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Pay Up Even If You Don’t Drink Up

In my party hay day season of my life, a mere five years ago, my idea of partying was going out with my friends and dancing. I am not a big drinker at all and am the type of person that will dance for 6 hours and drink half a cocktail for the whole night.

It would annoy me when I would go out with my friends, who were much heavier drinkers than I, and they would all take turns buying rounds of drinks. It went something like this: if there were 7 people it would be assumed there would be 7 rounds of drinks consumed. Everyone was expected to pay for a round of drinks. 7 people = paying for 7 drinks. My problem with this was that, as stated above, I would drink half a drink at most for an entire evening but yet I was expected to buy 7 drinks. $8-10 vs $55-60.

I got around this by always being designated driver. It worked perfectly.

Now as I’ve settled into married life and the partying days are somewhat behind me I find myself in a similar and unexpected dilemma.

We are newlyweds and have made friends with other couples. We all get together in a big group and go out to dinner a few times per month. Sometimes there are as many as 6 or 7 couples there. It’s always a lot of fun until the bill comes.

See, my husband and I are on a pretty strict budget as we have just bought a fixer upper house. We set our budget for an evening out in advance and we are good at sticking to it. Neither of us drink but most of the couples do. Typically 6-7 bottles of wine will be ordered throughout dinner – sometimes expensive wine. That works out to about one bottle per couple, so no one is getting trashed or anything, but the wine bill adds up! When the bill comes it is assumed and expected it will be divided evenly, even though we didn’t consume one drop of wine and everyone else did.

We have gone to dinner expecting to spend $50 and end up spending $150.

As this isn’t the first time I’ve run into this type of situation and it seems to be common when socializing, I ask you if there is a polite way to get out of this? How can we make it clear that we won’t be paying for expensive wine that we aren’t consuming without being rude?

Has anyone else experienced this?
I would love advice please! 1012-15

It appears there are expectations on all sides.   You expect to spend no money on alcohol and your friends expect that everyone will chip in to pay for all the alcohol.  The answer sees simple to me.   You and your husband need to have a discussion with these friends as to what exactly are the expectations and that since neither of you consume any wine that you not be expected to pay for something you do not imbibe in.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jewel October 13, 2015, 8:28 am

    At the time of ordering, just ask the server for a separate bill for you and your husband.

    • Lo October 13, 2015, 8:57 am

      This is really the best way to solve this problem. We often ask for a separate check when we aren’t treating the people we’re with to dinner.

    • LonelyHound October 13, 2015, 1:00 pm

      And then when the time comes to divide the larger bill, if your friends question it, just say that you and your husband have already taken care of your portion of the bill.

    • Michelle October 13, 2015, 1:02 pm

      This. Just let the server know.

      I’m not a drinker either and I would not want to pay for an expensive bottle of wine that I did not partake in.

    • Livvy17 October 13, 2015, 1:41 pm

      Exactly – it’s not like the old days, where the restaurants wouldn’t allow separate bills. If, for some reason you can’t do that, then you should speak up for yourself when dividing the bill. Your friends may not even realize that you’re not drinking at all. If they do, and they take exception to the fact that you don’t want to subsidize them, they aren’t very worthwhile friends.

      I learned to get separate bills back when I was in college – because I would get so irritated by splitting the bill – there’s always someone who forgets a drink, or tax, or doesn’t want to leave an appropriate tip, and I’d get so mad that it would ruin the whole lunch. Separate bills eliminates the whole mess.

  • Z_squared82 October 13, 2015, 8:35 am

    Um…why don’t you just ask for a separate bill? You don’t have to make a big thing of it, just when the waiter comes around to take your order let him/her know you and your husband are on your own check.

  • MollyMonster October 13, 2015, 8:52 am

    My friends are big wine/beer drinkers and I can’t touch the stuff but they have never made me pay for their drinking. So, moderator is right, either tell them upfront that you won’t be drinking so that part of the bill needs to be excluded from what you owe, or you need to get separate checks. Just be the first to speak up when the server shows up to give the bill. Once they don’t have you subsidizing their wine, they’ll either cut back or realize just what they have been charging. Same issue if one person orders a salad and everyone else has lobster. It is terribly rude to expect the salad eater to subsidize everyone else’s meal. And with phone calculators these days, totally unnecessary.

  • Heather October 13, 2015, 8:56 am

    I agree with Admin. Have a discussion. You may discover that your friends aren’t aware of how big the disparity is.

