Posted by: Kate | August 22, 2009

Big Spender

When you get together with friends – particularly, with friends you see quite often and are confident you’ll see again soon – who pays? Is it always separate checks, each man for himself, or is the bill carefully split in equal amounts regardless of whether you got a salad or lobster? Or does one person pay, with the understanding that, next time, it’ll be someone else’s turn?

For the most part, I live in that third realm. In my monthly lunches with Jenny and Carolyn, we make some vague pretense at keeping track of who paid last and therefore whose turn it is now, but in reality, it’s just about whoever gets the bill first, no big deal, it’ll get paid. Sometimes one of us is unemployed or has recently had a baby or purchased a house or whatever, and then the other two will calmly and happily break the fingers of the reaching hand so as to pay it themselves. The only time it’s really obvious who pays – or, specifically, who doesn’t – is when we bump it up a notch and go upscale for someone’s birthday.

Likewise, when I’m with Gretchen, it rotates around in a very informal sort of manner. Nobody carries a notebook or checks off who paid what, it just settles in. I am a bit less comfortable if she grabs the bill after a meal out with me and both kids, because my household tilts that balance well away from the half-and-half mark, but not so uncomfortable that it stays with me longer than the ink stays wet on the receipt.

It just all washes out in the end, I feel. I got in the habit of weekly dinners with a classmate a million years ago, before I had Emily or even considered kids a viable option, and I liked the casualness of the arrangement.

But, just like people vary widely on things like politics and religion and how they like their eggs, money triggers varying reactions in people. Some have a very hard time accepting anything at all from anyone else, as though somehow they don’t deserve it or it reflects poorly on them to accept a gift of any sort – perhaps it hurts their tongues to say “Thank you,” I don’t know – and others darn near strain something, trying to dodge that bill. There are some who would be mortally offended at the co-occurrence of the words “casual” and “money” in the same sentence, and others who have figured out an even less formal way of legally leaving a restaurant after a meal with friends.

Which are you?


  1. We do a combination, depending on the friends. The best kind are the ones who take turns paying and don’t keep score beyond a vague awareness of who paid last.
    I come from a family who religiously takes out the calculator and figures it out down to the last penny. Marriages have broken up over money in my family. Seems petty to me, personally.
    My husband’s family lives by the motto “It’s only money, we need more, we’ll make more.” Even when times get tough, they don’t sweat it. Things always have a way of working out. I’m growing into this mindset more and more.

  2. All my friends and I are proponents of splitting the bill evenly. If you had 2 glasses of wine and I had iced tea, it’s OK. Next time I may have desert and you won’t. It all works out in the end and if it doesn’t, who cares. On the other hand, picking up the whole check is a real hardship for some of us and might lead to someone not coming because they are uncomfortablr.

  3. I’m with you.. with my friends, we usually take turns paying the check.

  4. My friends with whom I dine out with semi regularly seem to add up what we’ve individually had, then throw in extra. It works well, because sometimes someone will be a little short on cash, and it’s just covered without it ever having to be arranged or even noticed. The problem then lies in when there is too much extra on the table, too much for a tip (and remember, we’re in Oz, so tipping is not the same deal here), and nobody believes they should pick up the extra (but sometimes, when money is short, someone does pick up the extra, and that works too). So when there is too much extra, it gets put away for the next meal out, to buy a bottle of wine, or several!

  5. […] Pays for Dinner? The Long Answer… August 23, 2009 — BeThisWay Kate, at One More Thing, wrote a post asking about who pays when you go out with friends.  I started to leave a comment, […]

  6. (I think pregnancy brain has hit me full on– this is my third time trying to post this comment- I kept hitting the logout button instead of the submit button)

    We tend to trade off or split it, depending on the friends. Generally, it’s a non-issue and we figure it’ll all come in out even in the end.

  7. Heh, this is a tricky one in my family. There’s a BIL who likes to offend my father by playing games about the check. It’s gotten to the point where my father either refuses to attend with him or arranges ahead of time for the entire bill to be taken care of quietly so there is never a check at the table.

    Most of my friends are geeky and can figure numbers out really well in their heads so without thinking or taking offense, bills get calculated easily. Not paid to the penny, just calculated. Does that make sense?

  8. Funny you should ask…since tonite is Girls Nite! We always, always, always split it down the middle. No matter if someone drinks, or doesn’t, or gets steak, or gets salad. It’s just easier. And we all feel free to order whatever we want.

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