A Millennial’s Nightmare: Splitting the Check

For daily bits of wit and financial advice follow the journey on Twitter @BrokeMillennial.

Few social customs  frighten a millennial more than dealing with the end-of-meal check. Recently, I had a terrifying splitting-the-check experience at a birthday dinner for a friend. The restaurant was a typical over-priced Mexican joint in Manhattan. The kind of place that would reduce most abuelas to tears, because they charge $13 for a chicken and cheese quesadilla.

quesadilla(Delicious, cheap recipe here.)

After thoroughly researching the menu beforehand, I went to dinner prepared to order the cheapest meal on the menu. I factored my meal + $12 for tax and tip + an extra $5-7 for the birthday girl’s meal to = $40

By the time the check got to my end of the table, with only three of ten people left to pay, the balance showed a $240 deficit. After a glass of cold water roused me from my fainting spell, my brain went into overdrive. I only knew the birthday girl and didn’t feel comfortable demanding the rest of the party ante up or suggesting we split the bill evenly, which would have been about $10 over my prepared budget.

IMG_3122(Not the exact bill that almost gave me a stroke.)

Luckily, the birthday girl’s boyfriend handled the few cheapskates who tried to short the bill by twenty bucks apiece, but the transaction still took time off my life expectancy.

An urban myth exists amongst millennials that in about a decade we’ll be able to just split bills evenly, no matter how many glasses of wine the lush at the end of the table orders compared to us, and be content with the situation. But let’s face it, for now most broke millennials are willing to come to blows over a few dollars. We are in a phase of life where every dollar counts (aka we need to be able to buy drinks at the bar later).

IMG_0386(Those are $15 cocktails. Wish I was kidding.)

Unfortunately, my extensive research on this particular social anxiety yields no simple solution. Well, except “there’s an app for that.”

IMG_3129(I’m a millennial therefore contractually obligated to say that once a week. And don’t you dare pay money for that app!)

Financial experts offer all kinds of tips. Here is my break down of how their advice typically turns out:

Advice: Share it evenly.
Millennial reaction: At least one person takes advantage of the situation and orders drink upon drink and/or appetizers, entree and desert. One person didn’t get the splitting-the-check memo and orders the cheapest options. These two people will end up in a verbal altercation that would make the Real Housewives of New Jersey jealous.

3-Table-Flip(Oh, reality TV. Full slideshow at Wetpaint.com.)

Advice: Let each person do their own math.
Millennial reaction: At least one member of the dinner party will pay only for his or her meal and “forget” about tax and tip leaving the bill a short. Everyone else starts griping while throwing a few more dollars down. A collective mental game of Clue is played to pinpoint the scrooge who will subsequently never be invited to a meal again.

Advice: Appoint a person to determine everyone’s share.
Millennial reaction: Be warned – if you major(ed) in finance, accounting, business or math (God bless your soul) then you will be said person. At least one person (the stingiest) will demand to double-check the appointed bean-counter’s math and find it drastically inaccurate.

Advice: Decide on the form of payment.
Millennial reaction: No one will listen. Half the group will only have credit/debit cards and half will have come prepared with cash. Some of the cash might be only coins.

IMG_3116(I’m not ashamed, coins are acceptable currency.)

The allergy to cash is a common problem I’ve noticed in my generation. Excuses for only carrying plastic are bountiful. Some people are wary of stolen wallets. Some claim they spend more money if they carry cash. Other’s simply “forget” to ever have it.

Even in these days of technology it is important to carry some cash on your person, especially if you’re going out to a meal or for drinks.

Reason one: some restaurants are finicky about splitting a bill on multiple cards nor are they legally obligated to take more than one card.

Reason two: Bars, convenience stores and bodegas in New York City (and elsewhere) are notorious for the once-illegal practice of a credit card minimum.

Essentially, you ask for a $6 beer and put down a card only to have the bartender tell you there is a $10, $15 or in some cases $20 minimum. If you don’t have cash you are pigeonholed into spending the minimum amount. If you planned to buy at least XX dollars worth of drinks good for you. If you’re on a budget, then a credit card minimum can derail your evening’s financial plans.

Do yourself a favor, just carry some cash.
IMG_3120

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12 thoughts on “A Millennial’s Nightmare: Splitting the Check

  1. Girl – this is pinpoint right on truth serum. I have had countless annoyances with that scrooge you refer to in your post. A couple things I have personally been doing when I am with groups (and its no one’s bday) is trying out places that allow you to pay at the register or give you a card where you charge everything on your meal cafeteria style then you check-out yourself. Sad to have to do this but I always end up being that person that spends 60 on a 25 dollar meal.

  2. My strategy is to look at the menu online ahead of time, pick a meal, calculate total with tax and tip to the dollar, and bring exact change and that’s it. It’s also good at stemming temptation. In real emergencies, NYC is good about accepting credit cards for cabs, subway, insulin, whatever.

    Which isn’t to say that I don’t often find myself among groups that give up on math quickly in favor of splitting evenly and the only argument that gets listened to is if some person didn’t get any drinks at all and others did… so I guess the only sure way out is not drinking?

  3. Pingback: Emma’s Pick Of The Week: #BrokeMilliennials | RedMica Blog

  4. Glad you understand my plight 🙂 I usually always bring cash and just pay my own way, but in certain situations you can’t! It’s awkward…oh man, I miss NYC so much, but not those $15 cocktails 🙂 I think the only way to really prevent it, is talking to the person beforehand, but that could also leave a bad taste in their mouth.

    • The $15 cocktails are the worst! I always forget how cheap drinks are elsewhere in the US. It’s great though, because I feel so rich when I go to bars, especially down south.

      Cash is also key! I’m a big supporter of always carrying cash.

  5. A little while ago I went to yum cha and brought cash for this exact reason, but then the restaurant wouldn’t split the bill! And the most welloff in the group paid for everyone by card and refused to accept our cash, sigh. I felt really bad as it wasn’t a group of people I’m very close to or see very often. Had a rant about that here: http://nzmuse.com/2013/02/shouting-friends/

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