  • Monkeysmommy October 13, 2015, 8:57 am

    I would ask for a separate check. I would also give my friends the heads up on this- fair or not, some of them may imbib more, thinking a 7th person will pick up one of the bottles. If it is clear the alcohol bill is only going 6 ways instead of 7, they may slow it down a bit! If anyone took issue with your refusal to pay, I would find new friends, as no one should expect a bill to be split when you do not even drink.

  • Cat October 13, 2015, 8:58 am

    Just explain that you are on a tight budget, will not be drinking wine, and pay only for what you consume. Friends will understand and will respect that. Freeloaders drinking on your dime are not worth your friendship.

  • behindbj October 13, 2015, 9:00 am

    I don’t ask for a separate bill – I just state that I will not be drinking and will not pay for others’ alcohol that evening. Anyone who was ever obnoxious enough to make a stink about it was asked “why is it such an issue for you?” Not one has had an answer.

    I do not subsidize other people’s boozing unless I choose to. Conversely, I don’t take advantage of other people’s largesse, either. So, if everyone’s buying a round that night and that’s not what I signed up for – I just ask to be left out and buy my own drinks.

    • AJ October 14, 2015, 2:17 am

      “why is it such an issue for you?”

      I am SO going to use that with those who think I should for the privilege of watching them drink! 🙂

  • Meegs October 13, 2015, 9:01 am

    I’m really surprised that your friends would even expect you to contribute equally to the bill if you aren’t drinking. Is it possible they don’t notice that you and your husband are not partaking in the wine? I see nothing wrong with saying something like “hey guys, we aren’t drinking any wine tonight so we’re going to get our own separate check just to make it less confusing when it comes time to pay.”

  • Emily October 13, 2015, 9:09 am

    Shame that your friends don’t notice you’re not drinking. I always take note of who partakes in shared items and if someone doesn’t consume something shared by the group, I don’t add it to their bill when I do the splitting. It’s really not that hard to do the extra minute of math….

  • Jazzgirl205 October 13, 2015, 9:09 am

    Could you try to convince your friends to start entertaining at their homes? That way, no one pays unless it is their turn to host (please don’t do potlucks!) and they can control the expense. Perhaps they’ll go for this because you are renovating your house and they can dine amidst the progress. It’s also a way to use all those serving dishes you got for wedding presents.

    My late BIL was a very generous man. If he was treating you to dinner, he made sure you knew beforehand so you could order whatever extravagant thing you wanted and he encouraged. He also expected you to order cocktails, appetizers, and desert (others did, we didn’t). The problem was, when we reciprocated, he expected the same treatment. We were newly married and working part-time jobs. Since good manners dictated that we reciprocate, we did so with a homecooked meal on our wedding china. A well-laid table with attractive, well prepared food goes a long way.

  • Ludwig De Bruyn October 13, 2015, 9:21 am

    Jewel and Z_squared82: that is not always possible. Here, in Belgium, in almost every restaurant you will see a note saying there will be only one bill per table. This spares them the hassle of keeping different tabs on everyone. What usually happens is that either one person pays the whole bill with a card and then you spend a few minutes divying up the bill, or else you get the bill and everybody pays his or her part and the total amount is then given to the waiter.

  • A different Tracy October 13, 2015, 9:22 am

    This would drive me crazy. And I’d be put out with friends who didn’t notice that we never drink, and yet always end up paying for it. I’d ask for a separate bill at the beginning of the evening, and I’d say “We’re going to get our own tab since we’re not drinking.”

    Or, order a huge amount of food and eat leftovers for the rest of the week. If you’re going to subsidize their drinking, they may as well subsidize your lunches. 😉

  • JWH October 13, 2015, 9:32 am

    The imbibers are exactly the kind of “friends” I can’t stand. If you want expensive hooch, you pay for it, and don’t put it on my tab.

  • Devin October 13, 2015, 9:40 am

    There is nothing wrong with making a quick aside with your friends, “You know hubby and I aren’t big drinkers, so we’d rather not split the bill for the drinks.” I’m sure your friends will be very amenable to that, and might even apologize for past dinners. Someone else also suggested to ask for a separate check at the beginning of the meal, some restaurants don’t allow separate checks for large parties, but many do.
    Also, be mindful of what you are ordering. If you and hubs typically order the more pricey entrees or extra appetizers/desserts, your friends might have thought the difference between your food cost and the wine was equitable. No matter what, a quick conversation while planning your next couples dinner should clear the air.

