What to do, what to do?
We’ve all been there. You know how it goes… you’re out with your friends, you order an inexpensive item on the menu to be your frugal/responsible self, and then the bill comes and someone says, “Let’s just split it equally! That’ll make it easy!” Then, out come the wallets, credit cards, and cash. It’s awkward to pipe up and say, “Uh, but, uh, I only had the $7 thing not the $35 thing, and no wine or dessert or appetizers!”
No one what’s to be the cheap/poor/miser in the group. I’ve been there. Trust me. It’s not a fun place to be. So, how do you deal?
Lucky for us, a reader wrote in with that very question:
“This weekend I went out to a friend’s birthday dinner which was out at a restaurant. We’d recently gone out to eat for this friends’ sisters birthday and everyone in the group paid for themselves. Additionally, during all the other previous times we went out, that I can remember, we all pay for ourselves.
Well this weekend, when the bill came, one of the guests at the table suggested that we all split the bill 6 ways to make things simpler and so that the birthday girl wouldn’t have to pay. This was devastating to me and my wallet! I’d looked at the menu before getting to the restaurant and chose one of the cheapest entrees, which was $15.75. With tax and tip I figured my bill would be no more than about $20. I even brought about that amount of cash. The final bill was $300. Split six ways and its $50!!! I sucked it up and paid $50 because I was too embarrassed to say anything, particularly since I only really knew the birthday girl, her husband and her sister. Any advice on what to do in those situations or what to do before the bill comes to avoid those types of situations?”
Erm. Completely awkward, right.
image via brown dress with white dots
What I suggest is this…
If you know that you will be going out with a group then get cash (which you did- that’s very helpful). When you get the cash get it in small bills. When the waiter comes to the table and asks for your order say you’ll have a separate check. Then when the bill comes you can pay for yours (with the cash and it won’t look like it’s as big of a deal because you’ll be able to pay for it and be done with your bill- as opposed to using a debit card and then the waiter has to come back and then you have to sign, etc= looks like a bigger deal) and throw in the amount that you’re comfortable with for the birthday person. Another idea if you don’t want to say tell the waiter when they take the order (especially if the waiter is standing across the table from you and not right next to you) is make your order and then find your server when you take a bathroom break, and ask for the separate check at that time.
Sounds like the problem with your particular situation is that you weren’t prepared for the possibility of a split check. Next time, play offense.
What do you do when you’re out with a group? How have you handled this?
There’s also a lively discussion happening over in the Community on this very topic.
I have tried both ways, most times my friends and I do split the bill evenly (except say if one of us had three drinks or something we would pay extra)and when its close friends I don’t really have to worry but when the group gets larger thats when it can become a bit tricky! But on the other hand I have actually experienced any times where people put in what they “think” they owe and forget about tax and tip and everyone else ends up picking up the extra so either way be prepared! Great Post by the way!!
Another option is to say you have to leave early (another function or you have to be up early the next day) and then run it by the host that you only had “this” or “that” and leave whatever money on the table. Usually the rest of the party is never offended, in my experience and they are usually grateful that you put in your share.
ohhh! really good idea!
I always find this to be a good option. Another option is to go for a visit to the little ladies room once dinner is completed and go and pay your share then. Quite often you will start a trend that people will similarly follow suit.. Nobody really wants to split a bill!!
Ha! I think you’re right… splitting the bill is just, awkward, huh.
Everyone hates it! Only good thing in Australia though is at least we don’t have to worry about the tip!
No tips in Australia? How does that work?
People get paid by the establishments they work at. For example if you work in hospitality or retail casually you would get an hourly rate of about $25 which I believe is much higher than you America (I think!) hence no tips. (and hence some very poor customer service!)
$25 is WAAY higher than what American waiters get paid. In American servers make only $3.50 per hour so tipping is a must. 20% of the bill is the standard/hopeful tip.
I feel really lucky that I’ve never had friends who were bill splitters. We’re the group where it’s more likely that we all request individual checks.
That really is the best way to do it. That’s the what me and my friends do too (luckily!).
When I’ve gone out with friends we’ve always paid separately but then the others forget to tip, or only tip $1 or so, which leaves me feeling responsible since I like to tip big when I go out to eat. After several times paying more than I wanted to cover tips, I finally just casually mention after we order “So how do we want to split the tip?” and usually everyone checks what they have in cash or offers to add it on to their bill when it arrives. I know it’s an odd principal but I feel like as rowdy as my friends usually are that it’s important the server gets a small tip from every person at the table!
As a former server I appreciate how you think! You’ve come up with a great solution to a semi-tricky/could be awkward situation.
In Australia, tipping is quite a foreign concept as people know that the staff are being paid a fair wage. When your bill comes out, it covers everything, including the wage for your waiter or waitress. Of course wages vary depending on experience or place of work but I believe that our minimum wages for working in hospitality (wait staff, chefs, kitchen hands, greeters, concierges, porters etc, etc) are higher than in the States so it is possible to earn a living without relying heavily on tips.
Tipping here isn’t really called tipping…it’s called “keep the change”. If your bill comes to $16 and you hand over a $20, you might say to the cashier, “keep the change” and that’s usually put in a tips jar and divided up between staff at end of night.
