Manners & Money: Splitting Checks

by Mike on March 11, 2010

The following is a guest post by Bucksome, a baby boomer trying to make the most of her money while saving for retirement. Read more about her at Buck$ome Boomer’s Journey to Retirement. Subscribe to her RSS feed to follow new posts.


When Kita announced this Money and Manners Series I had two reactions. First was to wish I had thought of such a good idea and second was to suggest the series include the issue of group checks. Fortunately, she didn’t hold my jealousy against me and offered a guest post opportunity.

You go out with a group and after an enjoyable meal the check comes. How is it handled? This is an ongoing question not only in the business world but also when dining out with family and friends.

There are three options for handling a group check and everyone should know the plan before ordering.

1. Pay Own Share. If possible arrange for separate checks when ordering. Some restaurants will allow guests to pay separately even when putting the order one one check. If either of these options aren’t available bring cash to pay for items ordered plus tax and tip (add 25-30% depending on tax in your area).

2. Split Evenly. When dining family style or spending roughly the same amount it makes sense to split the check evenly. This is easier for the restaurant as they only process one payment for the entire group.

3. Host. The last option is for one party to pay for the rest of the group. I wouldn’t generally do this with co-workers, but may with friends who rotate the privilege or to treat family members. This sounds easier, but it’s a sticky issue to successfully navigate. Peer pressure has resulted me me paying for someone’s expensive entree, drinks and dessert while I dined lightly and drank water.

Here are a few tips to avoid awkward encounters while dining out with a group:

1. Clarify in advance how the food/beverage bill will be handled. Ask when invited out if the bill will be paid separately or split evenly. You can’t assume that your idea is the same as the rest of the group. This way you can graciously decline if the plan doesn’t fit your budget and avoid an awkward situation.

2. Bring small bills to make it easier to pay just for your share. Be prepared to have to kick in a few extra bucks for those that don’t chip in enough due to math errors or not bringing enough money.

3. Ask the server or restaurant manager for separate checks or separate payment processing before ordering. It is sometimes difficult for them to change after the checks are generated.

By planning in advance it is possible to navigate the money manners of splitting a group check.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kyle C. May 13, 2010 at 8:47 am

Splitting evenly usually the easiest way to go. Typically when my friends and I hit the bar we just split it up evenly. Meals are different so it is usually on separate checks. If they don’t do separate checks we split it even Steven.
.-= Kyle C.´s last blog ..Sell Your Car Yourself, Screw the Dealership – Part 2 =-.

2 BibleDebt March 11, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Just don’t put up short of enough to cover yourself. Thanks for the tips on an always difficult situation.

3 Ronnie March 11, 2010 at 11:42 am

I agree wholeheartedly with the article. When it’s the family style dining me and my friends just split the check evenly. The only time we wont is if someone ordered drinks or something, but if everyone got the same number of drinks, we don’t stress it.

Otherwise, I try to make sure to always have cash, and a calculator. People are notorious for forgetting to include tax in their share of the bill, and if there’s a gratuity already included, they forget that too. I write down each party’s share on the back of the bill. I know it sounds anal, but one of the things me and my boyfriend are working on this year is reducing our dining out expenses, and part of that means not paying for others unwillingly.

4 PF Journey March 11, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I hear ya Ronnie! I can’t stand those situations where everybody chips in and the bill is still short. I’d just assume have a separate check!

5 PF Journey March 11, 2010 at 10:17 am


Right! Especially if it is followed by an long awkward pause!

6 Jason @ Redeeming Riches March 11, 2010 at 9:57 am

I always hate that awkward moment when the check comes or when the server asks, “one check?” . 🙂
.-= Jason @ Redeeming Riches´s last blog ..How to Get a Bigger House Without Buying a New One =-.

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