  • starstruck October 13, 2015, 9:51 am

    I have never understood why people do this . Thank goodness me and my husband have friends that share our way if thinking. U pay for only what u eat or drink. When we go out with other couples we make sure to let the waitress know how the bill will be split. As an adult I dont expect anyone to pay for mine so, why would I pay for theirs? Nope. The only time we split is when we might all share an appetizer for the table but thats fine cause we all eat it lol. Next time u go to dinner, when the waitress asked about the bill speak up right away and let him or her know u and your husbands will be separate. This reminds me of the episode of friends when Joey and Rachel complain about having to split the bill with Ross and Monica when all they ordered was cucumber soup and the rest ordered steak dinners. Nothing about this tradition makes sense to me

  • siamesecat2965 October 13, 2015, 9:51 am

    You have two choices; either ask for separate checks, or, if like in my area, they aren’t really willing to do them, talk to your friends, and let them know that since you don’t drink, you won’t be contributing to the bar bill. It sounds like you’ve simply been going along with splitting the bill evenly, so the others have come to expect that. You need to polish your spine, and speak up.

  • Anna October 13, 2015, 9:53 am

    This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I’ve had disagreements with people over this, who thought I was being rude by agreeing to pay only my share. In order to save money, I’d been abstaining completely from alcohol and also was going vegetarian. I’d order one vegetarian entree with a glass of water, when others would order appetizers, steaks, 3-4 alcoholic drinks apiece, and expect me to pay a split bill of $40 or so when my meal was $10.

    IMO, it is more rude to expect others to foot the bill for your extravagance than it is to insist on paying for what you’ve ordered. How I handle it is I bring cash, and place the correct amount for my share on the bill. If the table comes up short, I just say “My portion was X amount, the cost of the eggplant plus tax and 20% tip, and so I contributed Y amount.”

    • The OP of this post October 13, 2015, 9:17 pm

      This is an EXCELLENT idea!

      – the OP

      • Elisabeth October 14, 2015, 4:36 pm

        I don’t know…this idea seems a little more rude than up-front stating that you’d like a separate bill, and definitely makes you look really nitpicky. If you’re going to do this, at least tell them beforehand that you just want to pay for your own meal instead of waiting until the last minute. Something like, “Hey guys, Husband and I aren’t really planning on going too overboard tonight, it is okay if we just pay for our stuff and let you all share the wine?” Or, “Hey guys, Husband and I are just going to get something light/a glass of water/aren’t going to drink tonight, so we’re going to get a separate check if that’s ok.”

  • Matt October 13, 2015, 9:54 am

    I’m not saying that the OP should have to pay for other people’s wine. But the fun part of going out to dinner with a group like the OP describes is the communal nature of it. Wine, appetizers, and desserts are shared and everyone gets to try several good wines and foods. If it becomes a game of “this is mine, not yours”, the prospect of dining out loses some of its appeal. Cost-conscience people start watching and judging who is consuming what, and the whole affair becomes petty and tedious. I’m of the opinion that as long as nobody is intentionally ordering expensive things and then hoarding them, you should just accept that $150 is the cost of attending and make your decision based on that.

    Also, there are plenty of activities for a group of couples that cost much less money than dining out together. And there are lots of price points for dining out, as well.

    • Daphne October 13, 2015, 3:06 pm

      I agree with you Matt. I have been on both sides of this issue and neither is comfortable. If I had to do it over again I would have just refrained from going to expensive restaurants back in the day. Because now that I can afford them, they’ve sort of lost their appeal!

    • Lynne October 13, 2015, 7:54 pm

      “I’m not saying that the OP should have to pay for other people’s wine.”


      “… you should just accept that $150 is the cost of attending and make your decision based on that.”

      Fooled me!

      • Matt October 14, 2015, 7:15 am

        What I meant by that is that if that expectations should be made clear at the beginning and that the OP shouldn’t be surprised when the check comes. But if this is a communal meal, which it sounds like it is, she should view the price as the cost of attending.

        • A different Tracy October 14, 2015, 11:36 am

          And conversely, her friends should view their reduced-cost drinks as the *benefit* of attending! What a great plan for them!

        • Lacey October 15, 2015, 10:13 am

          I think that only applies if everyone orders roughly the same thing and shares the wine and appetizers. If someone obviously isn’t drinking or orders way less than the rest of the group, it really isn’t fair. I think good friends would still want to hang out with people who are on a budget and not get upset over doing a little extra math or not having people subsidize their drinks.

