Author Topic: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers  (Read 1917 times)

Broadway2019

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I am wondering what other people do for birthdays and other special occasions. It seems every month or so we have a wedding, birthday, or holidays that impact our spending. For example, recently is was Valentine's Day and my fiance's birthday.

For Valentines day, we ate at a cheap mexican place nearby and ended up spending $60. I find in a major city it is hard to find cheap places. We each had 1 drink, and a $12-15 entree, plus tip. It was not lavish or anything.

A couple days later it was my fiance's birthday. Below is a breakdown of spending.

Brunch - $45 - this is the typical nice brunch cost in our city. This included no alcohol. She loves brunch and we rarely go out for it.
Bowling - $50 for one hour. This is a regular bowling alley near us, not a fancy one
Brewery - $12.54 - this was a new brewery she wanted to try
Bar - $26.05 - this was for 1 beer each and nachos to split. We met up with her friends for happy hour
Dinner - $50 - her favorite restaurant. It actually would have been more, but we split the bill with her friends

I am trying to figure out if other people on this forum just do not go out or do any activities. A few weeks ago we wanted to get together with friends. A night of bowling and happy hour (ate dinner at home to avoid that cost) still cost us $100. We could invite ppl over but they complain we live to far away. They are in the city and we are in suburbs to save money. If we go to their house, we still end up bringing booze or food.

wordnerd

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2018, 10:26:44 AM »
So, my SO dislikes special occasions in general, so there's not much pressure to do anything (quite the opposite), but I like to go out and see friends, and I still manage to do so frugally. What I found to work for me:

Be selective about your activities. If you decide you need to do something RIGHT NOW, then you will end up paying a premium (and probably doing something boring like going to brunch for the 800th time in your life; no offense to brunch). Wait until there's a fun free event, or a friend is getting rid of tickets, or you can find a steal on StubHub. I love going to plays. I could easily spend $100+ for a night out at the fancy theater in the city. Instead through StubHub and friends who have offered tickets, I've ended up paying $25 for two nights out (2 tickets each night). 

Socialize at people's houses. My friends and I have had brunch get togethers lately where the host makes waffles and coffee and guests bring something to share. I generally bring a homemade quiche. Cost to me: $2-3. My turn to host is coming up, but I didn't have a waffle iron, so I got one at a thrift store for $5.

Join clubs. Related to the last item, I love being in book clubs. You see friends, you read books, you bring a bottle of wine (or homemade snacks), and you're good. Maybe look for some social groups closer to you?

Redefine special occasion. Assuming your list below is for a month, you have a special occasion over once a week. It sounds like this is an unusual month, but that seems to be stretching the definition of special.

Prioritize. There's no time in my life where I would value an hour of bowling at $50, especially when I could spend that time hiking or watching Netflix or myriad other things that are near-free and way more fun than bowling. Maybe you love bowling. If so, carry on. If not, don't.

I will say that the total spent ($183) may not be outrageous in the context of your budget. If doing these things is important to you, and the rest of your financial picture is solid, again, carry on.

wordnerd

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2018, 10:39:22 AM »
Oh another one: annual memberships. It's easy to go overboard on this one, so handle with care, but get an annual membership at a place you love. For instance, you can join the botanical garden in my city for $80/year, have free admission all year, and get into cocktails in the garden on evenings in the summer (perfect date!). Or, say you love a museum, get the annual membership, take friends as your free guest, and they could potentially take you somewhere else where they're members. Bonus points if you give the annual membership to your SO as a gift (birthday, Christmas, whatever), saving you the cost of a gift at that time. Or be like me, and ask for one as a Christmas gift from your parents. :)

wenchsenior

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2018, 10:48:12 AM »
So, my SO dislikes special occasions in general, so there's not much pressure to do anything (quite the opposite), but I like to go out and see friends, and I still manage to do so frugally. What I found to work for me:

Be selective about your activities. If you decide you need to do something RIGHT NOW, then you will end up paying a premium (and probably doing something boring like going to brunch for the 800th time in your life; no offense to brunch). Wait until there's a fun free event, or a friend is getting rid of tickets, or you can find a steal on StubHub. I love going to plays. I could easily spend $100+ for a night out at the fancy theater in the city. Instead through StubHub and friends who have offered tickets, I've ended up paying $25 for two nights out (2 tickets each night). 

