Splitting The Bill At A Restaurant: Why Is it So Hard!?

7 Flares 7 Flares ×

7113832227_01e7eee131_zI 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:

Never Assume

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?


  1. says

    I hate how difficult it is to split the bill sometime. You’d think it would be straightforward! The worst was when my wife was with a big group of girls and when the check came they divided up the apps…even though all the apps had meat in them and my wife doesn’t eat meat…

    • Connie @ Savvy With Saving says

      I never thought about how difficult it would be for vegetarians, she must run into that issue a lot!

  2. says

    I agree with your ideas. I think asking for separate checks is the best but that doesn’t always work. I also agree that it doesn’t have to be to the last penny, but if it passes the ‘sniff test’ for everybody, it should be good.

    • Connie @ Savvy With Saving says

      I like separate checks but you’re right, it doesn’t always work, especially when you have a really large group.

  3. says

    I am really glad my friends don’t have a problem either asking for separate checks, or just passing the receipt around for everyone to see what they owe. We’ve never split it evenly. After everyone has put their money in, one person will count it and tell everyone if they need to put another dollar in or whatever. It doesn’t usually take that long.

    • Connie @ Savvy With Saving says

      I like passing the check around too – that way, you only have to calculate for yourself.

  4. says

    I had dinner with a couple friends the other night and they ordered two drinks while I stuck to just one. The bill came and one friend suggested we split it three ways, but I only owed $12 and that would have bumped up my cost to $20! I have no qualms about telling people I intend to pay for my own meal unless splitting it evenly is the same as what it would cost me individually. Apps are definitely useful in this situation, as is keeping track of what you ordered and how much you ow e so there’s no confusion.

    • Connie @ Savvy With Saving says

      Good for you for speaking up! It’s definitely not fair to you to pay extra for something you didn’t eat/drink.

    • BJ says

      I thinks it’s so rude to order more expensive items than someone else and then suggest to split the bill. Good for you for saying something! I think the people who ask to split the bill evenly are the cheapskates wanting someone else to pay for their food. Then they try to turn it around and act like you are being cheap if you ask for a separate check!

      I bet the way to stop that is one time order so much expensive stuff (and take home items) and then see what the “split evenly” people do….I bet they will begin to ask for separate checks!

  5. says

    This I feel strongly about. I went out recently for a friends birthday and they had three courses and lots of alcohol. I had a main and tap water. Their meals came to £35 and mine was £10. They then started talking about splitting he bill. I said “you go ahead but here’s my £10 + a tip for the waitress”. I’m sorry, I’m trying to pay off debt, quickly! They all understood but it’s just uncomfortable having to remind people what you ate.

    • Connie @ Savvy With Saving says

      It can definitely feel uncomfortable! But if they are good friends, they will understand.

  6. Mark F. says

    Depends on which group of friends I’m hanging out with- some we get it down to exact amounts, some we just divide evenly, some we just take turn treating each other. I adapt to each:)

    I think I’m personally most comfortable with just dividing it evenly.

  7. says

    I usually don’t give people the chance to try and split it. I try to keep tabs on what I order and spend as the meal goes on, and then when the bill comes, I double check it and toss in my share + tip. Maybe that’s cheap to some, but I just can’t afford to pay for others when I’m on a tight budget.

  8. says

    It’s a delicate thing to do, but the table has to realize the other side of the argument.

    It’s not cheap to only pay for what you ordered.

    It IS cheap to pay less for your steak and drinks by splitting the bill evenly and essentially mooching off of others.

    If you can get people to understand that, it really becomes a no-brainer. But that’s the trick, right? Getting people to understand that.

    • BJ says

      That’s what I don’t understand. The true “cheap” people are the ones who suggest splitting the bill evenly. That person will never be the one who only ordered an appetizer with water. Isn’t funny when it comes to money, it shows people’s true colors right away?? People asking to split the bill evenly when it is clear others didn’t indulge, is just a quick way to know this type of person would cheat if you given the chance in another situation.

      • Lily says

        Totally agree! I just went out with a couple who called a mutual friend a cheapskate because she piped up about not ordering any alcoholic beverages, but this same couple wanted to split our bill evenly, even though we owed $40 less!

  9. says

    This is the perfect time when having frugal friends is useful. Each of us know right off the bat that we aren’t trying to brake the bank if we eat out. When we order we’re all usually on the same wavelength and a bill split is completely cool. One other thing to add is to remember gratuity. I have been in a few situations where people give exactly the bill not taking into account gratuity especially if it’s a large party and it’s already added. If enough people do it in a party that leaves a significant burden on one person.

    • Connie @ Savvy With Saving says

      I’ve been in a few similar situations as well and I hate it when people forget to add the tax and tip.

  10. says

    With big groups, they tend to want to split the costs evenly. Hopefully most people won’t order something outrageously expensive comparatively. But for the most part, we always keep the alcohol separate since drink costs add up quick.

    • Connie @ Savvy With Saving says

      It definitely gets harder with larger groups. I had a “family style” dinner once with a large group and someone wanted to pay less because she didn’t eat much. It’s kind of hard to figure out who owes what in those situations.

  11. says

    This is actually one of my main reasons why I don’t like to go out to eat, especially in large groups. Some people insist on sharing wine and appetizers, which I prefer not to get because I don’t drink that much and would rather have my meal instead. I don’t think it’s fair for one person to pay way more than their fair share if they didn’t eat or drink as much.

    I usually am the one who ends up asking to split the bill. Lol.

    • Connie @ Savvy With Saving says

      I know how you feel. I don’t drink that much either so sometimes, it doesn’t really feel fair.

  12. says

    I hate it when I don’t drink and yet I’m forking out for other peolpe’s bottles of wine. This is a great post full of ideas! Now I just grab the receipt and work out my portion and pay just that. Most of the time I’m providing a voucher or coupon for the table anyway, so no one quibbles.

    • Connie @ Savvy With Saving says

      Good point, it’s probably just best to throw in your portion and lets everyone else figure there’s out!

  13. says

    I hear you! I’ve seen this issue many times.

    Splitting the bill evenly is the easiest, but it’s not fair to the person who may be trying to save money and buy a cheaper dish or not fair to those who do not drink and share the expensive bottles of wine. Sometimes, the ones who are trying to save are too fearful to speak up.

    Now splitting the bill fairly takes more time and mental effort, and not everyone is good with math and accounting.

    After seeing all this, I asked myself: Why can’t we just create a tool to split the bill fairly and make it easier?

    I decided to take the time and effort to create a “Fair Bill Split” App. It could allow simple splitting (evenly), or it would allow easy fair splitting. In the Fair Split mode, you could enter the tax rate, tip rate, number of people, and all the bill items. You click on Done button and then you start itemizing items. Each column represents a person, the top part contains the prices each person will pay, and the bottom part includes the list of bill items.

    You could click on a particular name underneath each Bill Item and allocate a particular bill item to one or more people. What this means is that if only two people shared an appetizer, you could charge those two people only. Also, if everyone but three people take expensive bottles of wine, you can charge everyone else except those three people. Also, you can treat a birthday celebrant by charging the celebrants dishes to everyone else.

    You can optionally change the name of the bill items to “Clam Chowder”, and you can also optionally change the name of each person: “Michael”, or “Samantha”.



Speak Your Mind