If someone is paid to talk to me, does that mean they’re not really socialising with me?

It’s too soon to say how I’ve done with last week’s task which is a 30% spend reduction between now and Easter.

I’m going after my most guilty pleasures — not my fixed costs like rent and bills and not my daily/weekly usuals like groceries or public transport, but rather the hard core elements of my consumerist tendencies, the most discretionary elements of my discretionary spend.

On my Counting Zero’s tracker there are 2 sections that fall under the spotlight in this effort.  What I label “social” and what I label “special”.

  • The special section breaks down into holiday and travel costs, all gifts, classes I might take and any material items I buy such as clothes or books or household items. It’s entirely possible that on any given week the subtotal section for this section is zero, which is why I haven’t made it the sole focus for this task — it would be too easy for me to do a good job of it. However, the reason why it’s labelled special is that when I do spend in this section the line items can be hefty. According to my tracker, more than half the weeks that have passed since Counting 000’s kicked off involved damage in this section.
  • The social section might seem self-evident, except that I have a category in here that might be suprising. There’s the usual socialising costs which I break down into dinners out, just drinks, movies, occasional taxis (not a particular £ crime for me) and special events (I rarely go to the theatre, so tickets for things like that count as a special event.) And then there’s the less obvious “social” category of meals out ALONE. Given that I’d otherwise been eating IN alone for most of these (rather than say entertaining back at my house, which is rare), going out to eat alone counts as social in my book.

Not everyone has the temperment to walk into a restaurant by themselves especially after nightfall and take a table for one. I will. And I do it for 3 reasons:

  1. I’m lazy when it comes to food
  2. I like to be “in the world” when doing solitary things like writing
  3. It’s genetic. My father is the same.

Now admittedly, since he’s remarried, he only dines alone when travelling, but his desire to eat out and to eat out in the same place All The Time (at times for breakfast, lunch, dinner with or without company) is something friends also notice about me. Between us, my father and I have more familiar relationships with certain waiters and waitresses than is normal.

Obviously dining out isn’t cheap. Even if cheap places to eat are often the best, it’s still more expensive than grocery shopping and cooking. But in the life I lead (and with the genes I have) my default is to eat out. Yes, really. It’s my default. I’m not kidding.

For readers that don’t know this about me already, I’ve been meaning to confess it for a while since clearly there are Counting 000’s implications for this extravagance. I’ve kept my mouth shut till now because I’m aware this confession might invite a backlash. Yes, I know it’s my money. But if I’m critically examining my financial fuckwittery, surely this might be the first line item to wipe out.


That’s the whole point of Counting 000’s.

Before anyone gets any crazy ideas about how much of my life I live in restaurants (where I always bring a piece of writing I’m working on), BIF, my employer, provides a free lunch everyday and I don’t really do breakfast, so I’m mostly talking about weekend brunches and evening meals. And I’m not talking every weekend or every evening — just a lot of them compared with other people I know — especially all those people out there who wouldn’t dream of dining alone in public, which is a lot of people. Coffee, sure. Dinner? Not so much.

So, as I was saying these are the categories of spend under special consideration for the next 6 weeks, where I will reduce my spending by 30 per cent and work out whether I should make this a more permanent change in lifestyle.

2 thoughts on “If someone is paid to talk to me, does that mean they’re not really socialising with me?

  1. Eating out on my own is one of my biggest expenses too. If left unchecked and I had no finacial pressures I would do it far too often.

    If lunch time comes and I haven’t got a packed lunch I will find a cafe and get an all day breakfast or omelette, chips and beans. The same goes for if I have time to kill in the morning and I have, as us my natural tendency, skipped eating breakfast first thing.

    And the theories all the “essential” eating out situations. I like hot food. I’ll happily eat hot food 3 meals a day. If, because of gigs or general busyness I have to eat both lunch and dinner out, I can never face 2 packed lunches. One has to be hot. And that generally means portable warm junk food to be eaten on benches or trains. There’s a kebab shop in Palmers Green I like. Or else there’s the various fast but satisfying food establishments housed in Liverpool street station.

    None if the above us good for the waistline or the wallet.

    If I had more money I would happily eat out alone in resteraunts. That seems great to me. But I need a wall up. When I eat out I have my headphones and my podcasts, I have my smartphone and the Internet. I like the ease of the food made by others, and the speed of it coming to me, the lack of hassle, even the people watching, but Iike to feel like I am not wholly there. That I am not part of the social environment around me. That I am an observer immersed in my own world. Sorting out my emails and surfing the net. Listening to people whisper ideas and emotions into my ears.

    1. I agree re the wall. For me that wall is helped by getting a corner or sitting at a counter / bar so have a view onto the room but am tucked away with my laptop (or less often these days, good ol’ trusty notebook). It’s one of the reasons I’d really miss not being in a city or a place big and anonymous enough that I’ve options of where to go out for food and to write (or people watch for ideas…)

      Before I’d even picked the spend less card I’d been cutting down on eating out anyway. In part because I’ve been making it to the grocery shop more these days so I have the option of eating in (ie there’s actually food in the house and sometimes just need fuel now and not in mood to make a little event of it) … But also I’ve consciously chosen to go out less so that it remains an “event” — something to look fwd to.

      I’ve been thinking that more restaurants / diners should have longer counter tops or tables set up for solo dining. Not just for writers but thanks to technology lots of ppl seem to want that coffee shop option of getting work or other catch up time on their own — but out and about ….

      Or maybe there’s just more solo ppl these days — still, I reckon an ipad in hand makes the timid feel “safer” sitting alone

      Airport lounges are set up for this since many business travelers are eating and working alone …

      Not sure it makes sense in terms of restaurant revenue to encourage our behaviour

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