Socialize at people's houses. My friends and I have had brunch get togethers lately where the host makes waffles and coffee and guests bring something to share. I generally bring a homemade quiche. Cost to me: $2-3. My turn to host is coming up, but I didn't have a waffle iron, so I got one at a thrift store for $5.

Join clubs. Related to the last item, I love being in book clubs. You see friends, you read books, you bring a bottle of wine (or homemade snacks), and you're good. Maybe look for some social groups closer to you?

Redefine special occasion. Assuming your list below is for a month, you have a special occasion over once a week. It sounds like this is an unusual month, but that seems to be stretching the definition of special.

Prioritize. There's no time in my life where I would value an hour of bowling at $50, especially when I could spend that time hiking or watching Netflix or myriad other things that are near-free and way more fun than bowling. Maybe you love bowling. If so, carry on. If not, don't.

I will say that the total spent ($183) may not be outrageous in the context of your budget. If doing these things is important to you, and the rest of your financial picture is solid, again, carry on.

This is my biggest piece of advice, too.  Perhaps it is an age thing, but we just don't 'go out' to celebrate things very often.  We don't celebrate friends' and families' birthdays that way usually, and we don't usually give gifts for birthdays, either.  Valentine's Day and other 'Hallmark' holidays don't even register with us.  We do spend some money on presents during the Yule season, but we don't socialize all that much anyplace but peoples' houses.  Even then, bringing the food and drinks can definitely add up, but I've never really tracked it because we socialize maybe once every 2-3 months except for a little uptick in Nov/Dec.  DH socializes as part of a musical club, but they get mostly free beer for playing at a local bar, so cost is minimal, maybe 40$/month for him kicking in a weekly six-pack or bottle of whisky.

On the other hand, we're fairly introverted.  We'd have to put more thought into this if we were in a town with a lot of friends and family or if we got stir crazy without lots of social interaction.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2018, 10:49:56 AM by wenchsenior »

Spiffy

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2018, 10:56:21 AM »
Doing 5 things for one person's birthday seems like a lot. Eating out 3 times plus drinks out twice seems like overkill. Maybe stick to one outing per "Special Occasion". We don't celebrate Valentine's Day etc, so I don't have to worry about that kind of thing. But we do go out to eat for birthdays and wedding anniversaries (25 happy years coming up this summer!)
Edited to add: that doesn't sound like a cheap Mexican place.  Cheap would be $5.99 dinner special.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2018, 10:58:07 AM by Spiffy »

Broadway2019

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2018, 10:56:45 AM »
Thank you both for the suggestions so far! I work from home, so at night I am always looking to get out of the house. I do go to crossfit - another unmustachian thing, however, love it and it works for me.

I guess I find that we do not do many free things. Even meeting up with our friends for a hike will end up with us going to a winery or eating out spending more money. I live near Baltimore, MD and in the winter we go bowling since it is indoors. Occasionally, I find a groupon or the bowling alley has a special promo. The eating out kills us but at the same time we go out for the social aspect. Our friends pretty much always want to meetup through eating.

By the way I am 29 and my SO is 33 with no kids. Like I said, I work from home so perhaps I need to look at meetup.com for something more frugal to do than eating out.

Perhaps we are using the holidays as an excuse. I am going to try to find alternatives in our area.

Broadway2019

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2018, 10:58:21 AM »
Doing 5 things for one person's birthday seems like a lot. Eating out 3 times plus drinks out twice seems like overkill. Maybe stick to one outing per "Special Occasion". We don't celebrate Valentine's Day etc, so I don't have to worry about that kind of thing. But we do go out to eat for birthdays and wedding anniversaries (25 happy years coming up this summer!)

