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Who pays for dinner when the guys go out?


Who Pays for Dinner When the Guys Go Out?I’m on vacation visiting my brothers this week, so this is just going to be a short fun article today.   It gives me a chance to reminisce for just a moment.  When I was single, I always paid when I went out on dates. If the girl wants to split the bill, I usually just said, “why don’t you pay next time” or “let’s get a drink and you can pay.” (Mrs. RB40 asked – was there ever a next time?) Occasionally we’d split the bill. I still think the guy should pay, but splitting is all right with me, too. I just wanted to get the who pay when going out on a date question out of the way. Today, I actually want to talk about who pays for dinner when I am out with my brothers or my buddies.

I’m the oldest one in my family and a little bit ahead of my 2 brothers financially. Of course, when I was working and they were still in school, I always paid. Once they started working, I still tried to pay most of the time because I was in a better financial position. Today, this is a bit more difficult to answer.

We are still comfortable financially, but we also had a 60% reduction in income after I quit my job. We are still ahead in net worth, but they will probably surpass us at some point as long as they keep working in their current fields (medicine and engineering). We’ll just focus on one of my brothers’ family below.

  • Net worth: Our net worth is about 3x his family’s net worth.
  • Income: They make about 3x our income.
  • Kids:  We each have one child, both under the age of 3.

Both our families are doing fine at the moment, so it doesn’t really matter who pays for dinner. We don’t see each other that often, but when we do, it is for more than a few days.  When we go out, we typically eat at family style restaurants and have a great time trying out different ethnic foods.  Take my poll or response with a comment below.

Sorry! I’m not sure what happened, but it wants you to log on to vote. WordPress just updated so there might be some new issue. You’ll just have to comment below…

(poll removed for now.)

  1. Guy with higher net worth pays
  2. Guy with higher income pays
  3. The host since visitor already paid for travel cost
  4. Takes turn
  5. Just split it!
  6. Pay your own share! (Some people order expensive stuff…)
  7. Whoever is faster with the draw.

This also applies for friends. Most of my friends are doing well financially, but a few are still struggling. Usually I’ll try to pay if I know they are not quite as well off as we are.  Depending on how many of us there are (especially if we bring the spouses and kids), sometimes we pay for what we order and take care of appetizers and the tip.

On the other hand, now that I am not working for the man anymore, money is very reluctant to leave the comfort of my wallet. If my hard working friends want to pay for a meal, I wouldn’t say no. 😉

What do you do when you go out with friends?  

Best response so far – 

I have the opposite problem. I have a brother-in-law who NEVER pays. I come from a family where every one takes turns paying. But whenever we go out, it’s always my parents or my family fighting for the bill, never him. In the 10 yrs he’s been in the family, I’ve probably paid for him over 100 times. He has paid for me exactly once (a $10 amount). I finally got tired of being the generous sucker and last year decided never to pay for him again. Also, we make approx. the same income, only difference is I have 6 figures of student loan debt and he has none. I do blame my sister for not making him follow this Asian custom (he’s white and married into an Asian family, but he is smart enough to know this custom, come on, it’s been 10 yrs of him getting free meals!). My sister will pay when she’s by herself with us, but never when he’s with us (she’s messed up too). Since he won’t learn our ways, I will learn his way and never pay for him. He’s the type to ask you to pick something up from the drugstore for him and then never pay you back for it (even if it costs $20). I never ask favors from him. If we go out for dinner altogether, I will pay for my parents’ portion, but not for his. I am sick of this cheap [email protected] and his SH#T.

Heh heh, thanks for the chuckle. 😀

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is increasing his investment in real estate with CrowdStreet. He can invest in projects across the U.S. and diversify his real estate portfolio. There are many interesting projects available so sign up and check them out.

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{ 62 comments… add one }
  • Anonymous May 28, 2016, 7:31 pm

    Just venting hard here after finding this great thread. My wife’s family (sisters and brothers in laws) are absolute pigs when it comes to eating and not paying the bill. Time after time, they don’t pay but order at will. I can’ t stand them and have finally put my foot down and refuse to eat with them or be near them. All the tricks in the book, forgot my wallet, going to restroom, going for a smoke, get you next time. It is not like they are poor as these people drive Mercedes and wear Rolex watches and watch their money like a hawk. They have no concept of reciprocity whatsoever and are the cheapest bastards and bitches I have ever come across.

  • JayCeezy October 31, 2013, 9:47 pm

    Great topic! When I am with a pal, I will actually address this right when the check comes and grab it. I will thank them in advance for not making a big deal about it, and not embarrassing me by arguing about who will pay because that will guarantee a loser. And I then offer not to argue next time the check comes, and they can pick it up.

