Splitting The Dinner Bill: Is It Ever Ok To Refuse?


[Photo: REX/Shutterstock]

We’ve all been there, trapped in that tense moment at the end of a meal with friends when the bill arrives and somebody casually suggests splitting it evenly.

If you’ve more or less spent equally or you’ve all got so much cash you couldn’t care less then no biggie. It’s probably not worth quibbling over a couple of quid. But sometimes there are circumstances when it’s not fair to go Dutch. So why does speaking up feel awkward and embarrassing? The last thing you want to do is be seen as the tight one, so you cough up and spend your journey home resentfully calculating your losses and wishing you’d had dessert and that extra glass of Pinot to make up for that extra tenner you paid.

The fear of being seen as a miser can be so strong it can put you off going out to dinner in the first place. But only being able to afford a cheapish meal shouldn’t discourage you from enjoying time with friends.

If you’ve purposefully made an order within your budget and your mates have been quaffing wine, ordering multiple courses, expensive mains and side dishes why should you foot the bill?

Put it this way: Jane and Olivia are having a lovely shopping spree. Jane buys some jeans, Olivia buys the same pair plus a couple of tops. At the checkout Olivia asks Jane to split the cost of the tops (rude). She might even say something like: “One of these tops is for Mary’s birthday, let’s split the cost so Mary doesn’t have to pay for it.” Is Jane a tight-arse miser if she refuses?

No she is not. In fact it’s not Jane who’s a tight-arse miser, it’s Olivia who should be ashamed of herself. Olivia is a very bad mannered friend indeed.

Do you see the similarity? Because in my mind, it’s really no different. Asking your mate to pay for your dinner is extremely rude and paying for someone else’s birthday meal without prior agreement is a bit of a liberty. Sure, the gesture is probably well-intentioned but it’s making a massive assumption over someone else’s finances.

Your friends aren’t going to stress if you politely mention you can only pay for what you’ve had plus tip. It’s likely it didn’t even occur to them. Everyone deals with money differently.

I’m not saying you should stand there and berate your mates for taking the p*ss but you definitely shouldn’t heap a load of guilt onto yourself for politely declining to pay for what you didn’t chow down on.

This awkward self-imposed etiquette is totally ridiculous. It’s time to lighten up and be honest with your mates - you’ll feel a whole lot better for it.

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