Splitting the Bill: Let’s Do Brunch?
Splitting the bill equally with your girlfriends can be aggressively awkward.
You’ve seen this movie before.
The excitement in the group chat about brunch escalates into free-flowing Bloody Marys and eggs Benedict, then rapidly descends into someone insisting on splitting the bill down to the last penny for only what they ate and drank, someone getting upset at fellow diners for having to cover someone else’s meal, confusion because everyone thought there were separate checks, or sometimes even worse, hangovers and regret as baffling Venmo requests pop up on your phone the next day as you wonder, “‘Did the wine drinkers leave when they said they did?’ ‘What on earth was everyone eating?'”
So, what’s the etiquette when the bill arrives? Split evenly? One person covers the entire meal and then gets reimbursed? Let’s break it down.
In this blog post, we discuss how to get finances out of the way so you can enjoy an outing with friends.
#1 Communicate Beforehand
Lizzie Post, the great-great-grandaughter of Emily Post and co-president of the Emily Post Institute tells FundsSavvy, “Discussion happens way at the beginning when the invitation happens.”
Post suggests using language like “treat” if you do in fact, intend to cover the entire bill.
If not, communicate clearly beforehand about what everyone can expect.
Before you head out for a meal or drinks, it’s a good idea to communicate with your friends about what you’re comfortable with when it comes to splitting the bill.
Maybe you are longtime friends and you have a mutual understanding that one gets lunch one time and the other one gets another one the next time. Trading off is part of your friendship.
What about people with whom you do not have the same familiarity?
If you’re on a tight budget, and organizing a get-together, it is okay to suggest budget friendly ideas (meeting at someone’s house, a restaurant where everyone can order their own meal separately at the bar and then convene at a table together, a picnic…).
You also have no obligation to explain to your friends where your personal funds go. Whether you are a broke college student or a billionaire, how you spend your money is your personal choice.
You don’t need to give reasons why you would rather have everyone come to your house to hang out. If you are working with an irregular income, planning to save for something, or any other reason, it’s no one’s business but yours!
If you’re in the mood to splurge, it’s okay to let your friends know that you are feeling that vibe. Maybe you’ll be in the mood to pick up the entire tab, who knows?! Surprise!
#2 Start Your Own Tab
If you have an upcoming get together, check out the establishment online beforehand.
Are there options for getting your own bill?
Perhaps there is a setup where you can order your own drinks at the bar. Not only can you avoid a lengthy discussion of the bill, you can leave the event whenever you want easily and seamlessly.
#3 Be Respectful, Discreet and Smooth
Are you the event organizer of a group meal? Taking charge can keep finances and emotions in check and let people enjoy eating rather than arguing.
As the organizer, there are steps you can take to make sure things go smoothly and everyone understands what their approximate cost will be.
Lizzie Post, who also serves up etiquette advice as co-host of the Awesome Etiquette podcast, says if you are getting a group together, “use organizing language.”
For example, if it is a birthday party for a mutual friend, using clear messaging in a group chat such as, “Would love for us all to meet up. We will all split our meal and the birthday girl’s?”
By presenting clearly how the meal will be paid for ahead of time, there are no surprises and no one should panic about splitting checks, or whatever system you have agreed to.
As the organizer, you can also call the restaurant ahead of time and see what their POS (Point of Sale) system can handle as far as giving everyone a separate check and dealing with a group bill. They may be able to handle multiple credit cards and split checks, or perhaps another plan will need to be implemented for the processing of separate checks and charging the bill.
How about charging the entire meal to your credit card and then Venmo requesting each person separately?
This way, you can avoid a lengthy and awkward conversation at the end of a good meal, and you can send separate bills later, not in front of the entire group.
It’s also important to communicate about the method of reimbursement of what each person may owe. Not everyone uses Venmo. Can they pay in cash or another method?
This may determine if they are even able to put the event on their calendar.
Can the restaurant do a prix-fixe menu? This could be one way to simplify splitting the food evenly and make things easier for the wait staff.
#4 Offer to Pay Separately
Are you able to arrive at the venue on your own, order a drink at the bar, have a separate check and then join your group?
This can be one way to avoid getting looped into a crazy bill with wine drinkers you want nothing to do with.
If you’re out with a large group of friends, it can be easier to simply split the bill evenly. However, this isn’t always the best option, especially if some people have ordered significantly more or less than others.
If you’re in this situation, consider offering to pay separately for your own portion of the bill.
This can be a bit more work, but it allows everyone to pay for exactly what they ordered.
#5 Read The Room
When it comes to splitting the bill, it’s important to be considerate of your friends’ financial situations. This means not suggesting an expensive restaurant if you know your friends are on a budget, and being mindful of your own spending as well.
If you order a bunch of expensive dishes and alcohol, consider offering to cover your own portion if your friends aren’t comfortable footing the whole bill.
Is everybody drinking green juice, but you’re taking shots of vodka? Read the room. This isn’t just NOT FundsSavvy, it’s rude.
#6 Don’t Be Too Rigid
While it’s important to be upfront about what you’re comfortable with when it comes to splitting the bill, it’s also important to be flexible. Sometimes, things don’t go exactly as planned – someone forgets their wallet, or the bill is more than you expected.
In these situations, it’s okay to be a bit more flexible with how you split the bill. For example, if someone forgets their wallet, you could offer to cover their portion this time, with the understanding that they’ll get you back later.
Or, if the bill is more than you expected, consider splitting it evenly and then working out any discrepancies later.
#7 Remember, It’s Just Money
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that splitting the bill with friends is just about money.
Post tells us that saying no to an invitation because you do not like the proposed financial situation is completely fine. You also don’t need to explain why you cannot attend. If you are trying to save money, fear getting stuck paying, or don’t want to deal with that one friend who does X,Y or Z, it doesn’t matter.
Simply saying, “I can’t make it,” is explanation enough, Post tells FundsSavvy.com.
While dealing with the bill can be awkward or uncomfortable in the moment, it’s not worth sacrificing a friendship over. If things do get heated or tense, try to take a step back and remember that your friendship is more important than any bill.
By communicating beforehand, being considerate of others’ financial situations, and being flexible when necessary, you can navigate this situation with ease. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s just money – your friendship is what really matters.