    In 20 years of doing this, never a problem and the other guy actually seems grateful not to have to ‘do the dance’ where they offer to split, offer to ‘leave a tip’, etc. I picked this up from a ‘new pal’ 20 years ago, and he turned out to be a great friend to this day.

  • ken October 30, 2013, 5:32 pm

    In my Asian family, I was always told its all family money so it doesn’t matter. However, it does change once children get married…

    In my family, eldest always pays. Simple as that. Eldest also matches up with income and net worth, so that helps. On the other hand, we are fortunate that the youngest could swing paying every time and not have it hurt much anyway.

    In any case, don’t sweat the small stuff. If its just paying for food, and its all family, I say don’t worry about it. If all you’re spending is your child’s inheritance (or charity budget), its no biggie.

    Among friends though it is a much bigger deal. I say you ALWAYS have to split the bill, or go every other one, etc. It is not possible, I believe, to have an unequal friendship where the wealthier/higher earning friend pays more.

    • retirebyforty October 31, 2013, 10:58 pm

      Sure, I know the system. We are not strict anymore though. My younger brothers pay sometime now and I’m happy about that.

  • Gina October 28, 2013, 12:06 pm

    We have friends that always want to just split it down the middle, this one instance we both had water and had split a huge steak dinner, they had their own appetizers, salads and steaks and two drinks each. It was a very expensive steak place. Our bill for splitting a steak and water was $90.00. Theirs was $200.00. He wanted to split it down the middle, I gave him the stink eye and said I don’t think so..

  • Big-D October 28, 2013, 12:04 pm

    There are three sets of rules for how I handle it. When I am with friends, I pay for what I am responsible for (ie. separate checks) I never split as that is not fair. If my son comes with me, then I pay for him as well. When I am with my family, whoever creates the event pays unless they make arrangements otherwise (ie. my parents say we are going out for 40th wedding anniversary, celebrate a graduation, etc.) Otherwise we generally eat at home and this is not an issue as my mother loves to cook.

    Her family is a separate issue. All of her family can barely function, so I generally pay for everyone if that is the case. We never really go out with the family much, but when we do, I generally pay. She is happy, and the family is happy. They also generally are good about not ordering expensive stuff, generally drink water, and share meals. Her family gives new definition to family style at a restaurant.

    • retirebyforty October 28, 2013, 3:18 pm

      I always get the end of the short stick when we split too because I don’t order expensive stuff or drinks. We don’t go out that much anymore so it’s not a big deal. With families, it’s really not a big deal who pays.

  • RetireBy42 October 28, 2013, 9:44 am

    Here are my rules:

    1.) If it is my parents I always pay.
    2.) If it is my brother I fight him for the check. We keep coming up with tricks to make sure we get the check. (i.e. Calling ahead and asking for the check, going to the bathroom and paying the check)
    3.) If I ask you to lunch I pay.
    4.) If it myself and one other person at lunch then I will pay.

    Socially I think check splitting is a bit low class but if it is a huge party then I can understand why it might be necessary. In addition calling out what people had and how much it costs is even worst. If you must split then let it an even split.

  • Untemplater October 27, 2013, 11:06 pm

    I would say take turns or everyone pays their own share. I think it’s always best practice to at least offer to pay for one’s own charges even if it’s somewhat expected for someone else to pay. Nobody wants to feel taken advantage of or expected to pay all the time for someone else no matter how much they have.

  • Connie @ Savvy With Saving October 27, 2013, 11:45 am

    I’m an only child so I’m not sure if my opinion counts for much ha. But whenever I’m out with my cousins or close friends at a casual dinner, we’ll just split it. But if its a bigger, more formal family dinner, I think whoever hosted should pay.

    • retirebyforty October 28, 2013, 9:08 am

      Sure, it counts, but not much. Hahaha. Mrs. RB40 is the only child too and she never had to pay. 🙂

  • Retireby41 October 27, 2013, 7:10 am

    -The oldest sibling normally pays in my family
    -The host pays in most events I attend
    -The bill is split with friends
    -The bill is always split at lunch with colleagues
    -I always pay on first dates
    -I always pay for the birthday person
    -If someone pays for the bill I always buy them drinks afterwards

  • Justin @ RootofGood October 26, 2013, 8:51 pm

    We don’t go out to eat that much. When we do, “who pays” depends on who we are with. My parents? They fight to pay, and I think they like to treat us, so I will let them pay 70-80% of the time (20-30% of the time I sneak and pay the bill).

    Friends for a casual lunch? I’ll offer to pay for the other person maybe half the time, or agree to split the check if that’s what they suggest.

