Cinco de Mayo, Celebration and Bar Tabs

Happy Cinco de Mayo to our Mexican friends. I expect there will be much partying that includes the consumption of lots of great Mexican food as well as alcohol.

Beyond the usual caveats to have a designated driver if you are going out drinking, and to keep alcohol consumption reasonable, anyone celebrating should keep costs reasonable, too. The best way to prevent the cost of drinks from getting out of hand is to NEVER RUN A BAR TAB. Always pay when each drink is received.

Bars and clubs know that a person drinking alcohol is losing judgment and inhibition as they consume alcohol. They are more than happy to extend a tab and have to person rack up drink and appetizer charges through the night.

In my college days back in the early 80’s, I went out to a club with a group of people to celebrate somebody’s birthday. It was lots of fun, and I figured what could a couple or even a few drinks add up to. We ran a bar tab for the 6 of us. When it was time to settle up, we owed over $260. I started the night expecting to have to pay $20, maximum for myself and my date. We had eaten before going out, so I did not foresee a lot of food purchases. We did order a bunch of hors-d’oeuvres. We lost track of everything with the bar tab.

Remember, I was a starving college student at the time. Room and board were being paid for, but my tuition, books, and all other expenses came out of my GI funding of $320 per month. My friends and I managed to scrape the money together, but it cost me $100 including tip. That was the night that I learned the danger of a bar tab. (None of us had a credit card, which was probably a very good thing.)

Besides not running a tab, keep track of what you drink, and don’t get in a cycle of buying rounds. Keep food purchases at a bar to a minimum, as well. You are there to have fun with friends, so sip your drink, make it last, have fun, and leave at a reasonable hour.

These days, a bar tab for 6 people can easily run much higher than $260. Be careful, use a little forethought, and a night out does not have to break your budget.

11 thoughts on “Cinco de Mayo, Celebration and Bar Tabs

  1. Ugh, the dreaded bar tab!

    I agree that paying for each drink individually can keep you on track. If it hurts, it should hurt! No one wants to get handed a giant bill at the end of the night.

  2. My father-in-law owned a bar when he was living. I believe he capped the tab at a certain dollar amount and wouldn’t serve any more until the patron paid the bill.

    1. Hi Brian, I suppose it depends on the bar’s clientele. I wish every bar had a low cap on the tab.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  3. Cinco de Mayo always sneaks up super fast each year. How the heck did it get to be the 5th of May already? I love that pic. I could go for a frozen drink right now.

    1. Hi Untemplater, Cinco de Mayo does seem to come and go with haste. That’s why it seems so easy to get caught out drinking with a bar tab. It starts out with, “Happy Cinco de Mayo. Let’s go out.” and often ends up with, “Call a cab, I’m wasted,” and then a blown budget to boot.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  4. I actually had the opposite experience once. I went out for drinks with a very large group of friends where we all sat outside at a very large table (many pushed together) and had food and drinks. When the bill came, it was all on one, and people just started throwing money in the bill folder. By the time it got to me (I was the last one), not only was the bill covered, but there as enough for a very large tip. I didn’t see the point in putting any more money in there, so I just left it and got my evening for free. :)

    1. Hi Brock, I guess there’s something to be said for being last, although with the crowd I hang out with, it seems like they always short-change the tab. and I end up holding the bag.

  5. Words of the wise coming from someone who knows what it is based on experience. This post makes a great share to everyone who enjoys going out for a drink and some fun with friends.

    1. Hi Jen, Thanks for your kind words. Yes, I meant it to apply to all “going out” occasions. Bar tabs are good for the bars, and bad for the customers.

  6. I love the Cinco de Mayo theme. when talking about finance. Whether keeping tabs on what you are buying at a bar to my favorite Cinco de Mayo dividend stocks, the point remains the same. Be aware of what you are doing. Don’t spend willy nilly and invest wisely.

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