Going out with friends is always a difficult situation. When you sit down to dinner at a restaurant, it can be difficult to figure out who is paying. Do you each pay for your own meals? Split the bill evenly? Or is someone responsible for the entire payment?
At the end of the day, the most important thing is to talk about it in advance and decide everything in advance – before the check shows up at the end of the dinner.
Who invited whom?
One of the simplest rules is to determine who pays based on who made the invitation. You should probably pay if you invite everyone to dinner on your birthday. After all, you made the invitation. When I invited my parents, siblings, and cousins to dinner for my birthday last year, I took care of the bill because I invited everyone to a driving dinner.
The same rule applies when you invite people to host a meal in someone else’s honor. However, if you just want to organize the walk rather than host it, you can let everyone know that they are responsible for their own food and drinks. Make it clear that you’re just coordinating the effort, not taking it every man on his own.
The same rule can apply with modern dating. I cry when I invite someone over for dinner. In my conservative, traditional community, it sometimes gets a little weird, but I also use it as a way to determine who is actually “many enough” to let me pay when I’ve made an invitation. On the other hand, I have no problem with my date paying if he asks me out. You’ll have to figure this out yourself, as “switch to Dutch” is always an option as well.
And, of course, there are situations when someone especially insists on being paid, regardless of who invited. In such cases, you can always offer to pick up the check the next time you go out.
Make it easy to split the bill
In some cases, larger parties prefer to have one person pay the bill and have everyone else pay off the principal. This makes it easier to work on the server. (In some companies, this arrangement leads to friendly squabbles as everyone tries to be the one to pay with the credit card and get the rewards.)
It is often settled in cash, but people are increasingly carrying less cash. As a result, it can help if you use a person-to-person payment program to help you split the bill. Apps like Venmo can help you send money quickly (without the need for cash) to someone who covers a check and you need to contribute.
If you have a large party and decide to split the costs, it’s usually a good idea to split them equally just to keep the server sane. This means you have to decide if you will be “that person” who gets something very expensive. You should also understand that one of your friends may be the one to receive the expensive item.
David’s Note: One of my girlfriends always makes an excuse during dinner and settles her portion of the bill with the valet before we finish eating. She just pays for the dishes she orders and then tells us that she has already taken care of her portion. I would be embarrassed to do the same myself, but she does it beautifully every time and no one ever complains. I don’t know anyone who does this, but you can try if you think you can do it.
At the end of the day, the key is clear communication and wanting to enjoy good company rather than worrying too much about money.