I recently went out to dinner with a couple really good friends. We’ve known each other for awhile so there’s really nothing we won’t talk about – including the ever-taboo subject of money. One of my friends doesn’t drink (alcohol) and after we ordered our drinks (and waters), the conversation turned to money. My friend started talking about a dinner she went to the week before, where everyone had ordered wine. At the end of the meal, they decided to split the bill evenly. She ended up paying $50 for just an entree, since she didn’t drink. Of course, she felt totally uncomfortable saying anything because she didn’t want to come off as cheap.
I totally understood where she was coming from. While I try to save as much as I can, I know there is a fine line between frugal and cheap and sometimes, I’m not really sure if I’m crossing that line, especially in social settings. I remember a time or two when I purposely ordered the cheapest thing on the menu…only to split the meal evenly in the end. That meant I was paying for someone’s steak while I ate a salad.
SO why is it so hard to split the bill fairly at restaurants? I’ve come to the following conclusions:
1. I’m not good at math and neither are most of my friends.
2. Splitting the bill fairly takes time.
3. No one wants to be the “cheap” one, especially in a large group.
Do any of these conclusions sound reasonable? No. Because they’re not. Splitting the bill at a restaurant doesn’t have to be as painful and as awkward as we make it out to be. Here are some things to keep in mind when dining out:
Here’s the number 1 rule of thumb: never assume everyone in your group is OK with splitting the bill evenly. Even if you don’t mind, speak up because there’s probably someone in the group who does mind. Splitting the bill according to what you ordered/ate only takes a little bit of extra time and everyone will be happy in the end.
Don’t Order For The Table…Unless You Are Paying
You know what I hate? When the waiter asks if we’d like some appetizers to start and someone pipes up by ordering everything on the menu. Umm…so are you paying for that? Never order for the entire table…unless you plan on paying for it or you’ve asked for permission. Because that’s basically spending someone else’s money…
Put Your Smartphone To Good Use
Nowadays, since so many people have smartphones, not being good at math isn’t really an excuse. There are tons of apps to choose from to help you split the restaurant bill. And there’s always the handy dandy calculator found of every phone, smart or not.
Ask For Separate Checks
One thing I like to do with my friends is ask for separate checks. It takes all the “calculations” out and makes things so much easier for everyone. One tip – I like to to ask for separate checks while we’re ordering. It saves the waiters extra work since they sometimes will print out your bill right before you’ve finished your meal so that it’s ready.
Who Cares What Other People Think!?
Last but not least, who cares what other people think!? (which is what I told my friend). Sure, it depends on the situation you’re in, but if you’re with a group of friends and you’re not OK splitting the bill evenly, let them know. You shouldn’t be stuck paying for someone else’s food just because it’s easier.
One caveat though, I do find it annoying when people take it to the other extreme – which is calculating the bill fairly, down to every last penny. I don’t mind paying a extra buck if it’s going to spare me spending 30 minutes trying to figure out who ate what.
Do you find it difficult to split the bill at restaurants?