One friend who has visited the States has said that she has once or twice offended service staff because she forgot to tip…and it wasn’t out of malice or spite or being a tight-arse…it’s simply not culturally ingrained in Australians. So if you’re serving an Aussie and they forget to tip (and assuming that you haven’t given atrocious service) a gentle reminder will see them be kind and generous usually :-)
It’s so cool to hear what it’s like in Austrailia. I was a server for many years and culturally, people from almost every other country didn’t tip the same way as Americans. As servers we were told that we could never mention the tip to the customer other than to say, “Thank you”. If anyone ever did it that was a major no-no and was grounds for getting “written up”. It’s a shame because it sounds like some people would be open to the idea of a friendly and gentle reminder. I can understand why the waiters that your friend forgot to tip got offended. Since waiters only make $3.50 an hour here and since they rely on those (hopefully 20% tips) it means a lot when they are forgotten.
In Australia, yes we do not have tipping – and could not agree more with Amy who said the customer service here is generally not so good. We end up paying for the “service” and not getting it anyway – I would rather we had a tipping system. Aussie restaurants also rarely offer separate bills which makes it all the more hard to tackle this tricky situation.
oh man, i don’t like the sounds of that!
It’s happened to me a few times. If what everyone got is pretty close, I don’t worry about it, splitting is fine, but if there is a substantial difference, I do speak up, and nicely say I’ll pay for my own as I didn’t have much, and you all can split the remainder. No one has ever given me a hard time about that. Note: If you can’t afford to leave a 20% tip, stay home. Seriously. Servers have one of the toughest jobs out there, and it’s their income. That’s one area I am NEVER cheap about. (plus, you are treated very well when you’re a good tipper! Whether you tip great or tip badly, you will be remembered for it.)
Could not agree more about the 20% tipping. As a former waiter, I know how hard the servers work. You deal with people treating you like crap, blaming you for everything that happens wrong, being on your feet for crazy long hours, coming home smelling like spoiled food (eww), and then you’re still at the mercy of the customers- something you have no control over.
This just happened to me! I went to a birthday dinner for a friend. I went last year and everyone paid for just what they ordered. This year, it was a significantly less # of people (just 5 of us). When we were seated, my friend (the one whose b-day we were celebrating) started ordering a bunch of things off the menu for the table. At this point, I assumed that we would be splitting it and went along as I didn’t want to cause a scene. Once that round was done (and I was pretty much full), the other guests started ordering a bunch more and on top of that shots of premium alcohol. Once all was said and done the bill came and I was told I owed $76 (one 5th of the bill). I didn’t eat much after the first round (others at the table even commented on my small appetite) and didn’t have any of the premium shots, yet I was expected to pay the same as everyone else. I also must add that I am living on an extremely small budget as I am going to school and only work a part time job. The others at the table make over $100,000 a year. My friend knows this and didn’t say anything when his other friends told me how much I owed. Lesson learned: I will not be going to any other dinners like this without specifying up front I can only pay for my own as I am in a tough financial spot. Sucks to have to explain this but it’s better than being out the $!
Traditional Chinese, Arabic, Persian, French, Jewish, and Greek people consider splitting the bill or paying separate bills very bad and rude in their cultures.
Oh well…let them be offended!
My gripe here in Australia is ‘no split bills’. Why not? Why should we endure the undignified ritual of working out who had what after the meal and passing cash around? If there are two couples, give us two bills. Otherwise we can go somewhere else where they can be bothered. As for Americans and tipping: We went on a river cruise in Portugal on an American boat and tipping to the Portugese crew was rife. We explained that in Australia, people were paid a living wage and didn’t have to beg. The response from one of the passengers was: ‘Well in Australia you must have had a succession of socialist governments.’ There’s no answer to that. Lack of tipping in Australia does not mean poor service. If you receive poor service then stand up for yourself and complain directly – don’t whinge on websites like this.
I’m in Melbourne and have rarely come across places that specify “no split bills” – maybe one or two a year! And I find that most places are happy to give change in small notes so we can sort that out if needed. Also if it’s quiet sometimes they’ll split the bill anyway if you ask :)
I know this is an old post, but something that mos commenters seem to have missed is that this was a birthday. If I’m going out for someone’s birthday, I assume that we will definitely be splitting the check, because I would never let the birthday guy/gal pay for their own meal. Since that has to be split amongst everyone anyway, it only makes sense to split the full bill.
Same here! Who makes the birthday girl pay?! Also if it’s for a birthday then seriously, bring about five times as much as you would for an ordinary night out, just to be safe! The excess cash won’t go stale in your wallet lol
Or, stay home if you know you can’t afford the potential split.
I’ve done that. The Birthday girl was hurt because she didn’t see me there.
Laura and Justine are good examples of the reason why someone asked the question in this post, in the first place.
I don’t understand. Why split the bill evenly ever? Who came up with this? It seems silly and rude. In which restaurant is it not possible to bring everybody a bill for what they ordered? Why do people have to come up with strategies to get out of subsidizing others at dinner? If I want to buy you dinner or a drink, I will gladly do so. Why on Earth would you assume you have the right to force me into it?
Hi Ray, Spilting the bill evenly is something that a lot of people tend to do. I think what happens is people who aren’t as money conscioous think that everyone had just about the same amount of food and drinks… at least that’s been my experience. Usually the people who suggest just splitting the bill evenly are either bad with their money, have lots of it, or don’t want to look cheap/frugal by busting out the calculator or asking for separate checks. I also know people who show their “love” by paying for things and would never consider NOT paying a few extra bucks if they were out with friends and family.
