dinner is a great thing, in theory, but they can also be budget breaking, inconvenient events too. I loved celebrating friends’ birthdays over dinner in college when we had $7 entrees, split a pitcher of margaritas and paid separate checks at the counter of our favorite cheap Mexican restaurant. Yet, as we got older, birthday dinners started getting crazy expensive and awkward.
It seems like the following scenario is getting increasingly common: the birthday guy or gal picks a trendy (aka pricey) restaurant for dinner. After valeting your car or paying at an expensive lot, you greet the person you’re celebrating and all of the fellow diners (most of whom you don’t know) and head to the table. The restaurant is really loud and you’re sitting at a table of 16 people between people you just met and can hardly hear over the soundtrack playing the background.
Since this is one of those places that charges $15 for a cocktail, you get a sweet tea and one of the lower priced entrees on the menu. Sure, everyone else is getting multiple drinks, appetizers and dessert, but you’ve got a budget to stick to! Then the check comes. It seems to be settled that you’re going to split things evenly and also cover the cost of the birthday person, and the evening ends with your wallet lighter and only a few minutes of conversation with the friend you came to see. Ugh.
Maybe it’s just me, but this isn’t fun. I really love birthdays and celebrating them, but too many expensive nights out make it difficult to focus on sticking to my budget. Here are some ways I think celebrating your birthday can become more budget-friendly for your friends:
- Choose an affordable place to celebrate. Sure, I might be dying to try a new restaurant, but I don’t want to inconvenience my friends by selecting somewhere that has expensive entrees. There are plenty of nice, but moderately priced restaurants that have good food and atmosphere.
- Don’t invite everyone you know. As we get older, we expand our friend groups. Instead of inviting your high school friends, college friends, grad school friends, old co-workers, current co-workers, church friends, etc. think about just celebrating with one or two groups. It’s hard to have some time to talk with all of your friends when you have 20 of them around a dinner table.
- If you do want to invite everyone you know, plan an activity for everyone to do instead. Go bowling, have a game night or do something that’s interactive and gives everyone the opportunity to talk and get to know each other. It can be hard to sit at the end of a long table with people you don’t know.
Am I overreacting about bad birthday dinners or do you agree that they can be less-than-fun occasions?