6 Ways to Split the Bill Without Losing Friends

After a wonderful dinner with old friends, the check arrives and someone suggests splitting the bill equally. It's a simple solution, but not always a fair one. The price of a dinner salad with iced tea just doesn't compare to the cost of a cedar plank salmon with white wine. So how do you enjoy dinner out without jeopardizing the relationships you hold dear? Here are six ways to split the bill without losing friends. (See also: Paying for a Piece of the Pizza: Techniques for Splitting the Bill)

1. Take control

In social situations, the person who speaks first speaks loudest. Rather than risk a conflict, people tend to agree with whatever payment strategy is initially proposed. With this truth in mind, anticipate those moments when the conversation will naturally turn to payment matters (usually when a group is ready to order or when the check arrives) and be prepared with your suggestion. (See also: 6 Painless Ways to Split the Check)

2. Request separate checks

Though technically not splitting the bill, it's the cleanest method by far. Avoid sticky situations by simply requesting separate checks up front. Though it may be more work for your server, it's the most equitable approach. If necessary, justify your strategy with a little white lie like, "I might have to leave a few minutes early."

3. Split it evenly … sometimes

On occasions when everyone has had a similar amount of items (drinks, appetizers, and dessert) or similarly priced items, splitting the bill evenly is the simplest way to go. To be sensitive to all diners, only suggest this option — don't declare it. Though you may not mind pitching in an extra two or three bucks to make this method work, it could be a big deal to someone else.

4. Use a bill splitting app

Yes, there's an app for that! Explore modern ways to split the bill with apps like Tab, and Billr. These tools help calculate how much each person owes — including the divided cost of shared items, tax, and tip. Whether the gathering is large or small, it's the perfect way to divvy things up fairly and avoid those awkward moments.

5. Rotate payment

Again, while this approach isn't technically splitting the bill, it's designed to divide the burden of payment evenly. With close friends who get together often, consider taking turns paying the entire bill. It's a simple solution that makes the process clean and easy. Just remember, in order for this system to work, the restaurants you choose must be in the same general price range (no five-star establishment one week and a hot dog stand the next).

6. Keep things light

No matter what method you choose, use humor to diffuse tense bill-splitting moments. If you meet resistance when suggesting everyone pay for their own items, say something like, "Hey guys, I'm on a budget. I'm not paying for Mark's filet mignon with black truffle butter and baby root vegetables." Though Mark may have only ordered a burger and a beer, your point is expertly made and folks will get a good chuckle.

Wherever money is concerned, there's bound to be some awkwardness — even between friends. It's a side effect of a culture that's built on consumption, wealth, and keeping up with the Joneses. The truth is, most people are terrified of being perceived as cheap; we'll even risk logic and fairness to avoid it. The trick to splitting the check equitably is communicating your expectations clearly and not letting your voice be drowned out by the crowd. So the next time you're having drinks or dinner with friends, speak up when the bill arrives. Split the check, not your friendships.

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6 Ways to Split the Bill Without Losing Friends

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