WOW, that is a really harsh reply. I frequently split the bill evenly with my friends and I am very good with my money. If everyone truly did have about the same amount (or if it’s a really big group where one person’s extravagance gets split by quite a few people), I think the $1-4 difference is worth avoiding the hassle.
I don’t think it was harsh, Laura. Just my opinion. Of course not everyone who wants to split the bill evenly is bad with their money. I didn’t mean to imply that but I think it is a common trait.
I often had situations where the split would get me from USD 40 to USD 120… This is a ridiculous difference. Someone dined and wined for this amount, and it wasn’t me. I am very conscious for someone to not to bear my cost when we go out and would hope for reciprocity. I don’t split when food, clothes shopping with friends why should it be any different with dining out? The last thing I wish to do is avoid going out with certain groups of people not because I cannot afford my dinner but simply cannot afford their expenditure.
Why NOT split the bill evenly to save time though? If everyone just tosses in $30 that’s a hundred times faster than going down the bill on item at a time and adding it all up.
I think it’s important to note that in different parts of the U.S. having separate checks per person isn’t allowed. For example in NYC restaurants give one check and it’s up to the guests to figure out how to split. Often splitting is easier if everyone ordered about the same amount. I’ve lived in North Carolina for school and every restaurant has no problem bringing multiple checks, one for each guest in the group.
I have a dilemma myself. I’m 16 and am from/live in New Zealand and my group of close friends (6 girls) are 15/16 too. We like to go for dinner every now and then for fun as we all love food. We’ve been to a variety of places – restaurants, all you can eat buffets, a pizzeria where you buy a whole pizza. Everywhere, except the buffet which charges per head, we’ve split the bill. (I can’t remember if this is always evenly) What is your opinion on this? Should the standard be to split the bill, or should we pay for what we eat? Also at one restaurant in particular we order either 1-2 dishes of hot potato chips/fries, who pays for this? Should we bring spare change to pay for this? Thanks
Hi Rebecca, I always prefer to pay for what I order instead of splitting the bill evenly. Another thing I try to do is to bring cash when I know I’ll be in a group eating/paying situation. That way it’s a lot easier to pony up what ya owe and move on.
Thanks for your reply
We all have experienced this very real situation. Sometimes, we just say, let’s split this evenly, but it becomes unfair for those who were trying to save. Or maybe everyone gets several expensive bottles of wine, but the person who wants to save doesn’t take wine. Does that person still have to split the expensive wine with everyone else?
I’ve also seen others try to split up a bill fairly and it became very painful to watch the struggles. It is fair, but it takes mental effort and struggle.
I had enough seeing this problem. My solution to this problem, is to create a tool to have regular every day people easily and fairly split a bill. I finally did it! And I hope many others who have struggled with this problem can now have a much easier time.
I published an iPhone/iPad App: ‘Fair Bill Split’ http://www.ideatechlabs.com/products/fair-bill-split/
I hope others don’t have to suffer through hard mental calculations to keep things fair.
I love going out with groups of friends. It’s just a great way to spend an evening! I always tell the waiter that we’re splitting the check before the even start the orders. It makes it easier on them and the group. I know I only ever buy what I can afford that night!
I actually have a question!
How do you go about splitting for something when it’s a party of 3 but two of the people are a couple?
Do they act as one or as individuals?
And I’m not just talking in the contex of going out to eat but with presents as well.
Hmmm… that’s a good question. I think when out to eat they count as individuals. With presents, I guess it depends on what you want to give them, and what the occassion is… I could see an experience gift like movie tickets, for example, being a “couple” gift but not something like a cozy, over-sized, unisex hoodie or something like that that they’d have to share. I think if you give a “couple” gift it has to recognize each individual.
Today, they are great apps that will help you to share group bills on the way you want. I’m using Tricount. It easily help you to split group bills and expenses by participant.
I very rarely engage in splitting bills when eating out. I don’t consume meat, sugar (dessert) or alcohol and usually have only one or two sodas. That means my bill is always lower than people who do eat the things I don’t.
I’m upfront by stating that my bill is eg 20 and the average for the others 30 or 35. Everybody understands.
It’s also funny how, in my experience, splitting bills is always suggested by those who rack up the highest one!
What we usually do with my friends is “each one pay is part” and when it’s a bday, we simply split the part a the lucky bday person, that usually add 1 or 2 € to your own bill that don’t make a lot more that your share. Every one can take want he want/ can and doesn’t have to worry too much about what the other take or the bday personna take because even if it’s a 20€ part at the end, divide by 10 it suddenly make a small amount to add.
Here in Belgium, people are suppose to be paid correctly so you don’t have to give a tip, you only give it when you had a good/great service or because you want to and it usually go in a jar to be slipt between waiters/waitresses at the end of the service.
I’m really surprised to read this post and comments. First thing, I never saw anything like that happening here, I mean the blatant unfairness of having everyone pay the same when one person or more obviously chose the cheapest items or didn’t have wine or dessert to save money What happens most of the time is: the person who feels like it pays for the drinks/the wine, the rest is split, but the question is always asked openly and people are cool with it, and what shocks me here is that supposedly French people are uncomfortable when talking about money! And many many times someone will pay the part of the “poor” one, so everyone can enjoy her dinner without worrying about someone else being worried! And I believe it is essential when you dine out with friends, don’t you think?
