“I hate being cheap”: is it always okay to arrive at a friend’s house for dinner with only one bottle of wine?

By Quentin Fottrell

“I’ve thought a lot about the cost of living and how house prices, rents and food prices contribute to how we socialize with friends”

Dear Quentin,

I’ve thought a lot about the cost of living and how house, rent, and food prices contribute to how we socialize with friends. I’ve been a longtime reader of your column, and took note a few years ago about the death of the $1 tip. As a result, I always give $2 or more to a groom or bartender. Today I have a question on the same topic.

With skyrocketing inflation, is it still acceptable to arrive at a friend’s house for dinner with a single bottle of wine? I ask because on a recent visit to these neighbors, a friend of theirs arrived with two bottles of champagne, three different cheeses, and flowers. I was holding a two-year-old bottle of red wine from my little “cellar” (kitchen cupboard).

I’m lucky to have neighbors who water my plants when I’m away – and vice versa – and sometimes invite us over for a drink if they have out-of-town visitors. I’m a retiree, 67, and I’m happy to be on the guest list, if I’m being honest. I appreciate their friendship and look forward to meeting new people at their place. Retirement can get pretty lonely.

I’m also trying to reciprocate, but I don’t know as many people in our town as these friendly neighbors, and they’re all couples who seem to have very little time between their second homes, golf clubs, tennis clubs and their own groups of friends. I lead a simple life. I have a cat and a family that lives out of state, and a few college friends scattered across the country.

Maybe I’m insecure or worrying unnecessarily, but I hate being cheap. Am I a stingy?

One wine lover, tip $2

Dear wine lover,

Since you don’t attend many dinner parties in your neighborhood, it’s understandable that you’ll feel sensitive about whether you’re bringing enough of your “A Game” to the party, or just bringing enough wine. Inflation is not slowing to a pace that seems to satisfy analysts at the US Federal Reserve or Wall Street. It rose 8.2% in September, down slightly from 8.3% in August, but this figure does not bode well for a significant cooling in October.

When we place such high value on something – a job interview, a first date, new friends, good neighbors – it can bring out our insecurities and put unnecessary pressure on us to perform when everything we have to do is ask questions. , listen to what others are saying and get involved. We all have feelings of self-doubt, and they come and go over time. Even the most confident and exuberant guests may have doubts about their sparkling conversation or the quality of their wine.

Whether or not you decide to bring an extra bottle depends on the lavishness of the culinary production and your relationship with the friend.

As lifestyle magazine Real Simple pointed out earlier this year to help keep readers entertained on budgets of all sizes, $100 will get you “snack olives for guests upon arrival, and arugula salad with goat cheese, walnuts and pomegranate seeds for a first course; stuffed Cornish hens with parsley potatoes and green beans are the main course; with a lemon pound cake for dessert. (And there’s also a bottle of Pinot Noir!)”

In this case, you can bring a good bottle of wine – not the cheapest on the market – and a piece of Stilton or some flowers.

For $25, hosts could cook mushroom risotto and give each of their guests a glass of wine, complete with guests bringing their own bottles. But what well-behaved host wants to risk running out of drinks? Or tell their guests that – sorry, folks – one glass of wine is your limit? It’s like turning the light on and off, like they do in an Irish pub, and saying to surprised guests, “You don’t have a house to go to because I have a bed to go to!”

In this scenario, one bottle is enough, and the knowledge that the host can have more dinners if they stick to their budget. I’d rather go to a modest dinner with an interesting, lively host than an extravagant dinner with a bunch of boring people who insist on telling you their opinions on everything from politics to gossip.

If you’re cooking for four people and providing alcohol, appetizers and dessert, and you’re not Gordon Ramsey or Julia Child, you can – like me – cut some corners on the preparation. So you risk spending even more. The greatest pleasure when a guest walks through your door is when they smile, showing their obvious pleasure to be there.

If it’s your first time at their place, it’s always a great start to the evening to arrive with wine and flowers. Sometimes I also pick up a book I like on the way. It’s nice to share literature that inspires or moves you. It doesn’t have to be a new book either. You can choose one from your library. Houses are full of books that have only been read once and are begging to be read again and again – and by a new set of eyes each time.

If you’re a regular visitor – the kind of friend you watch TV with together and meet several times a month – a bottle of wine is fine, or even the offer of a salad or dessert as an alternative, especially if it’s mid-week and neither of you want to wake up with a heavy head.

If you want to show your appreciation for landing on your neighbor’s guest list and not getting so many invites, putting in a little extra effort will keep you at the top of their list, especially considering the increased cost of food. (Grocery prices just saw their biggest price hike since 1979. Extreme heat, supply chain issues, among other things, have all had an impact on prices. Some items have gone up by as much as 40%)

Your other problem can strike you at any time in life, but retirement can be a particularly vulnerable time. Loneliness can take over you. It can happen when you are surrounded by people, but you don’t feel welcomed and/or truly connected to them. It’s an epidemic in rural areas, and it’s also prevalent in big cities where people live on top of each other.

Sometimes lonely people turn to Facebook (META) and other social media – and while it connects them to the world, it can also be the emotional equivalent of empty calories. You’ve retired away from familiar faces, your routine is gone, and you’re naturally rebuilding your social life. Socializing in groups (walking clubs, bridge meetings, local retirement groups, online MeetUps) and being of service to others (volunteering at a local soup kitchen, etc.) can all help.

Being on a strict budget adds more pressure. People are reducing. Retail sales fell in September, a sign that the economy could slow in the coming months as consumers cut spending in the face of 40-year-high inflation and the end of pandemic-era government stimulus programs. Retail sales, a major part of consumer spending, are being watched closely as a sign of consumer sentiment and financial health. They increased by 8.2% over the year.

Not everyone can afford to bring two bottles of wine and a selection of cheeses to dinner, but we can all bring the best version of ourselves: showing our appreciation for our host’s table and food, asking questions, share ideas, avoid complaining about anything that’s wrong with the world (except for Twitter TWTR or, better yet, therapy), and make sure anyone who may seem uncomfortable is supported.

A kind word, a note of thanks, and a thoughtful gift, no matter how small, can go farther than a second bottle of an expensive pinot noir, even in a time of rising prices.

Check out the private Moneyist Facebook group, where we seek answers to life’s trickiest money problems. Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Ask your questions, tell me what you want to know more or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets not being able to answer the questions individually.

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-Quentin Fottrell


(END) Dow Jones Newswire

10-16-22 1315ET

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