The sole reason we ate out so much was because the brunch place was an hour from home and then we stayed in that part of town all day instead of driving back and forth. I guess we should have picked brunch or dinner and not both. Then we would have saved at least half.

Broadway2019

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2018, 10:59:41 AM »
Edited to add: that doesn't sound like a cheap Mexican place.  Cheap would be $5.99 dinner special.

Except for taco bell, there is nothing else in our immediate area. I have never seen a sit down mexican place have a $5.99 special in our area.

Spiffy

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2018, 11:06:17 AM »
Edited to add: that doesn't sound like a cheap Mexican place.  Cheap would be $5.99 dinner special.

Except for taco bell, there is nothing else in our immediate area. I have never seen a sit down mexican place have a $5.99 special in our area.
I consider this is one of the few perks of living in central Texas...excellent and cheap Mexican food.

Noodle

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2018, 11:45:10 AM »
I think there are three different kinds of occasions--personal, family and friends.

You have total control over your personal celebrations. One possibility would be to pick one per year (your respective birthdays, anniversary or Valentine's) and make that the big deal event, and agree that the others will be more modest (a nice meal at home, etc). In fact, I have several family members where one spouse in the couple has a February birthday, and they specifically have their big celebration for the birthday because they don't like to deal with Valentine's crowding.

Family can be more difficult because family dynamics are complicated, or simpler because you can be honest with people you know really well (How about if we take Mom out for a special meal before Mother's Day when the restaurants are less crowded?) Sometimes the emotional cost of negotiating or disagreeing is greater than the financial cost.

With friends, you have a few options. You can take the lead and organize cheaper activities. A lot of times, people don't mind doing new things...they just aren't willing to take on the work and social costs (what if everybody hates it) of putting something new and different together. Especially if your group likes to eat out, you can also participate at your own level...skip the cocktails or desserts or get an appetizer (in this case you have to have a group that doesn't insist on evenly splitting the bill...) Bringing food and wine is even easier. A loaf of homemade bread is a special treat to most people, and very cheap to make. Or you could buy a case of a reasonably priced, generically nice wine that you keep for "dinner gifts."

Also, you may just be at the life stage where there is a lot of going out and you need to budget for it if you want to socialize...that often drops off as people's lives change, so the problem may resolve itself in a few years!

ooeei

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2018, 12:34:22 PM »
My SO and I started doing "family dinners" with friends rather than going out most of the time. We go over to one of our houses and cook/hang out. Sometimes I'll make homemade pizza, or we'll roll sushi. Last time one of the guys smoked pork shoulder and made some bread (before the get together). The cost of making pizza for 6-8 people is around $20-30, same as a restaurant meal for 2 people. We don't drink all that often anymore, but occasionally if someone asks what to bring I'll tell them a 6 pack.

27-29 year age range in the group. My buddy and his girlfriend go out and do things a lot and spend a good bit on it, but we don't feel guilty not joining. We meet up for dim sum or something like that every month or two, the rest of the time is at one of our homes.

Valentine's day out is always going to be expensive, because restaurants often change up their menu for that day. Why not make something at home and go out the next weekend?

As for the birthday, you paid other people to cook/serve/clean up after you all day, along with serving you drinks, and weirdly expensive bowling. I'd say you got a pretty good bargain to live what in most times would be the life of royalty. Brunch, then bowling, then cocktails/appetizers, then dinner is a pretty full day of eating out. The brunch seemed a bit pricey, and the bowling is ridiculous. If you want to cut costs without cutting experience, it's just a matter of not doing the little convenient things every time.  Don't get nachos with happy hour, get something smaller for brunch, etc etc.

