The Cost of Dining Out: My Extravagant Week
Hello again, my faithful followers. I hope your week has been sensational. Mine was full of alcohol, poor decisions, and spending too much money. So just a typical week for me, really.
The difference this week was that I had a friend visiting me from Ireland. Eoin (pronounced Owen— typical Irish mind games) and I have been friends since we were 9, and we lived together during our first summer in New York City in 2016.
That was a wild summer full of more alcohol and deviancy than I care to admit, and this week has been wonderfully reminiscent of our 21-year-old selves. He’s a great lad, and I’m so happy he came to visit. But I’ll be even happier when he goes home. LOL.
The Cost of Dining Out During Eoin’s Visit
During the seven days of his visit, I spent a total of $406.
I’ve reached peak bougie millennial lifestyle, and I don’t know if there’s any returning. I haven’t seen the inside of my refrigerator in days — I dread to think of the contents.
What groceries have I left to rot, with no consideration for the hungry all over the world?!
Wow, that got dark quickly. But back to how much ridiculous money I spent, so I can ignore the absolute audacity of it.
That amount — that $406 — includes discounted meals at bars I used to work at and a lot of free drinks, as well as drinks bought for me by friends. I’m looking at my bank account and wondering how it’s even possible I did this. Lord help me.
I enlisted the help of my Instagram and Snapchat saved photos to give me an inkling of where that money has gone. I realized how powerful social media is — not only does it help me keep up with others, but it’s also a great way of keeping tabs on myself, too. Scary, panic-inducing tabs that make me realize how my life is slowly spiraling out of control. But I digress.
With this pseudo slideshow, I’ll take you through the biggest expenses and the ones that were most worth it.
On our first day, which you can see in the photo at left of Eoin and me, we had a lovely catch-up over a bite to eat at my local bar. Since I know some of the bartenders, we got a couple of drinks on the house, as well as a hefty discount on the meal. (If you’re not so lucky as to be friends with your local bartenders, sites like Groupon and Ebates can still help you score deals.)
Since we didn’t spend much money, we were wide open for the evening to burn through our budget. (Not that I budget, mind you, but Eoin tried to. He kind of succeeded.) I won’t give out the name of that bar, or you’ll all hit up my local hangout looking for my bartending friends. I’m onto you, readers.
We had big plans to go wild that night, hitting up rooftop bar after rooftop bar after dive bar, catching up with friends we hadn’t seen in a while, and painting the town a noxious shade of shamrock green. But unsurprisingly, we ended up asleep by 8 p.m. And I didn’t even have the excuse of being jet lagged. I’m 23, and I’m already feeling old.
The second day saw us attempt to get up at the crack of dawn, but we rolled out closer to 10 a.m. With an IHOP around the block from my house, we couldn’t resist.
Then I remembered why I do usually resist, because IHOP is expensive and we felt so full after, we thought we would implode. Not even explode — just simply fold up into ourselves and disappear in a pop of humidity and grease. Gross.
The real highlight of the meal was the $4.99 glass of OJ that I’m still not over. That will haunt me for the rest of my days. I could buy at least a carton for that price. Stupid “IHOb” (LOL, they couldn’t even get a name change right.) Pancakes were mad good though.
The Statue of Liberty
I had the day off work, and even though I was missing out on cash, it was worth it to spend quality time with a good friend. We decided to head to see the Statue of Liberty and thought 12 p.m. was the perfect time of the day to waltz in, grab some tickets, and hop on a boat to see Lady Liberty herself.
I mean, I’m not a tourist anymore. I should have known that a million other people had the exact same idea that day, and that everyone else would be much more organized and would line up at a reasonable hour. Said line was at least two hours long, if not longer. We took one look at the line, one look at each other, and bolted for the Staten Island Ferry.
Look at the views you get (right) — and it’s absolutely free! It may not be as glamorous or as in-depth as the actual Liberty Island tour, but if you’re broke like we are, it’s the best alternative out there. Plus, it led to the masterpiece below.
A picture says a thousand words, and my Instagram caption takes that literally (and really, if you’re not following @centsai on Instagram yet, what are you doing with your life?). But yes, I paid $30, including 20 percent tip, for the “Miami Vice” Bulldog cocktail in the River Dock Cafe on Staten Island. It’s an eclectic mix of frozen margarita, strawberry, piña colada, and not one, but two bottles of Corona.
I’d like to thank Lady Liberty for being so popular that day, and leading us to explore the mall in Staten Island just as you get off the ferry. We’re not adventurous enough to explore the whole island. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat. New York was calling.