The whole dynamic of sharing costs with friends, whether a meal or going on a trip to Hawaii together, is intriguing. Everyone has their own methods of keeping track of it and their own opinion on how it should be done. The worst by far though is the friends you have that never seem to have cash on them, or borrow money and then hope that you forget. That really frustrates me. If I borrow money from someone, then I feel obligated to do everything in my power to 1) remember what I owe them, and 2) pay them back quickly.
My friends and I split things all the time, and I am usually the one throwing it on my credit card and hoping others pay me back.
One time I attended a non-birthday dinner gathering of old friends. Before I got there I saw the website and knew it would be an expensive meal. Before we ordered one friend suggested we all split a bunch of appetizers. I said that I wasn’t interested and would only be getting an entree. My one friend gave me a bemused look but accepted it as it was my choice. I achieved my goal of not trying any of the appetizers even when offered. In the end, I was able to enjoy my $20+ entree without feeling I’d broken the bank. Everyone else’ bill came to about $70+ and mine was roughly $25-$30.
I may have come across as a bit of an ass for not going in on the appetizers, but I felt much better about not having spent so much on a meal I really didn’t want to attend in the first place. So, it wasn’t easy, but worth the offensive effort.
You’re an icon! Plan on doing this at my next outing with a group because it’s just as ridiculous to pay for someone else’s food as it is to be judged for not splitting.
This happened to me recently. We were out for lunch with some friends. I wasn’t drinking as I was driving (I just had table water) and my pasta was on the Happy Hour deal and only cost £8. My friends ordered entrees that cost £14.95, side dishes and alcohol. I was very relieved when they acknowledged they had more expensive dishes and asked me to work out what they owed from the bill. Theirs came to £42 with the tip – mine and hubby’s came to £21!
If I am in a group that are not close friends/relatives, we always get separate checks. With family and friends, we all understand that we either split evenly amongst each person, or one of us picks up the whole thing, knowing it’ll be the other’s turn next time. We don’t keep tabs on who paid last time, how much, etc. But I can certainly understand the anxiety this situation may cause for those who a meal out is a large expense. Best to agree on things BEFORE the check arrives!
You’re awesome, James. My flatmate and I do the same “taking turns” when we order take-away at home. The way we see it, I pay for a meal and then she pays for a meal and then I pay and then she pays and it’s all food and we’re both eating it and who has time to care that each meal costs a different amount each time?
I understand your point of view, but I think that it overlooks the fact that some people just CAN’T afford not to care. Splitting a bill evenly is always easier for everyone, but then you’re paying for the comfort of not caring about it. That comfort is a luxury, and you may not be able to afford it when you’re on a budget. It is not very thoughtful when people assume everyone has the same means they have, because they might be forcing others to pay for their own ease. Of course I’m not talking about those cases when it has been agreed upon beforehand, or the amounts are similar, or people know each other and know that it won’t be a problem. But when we’re with mere acquaintances, splitting the bill might mean that some people are spending a money they don’t have, or maybe they would rather spend it in something they really want instead because they can’t afford both. Thinking about what you can afford to order, and not what you really wish to order, is exhausting and not nice at all. If someone’s doing it, consider that it’s probably because they need to.
Interesting thread. I tend to bring enough cash to pay for my meal, but in the past few months I have been in the situation where the bill has been split equally and I have wound up paying way more than I actually would have owed if I had my own check. Interesting point is that I have noticed that it’s the same few people who always insist on an equally split check and they tend to be big eaters. I now only meet these folks for coffee.
I know this is old but I just found it and it’s been fascinating reading the comments! I can’t believe how many people are against the ease and simplicity of splitting a bill evenly. I used to waitress and on the register, it takes five seconds to open a bill, touch “divide”, then touch the number of people. What was always amusing was when a bill would come to say $60 between three people, something super even and easy, but they’d all want to pay for what they had… and it’d come to like $19.50, $20.50 and $20!
I’m so glad for my friendship group because 99% of the time we always just split it evenly, unless it was like a casual lunch where someone only had coffee whilst someone else had brunch and coffee and juice and a muffin lol
Same with groceries – once my flatmate and I went through a giant receipt to work out how much I owed her back as she’d paid in store. That’s seriously 30 minutes of our lives we’re never getting back and ever since then we’ve just split it in half. Who cares if actually her half is $6.90 more than mine? Next week mine might be $7.30 more than hers… and so on. It all works out in the end! Good friendships are worth more than a few dollars back and forth.
The key is fairness. A few weeks ago we went out for a birthday and everyone paid for their own drinks but then we split the food bill. It’s just easier! Working out the drinks took long enough but as one girl had only had soft drink and a few of us had really knocked back the cocktails that’s only fair. I think the thing with Australian restaurants though is nobody’s going to rack up a $70 food bill in the same place as someone else spends only $15, so splitting the bill here will never send you more than $10 in either direction of what you actually ate.
