To Budget or Not to Budget for a $500 Dinner

From: Best friend from childhood who lives across the country who you only see about once a year
Subject: Marathon
To: B. Benson

Bob! My sister is running the New York Marathon in November so my family is flying in to cheer her on. Make sure you’re free that weekend!

 

From: B. Benson
Subject: Re: Marathon
To: BFFCWLATCWYOSAOAY

Hey, you’re coming!? I’m totally excited to see you. I can help make posters like we did way back when we were in student government together. What are you planning on doing while you’re here?

 

From: BFFCWLATCWYOSAOAY
Subject: Re: Marathon
To: B. Benson

EATING. We’re going to celebrate after my sister finishes the marathon—want to come to dinner with us?

 

From: B. Benson
Subject: Re: Marathon
To: BFFCWLATCWYOSAOAY

Um. YES. I’m always up for a good meal!

 

From: BFFCWLATCWYOSAOAY
Subject: Re: Marathon
To: B. Benson

Oh, and I think we’re going to Per Se to celebrate!

 

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Googles Per Se Menu

•••

 

From: B. Benson
Subject: Re: Marathon
To: BFFCWLATCWYOSAOAY

I just tried to look at the menu, but couldn’t find prices (so annoyed when they do that). But this is expensive, right? Like, $300? LOL. EEEEEEK.

 

From: BFFCWLATCWYOSAOAY
Subject: Re: Marathon
To: B. Benson

Yes, but we’ll also probably order wine so it’ll be somewhere between $400-$500. But service is included! It’s not cheap.

 

From: B. Benson
Subject: Re: Marathon
To: BFFCWLATCWYOSAOAY

WELL IF SERVICE IS INCLUDED… Uh, the most I have ever spent on dinner was $200, and that was because I was trying to be a gentleman and paying for a date! Can I think about this?

 

From: BFFCWLATCWYOSAOAY
Subject: Re: Marathon
To: B. Benson

Okay, let me know ASAP, though, because reservations are hard to get. I know it’s a lot! I’m dipping into savings and canceling my Netflix account.

 

From: B. Benson
Subject: Re: Marathon
To: BFFCWLATCWYOSAOAY

$500 is, like, six years worth of Netflix!

 

From: BFFCWLATCWYOSAOAY
Subject: Re: Marathon
To: B. Benson

LOL. I KNOW. But I probably won’t get to see my sister for a long time after this because she is moving overseas for a job, so this is one big blowout for her, basically. If it’s too expensive, I’m sure my parents will be happy to help cover you.

 

From: B. Benson
Subject: Re: Marathon
To: BFFCWLATCWYOSAOAY

Oh, wow, that’s super generous, but I would not feel at all comfortable having your parents spend that much on me. I’m just going to be really honest here and say that I could probably save enough money to do this, but I also feel weird spending that much money on one dinner. How about I pass on this and I take you out for burgers when you are here?

 

From: BFFCWLATCWYOSAOAY
Subject: Re: Marathon
To: B. Benson

Yes, of course. Also, OMG, BOB, I just realized how crazy it was that I asked you to come to a $500 per person dinner and was like, “JUST BUDGET FOR THIS.”

 

From: B. Benson
Subject: Re: Marathon
To: BFFCWLATCWYOSAOAY

LOLOLOL. I seriously thought about it! But I’m equally excited about burgers! My treat! I’m willing to spend a whole $20 at the Shake Shack on you!

 

 

Related: How I Saved For Dinner at Eleven Madison Park

B. Benson is an office drone. Photo: Kowarski

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24 Comments / Post A Comment

andnowlights (#2,902)

Oh man, I would have saved and saved and saved to go! Per Se is one of the restaurants we didn’t make it to when we lived in the NYC area (by that I mean: lived 90 minutes by train) and I’m so sad. We went to Le Bernadin, and we went to the Catbird Seat here in Nashville. My biggest regret about our trip to CA last year is that we didn’t go to the French Laundry. I kick myself about once a week about that.

… I think I really have a food problem, though. So it’s probably not worth it to most people to spend that much on a meal. Totally understandable!

heavyrotation (#4,261)

This exchange was great! Sometimes I worry about all the posts you see on sites (not necessarily here) about demanding friends who don’t understand people making le$$.

Caitlin with a C (#3,578)

Um, that’s insane. (Actually, now that I think about it, I agreed to a $150 birthday dinner in a city 2 hours away for a friend’s spouse’s birthday not too long ago, so I have no room to talk.)