The Frying Pan at Pier 66
We ventured back into the city and decided to check in to the bar where Eoin and I worked during the summer of 2016. You may have heard of it, the marvelous Frying Pan at Pier 66 on the Hudson River. Do yourself a favor and check this place out this summer. You won’t regret it.
Once more, old coworkers and friends were happy to see us. They looked after us very well, if you know what I mean. That’s all I’ll say on the matter. But we left that day richer in food and drink than ever before!
The Cost of Dining Out When You’re Not Careful
So I thought I was doing really well. My pal had been over for two full days, and we’d barely spent a dime. I was flying high, and that led me to be a whole lot looser with my money than I might have been if the first two days had been as expensive as the next few.
The lesson here for me is that no matter how well things seem to be going, never get comfortable throwing money away just because you didn’t spend as much as you thought you would the days before. The money I didn’t spend could have been saved for the aftermath of my friend leaving, or the couple of days that I was down in my paycheck, but sadly I didn’t think that far ahead at the time.
I won’t bore you with a play by play, but I will show you the highlights, lowlights, and everything in between of my most extravagant week as the worst NYC tour guide ever.
The Hard Rock Cafe
We visited the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner one night because, of course, we felt it was a must-do. This bad boy brownie was a whopping 1,800 calories — smothered in whipped cream, hazelnuts, and ice cream — and cost $14. Worth every penny? We thought so. You be the judge.
We may have felt like we were going to die afterward, and it may or may not have spurred on another early night, but the less said about that, the better.
The rest of the time Eoin was here, we drank and ate like royalty. We racked up a bill of $140 in Little Italy, and that was with only one glass of wine each (though we had one other person with us, too).
We discovered Painkiller cocktails in a bar called The Johnson in Bushwick that were the strongest alcoholic concoctions I have ever had the good fortune — or misfortune, depending on how you look at it — of tasting. That led to a cheap night out, as we were all wasted three drinks later. I have proof. Sorry, Eoin! But at least we managed one financial triumph.
The Cost of Dining Out: Lessons Learned
The moral of the story is, my friends, that having friends and being sociable is damn expensive, but worth every penny. I did my best to anticipate the expenses I would incur during the week and tried to save as much as possible beforehand so that I could spend guilt-free while my friend was here.
It’s tough. You may have to work and meet your friend after, missing out on what feels like quality time that you’ll never get back. But you’ll be thankful when you’re derelict and eating ramen packets once a day, but have your next paycheck docked only a couple of days instead of the entire week.
All in all, I wish I had been a tiny bit more careful with my money, but we all know that was never going to happen. Any excuse to spend, and I’ll grab it with both hands and run. I do think the horror of being so broke after Eoin left has really taught me a lesson: I wasn’t the one on vacation, but I was spending money like I was. Normally, people on vacation have saved up a fund. I was just burning through my normal, everyday money like some kind of lunatic.
What I Should Have Done
Have you guys heard of the envelope saving method? It’s one way, in hindsight, that I wish I had prepared for my friend’s visit. You look at your discretionary income and divide it up among expenses like groceries, dining out, etc. Each category gets its own envelope, and you put the amount of cash you deem appropriate in each one. Once the cash in that envelope has been spent, you’ve reached your budget, and should allow yourself no more.
I could have labeled one “Eoin” and put money away each paycheck so that when he arrived, I had my set amount. Hindsight really is 20/20, aye?
Of course, there are times like these when a budget doesn’t always make sense because you’re working around another person whose time is limited. Eoin and I made a loose plan before he got here that really helped me manage my time, if not my money. Some people are beyond help, I guess.
What I also could have done, had I been clever in any way about it, is put away maybe $50 a week in the run-up to his visit. If I’d done that for three months before his visit — which is doable, as long-haul flights are usually booked at least that far in advance — I’d have had $600 labeled “Eoin Fund” that I could have happily tapped into to offset the cost of dining out.
What to Watch Out For
P.S. On the subject of friends visiting: If you live in New York or another big tourist trap, just watch all the messages pour in from people you haven’t heard from in years looking for favors like free accommodation, help to find a job or home, or just plain gossip. People love you when you’re fabulous and live in the big city.
I suppose I could always be a real bitch and start charging these nosy “acquaintances” to stay on our couch. People do it all the time, and my roommates and I could really use the extra income. But then what would we do when our real friends come to stay? Maybe we can start charging for floor space. LOL.