Mixing money and family can lead to plenty of potentially awkward situations. But going out to dinner shouldn’t have to be one of them.
When you’re out to eat with a close relative, such as a brother, sister, or parent, there’s no magic formula for deciding how to split the check, so it’s best to evaluate each meal on a case-by-case basis. But there are a few general ground rules to make the process easier.
“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,” David Weliver, founder of financial advice website Money Under 30, told Business Insider.
That means if you’re with your parents or in-laws, it’s likely that they will offer to pick up the tab. However, keep in mind that it’s always a nice gesture to offer to treat them, even if they turn you down.
With family, it’s usually not about the money, Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder and president of The Etiquette School of New York, 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.
Now let’s say you’re sharing a meal with a sibling. If you live in the same city and see them all the time, it’s usually ok to split the check evenly as you would with any friend. However, if they’re visiting you from out of town, it’s polite to treat them to a meal out.
“If somebody’s visiting me from out of town, I would want to treat her,” Napier-Fitzpatrick says. “When I went to visit her, she’d treat me. It gets complicated, but generally it all works out if people are fair-minded.”
At the end of the day, don’t be afraid to be generous, but use your best judgement for each situation. After all, you know your family better than anyone.