Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mo' Money, Mo' Problems

Paying rent aside. Having a (social) life in New York City is expensive. Even when ... and especially when you are trying to budget in a faltering economy.

Last night, I joined friends visiting from North Carolina at Comix and laughed hysterically at jokes that my parents definitely would not have liked or appreciated. Entrance to the comedy club was free, but a two item minimum still put me over $20 with one appetizer and a glass of wine.

And tonight, I struggled internally with the financial headache of widely-accepted corporate dining etiquette. Excited to accept a dinner invitation with fellow executive assistants within our company, we dined at the posh Gaby Restaurant in the Sofitel New York. Having carefully chosen a soup and salad from the appetizer menu and split a carafe of wine, I gritted my teeth and added my credit card to the restaurant billfold when it was suggested that we split the bill five ways rather than itemize our charges, which included several $30+ entrees.

I generally find it tacky to itemize charges in a fine-dining restaurant, especially when the difference one might end up paying between their bill and someone else's is less than $5-10. It is often easier to simply split the bill equally throughout the table. As a waiter in an upscale establishment in Cashiers, NC, I was often annoyed listening to groups of old ladies argue over a $4-difference in the cost of their meals when splitting checks. However, it is equally aggravating when no one acknowledges that you ate a much cheaper appetizer course than the entrees that others ordered. Even more frustrating is the fact that you don't want to be the tacky one pointing out that you ate less, especially when dining out with colleagues. This is probably why I should get in the habit of carrying cash instead of regularly depending on my credit card.

Walking home to my Hell's Kitchen apartment, I regrettably lamented over the fact that I had spent over $60 in two days ... and just two days after I had sworn to better manage my money, cut down on brunches and happy hours, get fewer manicures and pedicures, and even chose a cheaper Halloween costume.

If you, too, are getting to know your inner Recessionista, visit City Wendy for tips on how to stay fabulous on a budget. I hope she adds tips on how to accept dinner invitations without getting stuck overpaying for your friends' or coworkers' sirloin steak. But when it comes to the cost of living in NYC, is there nothing to say but se la vie?

A Year Ago Today: No post
Two Years Ago Today:
Far from Rice Crispies
Midnight Police Raid


The Brooklyn Boy said...

In talking with my roommate last night about how we were trying to keep per-meal food spending down, I actually congratulated myself on only spending $80 from Friday to Sunday on going out. When I was upstate, $80 might have lasted me three weekends. Ridiculous. At least I'm living comfortable.

Anonymous said...

Had you invested in the market? If not, then why does the "faltering economy" affect you when your income is the same? Or is being budget conscious "in" right now.

KJS said...

Yes, I am invested in the market. However, I am young enough to ride the faltering economy out - assuming that the market will eventually correct itself - so I am not anxiously watching my 401(k), my IRAs and other investments.

However, as the market's decline is beginning to indirectly affect many other industries, I am trying to be more "budget conscious" and avoid the frivolous spending. And overall, continue to avoid consumer debt.

tiffany said...

great answer BYN!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for replying. It's always good for everyone to be on top of personal finances, but in your case, it's not suddenly more necessary is it? I have to agree, though, there's nothing more irritating than having to split the bill when you ordered far less than everyone else!

KJS said...

Thanks, Tiffany!

Anon, Oh ... it's likely going to affect me soon ... http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=132032


Anonymous said...

I think it's necessary to be budget-conscious in these times... for everyone. You might have your job this week, but not the next. It's more important now to save, and in order to do that you have to control your spending.