Someone recently asked me whether it was rude to use an expensive vodka bottle and fill it with a cheaper brand, to “keep up appearances.”
I think this gets the Oscar for Most Ridiculous Question I've been asked.
First of all, you could pour the drinks in the kitchen with no one the wiser; or better yet, not worry about serving inexpensive vodka—it's your home.
The bigger issue is that it's not always easy to be straightforward about a change in your financial circumstances—especially when it might impact how you socialize. Still, a part of good etiquette is being honest, and I advocate telling good friends the truth. If you fall off the social radar with no explanation, some may think it's a reflection on their company. It's better to say, “Dan and I are going to have to give up our Friday night dinners out, but maybe we could turn it into a movie night instead?”
Or, for the sake of privacy, don't explain: simply suggest cheaper get-togethers—free museum days, babysitting swaps, etc.
In this economy, most people will take the hint, and I bet they'll be grateful for your graciousness (and frugality). If you get the sense from a pal that a swanky restaurant meal—or expensive booze—means more than your friendship, then they're the ones who should examine their manners.
Uncork it. Is it hard to reveal to some friends that money is tight?
Anna Post is the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, the co-author of Great Get-Togethers, and the author of Do I Have To Wear White? Emily Post Answers America's Top Wedding Questions.