Stop Paying More Than Your Share of the Dinner Bill

Photo (cc) by Lars Plougmann

Some nights out are great fun — right up until the bill arrives.

Why is it that the ones who say “Let’s just split it four ways” tend to be the nightclubbing pals who pounded down expensive drinks (and plenty of them) all evening, or the fellow diners who ordered appetizers, surf ’n’ turf, wine and molten chocolate cake?

That leaves on-a-budget you with two choices:

  • Split the bill four ways — even if you drank club soda with lime all evening, or nibbled at a stir-fry while everyone else chowed down. (Hint: You are being exploited.)
  • Do the who-ordered-what math, person by person, until eyes are rolling out of everyone’s heads.

Here’s a third choice: Stand up for yourself, but forget the calculators. There’s an app for that.

Apps like Tip n Split and Receipt Ninja take the math out of the equation, so to speak – but they also make sure things are fair. Some will divide up other shared expenses such as rent, utilities, vacations and groceries. Or they’ll keep tabs on who paid last time so that you don’t end up arguing over whose turn it is to buy.

(Unless otherwise noted, all apps mentioned in this article are free and available both for iOS and Android even though article links may be for just one or the other.)

Bills don’t necessarily have to be parsed down to the half-cent, incidentally. For example, an app called Plates lets specific items like bottles of wine or Copper River red salmon get charged to whoever consumed them, and then shares the rest of the bill equally among diners.

“People just want to be told roughly how much to chip in,” says Jon Bittner, whose company released the app in the summer of 2013. It’s currently available just for iOS but an Android version is in the works.

Let the app do the talking

Another of Bittner’s programs, Splitwise, is designed for expenses you share regularly, especially with roommates. “When you’re ready to pay up, a simple PayPal transfer is all it takes to settle your debts,” says Emily Nickerson of The Daily Muse.

So rather than having to nag your flatmate for her share of the utilities or that last Costco run, you let the app do the talking. Sweet!

Or maybe you’re the social organizer for your group, the kind of guy who puts down the deposit on the party bus or the ski-weekend condo. How often do you find yourself paying more than your share because you’re too embarrassed to nag the holdouts who conveniently “forgot” to chip in?

An app called Settle Up! costs $1.99 but is definitely “worth two dollars,” says Shelley Elmblad, financial software writer for About.com.

Among her favorite features: Settle Up! will send snapshots of bills to all users, summarize outstanding debt and how much each person has paid already, and provide support for multiple currencies (useful for those group vacations).

The SpotMe app for iOS uses Facebook optimization and free group messaging to track balances for bills you split (restaurants, rent, whatever) to make sure you get reimbursed. Daily and weekly summary reports mean that no one can “forget” to pay; you can also add photos, descriptions and notes.

More apps for you

Some other useful let’s-do-this-fairly programs:

  • BillPin will email your friends their shares of the bill. It lets you charge some people less and others more, depending on need or prior agreement.
  • Divvy. Install this on your iPhone for 99 cents, then snap a picture of the receipt, drag each item to the person who ate it and you’re done. The tax and the right amount of tip gets added, too.
  • Billr. “If you have an iPhone and love to eat out with friends, you need this 99-cent app,” Nickerson says. It will calculate entrees separately – “you know you don’t want to pay for someone else’s lobster when you enjoyed a salad” – and divide up the costs of shared items like a bottle of wine or that bloomin’ onion. It will also text or email a copy of the bill to all of the diners. (A similar app called Advanced Bill Splitter is available free for Android.)

These apps let you protect your budget without seeming like a buzz killer. No one has to get super picky (“Karen’s appetizer cost $2 more than mine! And both she and Stacy had dessert!”) but no one gets stuck paying way more than his share. Ain’t technology wonderful?

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
3 Ways a Health Savings Account Can Improve Your Finances
3 Ways a Health Savings Account Can Improve Your Finances

Open an HSA in minutes to help you save on taxes, cover medical expenses and grow your retirement nest egg.

4 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less
4 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less

Here’s how to ditch cable and satellite TV — and save a bundle — without giving up your favorite shows.

8 Things You Should Rent Instead of Buying
8 Things You Should Rent Instead of Buying

You may think you’re looking at a must-have purchase. But do the numbers and think twice.

8 Surprising Things No One Tells You About Retirement
8 Surprising Things No One Tells You About Retirement

Knowing what to expect can help you prepare for — and adjust to — life in your golden years.

6 Types of People Who Can’t Count on Social Security
6 Types of People Who Can’t Count on Social Security

If you fall into one of these groups, don’t assume that you will receive benefits.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare
14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare

These services could save you money and help prevent costly health problems.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

10 Things You Should Never Do With Bleach
10 Things You Should Never Do With Bleach

Does the pandemic have you reaching for bleach more than ever before? Learn the ins and outs of using this powerful disinfectant.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.