      • MM October 14, 2015, 11:43 am

        it’s all about expectation and circumstance. Like if you go to a 5 star restaurant but then only order an appetizer to save money, that’s just ridiculous when everyone else is getting wine, an entree and dessert. if it’s a matter of not being able to afford the restaurant, then maybe you shouldn’t go. But I know some people who just plain cheap and petty and tedious.. they go to fancy places with their friends, order too modestly and then make a big deal about sharing the bill even though everyone else’s bill was the same, they can actually afford to order more but don’t because they are misers.

    • Kate October 13, 2015, 11:10 pm

      I am surprised to read this. Whether food and drinks ordered by one person are shared by the whole group seems to be a cultural/regional phenomenon. I wonder where it is from though. I lived in the northeastern United States for just over a decade, and I have spent the past 4 years in the northwest and I have never met anyone who does this.

      • Matt October 14, 2015, 7:33 am

        I think its more a country vs city thing in the US. My friends from cities usually stick to the one check per couple thing and only order food and wine by the couple. My country friends (myself included) tend to dine more communally sharing apps and wine freely. Most of the time, someone offers to pay the whole check outright themselves.

        • Kate October 14, 2015, 12:33 pm

          Actually I currently live in a city and used to live in the country, but visited relatives in the city. Never saw it happen in either place.

          Now I am going to have to keep an eye on how nearby tables eat when I go out to see if I can find people sharing dishes. : )

          • Kate October 14, 2015, 12:36 pm

            ETA: I meant to add, two different cities, the one I live in now and the one I visited relatives in, each city is on a different coast.

      • Devin October 14, 2015, 8:50 am

        My friends and I often go out to eat ‘family style’ meaning we come to a consensus on a number of apps, entrees, and wine (or not) and everyone splits them. That way everyone gets to try several items. Since we live in a large urban area, and there are so many new restaurants, this is the best way to try a new spot and get to sample their menu. If one of our friends is not drinking (several are often on-call for their jobs) its easy enough for them to say, “I’m not drinking tonight” and we split the check accordingly. We’ve also managed to weed out the friends that ‘just order a salad’ then pick off of all the communal dishes or ‘aren’t drinking’ but then sample each bottle of wine that comes out.
        Matt – I agree that breaking a bill down to the penny can end a meal on a sour note especially if everyone at the table is generous with share.

    • Tracy W October 14, 2015, 3:07 am

      I think people differ on what’s fun, good conversation has made some great evenings for me even if people aren’t sharing food or wine.
      And if you don’t want cost-conscious people watching and judging who consumes what, the simple solution at the end is for the people who ordered more extravagantly to say “we had those three bottles of wine so we’ll chuck in an extra $200” or “Okay, OP didn’t have any drinks so she owes $50 for the food and that makes it $300 each for the rest of us”.

  • Willynilly October 13, 2015, 9:58 am

    Asking for a separate bill is an option.
    But so is simply talking to your friends. I suggest doing it well in advance of the check (either at the beginning of the meal, or even when planning). Just a simple “hey you might not have noticed, but we actually don’t drink wine, so while we areally ok with splitting the food bill, we will be opting out if the wine portion.” If you feel awkward, perhaps have a private chat with one of the more outspoken members of the group, or the person who usually does the math. They might not mind speaking up to the group on your behalf “hey Nancy and Mike didn’t have any wine, so that expense is just between the rest of us, they ate only in for food”.

    Do bear in mind though this means no wine, not just one glass each to everyone else’s two & a half glasses, splitting bills only works if people don’t get knick picky about who had more – everyone who shared, shared. It also means ordering food on par with everyone else, for example if everyone else is skipping appetizers and dessert to budget for wine, you shouldn’t be getting 2 or 3 courses to their one and then saying the food bill should be split evenly but not the drink bill. (If you want one glass of wine or an extra course, go with the separate check option.)

  • Outdoor Girl October 13, 2015, 10:03 am

    Another vote for a separate bill. I did it all the time and still do it for my BF and I when we go out with friends. Some of BF’s friends are crazy tippers – leaving way more than I’m comfortable with – so it is just easier to get our own bill and leave a reasonable tip.