    Dinner with friends? If we do dinners routinely we alternate paying. I’m a little more open to having much more well to do friends pay for us if they really want to (they feel like they are treating us).

    We like to host lunches and dinners at our house and cook, so I figure in the karmic laws of the universe, it works out about even.

    I agree with you – it’s weird once you aren’t working when the check comes. I mean you and I both can afford lunch, and I don’t want someone else to pick up the check because I’m not working.

  • krantcents October 25, 2013, 6:15 pm

    When I go out with friends, I either pay my portion or separate checks. When I visit relatives and we go out, we take turns. At the end of the visit, the visiting couple usually takes the hosts out for a nice dinner thank you. We travel to New York once a year and they visit us once a year. So this is common practice for us.

  • Mike October 25, 2013, 4:41 pm

    The way I do it-we take turns. I always try to offer something in return for someone paying for my meal when we hang out on the town. Sometimes it might not be supper in return but something to signify that I did appreciate the gesture of having the person pay for my supper.

  • Moon October 25, 2013, 12:37 pm

    I also think it depends on the situation. For a group of friends, we split. My husband’s family is also very generous too and his parents almost always offer to pay when we go out. My brother in law is a doctor also so money is not an issue. Of course both of us make decent salary also so in recent years we also pay sometime when the entire family goes out together. It was never a fight who is ‘moocher’ who only gets free meals all the time 😉

    Now with my family is a bit different. I am Asian also so I made my husband pay when we go out with my family (not often at all since none of them lives here in the U.S., so I think that’s okay). I am the middle one among 3 girls my mom has. I just think it shows my mom that my husband respects our traditions and willing to take care of my family (i.e.I am being well-taken care of since I didn’t marry a ‘cheap guy’ per se). But in the background I will also ask my sisters to pay sometime so my husband doesn’t feel like he is always being taken advantage to pay for everyone.

    • retirebyforty October 26, 2013, 9:55 am

      It’s good that everyone is doing well.
      I think you’re doing very well with your husband. It’s good to include him in your culture once in a while. It’s nice that your sisters help sometime too.

  • Done by Forty October 25, 2013, 11:56 am

    Funny comment at the end! I usually go dutch if it’s guy’s night. I always feel better when someone suggests it right off the bat when the waitress comes by, as there’s no confusion.

  • jim October 25, 2013, 11:54 am

    When I go out with friends we usually just pay our own share. We make about the same and theres no need to take turns or split or do anything else.

    When we go out with family my farther or father in law usually insist on paying and you sometimes have to fight them for the bill sot hey don’t always pay.

    • retirebyforty October 26, 2013, 9:53 am

      I had to sneak to pay before the bill come sometime. Not too often, but once in a while.

  • Amy K October 25, 2013, 11:41 am

    Lots of choices! I agree that if someone traveled to see you, you should at least offer to pay for dinner (though my parents and in-laws usually insist on paying for the group themselves). For meals out with friends I think we’ve generally gotten separate checks so everyone is paying their own way. Dim sum has to be paid per head, because there’s just no way to do that on separate checks – thankfully it’s cheap!

    • retirebyforty October 26, 2013, 9:53 am

      Heh heh, you’re right about dim sum.

  • Financial Samurai October 25, 2013, 11:30 am

    Stick the bill to the richest guy! It is the American way! 🙂

    • retirebyforty October 26, 2013, 9:52 am

      You’re paying next time. 🙂

  • davidmichael October 25, 2013, 10:54 am

    Interesting article about friends and relatives with a basket of potential challenges.

    When my parents were older and I could afford to take them out for dinner, they didn’t want to go. It was a tough go to figure out how to please them and give them gifts since they were so frugal in their older age (80’s).

    Now, the seats are reversed, and I find that I react to when my kids want to treat us to an expensive meal out. I know they want to show their appreciation to us for their upbringing, etc. On the other hand, particularly with the most well-to-do children, I feel a bit vulnerable that I am not making as much as they are, and that our retirement income is so much less now than it was 20 years ago. I know…crazy feeling this way, but after a lifetime of struggling to achieve the so-called American dream, it’s not so easy to receive. Much easier to give. My wife is even worse. Normally, I just say to both of us, it’s OK to receive and rejoice in everyone’s joy of life and success. Enjoy the moment and this wonderful time of life with loving family and friends.

    • retirebyforty October 26, 2013, 9:52 am

      That’s the same with my parents too. They don’t want to go to expensive places. That’s fine with me actually. We’ll go to ethnic places and we like that.
      Yeah, it’s important to enjoy the moment. Life is short.

