Being a young urban professional, we often try to keep an image of success to other people, specially to our colleagues and friends. As a result, we sometimes pressure ourselves to show that we are earning good income and could afford luxuries often associated with people working in the corporate world.
The truth is, although you and your peers usually have the same range of salaries, your personal expenses might not be the same. And because of this, it would sometimes become a burden to keep up with the expensive lifestyle of colleagues and friends who have less financial responsibilities.
One example of such social pressure is eating out. I remember when I was still an employee, I would often go out for lunch with my officemates. It would be an instant buffet treat if our boss was with us but most of the time, it would only be just me and my workmates. As much as I wanted to decline their invitations, I’m also aware that these situations are opportunities to foster camaraderie among your peers.
Thus the dilemma: Do I choose to be frugal and stay in or choose to strengthen my social relationships and eat out?
Fortunately, in the years I’ve spent in the corporate world, I’ve managed to find little ways on how to compromise both choices. I’ve compiled a list of effective techniques to lessen my food expenses when eating out and I’d like to share some of them. I hope that you will find them helpful.
Avoid eating out.
This is actually common sense. On a personal level, it simply requires self-discipline. But on a social level, declining an invitation from a peer can be difficult. So how do you excuse yourself from eating out with your officemates?
- “I woke up early and decided to pack myself lunch.” (Just be sure you really have one.)
- “I want to catch some sleep during lunch break.” (Helps increase afternoon productivity too.)
What about invites from your friends?
- “I already ate but I’d like to come.” (Eat at home then join your friends, wise huh?)
- “I’d like to spend time with you guys but I’m not in the mood to go out. Why don’t we just meet and stay in someone’s place?” (If it’s not too much hassle, offer yours and host the potluck house party.)
You can try this in both cases:
- “I’m trying to watch my budget and lessen my expenses, maybe next time.” (Yes, honesty works too.)
Know your terrain.
Fortunately, there are many good places to eat nowadays that are not so expensive. Be always on the lookout for these frugal chows. If a new place catches your interest, go ahead and take a peek at their menu prices even if you’re not planning to eat. You could just tell them that you’re scouting for a place where you could bring your friends one of these days. When you’re equipped with this knowledge, you can now use them in battle.
- “Where are we eating?” (Always ask when invited so you’d know if you can afford to join.)
- “Hey, I know this great place…” (Just make sure that it’s really a great place.)
“I’m on a diet” is already a cliché.
Don’t make this excuse to explain why you’ve ordered so little. It’s not believable and quite overused. When faced with an expensive menu, go for the vegetables which are usually the cheapest items but nevertheless filling to the stomach. When teased about your order, you can use these lines:
- “I need the fiber because I’ve been eating a lot of meat for the past days.” (Good excuse, right?)
- “I’m going to a party tonight. Just reserving some space for the food later.” (Assuming it’s lunch.)
- “I find it hard to sleep on a full stomach.” (Assuming it’s dinner.)
Practice good eating habits by chewing your food thoroughly and eating slowly and you’ll feel full even with a small meal. Also if possible, stick to just drinking water. But if you feel left out because everyone’s ordering bottomless iced teas, then order a single serve drink. Your excuse?
- “I don’t like to feel bloated later.” (Not to mention the hassle of frequent trips to the bathroom.)
Everyone’s having dessert? See if you can share an order with someone or simply have tea or coffee, which is usually cheaper.
- “Let’s share, I don’t think I can finish a whole slice of cake.” (Works well when used to the weight conscious in the group.)
- “I’ll just have tea / coffee. I don’t have my sweet tooth right now.” (Your dentist will be glad as well.)
Exercise your math skills.
Before ordering, be sure that the group is clear if it’s going Dutch (in Filipino, KKB or Kanya-Kanyang Bayad), sharing the whole bill or a little of both. This will help you in effectively knowing your expense limitations. When someone wants to order something expensive for the group, there’s no harm in persuading the person to reconsider.
- “Can we order something else, I don’t feel like eating that.” (Then suggest a good but cheaper alternative.)
Furthermore, when billing out and it’s a Dutch treat, offer to be the one to collect the money. Get the order slip and compute for each one’s expense. Be sure to account for the taxes, service charge and an allowance for the tip. The reason why you’re doing this is because some people tend to give a little more than what they’re due. In the end, the excess becomes your gain. Remember to be honest with your computation and ask if they’re sure that they don’t want their change anymore.
Photos courtesy of phbascon.
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