Young Money

How to split the check at a restaurant without losing friends

Fun group dinners can quickly turn into nightmares when the check arrives. Should you split it equally? What if you didn't order an appetizer but Dave got chips and four drinks?

It can be awkward to end a lighthearted outing by talking about money or by asking the waiter, "Can we spread this across 17 credit cards?" But holding yourself and your friends to a few simple ground rules will help you avoid any tense conversations.

First of all, unless you agreed on alternative plan beforehand, be prepared to split the check evenly, no matter what you ordered.

"Be mindful that even though you ordered a salad, someone else may have been a heavy drinker or decided to order the most expensive meal," Kimberly Pope, founder of The Pope Institute for Polish, Poise and Etiquette, tells CNBC Make It. "Be okay about the fact that you're going to be contributing to that person's meal."

However, if you're you're on a budget or know that you don't plan to drink, you don't necessarily have to subsidize your friends' expensive taste.

"It's okay to talk about it," Pope says. "You can say, 'So are we going to split the check or do we want separate checks?'"

Be sure to bring up the idea of separate checks before you order so that everyone is on the same page about who will pay for what. It's not only a considerate way to avoid blindsiding your friends, it's also a courtesy to the waiter.

"You're setting the tone right off the bat," says Pope. "You're setting the expectation that, 'Hey, I'm only going to be able to contribute to what I consume.'" That way, no one assumes that you're going to chip in later, and they can govern themselves accordingly.

Pope says that it's also important to be mindful of how you're ordering. If everyone else is drinking, go ahead and order a beer or two. But if you're the only one ordering an appetizer or are eyeing a nice bottle of wine, don't expect your friends to bankroll the extra cost.

Split checks are hardly ever exactly fair, but if you know your order is going above and beyond, offer to pay extra.

"Feel free to put the idea out there and calm the thoughts and fears of your dining companions," Pope says. "Say, 'Hey, we can split this, but I plan to put in a little bit more to cover the appetizer I'm ordering.'"

Don't let the awkward nature of talking about money keep you from bringing up what's best for you and your budget. After all, your friends may very well be in the same boat.

Figuring out the plan ahead of time ensures that everyone is on the same page and avoids creating an uncomfortable situation at the end that dampens an otherwise enjoyable meal.

From splitting the check to DIY adventures, "Young Money" helps you navigate tricky financial situations.

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