    So next time you go out with these friends, just announce at the beginning that ‘DH and I don’t drink so we’re going to get our own bill’, with a smile. Unless they’re moochers, they’ll probably all just say that it’s fine and why didn’t you tell us before? I can see them not noticing that the two of you aren’t drinking when there are 6 or 7 couples there.

  • Lisa October 13, 2015, 10:05 am

    Asking for a separate bill will not only ruffle the feathers of your server but of your friends as well.

    The simple solution is to casually say, “Hey, as I’m sure you guys all know, we’re on a tight budget with the house repairs and all. We are not planning on drinking any wine, so it would be helpful if we only paid for what we ordered for dinner. Sound ok?”

    Unless they’re cheapskates or incredibly insensitive, they’ll be fine with it.

    • Z_squared82 October 13, 2015, 3:53 pm

      I’ve never been anywhere that a separate bill ruffles *anyone’s* feathers, server included. (This includes large swathes of Europe, Chicago and NYC. No on bats a eye at all in my hometown.)

      And if you’re friends are really that upset that you’re not going to subsidize their drinking, then you need new friends.

      • Willynilly October 14, 2015, 12:44 pm

        Many restaurants in NYC will not separate checks between diners. They will run multiple credit cards, or take payment in cash and credit combined, but it’s one check.

        What almost all places [in NYC] will gladly do though, and in fact many do by default already, is a separate subtotal for food and alcohol.

    • mark October 13, 2015, 11:57 pm

      I do it all the time, and if it “ruffles the feathers”. The typical server hides it well by asking at the beginning of the meal if you all want separate checks. And if some of the party are paying with credit cards, it probably is easier to do separate checks anyways.

      • Lisa October 14, 2015, 8:43 am

        I worked as a restaurant server for many years when I was younger and never once did I work in a restaurant that allowed separate checks. On the rare occasion that someone asked, I would simply reply, “It is the restaurant’s policy to have one check per table, but if you’d like different amounts on different credit cards, just let me know and I’d be happy to do that.”

        The main reason is that there is no guarantee the food will all come out of the kitchen at the same time, which usually upsets diners. And no, it is never, ever easier to process separate checks.

        Honestly, pulling aside the server and asking for a separate check is cowardly and passive aggressive. I stand by the wording I used above.

        • Lila October 14, 2015, 12:41 pm

          It is completely normal for diners to ask for separate checks. In fact, its the norm. When I go out with friends or extended family (ie. not my kids) the servers are often more surprised when we DON’T have separate checks than when we do. I’m thinking you were a server before use of the current computer systems which easily separate checks and have the ability to submit an order to the kitchen at once even if it’s on different checks. Even the smallest cafe or local restaurant where I live has this capability and would never think twice about splitting the bill.

        • mark October 14, 2015, 1:04 pm

          Fair enough if it is more work for the server. I will say I really don’t consider that a big concern for me. I would consider it part of their job.

          And trust me I NEVER pull the server aside to ask for separate checks. I do it at the start of the meal in front of everyone. The only time I pull the server aside for something like this is when I want to pay for someone else’s bill.

  • acr October 13, 2015, 10:09 am

    I find it hard to believe this is a truly honest mistake. How can a person be so unaware that they are consuming multiple glasses of wine and eating lobster and that somebody else is drinking 1 glass of wine and eating the chicken? This whole “divide the tab” evenly is just very strange and impractical to me, and just seems make-to-order for mooches. Since this seems to be a regular occurrence vs a 1-time mistake, OP, I think you need to honestly and deeply re-evaluate these friendships. I am wagering that when you start refusing to subsidize these outings, somebody is going to mean about it.

  • alex October 13, 2015, 10:12 am

    I don’t think it would be unfair of you to ask for a separate bill. I would be upset if I had to pay for other’s alcohol as I do not drink either and that can get quite expensive.

  • Girlie October 13, 2015, 10:18 am

    If I don’t plan on drinking at all, I would just ask for a separate bill at the beginning.

    I am of the type to happily split up anything every time I’m out with people or even treat, but I can see how this situation could get old (if it’s the 2nd, 3rd time). Don’t these friends notice that you and your husband don’t drink? I usually notice these things and pipe up and say “So and so didn’t drink or didn’t have dinner, maybe they should pay less than the rest of us”.. I just think that’s more fair in big groups.