That’s really nice that 1. your friends are sensitive to fairness in splitting and 2. They normally have the same price. MY friends never do–they are all professionals and I’m the poor graduate student. Tonight, I was across from this professional who ordered a dish, and 2 bourbons, and I literally ordered nothing, just picked off the leftovers. I had to pay over $20–which is way more than I ever pay for going out!! Even special occasions. And I trusted my friends to know this, but they did not do anything. The bourbon guy even paid less few bucks less than me because of how the bill was split. UGH. I know I’m there to celebrate my friend but it doesn’t seem fair.
I think that’s incredibly rude to pick off other people’s leftovers. Even if they aren’t going to eat them themselves, that’s tacky to ask for them when you are being cheap by not ordering your own food. If you are hungry and want food, you should order it. If you can’t afford to do so, you should make plans to eat somewhere else.
If “picking at someone elses leftovers” is bad, according to some here, a sign of “cheapness”, then even more egregious is ordering expensive food in a group setting, knowing that others who may not be able to afford it will help pull your weight financially when the bill is split. That is ALSO a sign of cheapness.
I am so happy to read this. When I googled I did not expect to find something but I see others feel the same as I do about ‘splitting the bill’. I absolutely hate it. Thanks for writing!
For a birthday celebration – I wouldn’t even go out with a large group of people I didn’t know too well…I would simply invite the birthday girl out for dinner and/or lunch or drinks, or both, and treat her/him. That eliminates any awkwardness with practical strangers. If it’s a small intimate group of close friends—they can all discuss logistics prior to the dinner/celebration. That’s what true friends do…they respect each other’s financial limitations or preferences.
Has this very thing happen recently. Went to a restaurant for brunch with a friend – I got coffee and a bagel, as did he – then we were joined by friends of his, friends of his friends friends, etc., until our table for 2 became a table for eight. When we’d pretty much finished, one person piped up, “Let’s split the bill equally!” and people praised him for making things easy for the waitress. Problem is, the divided bill came to about $20 per person/ $20 for my bagel and one cup of coffee? I think not! As I had enough on me to cover what I got but not this, I said something, got a few odd looks, but hey – my friend excepted, I wouldn’t see these people again.
Austrailian money is worth less than the american dollar
Something I’ve done is grabbed the check and offered to “figure it out” for everyone. I often think people want to just split it because they don’t want the hassle of figuring out what they owe. I always divide the tax and tip evenly amongst the group. Then I flip the bill over and write each person’s last name and the amount to be put on the card. When the server comes I hand them the bill and stack of cards and say “here you go, please split the charges as it says on the back of the check”. This always seems to work. The other thing I’ve done is simply spoken up and said “Since I didn’t drink wine or eat the calamari I’m just going to put in for mine.” I’ve never had anyone push back.
I am even more upfront. As we sit down before the waiter takes drink orders even, I announce I wud like a separate check. I hv had the situation where once drinks n appys r ordered the waiter says they can’t split the bill. Then I throw in extra money towards the birthday person’s meal to whoever is paying her bill!
A very interesting read about different cultures, practices, friendships and viewpoints.
Here in NZ it is expected to split bills and not tip. In fact, the waiters ask outright “How would you like to pay?” Or “How would you like to split the bill?”
They’re happy for a single payment, equal split or pay individually for what you had.
It just happened to me. A $14 sandwich cost me $ 38. And, since I was with my wife her share was. You guessed it. $38. $ 76 for lunch was a little more than I planned on spending for lunch. I was NOT happy. Next time I’m pigging out and eating as much as I can.
I came up with a good idea for those times when you know where you’re going ahead of time. Check out the menu, figure out what you’re going to order and how much you will spend with tax and tip, then get a gift certificate for close to that amount. During the dinner you can casually announce that you’ve a gift card you’ve been dying to use for the restaurant. Then when the bill comes you hand it to whomever is dealing with the bill splitting. Simple – they just take your $20 or $50 off the total and split the rest. It looks like you just want to get rid of the card and not that you’re cheaping out. Have extra bills on hand just in case you go over your GC amount.
When we go out with our non drinking friends I always take their totals off the bill first, tell them what they owe, then split the bill for the rest of us. Not fair to make non drinkers pay for drinks.
So if someone orders a super expensive dish, requests the bill be split evenly so that they pay less, and I say no…..I’m the cheap one? They can think what they want, I’m only paying for myself. Glad I dont hang out with people who think it’s normal to pressure people into paying for a portion of someone else’s meal.
Paying for what you had does not make you cheap in any way. Expecting others to pay for your food when you had more than them is. As a person with a small appetite who doesn’t drink it’s common for my bill to be significantly less than others. It took me a while to realise that the people who were making me feel bad for not wanting to pay $10-50 more than what I had…were in fact the ones being cheap and inconsiderate by making me pay for their meal. Now I speak up for myself and politely say, this is how much I had, here’s the extra for tip. And those who would like to split can split the rest between them. Maybe some people will not invite me anymore because of this? But I guess those people aren’t friends.
Yes I’m in the same dilemma. I’ve a close friend whom I hang out with most of the time. Funny is in the end, we will end up splitting the bill equally and me, a non-drinker, paying more for her drinks. This not only happens on food but taxi-sharing as well. Even though we shared a cab, I’ll end up paying the same amount as when I take a cab alone because I alight first. Eventually I’ll subsidising her cab expenses.
