If you’ve ever gone out to dinner with a large group, you’ve probably experienced the seemingly-never-ending conversation on how to split up the check at the end of the night. (If you haven’t, you’re extremely lucky!)
At the end of the night, some will be in favor of dividing evenly between all parties; these are usually the people who splurged without considering cost or had multiple drinks without realizing that yes, they do add up. Some will be in favor of paying for what they ordered; in my experience, these are the practical people who ordered conservatively, or merely the people who don’t see the justification in spending their hard-earned cash on someone else’s martini.
So how can you lessen the awkwardness of this situation? Recently, I’ve witnessed a number of methods that work well:
1. If you’re with someone who’s notorious for shorting a few bucks or advocating the “let’s all just split it evenly” doctrine, make it a point to ask the server to give you a separate bill with just the items you order. If you ask at the beginning of the meal, servers are much more inclined to grant this request, and then you can just sit back and relax when the great bill debate begins.
Doing this discreetly is usually preferable to announcing it. Worst case scenario, you offend someone; best case scenario, there’s a bombardment of others doing the same and demanding a separate bill, which can overwhelm or annoy your server. If you feel the need to justify the action, say that you might have to cut out early and don’t want to inconvenience the rest of the party.
If nothing else, ask the server to split the bill in two, one for each half of the table.
2. Take charge. If someone is trying to wiggle out of trying to pay their fair share, be good-natured and announce that you’ll figure out everyone’s share with your fabulous math skills (or alternatively, your fabulous cell phone calculator) so that everyone can just sit back and enjoy the last of the evening.
3. If everyone’s total amounts really are only a few dollars off and everyone seems fine with splitting the bill evenly, just go with it. A small amount isn’t worth a squabble among friends, and sometimes keeping the peace is far more valuable in the long run.
However, the bottom line is that you shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for yourself in situations where money is involved. Pay for what you feel is fair, and don’t let others manipulate you or shame you into paying an amount you’re uncomfortable with. Friends should never make you feel cheated anyway, so speak your mind in a straightforward, polite manner, and leave with a smile on your face instead of a bad taste in your mouth.