  • Shoegal October 13, 2015, 10:19 am

    I remember going out to lunch at Christmas with the people in my office and something similar happened. I had like $20 on me – I thought this was more than enough to pay for my lunch even though the restaurant was a bit pricey. Nobody was drinking since it was in the middle of the day. I ordered chicken and had water to drink and knew that I was well within my budget. The check comes and we split the cost of the lunch evenly. One of the people in our group had ordered Lobster and everyone else had some beverages – well that pretty much pushed the bill up and over my $20. I didn’t have enough to cover my portion. Somebody lent me money and I paid them back later. This is a common problem when you “split” a bill.

    Now – my husband I have a group of friends that we often go out to dinner with. The check is never an issue. We always get separate checks – always. Everybody pays for themselves. Just let them know that you are on a budget and would just like to pay for what you both eat or drink. This is a reasonable request and shouldn’t be a big deal.

  • Elizabeth October 13, 2015, 10:24 am

    I am having a hard time understanding why this is a problem. Simply state that since you and your husband did not drink any of the wine you will not be paying for it. If your friends are not adult enough to understand the simple logic of this statement then you should find some new friends.

  • EllenS October 13, 2015, 10:36 am

    If you are good enough friends to go out for regular dinners, you are good enough friends to say, “Guys, we’d like to change the way we handle wine. DH and I don’t drink wine, and we won’t be able to chip in for it anymore.” Then either get a separate check, or ask for the wine to be tallied separate from the food. If your friends are planning their going-out budget based on splitting the bill, then it’s only fair to give them a heads-up before they order anything.

    Just make sure that you don’t imply that your friends have done something wrong or rude by handling it this way, or that they should “just know” that you can’t afford it, or anything like that. You are making a new arrangement, because the old one wasn’t working well for you, that’s all.

  • Jess October 13, 2015, 10:46 am

    My friends have this problem as well (but only when it works for them).

    Usually we each pay our own bill and that is great for me.
    The one time someone decided we should all share? When most people drank a number of expensive cocktails and I purposely didn’t to save money. Cue argument where everyone (but this one) understood my view and were happy to pay for themselves.

    Reason? He didn’t bring enough money if we didn’t all split equally. Instead of a £20 bill, £45 just to stop the fighting and argument. Our entire group is now wary when we go out to eat with him.

  • Mary October 13, 2015, 10:46 am

    The wait staff can certainly can do a separate bill for just you and your husband and have a combined bill for everyone else!

    I completely sympathize with you on the situation with rounds. We used to live in a small town and going to the bar after meetings. His intent of only having one or two drinks would be nixed by ten people buying rounds for each other and it was seen as incredibly rude to not participate. Thank God we don’t live there anymore. There is a lot less money being spent on alcohol.

  • CaffeineKatie October 13, 2015, 10:47 am

    My DH and I have been in the same situation–we were poor students invited to dinner with older faculty with per diem reimbursements. We ordered 2 small meals with water, and ended up paying for an equal share of their appetizers, steaks and booze when we barely had the money to pay our utility bills. (And ever since then, my DH has always picked up the tab for his students in similar situations). We felt like couldn’t say anything because the professors had a great deal of control over my husband’s upcoming exams. But these people are supposed to be your friends–I’d be up-front about your finances, tell them you love to socialize with them but need to have a separate check and say it next time as you make arrangements to meet. If they get huffy, they aren’t very good friends! (And I HATE the “let’s buy rounds” system of socializing!)

  • Leigh October 13, 2015, 10:48 am

    I agree; also, it’s easier for the waiter to know before they put things in (usually). If anyone says anything, just say you’re sticking to a budget. There may be other couples in the group that feel the same way, and may be relieved to hear you go first so they can ask for a separate check as well.

    I doubt situations like this come up on purpose; likely it just never occurs to the other group members that it isn’t equitable to expect people to pony up money for something they aren’t enjoying until someone says something.

    This reminds me of the episode of Friends. I think Joey and Rachel were upset over splitting a bill equally when they didn’t have the same kind of money as the others.

  • Alli October 13, 2015, 10:49 am

    There is nothing wrong with telling the group that because you are on a budget and not drinking, you’ll be asking for a seperate bill. The OP sounds fairly young (late 20’s/ early 30’s) and this is going to come up a lot in life. It’s possible your friends don’t notice (or pretend not to notice) that you aren’t drinking. Don’t compromise your financial goals so others can drink.

  • just4kicks October 13, 2015, 11:01 am

    Agreeing with other comments that a seperate bill is definitely in order next time you go out.
    If anyone (hopefully not!) “calls you out” on it, you simply say, “the wine looks delicious, but, we aren’t having any this evening”.
    If a fuss is made amongst the other couples, then they really aren’t your friends expecting you to pay for something you’re not indulging in.

