DEAR ABBY: When I was still working and invited someone to join my wife and me for dinner, I always assumed I would pay because I was the one who did the inviting. Now that we're retired, we would like to suggest getting together with other couples, but it can get costly paying for four people.
Saying, "Let's go Dutch," sounds tacky. Is there an acceptable way to invite friends out and let them know we should each pay our own expenses? -- ON A BUDGET IN SOUTH CAROLINA
DEAR ON A BUDGET: The way this is usually handled is the couple who does the inviting pays for the dinner, and the guests reciprocate by picking up the tab for the next one. Alternatively, when the check arrives at the end of the meal, the couples, by mutual consent, split it.
Because your circumstances have changed, but the expectations may not have, the subject should be raised at the time the date is arranged by saying, "Because I'm retired now, I can't treat you the way I'd like -- but we'd love to see you." If they are real friends, they'll be glad to see you, too -- and the fact they are paying for their own food won't stop them.