{07/08/2012}   Splitting the cost of food and drink with friends

I had lunch out with a friend the other day.  We had both travelled to Whitstable so neither of us were “hosting” and we ordered and paid for our own lunches.  I was happy with that arrangement.  I find it increasingly troublesome when there appears to be an issue as to whether one or other person should pay for a meal/snacks/drinks, etc.

If you have friends coming to stay from quite a long way away, ie they’ve spent money and time coming to see you, I think it’s nice for them to bring a “thank you for having us” present and I feel that as the host it’s then up to you to provide meals.  But what if you go out for lunch or dinner, assuming there is at least one other lunch or dinner that you have prepared?  Who should pay?  I don’t like fretting about these things.  I think in that scenario you should split the bill.  Though if you’re visiting for just one dinner, I think it would be appropriate for your hosts to treat you.  Really, what are you supposed to do?

Rounds in pubs are always an issue.  I would rather just get my own drinks or buy for one other.  You can spend a fortune on a large round of drinks and you know that some people will have a free night and you and other early round-buyers will have spent a small fortune.

What about birthday meals, for example?  Splitting the bill for a large table is always going to be controversial as some people won’t have drunk alcohol (I have tried separating drink and food bills to avoid this, to varying success), some will have had fewer courses, some will have worked out what their meal should cost and won’t want to pay more to cover others.  All this is fair enough.  But how on earth do you make it fair so you can go out for a group special occasion without worrying about the dreaded bill sorting at the end?

One successful drink-round solution was to ask who in a group of ten wanted to contribute to a drinks kitty.  I think there was only one who was drinking something different so didn’t contribute.  She bought her own drinks and we used up the kitty.  Some people drank faster than they normally would, others slower, but there were no money issues and the small amount of change was used towards a final round somewhere else.

It’s not very nice bearing a bit of a grudge towards a friend because you don’t think they contribute to things enough or fairly.  There should not be money issues between friends.  I guess if you go into a bar with a friend and right away they say, “This is my round”, instead of saying, “Oh no, I’ll get these”, just accept their offer; it’s a lot easier.  That’s what happened while out with friends yesterday.  With a cake round, then a drinks round later, the people who wanted to pay and suggested paying, did.  I think it all worked out well and there were no, “Yes, but …” protestations.  Anyway, the odds are you’ll be getting the next round anyway.  If I offer to pay for drinks or a meal, it’s because for whatever reason I feel I owe it or I’m feeling flush, so accept it.  Likewise, if a friend offers to pay, you should accept it.  Arguing about who will pay is ugly and silly.  Likewise, I feel very uncomfortable with judgments on who can and can’t afford to pay.

Oh it’s all just frightfully British (probably) and sometimes money issues like that make me very irritable.  But I do dwell on it possibly more than I would like to, maybe because it never seems obvious how to get around it, especially when there are more than two of you, thus rendering it more difficult to split bills.


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