    On another note: in my “young and wild” days, I was friends with a gal who I would go out clubbing with a few times a month.
    I started to notice that if she was drinking beer or wine, we would dance the paint off the walls and have a blast……if she had a bad day and ordered gin and tonics, she would turn into the friend from hell.
    Once the gin “kicked in” she would start fights, hit on other people’s boyfriends and generally make a (expletive) of herself.
    After a few “gin soaked” night’s (we ALWAYS had a friend who was happy to be the designated driver), including one where she got kicked out of the club, I would ask her upon any invitation to go dancing “….and what will you be drinking tonight?!? Because if you’re in a gin and tonic mood, I’m NOT GOING!”

  • Ashley October 13, 2015, 11:07 am

    I agree with the people saying get your own bill.

    My husband and I gave up splitting checks ages ago because of stuff like this. We get our own bill with our own stuff and if everyone else wants to split the four bottles of wine they consumed that’s on them.

  • Cj October 13, 2015, 11:10 am

    When the wait staff takes your first drink order just state that you will not be drinking any of the shared wine so separate check for us please. As a wine drinker who would want to share with friends I would not find it rude for my non drinking friends to do that. When we go to wineries we take turns buying bottles for the drinkers and then other drinks, cheese plates, ect for our DD friends as a way of saying thank you for dealing with us winos.

  • KimB October 13, 2015, 11:17 am

    Ask for a separate bill. The other couples probably have no idea that you and your dh are not drinking. I think they would understand if they were made aware that you two don’t drink.

    If they see you as cheap (because you don’t subsidize their drinking; I wish this wasn’t a real thing, people do love to have others help them pay for their drinking) then so be it.

  • Lerah99 October 13, 2015, 11:21 am

    I find that asking for a separate bill always works.
    If anyone pushes it, I simply state that I don’t drink so I didn’t budget for alcohol with the meal.

    In college there were a pair of girls who would invite a big group of 8-10 people to all go to dinner together. And they would order really expensive meals while everyone else ordered what they could afford. Then when the check came the girls would just divide the total by the amount of people at the table so everyone else basically subsidized their surf and turf while only eating side salads and baked potatoes. The two girls were very attractive and popular so no one wanted to say no. That experience of being broke for a week after eating with them really built my polite spine.

    The next time they asked me, I insisted on a separate check. When the girls protested that I was being unfair to the waitress and we would just split the check on our own, I said “I’m working on being better about budgeting so I’m keeping all my receipts to make sure my bank book stays balanced.”

    They never invited me again. But I also only had to pay for my meal. So it all worked out for the best.

  • JD October 13, 2015, 11:34 am

    I get the impression that one person orders a lot of wine for the table and then says, okay, guys, $200 split six ways is….
    I think I would have to explain to my friends — and I would be awkward about it, no doubt — that since I don’t drink any at the restaurant, that I don’t feel I should pay for the wine I didn’t touch. In fact, I’m surprised that OP and husband are asked to pitch in on the bill, but since it seems they are, OP and husband are going to have to speak up, or drop the going out with these friends. The drinkers might be happy to go along with OP’s suggestion, or might get huffy and the dining invitations cease, but if they are good friends, I would think they would agree to quit splitting the bill equally when one couple clearly is not getting any benefit. Do they expect everyone to help pay if they are the only ones ordering dessert? I would assume not. Why should the wine bill be shared by non-drinkers, then?

  • AnaMaria October 13, 2015, 11:44 am

    When I was a waitress I saw this all the time- a table would order a bottle of wine or round of drinks and ask for it to be split among 6 of the 8 (or 3 of the 5, whatever) people present because someone wasn’t drinking. Or people would split the food and pay for their own alcohol. It’s perfectly fine- you shouldn’t be pressured to go over your own budget.

    I think it would be fine when the server comes to ask for a separate check for you and your husband and let the others hear you asking for it. Someone might not understand what you are doing (i.e. think you feel guilty ordering an expensive dish and asking people to split it) and might try to discourage you, and that might be a reason to explain your actions tactfully, but if someone makes a stink about you not paying “your fair share,” I’d question if these people are real friends.

