A friend of mine loathes the end of a dinner out when the check comes. Not because of what he has to pay, but due to the stress of splitting up the bill.
Each person owes a different amount for different dishes. One friend won’t pay a tip and another forgot his wallet. Three people want to pay in cash, two others with debit cards. All the money gets collected and the total is $4 short, not including tip. After all that, the entire bill gets charged to one person’s credit card.
I know I’ve experienced all these problems, so I can understand my friend’s reservations regarding eating out with friends. But with a little bit of planning and organization, these problems can be solved or avoided, so socializing never becomes a chore or worse a math test.
You should know how you will personally pay for your meal before going in. This seems like something that should go without saying, but it’s necessary, especially if you’re keeping an accurate food budget. Interrogating your friends before enjoying a meal together whether they have already planned out payment methods is obviously frowned upon, knowing how to handle your own means will save time and effort later.
Once you’re finished eating, drinking, and being merry, that check arrives like an angry toddler, demanding attention. But after you finish reading this, you’ll be prepared.
Tax and Tip
First, you have to deal with how much tax and tip each person should pay. Each person’s individual dish prices are easy to add up, but these extras act like two monkey wrenches in the proverbial machine.
About $1 per person should take care of the tax. Unless you live in Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, or Oregon and don’t have to pay sales tax.
Anyway, it’s easiest to only have people add in whole numbers for tax. If $1 per person doesn’t take care of the tax, have everyone chip in $2. The extra will just be added to the tip.
About $3 per person usually will leave an adequate tip. There are two easy ways to calculate an appropriate tip easily.
The first is doubling the sales tax. This, of course, depends on your state’s sales tax rate. My state charges about eight percent, so doubling the tax results in a 16 percent tip.
The other way is to just calculate what 20 percent would be. Take the total of the bill, move the decimal point one digit to the left, then double that number.
Of course, dividing that number between everyone there can become difficult, especially if it’s between something like seven people. Which is why $3 per person is a good benchmark.
Now that each person knows how much he or she owes, you can now deal with everyone’s payment method. Splitting a bill between multiple cards in addition to cash keeps this process from being easy, but it can be streamlined.
Take a pen and the check. On the back, write down the name of each person paying with a credit or debit card and the amount each will pay next to the names. This prevents errors from happening.
Once the plastic is taken care of, the cash-payers can resolve the rest of the bill. The server or a host or bartender at the restaurant will happily give change for those only with large bills. Don’t be afraid to ask!
With a system in place, you can keep headaches from developing and enjoy your night out to the fullest extent.