Why Warren Buffett Makes People Pay For Their Own Lunch

Why Warren Buffett Makes People Pay For Their Own Lunch

I want to share a little-known fact about Warren Buffett: when he invites someone to lunch, he makes them pay for their own meal. Now, before you start thinking he’s a cheapskate, let me share with you a story someone shared about going to lunch with Buffett, and after that, I will explain the lessons behind this odd behavior from this billionaire.

Warren Buffett Made Me Pay For My Own Lunch

Anik Singal told his story about going to eat lunch with Warren Buffett on YouTube in July 2022:

“When I met Warren Buffett, he made me pay $21 for my own lunch. I had to prepay. It’s a crazy story. So when I was in college a few of us got a chance to fly to Nebraska and meet him. I was really excited to do this. I thought it was going to be amazing, and I get this weird email from the event organizer who said….”

“Hey, you need to go ahead and send a check for $21.”

For what?

“Pay for your own lunch.”

“That was the strangest thing, one of the richest men in the world just gonna make me pay, a college kid, for my own lunch. Anyways I paid. I went down there, we hung out with him, we met with him. It was amazing, and where we actually ate lunch.”

“We went to his favorite place that he goes to for lunch, and he showed us his wallet. It was this thick, he had multiple Amex and credit cards, and we’re talking, the lunch is over, and at the very end, someone from down the table said he was like any questions, and someone said, “Hey Mr. Buffett don’t be offended, but I just have a question for you, Why’d you make us pay for our own lunch?” and I remember he looked at all of us he had this smirk come over his face, and he said “Because kids, this is your first lesson there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” and we all just burst out laughing, and it was such an interesting moment worth every penny. There’s no such thing as free lunch.” – Anik Singal Video Source Here. 

Let me explain the principles behind this practice and how it relates to the lessons Buffett has learned throughout his career as an investor and CEO.

Lesson #1: Value money and use it wisely

The first principle in making people pay for their lunch is a simple lesson in valuing money. Most people might not think twice about spending a few dollars on a meal, but I’ve learned over the years that every dollar counts. When you save and invest those dollars instead of spending them, you allow yourself to grow your wealth over time.

By having his lunch companions pay for their meals, I remind them (and himself) of the importance of valuing money and using it wisely. It also teaches self-reliance and personal responsibility – qualities he believes are essential for success in any field, not just investing.

Lesson #2: Pay for value, not appearances

Another reason Buffett makes people pay for their lunch is to emphasize the importance of paying for value rather than appearances. Too often, people spend their money on things that make them look successful rather than on the things that contribute to their success.

He sends a clear message by having everyone pay for their meal: it’s not about who can pick up the tab or impress others with their generosity. Instead, it’s about recognizing the value in the experience – the conversation, the sharing of ideas, and the opportunity to learn from one another.

Lesson #3: Build relationships on equal footing

Throughout my life, I’ve found that the most meaningful relationships are those built on mutual respect and equality. When he makes people pay for their lunch, he reinforces this principle.

By expecting his lunch companions to pay their way, he’s showing them that he views them as equals and respects their ability to contribute to their relationship, both in terms of the conversation and in sharing the financial burden. This sets the stage for a more open and honest exchange of ideas, benefiting both parties.

Lesson #4: Be true to yourself and your values

It’s no secret that Buffett lives a relatively modest lifestyle, especially when compared to other billionaires. He has always believed that it’s important to be true to himself and his values and not let his wealth change who he is.

Making people pay for their lunch may not be a widespread practice among the wealthy, but it’s a choice that aligns with his values and helps him stay grounded in the principles that have guided him throughout his life. By sticking to his beliefs and staying true to himself, he has found that he can maintain a level of happiness and contentment that money can’t buy.

Lesson #5: Focusing on what truly matters

In the grand scheme of things, the cost of a meal is insignificant. By not being concerned with who is picking up the tab, they can shift their focus to the conversation and the exchange of ideas, which is the true purpose of these lunch meetings. The time they spend discussing investments, business strategies, and life lessons is infinitely more valuable than the cost of a meal.

By paying for our lunch, we are reminded that the ideas and relationships we forge during these meetings matter, not the simple act of picking up the tab.


Making people pay for their lunch during meetings might seem quirky. Still, it’s grounded in the principles and concepts that made Warren Buffett one of the most successful investors and businessmen ever.

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” – Warren Buffett