  • Al October 25, 2013, 10:00 am

    Most of the time we split it evenly, even if someone’s meal cost a lot more than someone else’s. If I’m eating with a group of people who have significantly less financial means than I do, I will invent an excuse to pay, such “oh I’m going to expense this on my company anyway”. That way I can pay and people won’t feel like I’m acting like a charity.

    • retirebyforty October 26, 2013, 9:50 am

      That’s good man. I try to put it on my company card as much as possible too.

  • moneystepper October 25, 2013, 9:28 am

    I would also favour splitting it (either equally or by person if there is a big difference in price with what people are eating / drinking).

  • Paul October 25, 2013, 9:23 am

    Separate checks helps avoid most of these issues.

    • tired of being the sucker October 25, 2013, 10:30 am

      I agree. I’ve been burned by friends and other family members before too. Once my spouse’s cousin came to our town for an event and asked to stay with us. She then brought along her friend (whom we don’t know) and her 18 mo old baby! We went out to eat 8 times that long weekend and we ended up paying for ALL the meals and she nor her friend even offered to put in their share (not to mention the kid trashed our house). My spouse’s family also takes turns paying but he never realized this particular cousin was so cheap. I had been trying to convince my spouse to split the bill with people our own age, whether family or not, and after that particular episode, he finally saw the light. However, I will always pay for my parents and his parents. It would be an insult to them to ask for separate bills or split the bill. Plus, I feel I owe it to them and genuinely want to pay for them. That’s why for a group dinner where my parents were present, I would always try to pay, and ended up paying for the freeloaders as well. Not anymore, just my parents and nobody else. The ‘take turns’ thing only works when everybody is on the same page, otherwise, somebody (me), will inevitably get the short end of the stick.

      • retirebyforty October 26, 2013, 9:51 am

        Man, you’re getting stuck with the short end of the stick pretty often. 🙂

        • tired of being the sucker October 26, 2013, 10:26 am

          You know what they say: No good deed goes unpunished. Nice guys finish last.
          Lesson learned. No more good deeds from this not-so-nice girl. ;P LOL

          • retirebyforty October 27, 2013, 11:35 pm

            I really enjoy your comments. Please come by more often. 🙂

  • Sandy October 25, 2013, 8:20 am

    I say split it from when you sit down (tell the server right away) or take turns. I have a brother in law that ALWAYS pays, and it drives me crazy. His attitude is that I traveled to see them, so they should pay, but it still bugs me, though I do appreciate it every time.

    • retirebyforty October 25, 2013, 8:51 am

      I would love a bro in law who ALWAYS pays! 🙂 That’s a nice side benefit. Hopefully he’s much better off than everyone though.

      • tired of being the sucker October 25, 2013, 9:52 am

        I have the opposite problem. I have a brother-in-law who NEVER pays. I come from a family where every one takes turns paying. But whenever we go out, it’s always my parents or my family fighting for the bill, never him. In the 10 yrs he’s been in the family, I’ve probably paid for him over 100 times. He has paid for me exactly once (a $10 amount). I finally got tired of being the generous sucker and last year decided never to pay for him again. Also, we make approx. the same income, only difference is I have 6 figures of student loan debt and he has none. I do blame my sister for not making him follow this Asian custom (he’s white and married into an Asian family, but he is smart enough to know this custom, come on, it’s been 10 yrs of him getting free meals!). My sister will pay when she’s by herself with us, but never when he’s with us (she’s messed up too). Since he won’t learn our ways, I will learn his way and never pay for him. He’s the type to ask you to pick something up from the drugstore for him and then never pay you back for it (even if it costs $20). I never ask favors from him. If we go out for dinner altogether, I will pay for my parents’ portion, but not for his. I am sick of this cheap [email protected] and his SH#T.

        • retirebyforty October 26, 2013, 9:49 am

          Best response so far! 🙂
          Yeah, 10 years is long enough. That freeloader needs to start pulling his weight.

  • EL @ Moneywatch101 October 25, 2013, 8:13 am

    I would say to take turns guys, they might make more than you right now, but you still make online income. As for me I avoid going out right now, paying down student loans.

  • Martin October 25, 2013, 7:59 am

    Why keep score? Keeping score means that you have friends who don’t pay their share.

    We usually take turns. Nobody ever complains. We even try to surprise each other by paying when the guy goes to the bathroom.

    • retirebyforty October 25, 2013, 8:50 am

      If you don’t keep score, how do you know when it’s your turn to pay. 🙂

  • aB October 25, 2013, 7:37 am

    Depends on the group, with friends, it’s usually pay your own share. (Never really understood an even split when there is uneven ordering).
    Though, being Chinese, I have quick draw-ed with some, depends on the situation.