I’ve been trying to think about a solution for this issue for years. Some people think you should pay for just what you ordered. Some people say its easier to just split the bill evenly. So I finally came up with the solution. I just lunched an App to solve this problem. Checkplis (for iPhone only).
Thank Anna for this article.
PS: I loved the story on the first paragraph. Really accurate :)
I went out last week and the bill came to £22 yet I only ordered £7 worth of food so as the person I was with paid for it all the said we can split it as opposed to asking me first I ended up paying £4 than I should have, especially when my drink was tap water.
Went out this week and made it clear that I am only paying for my part of what I eat as I only have enough to pay for that.
My friends argument is that in the long run if you split the bill evenly each time overall you end up paying less. I do not agree as if you don’t eat out a lot you can end up paying more each time.
David, you’re right that it doesn’t always work out to being less over time, especially if one friend always orders more (or more expensive items!) than the other.
In Canada, servers usually ask if you’d like to pay together or separately (ie for your own specific order). Even in groups of 15 people, I’ve received a bill for just my food, and if some people are couples, they just say “these two will be together” and it’s never a problem. For large groups though, some restaurants add a mandatory tip to the bill to accommodate the extra effort of serving and charging multiple people.
My problem is being out a pub where people are just having drinks but someone wants to get nachos “for the table” and split the cost. Why is it always nachos? I don’t like them, so I’m stuck either paying for them anyway, looking like a stick-in-the-mud for refusing, or awkwardly ordering my own appetizer that I WOULD enjoy and them making the server’s bill-dividing more complex!
If the friend thought it was such a good idea, they should have just paid for the birthday person themselves. The fact they wanted to split it shows they wanted the recognition for the idea without actually making the contribution. You shouldn’t pressure people on the spot like that. THAT’S tacky.
I have a friend who always orders more than anyone. Extra sides, an appetizer, a glass of wine, when everyone else has only ordered an entree. She is also always insisting on splitting the bill. I think it is rude, so I stopped inviting her out with our friends. If anything, she should insist on paying more because she always orders more. Why should we pick up the bill for her when we are trying to save money by not ordering drinks and appetizers, while she just orders whatever she wants. I’ve even insisted on paying separately, and she insisted back to split the bill. Needless to say, I’ve stopped inviting her and have warned my friends about her as well.
I was in this dilemma once. I was 19 and it was an (older) friend’s birthday. We went to a place in NYC and everyone but me had several rounds of cocktails (I was underage therefore excluded from cocktails). The check was split evenly and I wound up paying $100 for pasta.
I’ve been against splitting the check evenly ever since (and I didn’t speak up then). It is not fair to make someone who’s not old enough to (legally) drink alcohol pay for yours.
I think what’s really being ignored here is how gauche it is for someone to invite a group out for their birthday and then allow that group to split the cost for their food/drinks. Idk when this became a commonplace practice but it’s pretty presumptuous and rude. If your friends all plan something for you that’s another story, then sure they can jump down the splitting rabbit-hole. But don’t send an invite to everyone to come join you for your bday or say you want to celebrate something and then expect everyone else to pay your share when the bill comes or “fake grab” for your wallet. That’s tacky.
Whenever we’ve gone out the checks were either separate or we paid for what we ordered. Unfortunately, we went on vacation with family and went to a bar. The appetizer was split between us and my husband and I each got one drink. The bill case and my dad and stepmom decided that it would be split evenly and we ended up having to pay ten dollars more than we should have. I was very angry but we paid it anyway. Next time we eat with them the checks will be separate. I don’t like splitting evenly.
I am sorry not agree with that. If you want to pay only for what you’ve had, when the bill arrives just put the right money in without feeling embarassd to say that you’re not going to split the bill equally and maybe ask for a menu to check prices and sort it out between you all and not having to put pressure on the server by having to make separate bills especially if it is a large group or a busy night.
Went out recently with others & our meal was the Set Menu. When the bill came I paid my portion + hubby’s set menu of the bill, but others had some beers, coffee & expected us to pay for those. I refused, as they were not part of the set menu. I think some friendships might have been lost from my actions, but I don’t care. If others want drinks, let them pay for it. I asked my daughter, who incidentally goes dining a lot with friends, about the situation & what they do is pay for their meal & those who had drinks paid for them themselves. Fair enough, don’t you think.
I think each person paying for what they had is they way to go however the confusion can come if things are shared family style. For example let’s say two people go out and one person orders a $20 dish and the other person orders a $15 dish but they split the food evenly meaning they both are roughly half of each dish. In this case it makes more sense to split the bill. Or if amongst 4 people three entrees are ordered to share evenly then it makes sense to split the the bill evenly. I say this because I do have a couple of friends where when we go out instead of ordering for ourselves individually we come to a consensus of which dishes we are ordering for the table to be shared family style and that’s our meal.
You can use My bill divider
I just googled this topic because it happened to my blind date this weekend. Our modest meal and his one beer probably came to under $50. The other couple (a very wealthy man) both had steaks, an appetizer, 5 glasses of wine between them and theirs was well over $130. When the waitress asked “one or 2 checks”, the wealthy man quickly responded “One” and as he looked at my date he said “we’ll just split it”. I was appalled! SPLIT IT?? I excused myself from the table, went to the waitress station and asked for separate checks. I just thought it was very rude considering we weren’t even drinking, let alone steaks vs. salads! That man lost many points in my eyes…no wonder he’s loaded, other people are paying part of his share. Shame on him!!
