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The question

My friend and his wife recently bought a home in Toronto and, as most people know, this is a massive financial investment. I have known them for many years and am quite proud of them for working hard to earn this. However, I have come to realize that they are (a term I recently learned) “house poor” and have become fairly tight/strategic with their money. They do not come out for drinks or dinner any more and almost all plans have to happen at their new home. While I understand people rightfully want to show off their new place, when I visit it is not the most hospitable environment. No snacks are offered, certainly no beverages, and my friend even asked if I can bring over some beer for him last time I visited. Should I say something or just wait until their financial situation improves?

The answer

Well, for starters, I don’t think it’s so horrible that your friend asks you to bring some beer when you come over. It should go without saying, should it not? That you should not show up “empty-handed?”

As to the rest of it … I can certainly relate.

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I probably never would have used the term, but, yes, I suppose you could say my wife and I are “house poor,” i.e. we own a house and people come over and may think “Oooh you must have money,” but the truth is we don’t.

We bought our home 20 years ago when the real-estate situation was a totally different. But even before we became homeowners and so-called “house-poor” I was not a fan of going out. I mean, I do like going out for Chinese food, because a) it’s relatively affordable, and b) I probably couldn’t recreate it at home.

But why would I pay $35 for a piece of veal dredged in flour; fried on one side then on the other, then squirted with lemon; and then to wash it down “Oh-ho-ho sir here’s your triple-the-normal-price bottle of wine”?

Nix. Ixnay. Why would I not simply enjoy a bottle of wine and some veal picatta where it’s a) cheap, b) affordable, c) cheap and d) the bottle of wine is list price? (i.e. at home).

For one thing, I don’t even want to think about what we pay on a nightly basis for the roof over our heads. Let me say simply: it is no joke. So why would one then turn around and cover someone else’s overheads in order to have a night out?

(I know, I understand: dishes. Dishes are important. But not so important that one might spend a week’s groceries on avoiding them.)

I discussed this with my wife earlier and she said “Dave you’re going to come off as an old fogey/fuddy-duddy,” but it’s not true: I’ve felt this way ever since I was in my 20s.

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I would much rather spend time in someone’s house than go out. Going out: it’s loud. You tend to have to yell. And when you go out you get ripped off. Sure, it’s nice, as I say, to avoid the eternal, immortal, unholy dishes – but at what price? $35 for a piece of veal you could fry yourself for $5? As well as $45 for a $15 bottle of wine? And that’s not even mentioning tax and tip.

Basically, I think you should enjoy and make merry going to your “house poor” friends’ house and dining in.

For one thing: Cheaper for you! Even if you have to bring beer and snacks, think of the money you’re saving compared to everyone going out to a restaurant.

Not only that, it’s nice to be “served” by people who know you, as opposed to people who (may secretly) despise you. (Maybe it’s me: I’ve always worried waiters and everyone else who has ever “served” me has secretly loathed me.)

So, no, I would not worry about whatever expense you incur, and would rather, as you imply, celebrate the fact your friends can afford a house in today’s crazy market.

Just go to your friends’ house, have fun, enjoy the fact you have a roof over your head (paid for by them) and no staff to cheek and cheat you.

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