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

I felt physically relieved when you decided to go to Shake Shack instead.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@wrappedupinbooks Days late but it’s important to tell you this is the best comment. Maybe ever. Maybe anywhere.

zeytin (#4,005)

Man, I find it strange that the friend didn’t notify you up front about the nature of this meal. Like, “Hey you are also welcome to join us for dinner but it will be pretty expensive per head so I understand if that is too much of a commitment.” What if you hadn’t googled it and had just assumed it was a normal-fancy restaurant. WHAT THEN?

Nope nope nope nope. $500 is out of control for one meal. I’m grossed out that there is so much excess, and so many poor people. I get it, I GET IT, it’s great. But it’s also great because our brains are stupid and it costs 500 and that makes us enjoy it more. MADNESS.

laluchita (#2,195)

I paid $500 for a two person dinner once in my life, for dinner at Alinea, and it was pretty awesome… We had a little money left over from my partner’s fellowship, and we just decided to go for it. It was an incredible meal, personalized for our dietary restrictions (he’s veg) and it ended with Grant Achatz exploding a dessert egg on our table. I will probably never do it again, but it was a really incredible like, 3 hour experience, for what we would have paid to go away to a friend’s weekend wedding.

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

I have been guilted into super expensive dinners before. The thing is, even if you can budget for it, it’s really something you want to do on your own terms rather than tag along with someone else’s party. Good for you for getting out of it in a reasonable way. I would have probably faked my death or something equally ridiculous.

Christy (#3,892)

@EvanDeSimone Yes, exactly this. Super expensive dinners are awesome when they’re on your own terms. When you’re a tag-along, not so much.

Bonnie St. Clair (#2,949)

@EvanDeSimone Yeah, everybody being on the same page, both in (of course) ability to pay but also being there on their own terms and wanting to spend that much on a meal, seems key! It would just be an unpleasant experience otherwise, for the person who can’t/doesn’t want to pay that much but also for the other people at the table as well, I would think.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@EvanDeSimone RIGHT. Right.

clo (#4,196)

Correct choice B Benson. Also, this friend is terrible. Have fun at shake shack. I get mad when people force me to spend $100 on a birthday dinner so this is totally insane to me.

eraserface (#1,628)

For my husband-then-boyfriend’s 21st birthday, his parents’ gift was for us to have dinner at Citronelle, which Dcers will know is very expensive. I think it was like $300 for the two of us, and a meal I’ll never forget. But– if that were our own money to spend on it? NOPE. I am very skeptical of the correlation between cost and quality when it comes to food. Because when it costs $10 to make BUCKETS of falafel, $50 for a fancy burger is just funny.

amaeve (#5,095)

I honestly didn’t even know $500 dinners existed. That’s my entire paycheck!

athens_baby (#2,527)

Ha, I loved that at least by the end your friend came around and realized what an ABSURD request that is! Nice ending to the story!

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

Great story. I was very pleased to read the “no thanks” at the end.

CubeRootOfPi (#1,098)

I liked the fact that the author said no (and not in an indignant way) and the fact that the friend realized that it wasn’t a reasonable request.

Ellie (#62)

@CubeRootOfPi Was it really an unreasonable request? (I think it was an invitation not a request, even) I mean, the author thought about it – seems like it wasn’t totally out of the realm of possibility. So totally reasonable to decline, but maybe not unreasonable to at least invite.

I’ve been to one or two ultra-fancy meals in my lifetime and I have to say, from an economic perspective, saving up for high-end meals is not the best way to maximize your food enjoyment!

Think about how good a $100 meal is compared to a $50 meal. It would be hard to find a dinner for $10, or even $20, that’s anywhere close to as good as the $50 one. But it’s entirely possible to have a $50 meal that’s much better than a $100 meal. And even if you’re getting the best meal that $100 can buy, it’s still going to be pretty good compared to the best meal that $250 can buy (i.e. it’s unlikely that the $250 meal is 2.5 times better). Now is a $500 meal better than a $250 meal? Probably. But is it better than five $100 meals? Is it better than 10 $50 meals? Definitely not.

Basically what I’m saying is, get a $500 Shake Shack gift card and eat like a king for the next six months.

Lily Rowan (#70)

I admit that BY FAR the best meal I have ever had was also the most expensive, but it was not $500. It was hundreds of dollars, though. But it was my plan to go!

Lindy (#4,428)

Saving for my meal at Per Se = a year.
Eating at Per Se = 4 drunken, sybaritic hours.
I will never do it again. I am so glad I did it once.

honey cowl (#1,510)

Maybe for, like, a meal celebrating my own personal engagement or wedding or first goddamn child. But the most I can ever remember spending on a meal is $150 for two. Dick’s is right down the street and delicious hamburgers cost us $15 for the two of us.

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