Splitting the Bill Among Friends

Last night my good friend, M, and I went out for dinner at an Italian restaurant in between my office and her home. M and I went to college together back in the mid 90s. When we first graduated we both made very little money. Those first few years were so tight that I knew exactly how much money I could spend at dinner. Whenever I went out I’d choose one of the most inexpensive items on the menu, add up the tax and tip in my head, and then order. Of course, sometimes we paid exactly what we owed and sometimes we split the bill equally. I hated those nights when we split the bill, because some of my friends would choose really expensive meals, and I just didn’t have a whole lot of pennies to spare.

Fast forward to last night. The bill arrived and M and I both passed our credit cards forward. When the waiter brought back the receipts M apologized for letting the waiter split the bill, because her dinner was more expensive than mine. I laughed because the difference was less than $3. We are both in very different financial circumstances than we were just after college. Thankfully we can now split the bill and no longer need to pay only our share.

6 thoughts on “Splitting the Bill Among Friends”

  1. I know what you mean – splitting a bill can be very tricky and sometimes those few dollars can make a big difference. I do not drink alcohol or eat puddings and I always find it annoying when people have 3 or 4 drinks with a meal and then a pudding and I end up having to share a bill with them.

  2. This is a very big issue for me. My wife and I usualy split a dish. This is for several reasons. One, to keep our calories at bay. Two, to save. Three, we fill it is a closer experience when you’re sharing. We do not drink (at restaurants anyway), and very rarely get dessert. We usualy go out with friends, since we love the company. But sometimes they will want to split the bill after some had drinks and/or dessert, not to mention the lobster tortellinis. On top of that sometimes, out of “carelessness” they would even count us as two, even though we consumed as one.
    It got to be so ridiculous that one night everybody got lobster, since everybody thought “If I’m paying for his and her lobster, I’m getting me lobster too”.
    After that I opened the conversation. Some people didn’t like it (Surprise!).
    But now it is much better, you ordered it, you pay, unless we are at some asian place where you eat family style (but that’s not usual).

  3. I know exactly what you mean! At my last gig, there’d be five or six of us going out to lunch every day and we’d each get to choose a restaurant once a week. I would cringe inside when some folks would pick restaurants where there was no way to eat for under $20, and almost cry when they’d order alcohol (I don’t drink) and then ask to split the bill five ways at the end. On the days when I went for lunch on my own, I was at the taco bell with five bucks in my hand!

  4. I’m used to going out with 6+ people, and somehow, I always get designated as the check-splitter-upper. My solution:

    1. Round everything to the closest half dollar.
    2. Add plates together.
    2a. Total rounded numbers so that they’re at least the bill, if not over.
    3. Tell peeps their totals.
    4. Collect cash and cards.
    5. On back of check, write last name, last four of card, and amount to be charged.
    6. Explain to waiter that the bill is split up, and you’ve made it easy for them to follow. Everything’s on the back. Hand over check and money.
    7. If any cash comes back as being an overage, it goes toward the tip. Make sure tip is 10%-15% and let people know their percentage of the tip (to write into the receipt or put cash on table)

    Ta da! It’s actually quite easy, and everyone’s relieved that there’s no small change math.

  5. My solution is to ask for a seperate check. I used to wait tables in college and even though it is more work for the server to do seperate checks, I usually found that I tended to get tipped more when people had their own tabs. I would come up to the table and say, “Will this be seperate checks?”, and invariably there would be some relieved faces at the table. Don’t be afraid to ask for two (or more) seperate bills, but as in everything, remember to tip for the extra hassles you bring with you (messy children, special orders, etc).

  6. @douglas — Your lobster story made me think about my dad’s advice for sharing meals with friends and coworkers. He often traveled for business and quickly learned it’s best to be the last to order. He assumed that his coworkers would split the bill evenly and gauged his dinner selection on his coworkers orders. If they ordered steak and lobster he certainly didn’t order soup and salad. And if he only wanted soup and salad he made it known that he would not split the bill at the time that he ordered.

    @amphritrite — I need to bring you along on dinners w/ friends. I’m afraid to say the folks at our table always seem to be mathematically challenged.

    @anonymous — Asking for separate checks in advance is great advice. We started doing this with a friend of ours who used to order 10 more drinks than everyone else at the table. When we switched to separate tabs he suddenly decided he enjoyed being sober šŸ™‚

    @rachel & leslie — Heed the advice above, make it known that you want a separate check. That way you can stay within budget and spare your pennies.


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