I just say I’d rather pay for my own. It’s so unfair otherwise. I got tricked into splitting the bill the other day. It was a large group, and we queued up to pay. The organiser agreed to split the bill at the till and then she cleared off! I’m furious. I don’t want to subsidise big drinkers and eaters. I’m not worried about looking poor or mean because I know other people feel the same but are too shy to say so.
I appreciate the advice but what do you do when you are with a group of friends and this happens but your husband suggests the bill be split evenly among the couples ? Even though you had no alcohol and a small salad and the rest of the couples ate expensive entrees , ordered bottles of wine and dessert ? You suggest to your husband to pay separately and he calls you you cheap ? The bill was over $300.00 with no tip and my husband and myself ordered less than $30.00 between the two of us. We eat out with this group (six of us total ) a lot and I don’t want this to happen again.
So glad I found this and realised other people feel the same way! Happened to me last night and felt awful for speaking up. We went out for a birthday meal, me, my partner, the birthday girl, and another family of 3. I had already offered to pay for the birthday girl which I did. My partner and I had 1 drink and curry, with 1 side each. The family of 3 had 6 drinks and ordered 3 curries, 6 sides. So the bill comes and she insists we split it down the middle, I’m quite a passive person, I was about to pay and then I realised They had 4 more drinks, an extra curry, and 4 extra sides! So I said something as I was already paying for the birthday girl. We still ended up paying more. I’m still a bit angry about it, as they are both working and we are currently on one income. Won’t be happening again, I think I’ll gain the confidence just to say before the meal I want my own bill.
This post made me realize that I’m not alone in this! My fiancé was invited out to celebrate a birthday (six people total), and he ordered a $11 entree with no drinks because he’s on a tight budget. Another guest insisted on splitting the bill five ways, and between appetizers and drinks ordered by other party members my fiancé ended up owing $45 instead of his intended $15.
It wouldn’t have been as big of a big deal, but he was unemployed for a few months and he won’t get his first paycheck at his new job for another couple weeks. People who have margin in their budget ought to be cognizant of the reality that not everyone can afford to pick up an extra $30. Also, I agree with the person who said that it’s rude for someone to invite other people out for a celebration and then low-key expect them to cover the meal.
Hi Jessica. Yeah, it is insensitive assumed other people can afford what you can, especially on their Birthday! I’m sorry you had that experience.
But it’s also up to us to set boundaries. Can I recommend this post? 11 WAYS TO TELL YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT YOUR NEW FRUGAL LIFESTYLE
This has happened to me before where I ordered something for $7 and the other person ordered something for $30-$40 and another person ordered something for about $15-$17. I was using cash so I only wanted to pay the portion I owed. I ended up paying $17 because the person who ordered drinks and meals over $30 only had a certain amount of money on their debit card (and knew that they only had a certain amount on their card before buying). I was really frustrated and because of that I refuse to eat outside too much anymore. Why do you go out and order food when you don’t have the money to pay for it? Don’t expect others to pay your portion and expect it to be split! Also: I’m a student on a very very very tight budget living on loans and workstudy.
Hi! Thank you for sharing that experience. It’s only reasonable that anyone ordering has enough money to cover their own meal. Please don’t compromise your social life for a bad experience.
Next time you go out before you order, feel free to say how you are going to pay and let it be a warning that you are not going to cover other people’s bills if you don’t want to.
My strategy was always to grab the bill and start working out who owes what before anyone can suggest splitting it evenly. It’s not such a financial issue for me anymore but that always worked out just fine – I think someone above was right when they said that a lot of the time people just don’t want to do the math. And if someone did suggest splitting it evenly I’d say, “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll figure out what each person owes,” as if I’m assuming that they only suggested it because Math. I’ve rarely had anyone then insist on splitting it evenly, and in that case I’d generally say, “But that’s not fair to people who ate less/didn’t have alcohol/etc” without specifically stating that it was ME it wasn’t fair to. If they then insist on splitting it evenly you’ll know they are just trying to get other people to pay for their alcohol and you can write them off as an A-hole.
Other strategies, that typically work better with a small group – with one friend in particular, we split the bill evenly but mentally keep track of our combined nights out and then if one person feels they are getting too heavy to one side they just pay the entire bill one night. Or with another friend, we take turns paying the entire bill (but this usually works out because in the long run it comes out to about the same.) Sometimes if the bill is pretty close but not exact, I’ll suggest that we split the bill and then I (if I’m the more expensive party) pay the entire tip and they leave none, so the costs even out. Obviously all of these work best if you’re not on an extremely tight budget, or if you know for certain that your friend is in a similar financial situation as you. I also might suggest splitting the bill evenly if I’m feeling lazy and I KNOW my actual portion of the bill would be smaller.
And finally, this rule I consider to be inviolable – the person who suggests getting the appetizer pays for the entire appetizer, even if other people ate on it. (That person is usually me, but I think this rule need to be much more widely adopted!!!)
WOW, SLE, THANK YOU! Your reflexion and tips on this topic are super valuable. The small interactions in life are too often overlooked, but they are important.
