Color of Money: No, splitting a check is not being cheap. And yes, it's wrong to shame someone for leaving a tiny tip.

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- Perhaps it's time for a refresher on the financial etiquette of eating out.

Yes, splitting a check is OK.

No, you should not shame someone for how much he or she leaves as a tip.

Let's start with asking for separate checks.

If I'm eating out with a large group, I always ask the server at the beginning of the meal to provide me with a separate check. Typically, others chime in that they, too, want one. But, every once in a while, there is that one person who feels the need to say that splitting the check is a sign of being cheap.

I generally don't bristle at being called cheap because I am a proud penny pincher. But when someone calls another person cheap for asking for a separate check, it's most definitely intended to demean.


Splitting a check is not some character flaw. It's usually the result of repeatedly having to subsidize people who order round after round of drinks and pricey menu items only to be the first to suggest the check be split evenly among all the diners.

Here's how to divide a check so that friendships aren't frayed.

-- Ask for separate checks before ordering. Make no apologies. Ignore rude comments.

-- If the restaurant limits splits or won't allow separate checks, decide as a group how to take care of the bill at the start of the meal. Drinkers will pay for their own booze, for example. Remind tablemates that their split should include taxes and tip. If there's one check, no one leaves until the calculation of what's owed is settled.


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