It's like going to Top Golf, you can spend $10/person for 2 hours of golfing, $15 with a beer. If you want multiple beers and nachos and a few shots it can quickly shoot up to $50-100/person. Does having 3 beers, some shitty nachos, and a round of tequila shots make the event 5-10x more fun than 1 beer? Probably not, so don't do it. Be efficient about what return you're getting from your money.

Occasionally it's worth just not worrying about it and spending more than you should. Key word here: OCCASIONALLY. SO's birthday should almost if not always be one of these times.

There will always be a special event, or a friend who says "come on do it just this one time, we never see you!" If you have 10 friends you see once a month each, you'll have a "once a month" spending experience every 3 days. On average one of those friends will have a birthday every month, combined with yours. If they're doing something spendy just pretend you're on a diet or a "cook at home challenge" where you can't eat out for X amount of time (better yet, DO the challenge). Offer to cook them food at your house instead. Eventually they'll probably reciprocate. The first few months you probably won't save much money because it will often be at your house, then once they're into it you can suggest doing it at their place or ask them to bring sides/ingredients. Even offer to cook/help cook at their place if they get the supplies.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2018, 12:38:45 PM by ooeei »

MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2018, 01:46:34 PM »
We have kids, so we definitely don't go out together (just the adults) for many occasions. But, since we're adding two kids to the bill, and they have their own birthdays, it likely evens out. Here are some recent examples, as we've just had a bunch of birthdays & special events:

-My birthday. Went out as a family. Spent around $70 for 4 people. Went to a restaurant with a free corkage & brought our own nice wine.
-Gift. My husband bought me cupcakes, per my request. They are a totally unnecessary splurge, but I love them. Kids cleaned their rooms, which is a huge gift! Husband also bought me noise cancelling headphones, as I do a lot of international traveling.
-Kids birthdays. Neither have had a birthday party in 5ish years. They are about to age out of that phase, and both requested one this year. We agreed to do it, as they've been good about not complaining over the cheaper "sleepover only" options the past few years. Total cost for two bowling/pizza/gaming parties = $500. expensive, but again, super rare.
-Kids gifts. The party, plus we're doing a special travel experience together in June.
- Valentine's Day. My husband & I each wrote cards to each other. The kids opened a package my mom sent that contained a few treats & $10/each.

We are far from the most mustachian in the group, but our yearly budgets are as follows:
Dining out -$1440 (for the year)
Entertainment - $100 (for the year - this is a rare item for us)
Gifts - $750 (year)

We do have other bigger line items, like traveling & a separate "kids budget" for things like sports, activities, etc.

We have an unexpected evening home alone together (kids have a ride to a soccer tournament), but we'll make dinner together, open up a nice bottle of wine & listen to music. Going out is great & we enjoy it, but are trying to cut back on dining out as our only date option.

JJsfr

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2018, 08:47:49 AM »
I'm going to ignore all the"are your collective finances in order hair on fire" questions ringing alarm bells in my head to go on, to also mention that any person here will tell you that that amount of spending for food on a single day is ridiculous.

On the verge of relationship advice, you know who you are marrying and she sounds like a social butterfly. You can either fight her to not do these things (and lose) or as others mentioned find ways to curb costs.

From experience, you're going to have to be okay with spending money on special occasions, as for the butterfly they are a necessity. Learn to cook to be able to do the"fancy"meals at home, while leaving restaurants to be the experience of something you don't know how to do.

One day the weddings will stop, or they won't. I married somebody who found weddings the most important thing to go to, so we found a way to get to them all without breaking the bank (hint: credit card churning).

Don't worry, at some point you two will hit your stride.

okits

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2018, 10:05:45 PM »
We don't go out for holidays everyone celebrates (Valentine's Day, Mother's/Father's Day, Easter, etc.)  Inexpensive gift (or something nicer we were going to buy anyway) and cook a special meal at home.  This has pushed me to up my cooking game considerably.