Have a small group of Girlfriends who would go out for birthdays, the Birthday girl picked the place and we would treat the celebrant to a meal. Usually the split bill was about $40 dollars each. Worked well for several years, we always chose a moderately priced restaurant and ordered similarly price entrees. Then one year one person started ordering extras, an appetizer, a drink and a dessert. She and her husband are substantially better off than the rest of the group. The next year she wanted to go to new restaurant about ninety minutes from our homes that she and her husband had tried. She then proceeded to order an appetizer, 3 drinks, a steak with extra sides and an expensive dessert. The bill came to over $270 dollars. Needless to stay that ended that tradition, at least with her.
Thank you for sharing that experience, B. What worked for a group of friends for a while won’t always work, as jobs, tastes change, and life happens.
So glad you guys were able to solve it when you felt it didn’t work for you.
You offer to pay your own tab and split the bill of the honoree.
Hi Tim. It’s a possibility. Thank you for your comment. :)
I honestly cannot believe everything I’ve been reading on this post! Why wouldn’t someone think they owed what they ordered!!?? Crazy! Sometimes we want something extra, sometimes we want something very small ! As a group we always ask for separate checks or just look at the check and put in the amount we owe, then everyone throws in their tip….sometimes someone does extra because they think the server deserves it! And I guess I have to say, the server needs to ‘earn’ that tip in my thinking!! And if you are wondering? Oh, yes! I’ve been a server! Sometimes you smile and kiss ass and sometimes you don’t. When I get a bad server, I do feel sorry for them because they are in a business they should be in, and they won’t get a tip ( or a decent one ) as a tip is earned!!!! So….you work your butt off for what will get those big tips!
Hi Kim. Thank you for your comment and for sharing your experience.
And YES, there are people with different views when it comes to the bill, and some are very strange.
Have a nice week :)
I love your advice to find the waiter when you go to the bathroom and ask them to give you your bill separately. That way you don’t have to ask for it in front of everyone and feel awkward. I hate awkward situations. This will help me with my anxiety when I go out to dinner.
Thank you for letting us know what works for you, Chris!
Anxiety finds us and is good to feel we have lots of resources to deal with it.
Restaurants themselves are part of the problem, right? Any other kind of birthday gift, the friends plan it out ahead of time, say “we want to get this present for the birthday girl, it will cost this much, that means everyone would owe so-and-so, how does that sound to y’all?”
But restaurants are strategically designed to sell as much product to your table as possible without making you think about cost. So for some reason it’s not common to review expectations that way when the gift is “we’re taking you out to dinner.” Weird, right? If you agreed to the restaurant way of doing things, then you agreed to write a blank check for the gift before you sat down at the table. Somehow the restaurant-designed strategy has overridden our basic sensibilities on group gift-giving.
Ask for separate checks. What could be easier?
Hi Ginny, I agree, but sometimes there are a few challenges, we don’t want to offend or seem fussy.
This is the most timely old post I’ve read this week.😂 Now I know what to do in, say, two hours from now. I’ll be joining a group of people (some close, some friends-of-friends) at an expensive restaurant. I was already thinking about how we’d handle the bill, especially since I know I’m not hungry and won’t be drinking. Thanks.
Ah! lol! I’m so glad!
Hello, I wanted to ask you smth. When eating out in restaurants, how the check should be distributed? Me and my sister went out to a restaurant with one of our cousin. We ate a salad that we all agreed to order. The salad costed 2$ . How should we have payed? Me and my sister payed 1$ and the cousin payed 1$ too. My sister now says we should have splited the bill in 3 people, bcs she says that we were 3 ppl that ate the salad. (Me and my sister have the same money. If she has 5$ they are my 5$ also)
What if the restaurant has a policy of only one check? Yet someone in the party orders multiple drinks and more expensive entrees. I don’t think it’s equitable to split it evenly. Your advice?
Good question! I’d tell the waiter/server or person organizing it “Hey, have them put $__ on this card for what I ordered.” If you don’t want to split the bill evenly, then it becomes a matter of advocating for yourself and what you do and do not want to do.
My bill was 24.00 and I paid 44.50 total because the bill was split. 15..00 tip on a 24.00 meal… that stung a bit. They had more drinks a higher priced dinners. I’ll ask for a separate check next time.
Hi Patrice. It does sting, and we go out to have fun and be at peace, so separate checks! ;)
Recently experienced an extremly awkward situation where a family member insisted on paying for everyone at a birthday gathering and then when I saw them next yelled at me on how much it cost and embarassed me..then exaggerated on the cost of the meals and left me in a dilemma as I didnt see the bill…I know mine was only 13…I and other family members offered to split the bill but they wiped out the card and paid it…I dont want hard feelins but dont know exacrly what to do
That does sound awkward! If the person whipped out their card to pay for it all, that’s not something that you could control or have any part of. Sounds like that was their decision to do that.
Laura and Justine, you don’t seem to get the point of the article at all. If some people order steak and lobster, wine, dessert, and other people are more frugal and order a salad and iced tea or something, it’s incredibly selfish of the steak and lobster eater to expect others to subsidize their meal. If everyone orders basically the same thing, no biggie. But in my experience it rarely works that way. Not everyone in a friends group has the same means, and if the friendship and presence of each person is what matters (not their ability to “keep up” financially), the others should be sensitive to that.