My friends canceled Christmas dinner at the last minute. Would you retaliate?

I made Christmas holiday plans for a potluck dinner with friends in early November. They sent a text, canceling a week before Christmas, supposedly because the guest list was becoming too large, but I think it was because they got a better offer. Their excuses seemed pretty lame.

Flying drone with camera

Now I’m left with a $100 Bûche De Noël for 10 people and no place to go. All the restaurants in my area are booked up, or have very expensive prix fixe menus. My local restaurant charges $150 for a turkey meal. Should I break off my long term friendships (30-plus years) over this, or let it go?  

It’s expensive to host a Christmas dinner, and I fully understand that it’s gotten even more expensive with inflation, but I’m now left without plans, and I was counting on this gathering. This is not the first time they have canceled for what I actually suspect was a better offer.

Ergo, Not a Grinch

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Dear Ergo,

That’s a tough break, especially with just a few days’ notice before the big day. 

The average feast for Christmas Day will cost approximately $60 this year, up 16% over last year, according to a recent report by market research company Datasembly. Datasembly compared prices on 13 different products, which included stuffing, egg nog mix, frozen turkey, roasted turkey gravy, bone-in spiral-cut ham, frozen apple pie, whipped topping, corn, green beans, butter, cranberry sauce, russet potatoes, and biscuits. 

First, that estimate sounds pretty low given the rise in food prices over the last 12 months. Second, that total does not include wine, which can cost anywhere from $20 to take your pick. The National Retail Federation projects that 158 million people will shop on Super Saturday — another consumer holiday bestowed with a buzzword — up 10 million on last year. People are shirking off their recession worries, and they’re all chipping into the holiday expenditure. 

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Rising prices have led to an increase in potluck Christmas dinners, according to my personal survey of my immediate friends and family. The days of arriving with a salad or a cheap bottle of plonk or a candle you picked up at Costco or Target are over. But as you found out, that is a double-edged carving knife: On the one hand, potluck makes it easier for the hosts, but the guests have more work to do, and Grinch-like behavior can escalate along with the guest list.

Somebody else will want that Bûche De Noël, so cancel it ASAP. It’s easier for couples to cancel long-held dinner plans because they will have each other, and can act as one codependent unit. It leaves single people like you out in the cold. You can volunteer at a soup kitchen, watch a movie, plan a day of pampering, and/or put a note on Facebook to say you have no plans on Christmas Day. You may be surprised who would be delighted to set an extra plate.

It may be that the hosts were overwhelmed by the expanding guest list, and they figured it was cheaper and easier to eat out. I don’t agree with last-minute cancellations, but try not to take it personally, even if you rightly believe that their nixed dinner plans impacted you more as a single person. At a later date, explain how and why their canceled plans left you high and dry. And, finally, if they had something important to say, they should not have said it via text.

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Happy Christmas, Ergo. Vent and wallow, and let it go before the sun sets.

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Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

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