Does your fiancée need a whole day out and $200 of spending to feel loved, special, celebrated, and happy for her birthday?  Would brunch alone have been enough?  An easy way to save is to reduce spending on your own birthday.  I am waging a slow campaign for no gifts and homemade cards only for my birthday, Mother's Day, etc.  DH is having some trouble adjusting but I'm making progress.

Going to your friends' homes is still a money saver if you bring food or wine.  If they're never willing to come to you (and don't have reasonable impediments to doing so), consider how much time you want to devote to these low-effort friendships.  You can make new, casual friends with people that live nearer to you.

Goldielocks

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2018, 11:55:19 PM »
Thank you both for the suggestions so far! I work from home, so at night I am always looking to get out of the house. I do go to crossfit - another unmustachian thing, however, love it and it works for me.

I guess I find that we do not do many free things. Even meeting up with our friends for a hike will end up with us going to a winery or eating out spending more money. I live near Baltimore, MD and in the winter we go bowling since it is indoors. Occasionally, I find a groupon or the bowling alley has a special promo. The eating out kills us but at the same time we go out for the social aspect. Our friends pretty much always want to meetup through eating.

By the way I am 29 and my SO is 33 with no kids. Like I said, I work from home so perhaps I need to look at meetup.com for something more frugal to do than eating out.

Perhaps we are using the holidays as an excuse. I am going to try to find alternatives in our area.

Whoa!  A lot of excuses and a lot of spending.  I presume you don't like spending this much because you wrote about it here.

DH and I have a budget for weekly date nights.  Special occassions come out of this.  We will just go for a walk or to the cheap theatre one week if we have a more expensive date planned for the next week.

The birthday did have MANY activities. 
Why did you not bowl closer to home?  Arrange your lifestyle around where you live.  Move closer in to a smaller place if you are always commuting is just one option. 
Why did you not take some food / snacks or picnic meal from home to reduce the amount of eating out...
If birthday is coming up, why do you need to eat out for Valentine's day AND go out for an elaborate birthday day?

If you really prioritize these outings and holiday / wedding / crossfit expenses, you just need to create a budget.  Start with "pay yourself" for your long term goals, then put these (entertainment) expenses in, and then reduce the remainder of your spending to make it all fit.  AND STICK TO IT.  No more surprise expenses.

Most of us on this forum prioritize other items (like FI or FIRE) higher than lots of money for "occassions", or have less $ to spend initially, or have more dependents or other costs.



kimmarg

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #15 on: February 24, 2018, 04:54:50 AM »
Make sure you know what is important to the other person. I"m meh on Valentines day and mother's day. If the hubby and kiddo want to do a card, that's fine.  Anniversary is typically our big OUT meal of the year.  For birthdays typically the other spouse goes to the grocery store and splurges on top ingredients for a nice meal. Even good steaks that are $$$ are less at home than a restaurant. 

Also this is a stage. Once someone in the group has a kid you will all be glued to the couch/pack n play and it gets much cheaper. typical get together for us and our friends with kids is go over to other familys house and alternate who brings a 6 pack for adults.

EconDiva

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Re: Spending for Birthday, Special Occasions, and Friend Get Togethers
« Reply #16 on: February 24, 2018, 06:47:53 AM »
I didn't read all of the posts but have a question:  How far away do you live from your friends?  You said you could invite them over but they would complain about having to drive too far.

So how about instead you do something at one of the friends' houses that is centrally located? 

Also, I don't how much you share with your close social circle about savings, etc.  But for instance, if I let any of my close friends know I'm trying to save money, they consider this when wanting to get together.  For instance, I had a friend I'd usually go catch up with over dinner suggest we go for a walk in the park instead which was great.  And one time suggested a lunch special over a more expensive dinner (and asked if it was ok before we went).

I understand everyone has their tolerance for what they are willing to share, but I was curious about this as socializing can really impact your budget and it helps for the people you know to be understanding about it as I have found that good friends tend to be considerate of this once they know this is important to you.  Just a thought.