  • Pretired Nick October 25, 2013, 7:25 am

    I think the guys usually just throw their cards out on the table, right?

  • This Life On Purpose October 25, 2013, 7:24 am

    When going out with a group of friends, we always just get separate bills. This seems to be more common in Canada where the server doesn’t even ask, they just bring the bills out in stack and we grab our own. I found this to be less common on a recent roadtrip through the US. They kept thinking we just wanted to split the bill evenly. But when someone has a much larger bill they should be responsible for their purchase themselves.

    • retirebyforty October 25, 2013, 8:50 am

      I think that’s true. People likes to split here. I usually just order water so I get the short end of the deals pretty often.

  • writing2reality October 25, 2013, 7:19 am

    Wow… tough question, but I think in your scenario where you are spending a few days with your family, it only makes sense to split it in some manner. As Kellen said above, anytime you add traveling costs things get a bit more hairy. If it were me, the added travel costs simply alter the split percentages.

  • so October 25, 2013, 6:54 am

    Be generous. I always offer to pay all parties if it’s family.

    • retirebyforty October 25, 2013, 8:49 am

      If I have to pay for everyone, I’d probably cook 99% of the meals. 🙂

  • Insourcelife October 25, 2013, 6:52 am

    Many responses here saying “just split it”… This is a pet peeve of mine when it comes to dining out. I tend to order water and maybe A beer with my meal while it seems that everyone else loads up on drinks, appetizers and deserts. Just splitting it ends up a little bit like welfare – great for some and not so great for me. I have no problem doing it with the family but when it’s a bunch of acquaintances or co-workers – no thanks.

    • retirebyforty October 25, 2013, 8:47 am

      Oh yeah, I should add – everyone pay his/her share.

  • Kellen October 25, 2013, 4:41 am

    since you included in your possible answers “the host since the guest already paid for travel costs” that adds a whole ‘nother level.

    My first response would be: 1) Just split it
    My conditional responses would be, if they have incurred significant travel costs (plane, hotel maybe) then you pay for restaurants if you can afford it. Esp if they are staying with you so you can feed them at home most of the time. If they want to eat out every meal, then we’re back to “just split it.”

    • retirebyforty October 25, 2013, 8:37 am

      Thanks for commenting. My bro isn’t cooking much these days. It seems to be either eating out or eating Costco food… The baby really mess up their routine.

  • sendaiben October 25, 2013, 4:29 am

    With one friend, we’ll normally take turns or split it. In a group we tend to split it.

    If I go out with a younger person or someone who I know doesn’t make as much as I do I will pay.

    (and I was asked to log in to answer the poll too)

    • retirebyforty October 25, 2013, 8:35 am

      Do you do that where you work too? In Asia, most people tend to compete to pay right?

      • [email protected] October 27, 2013, 6:30 pm

        I alway split the bill whether it is with my male or female friends whether in Asia or not.

        But when it comes to family in Asia, everyone always fights to pay. It’s a badge of honor. So my cousins who are making a lots less than me would insist on paying.

        What I do is that I usually give them a big gift in the beginning so I don’t feel bad when they pay for me. Sometimes I give their kids money in a red envelope when I leave as well.

        • retirebyforty October 28, 2013, 9:09 am

          Ugh, I hate it when they fight to pay over there. It’s awkward when you are more well off.

  • The Fast Weekly October 25, 2013, 3:11 am

    I also tried to vote, to no avail. My friends and I usually trade off, unless one of us traveled from out of town. I do have one friend who runs a strictly cash business, and is always annoyed when I don’t have cash in small denominations.

    • retirebyforty October 25, 2013, 8:34 am

      A cash business is definitely nice comes April. 🙂

  • dojo October 25, 2013, 2:47 am

    Everybody pays for themselves. If they don’t afford going out (or it’s not in their budget), they can stay at home. I never paid for others and don’t plan on doing so.

    • retirebyforty October 25, 2013, 8:34 am

      That’s harsh, but understandable. 🙂

  • C. the Romanian October 25, 2013, 2:20 am

    I tried to vote, but I am required an username and password. Either way, my vote would go towards splitting it. One should pay only if he insisted to go out while the other didn’t want to (most likely due to the lack of money). But otherwise just splitting the bill would work perfectly with me. We’re grown ups now, we have jobs and networth shouldn’t be taken into account when going out.

    • retirebyforty October 25, 2013, 8:33 am

      Sorry! I’m not sure what happened. It must have been a side effect of upgrading wordpress. Usually you don’t have to log on.

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