Broke teachers don’t go to fancy restaurants…

“Can you go out to eat?” You want to see your non-teacher friends, but you know how this plays out. Everyone eats and drinks… then the bill comes and you have to split it five ways.

I want to go.  But the last time I went to that restaurant the it was a hundred bucks. So, you say no.

It’s easy going out with teacher friends. You order a round of waters and split one appetizer. Do you fear going to restaurants with your not-broke friends?

The goal of this site is for you to fatten your wallet. But, even if you’re not there, I want you to live a better life, without fear. If you keep on making up excuses then staying home watching Netflix, you’re going to run out of friends. I want you to go out without your other friends feeling like they’ve got to foot the bill for their broke teacher friend.

You can be a broke teacher with not-so-broke friends.  The secret is finding balance.

If you keep blowing everyone off, they’ll stop reaching out to you, but it’s tough to say yes all the time, too.  There’s a real temptation to keep up with your bigger-budget friends. Stretching your finances beyond the healthy zone is always a bad idea.  It’s a fine line between saying yes and pushing it once in a while.  Most of us have been in a position where our friends picked up the bill, but we couldn’t reciprocate next time around.

Over time, I want you to see your teacher skills as something you can use to make money outside the classroom, because the real solution to this is for you to make the amount of money you need to live out your lifestyle goals–take a side gig that pays for vacation, project manage something that’ll give you the funds you need for your new car or fancy wine collection. Whatever your goals–I want you to get there.

But for now…you can still go out with your less broke friends. Broke teachers shouldn’t have to sit home and watch Food Network chefs.  With a few BrokeTeacher hints, you can go out to eat, too.  You just have to do it cleverly to survive.

These are time tested hacks I learned fresh out of college. My first job crew was a big happy hour crew. I was a vegetarian who didn’t drink. After a while, I got tired of paying my share of a really really big bill when I only wanted a salad and an iced tea.  This works in all situations.

How to go out without going broke:

Go to lunch instead of dinner

Restaurants are much cheaper at lunch.  They have a lunch portions and specials.  Steer the invite to earlier in the day.

“I’m booked for dinner, but I have tomorrow lunch free.  I’d really love to see you!”  That works better than, “Nah…I’m broke,” which will only make your friends feel bad and stay away.  A few Hollywood lines make all the difference in the world.

Look for specials

Restaurants often run specials on less busy days of the week.  If Tuesday’s Two-for-One night with a bottle of wine, go on Tuesday.

To do this, you have to take charge. Usually, everyone stands around asking everyone else what they want to do. Be the person to say, “Let’s go to Joe’s on Tuesday.”  If someone counters with Friday at a place you can’t yet afford, say, “Sorry, Friday’s booked. Do you have availability next Tuesday, then?” Your non-teacher friends live and die by their calendar, so they won’t think this is about money at all.

Find a dive

There’s always a favorite dive in town.  We had Dave’s Bar and Grill–a cross between a high school (with beer) and Cheers.  Everyone in town was there, and prices were low. Today, there’s a local coffee shop we go to. Find spot like that and make it The Spot.

Ask for a separate check

Ask the server ahead of time for a separate check. You can do this without it looking cheap by saying, “I’m going to deduct this under my consulting business.”  I really do have an LLC, and I really do consult, so I often  have legitimate tax deductions. We’ll talk about that later in a different post. For now, know this–your friends who aren’t teachers often have expense reports and deductions. So, this will look natural.

Now, you can relax and order what you’d like.

Go for the appetizers

Appetizers are often full meals in themselves.  I prefer them because I don’t eat meat and appetizer menus usually have more choices. If the goal is saving a bit, this’ll work.

Don’t drink

Nothing runs up a restaurant tab like booze. If you’re trying to watch the bottom line for a bit and still go out in style, limit your alcohol or avoid it completely. This isn’t always easy–certain circles put out a lot of peer pressure to drink. But, today you can cry “paleo,” “keto” or “designated driver,” without losing face.

I once had someone tell me, “You only live a mile down the road…you can drink.”  But today, happy hour culture is changing.  I keep getting ads for mocktails, and there are “sober bars” that replicate bars–with upscale drinks, and no alcohol.  Especially post-pandemic… you can easily skip the drinks.

Skipping drinks  knocks ten to fifty dollars off your bill right there.

Pick up the check first and carry small bills

Don’t panic if you failed to get a separate check and your part of a five-way split will equals your car payment.  This used to happen to me all the time with the happy hour crew. I developed a strategy for that.

I’d pick up the check first, scan for my items and plop down the cash, including a generous tip.  Before they  scratched their heads over the “split five ways” math, I’d say, “Mine was twelve so I put in twenty.” Then, they’d divide the rest by four.  Most times I’m pretty transparent about what I want to spend, but this was a regular thing with a hard partying crowd, so I had to set boundaries.

This works best  if you always have cash on hand.  If you can quickly put down a twenty and a five, it’s a win every time.  If you’ve got to go to the bar for change it’ll look clunky, and if you only have a card, you could end up footing the whole bill because it’s probably your turn to pay.

Everyone’ll say “Thanks,” and you’ll end up with a check you couldn’t afford to pay.

Use payment apps

There are “split the bill” apps in many restaurants. Or, you can use Venmo.

Skip the restaurant entirely

Have a nice dinner party at your house. Have a standing date.  Do a movie night, barbecue, stock the bar party, or book club with appetizers. Have fun with good food, drinks, friends, and conversation–all for a fraction of the cost of restaurants!

Go! Be Social!

You don’t need to worry about your finances to be social. With a little prior planning, your friends will never feel pity hanging out with a broke teacher.

And remember…the goal here isn’t to be a broke teacher, it’s to get through this period and be a “formerly broke teacher” as soon as humanly possible!  When that happens, you’ll be buying dinner for your friends.