Dividing the bill at the end of a meal can be a very contentious issue—especially among friends. When you’re young, supported by your parents, and probably shouldn’t be eating out in the first place, it becomes that much trickier. As an undergraduate student at a university where dining money is used at restaurants, I’ve picked up three few painless methods that work for my peers and me.
Ask for separate checks
If everyone plans to pay his or her own way, request separate bills when you sit down. This saves the waiter or waitress the hassle of rushing to re-print the checks when you inevitably forget to ask after the meal, so everyone can eat at ease. However, some restaurants have policies against splitting checks among large numbers of customers.
Split the bill evenly
When everyone orders meals within a few dollars of one another, this is a simple, polite way to pay. If your excuse for wanting to divide precisely is that your meal cost $8.99 and everyone else’s was $10.99, you probably shouldn’t be eating out at all. You’re dining like adults; nickel and diming your friends is immature and unnecessarily complicated.
Take turns buying
Many people eat with the same group regularly. If your friends have this type of routine, pick up the bill this time, understanding that someone else will pay next week. And if someone is broke you might pick up the slack on his or her rotation in exchange for an invite for a cheap, home cooked meal another day. Everyone presumably likes one another enough to eat together in the first place—paying shouldn’t be the painful end to an otherwise enjoyable meal.
How do you split the check?
[Ed. Note: Mallory reminds us that we must include a link to this piece Choire wrote about how gay men split the check, which is not contentious at all.]