Yesterday, I spent the afternoon in Newport, Rhode Island to celebrate my friend’s birthday. I feel like there is an unspoken rule to pay for the birthday girl. I have no problem with spoiling my friends on their big day, everyone deserves some TLC once in a while. But I started to worry when I saw the first price tag of the day. I was shocked to see how quickly my money was going.

What is the appropriate amount of money to spend on your friend for a birthday? And if you get to your limit, is it rude to say you’re done paying for the day?

My friends and I made our first stop at an oyster bar with a beautiful outdoor dining area and a gorgeous view of downtown Newport. It wasn’t discussed, but it goes without saying, that the birthday girl does not have to pay. After we enjoyed some shrimp cocktail, calamari, crab cakes, and cocktails, the server dropped off the little black book. The birthday girl is polite, so she reached for her purse, but my friends and I stopped her in her tracks. Without skipping a beat, we whipped out our cards, ready to split the bill three ways instead of four.

Don’t forget, we are in Newport, so the bill wasn’t cheap. I was fully prepared to treat my friend, but I didn’t want to break the bank, either, so anxiety set in. I felt like there was no polite way to say I couldn’t afford to spoil her anymore. I didn’t expect to reach my limit so quickly and I felt guilty that I may not be able to contribute for the rest of the day.

By the end of the day, the birthday girl was happy, and we all had an excellent day, but I had a little regret about how much I spent.

Is my regret uncalled for? Should I have spoken up, or should I just assume that is how birthdays are meant to go? Asking for a friend on this one…and that friend is me.

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