How You Can Easily Split Expenses With Friends

Group of friends having dinner at a restaurant
Andres Rodriguez/AlamySharing a meal with friends doesn't have to end with confusion over the bill.
By Stefanie O'Connell

I don't know what it is about sharing costs, but for some reason, any time I go out with a group of smart, young professionals, we're reduced to incompetent consumers the moment the bill arrives. Perhaps it's the taboo of publicly discussing money or sheer apathy towards social spending, but the amount of misconceptions and failed considerations that surround sharing costs and splitting bills with friends and colleagues never ceases to amaze me. Here are some guidelines to help:

1. Pay for your order. If you're sharing something like a pizza, it makes sense to simply divide the total bill by the amount of people. But when you go out in large groups, there's bound to be more variation. Someone orders an extra drink or two, another person orders the filet mignon, and meanwhile you're sitting there with your salad and water. Why should you be expected to contribute as much to the bill as your expensive-taste counterparts? Asking for separate checks from the outset is a great way to avoid any confusion.

The same policy applies to self-prepared group meals. I'm all for sharing the costs of a summer barbecue, but as a vegetarian, I don't think it's fair to pay as much for salad and pasta as everyone else is paying for ribs, burgers and steaks. In those cases, I prefer to BYOF (bring your own food).

2. A tip is a percentage. If you've dined out more than once your life, you know perfectly well that the tip is based on a percentage of your total bill. That fact doesn't change when you're in a big group. Just like your meal, tips shouldn't be split equally (unless you've all ordered the same thing). Rather, it should be calculated as a percentage of what you ordered. That doesn't change when the tip is included, either -- just use the same percentage the restaurant used to calculate your included tip.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Once again, separate checks can spare you this confusion. But if the restaurant can't accommodate that request, here's my strategy. I calculate what I owe based on my order, then figure the proper additions of tax and tip and add it to my total bill. With the prevalence of smartphone calculators and apps designed specifically for this purpose, there's no excuse not to put in your fair share. If you're not a smartphone carrier, just use this simple calculation for the tip: move the decimal point one space to the left and double.

3. Speak up. I'm definitely the frugal one in my social circles. When you've grown up together, it can be tricky when your income and spending values start to become very different from each other. The peer pressure to spend beyond your means can be incredibly tempting, but it's also dangerous. I decided to "come out" as frugal to my friends. Now that they know my spending priorities, they're more inclined to consider low-cost group activities when I'm involved. As an added bonus, I'm also the first one to score hand-me-downs, freebies and other extras!

4. Offer an alternative. If you can offer a low-cost alternative to group activities (for example, a potluck rather than a fancy restaurant), then you can have a lot more social time without so much spending. Even if the meal or activity is already planned, take it upon yourself to research promo codes, coupons or group rates. If you put in a little extra effort, you might be able to score savings for everyone involved, including yourself.

5. Say "no." Sometimes the best option is to opt out. I've been on a few group trips where I've sat out of select activities or meals that I knew would be beyond my price range or outside of my spending plan. Don't be afraid to explore on your own while your colleagues venture elsewhere. By picking and choosing which group expenses you partake in and which you opt out of, you can still be involved, but on your own terms and in line with your budget priorities.

Don't let money dictate your social calendar or create a divide in your friendships, just find ways to share group expenses that are fair and work within your budget.

Stefanie O'Connell is a New York City based actress and freelance writer. She chronicles her struggle to "live the dream" on a starving artists' budget at

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How You Can Easily Split Expenses With Friends
On one level, this is absolutely true. Real wealth, when not inherited, typically comes from starting your own business, but that is difficult when you have nothing. But too many people assume that they can't make things happen unless they're well-financed. "Most of the millionaires or billionaires I've interviewed over the years have bootstrapped it," Siebold said. "Most start with close to nothing. Of the self-made rich, most started off poor or middle class. They've put it on credit cards or borrowed it from family. It takes ambition, and it takes belief that it can be done. It really starts with the self-belief that it's possible. Most people are taught that it's not really possible for them unless they're blue blood or they went to Harvard or Yale. The mythology doesn't match the facts."
"The implication is that money is not made easily and it doesn't come for nothing, which is true technically," Siebold said. "This belief sets people up to believe money is scarce and difficult to earn, instead of seeing money as abundant and earning it is as easy as solving a problem through persistent, creative thought. Figuratively speaking, money does grow on trees; and the trees are ideas." Put those ideas into practice, and you might be surprised how much money the idea tree can grow.
Siebold called it the "It's the old 'trading time for money' [idea] that we're taught." "The average person believes the only way to make more money is to work more hours." But if you limit making money to selling your time, you're limited to what you can make, because there are only so many hours in a day, week, month or year. "I consult with big corporations," he said. "These are some of the big companies in the world. When I ask audiences, 'What's the best way you can think of in your role to make more money,' they'll say, get an MBA. Even at that level, they're trained to trade time for money. College professors don't have money. Even the ones that teach finance don't have any money. This creates the belief that making money is a linear process directly connected to time. Big money requires thinking about it in non-linear terms."
"The real saying is actually 'the love' of money is the root of all evil, but has been misquoted for centuries that most people believe money itself is the root of all evil," Siebold said. "That's where the church comes in to disempower people to make money. It creates a disempowerment cycle that makes people more reliant ... on institutions. Decide to be proud of your ambition and ignore people who tell you that wanting to be rich is wrong."
"Get your piggy bank out and save your pennies," said Siebold. "This is a very dangerous belief as it put a major emphasis on saving. Saving in itself is not bad, but the masses are so focused on clipping coupons and living frugally that they miss major opportunities. People must reject this nickel and dime thinking and focus their mental energy where it belongs: on the big money." In other words, why save pennies when you could be making dollars?
This is another saying that is true in one sense but misleading in a more important way, according to Siebold. "You don't get rich to get happier; you get rich for the freedom in brings." If you're unhappy with money, being rich won't of itself change that. But you could have "more freedom, more options, more choices." And, as he pointed out, most people have no idea what it's like to live without financial worry. Being less unhappy is certainly a step in the right direction.
"This is usually a harmless phrase when people just want to know what's on your mind, but be careful," Siebold warned. "If overused and it penetrates the subconscious, you'll start giving away your intellectual property for practically nothing. Your IP and unique perspective can potentially be worth millions if packaged properly." Look at the number of famous 20th century musicians who sold their music rights for a figurative song and were left destitute even as music publishers made millions. Compare that to Paul McCartney and John Lennon, who kept their rights and built multi-million-dollar fortunes.
"[There's an] idea that there's some kind of nobleness is being poor," Siebold said. A rich man isn't going to go to heaven. I'm not a good person because I'm not ambitious. I don't want to make money so I can be good. It sets [people] up to fail. The masses are programmed from an early age to put the needs of others before their own. There's a reason on a plane to say put your oxygen mask on first. In order to make a lot of money, there is a period of time in the beginning of the wealth building process where you must focus on yourself and your business in order to make it at an uncommon level. Once you acquire wealth, then you can volunteer or give back to charity."
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