When you’re out to dinner with a group of friends, it’s expected that everyone will contribute to the final check, whether you pay for your exact meal or split the bill evenly.
But when you’re with your family — or accompanying someone else’s — things get trickier. Typically, one person picks up the entire check, David Weliver, founder of financial advice website Money Under 30, told Business Insider.
“Usually, the most senior family members might be reasonably expected to pay unless the younger family members have more means or they want to make a special gesture,” he says.
But what about when you’re with your in-laws — should you expect them to pay for you?
In many cases, they will. But it’s better to make the gesture and offer to cover it yourself, especially once you’re out of your 20s.
“Let’s say you’re taking your in-laws out and you’re an older couple in your 30s and 40s. You and your [partner] are making a lot of money now, but your in-laws are not. In that case you would offer to pay,” Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder and president of The Etiquette School of New York, told Business Insider.
But if they feel uncomfortable or embarrassed by it, go ahead and let them pick up the check or offer to split it.
With family, it’s usually not about the money, Napier-Fitzpatrick says. “It’s showing respect for them and how many times they have treated. It’s a nice thing to do, a gesture of independence,” she adds.
And while it’s nice to offer to cover the check, it’s important to remember that there are no hard and fast rules. Take every meal on a case-by-case basis, Weliver suggests.