Having Friends Over Isn’t Cheap

It might be less expensive than going out, but not by much.

Photo credit: gabia party, CC BY 2.0.

In this week’s Bad With Money podcast, Gaby Dunn talks to financial experts about their favorite “tips and tricks.” Although she pushes back on some of the tips—like the latte factor, which rears its foam-covered head AGAIN—she does not push back on the idea that we could all save money if we just invited our friends over instead of going out.

Bad With Money With Gaby Dunn

Sarah Wilson of the Budget Girl vlog tells Dunn that, instead of spending money at a bar or at a restaurant, we should instead host taco parties.

Instead of going out to a fancy dinner, drinks, everything like that with your friends on a Friday night, invite ’em over. Have a taco bar or something. Everybody bring something. You actually end up having a wonderful night playing Cards Against Humanity, and it’s so much cheaper.

Which is all very well and good, but it isn’t necessarily so much cheaper. You need to buy Cards Against Humanity, for starters. (Current price: $25, although there is a free download option if you want to print and cut your own cards.)

You need to own enough chairs to seat all of your friends, not to mention having enough space in which to host them. (I couldn’t have hosted friends in either of my last two apartments; one was a microapartment, and one was so full of roommates that every room was someone’s bedroom.)

You need to already have the kitchen gear required to make and serve tacos—a frying pan, a cookie sheet, enough bowls for the olives and the diced tomatoes and the shredded cheese—and then you need to buy enough food to feed all of your friends tacos. That’s where the savings really falls apart; instead of going out and buying a dinner or a drink for yourself, you’re prepping food for five or more people.

And yes, you can ask your friends to bring stuff too. They’ll probably bring alcohol and desserts, unless you specifically assign one person to bring the olives and another person to bring the salsa. (I am ready for the discussion about whether olives belong in tacos.) You’ll end up with a few half-finished bottles of wine and a lot of cleanup, and you’ll probably have saved no actual money.

But then your friends will host, right? And you’ll get a free dinner? Sure, but you’ll want to bring a bottle of wine to that dinner, and you don’t want to get the cheapest one, everyone will know you cheaped out on your friends if you get the cheapest one. So you might spend $15 on the wine, which might be less than what you would have spent if you’d gone out to a restaurant or bar (depending on the location) but still isn’t nothing.

I think there are a lot of good reasons to host parties, but saving money isn’t necessarily one of them. Hosting can get expensive very quickly, as can bringing wine or a dish to share. Having enough stuff to make your guests comfortable—plates, wineglasses, chairs, even little things like keeping sugar and creamer for guests who take their coffee with cream and sugar—also requires an initial investment.

Sometimes, going out really is the cheapest way to do it.

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