You’re out to dinner with friends when the bill arrives. One person suggests splitting it evenly. Another argues that each person should only pay for what they ordered. While it may feel like you’re stuck in an episode of “Friends,” you’re not alone — we’ve all been party to this particular tension.
So how do you split the check?
“The overarching rule is that unless discussed ahead of time, everyone should assume the check will be split evenly,” David Weliver, founder of financial advice website Money Under 30, told Business Insider.
That means if you ordered a $12 salad and your friend chose a $15 burger, be prepared to pony up the extra buck or two. Another time, the situation will surely be reversed in your favour.
To avoid subsidizing your friends’ dinner when they’re splurging on steak and you’re sticking to salad, stay cognisant of what everyone’s planning to order and aim for the same number of courses.
“If everyone is having one glass of wine, have one glass of wine,” says Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder and president of The Etiquette School of New York.
And don’t be afraid to ask “Are we getting appetizers?” if you’re unsure how much your dining mates are planning to spend. It’s better to go into the meal knowing how to order accordingly than to end up surprised — and potentially miffed — at the end.
“You don’t want to feel taken advantage of, but on the other hand, you don’t want to seem cheap. So order approximately the same amount of food, order the same number of courses,” Napier-Fitzpatrick says.
There are, of course, exceptions to the rule.
“If you’re smartly watching your spending and don’t want to split a check when you ordered a salad and a water with friends who each order three courses and multiple cocktails, ask the server ahead of time for separate check,” Weliver says.
If you know you’re on a budget or aren’t planning to drink, it’s ok to opt out without having to pay for everyone else’s more expensive orders — but be sure to communicate this with your waiter at the beginning of the meal.
“That’s one of the rules for splitting checks,” Napier-Fitzpatrick says. “If you know you’re going to split a check, tell the server when you place your order.”