  • LadyV October 13, 2015, 11:54 am

    I agree with other posters – just ask your server for a separate check. As for your original problem with rounds of drinks – I’ve faced that one myself. Most of my friends know that I’ll have maybe one drink to their 5 or 6, so they don’t expect me to buy rounds. That being said, I will, on occasion, buy a round out of friendship – but only when I can afford it!

  • Daphne October 13, 2015, 12:02 pm

    You should speak up before the next dinner is planned by telling them you are no longer comfortable paying for wine you don’t consume. Just pick one or two members of the group you feel closest to and talk to them in private. That way you might be able to find out what the group mentality is on the importance of wine with dinner without causing any discomfort at the restaurant.
    Just be prepared that for some people, the whole point of going out for dinner in a large group is to split the cost of the wine, so everyone gets a chance to try different “pairings”. And if that’s the case with these friends you might want to find other dinner companions, or entertain at home, if you don’t want to participate in that expensive hobby.
    On the other hand, you might be pleasantly surprised that other members of the group feel the same way you do.

    • Margo October 14, 2015, 3:54 am

      Even if the point for them is trying differnt pairings it shouldn’t be an issue – OP is not trying to make them drink less, and if there are 6 or 7 couples then if there are 10-12 people drinking there is still plenty of opportunity to try a variety of wines, even f the OP and her huisband opt out of that part of the meal.

      • Daphne October 14, 2015, 5:04 pm

        Yes it is an issue if the OP is not paying for pairings. If one couple refuses to pay for pairings then there are less pairings available for the rest of the group. Of course this is predicated on the idea that tables for 20-30 people would not be feasible in most restaurants, and in this particular group, wine drinking is the norm.

  • Tabitha October 13, 2015, 12:13 pm

    Yes, let the waiter know you and your husband will need a separate check. But you should let one or two of the group know ahead of time that this will be happening, so that if you sit down to dinner and say to the others, Hubbie and I will need separate cheques, does anyone else want to do separate cheques? You will most likely will get an answer like, no lets just get one bill and split it. At this point, the friend you told ahead of time can say (if you ask her/him nicely). Ok, I know you two need have planned for your check, the rest of us will split. How about this bean dip appetizer?
    I know it sounds like a lot of set up, but I find if someone other than you states this is the way it’s going to be, there will be no questions directed at you and you can just go on and enjoy dinner. I’m old school and don’t think money should be discussed. You shouldn’t have to tell your dinner companions about your budget. But if they question you, you may have too (rude on their part, not yours). And if you say anything about not being drinkers and not wanting to pay for drinks you don’t have, again it’s a money discussion and it also gets a bit strange with alchol when drinkers feel like drinking or not drinking has been pointed out. None of this should be up for discussion when you’re just trying to have a nice social dinner. But I think if you just come in and say you want a separate check, members of your party will say, no lets just put it all together and then you’ll have to defend your decision and you’ll get silly suggestions like, we’ll separate the wine from the bill before we figure out how much you pay…all of this can be avoided if you can get one friend to just support you and change the subject.

  • YersiniaP October 13, 2015, 12:19 pm

    There is nothing rude about talking to your friends and letting them know that you just don’t have the budget to pay for things your are not partaking of!

  • Tracy W October 13, 2015, 12:41 pm

    At the time of organizing the dinner say something like “we’re on a pretty strict budget at the moment as we bought a fixer-upper so we’re skipping the alcohol, but you guys have fun.”
    At the bill time say “sorry, as I said earlier, the house is taking all our money so we’ll just toss in $x to cover our food and drink.”

    I regard saying “we can’t afford it” as a public service.

  • Dee October 13, 2015, 12:47 pm

    For a non-drinker you sure seem to gravitate to hanging around with drinkers, OP. So why don’t you just discuss with your friends about the fact that you are the odd “man” out? As in – “as you may have noticed, we don’t imbibe much and as we are now on a tight budget we have kept to that. It would work better for us if we got separate cheques when we are all out together; otherwise, we might not have the funds to go out much if at all, and we really enjoy our outings with you”. If they are good people they will not be offended and should actually feel a bit embarrassed to have been ignorant of the cost they’ve put on you all this time.

    And I hope your dinner companions are lingering for awhile after the meal as the general rule for drinking and driving, at least for women, is no more than one drink per hour. At a half a bottle of wine, five oz. glass per hour, it should take a minimum of three hours to wear off just enough to be under the legal limit in most places, and that’s not necessarily the “safe” limit.

    • Anon October 14, 2015, 9:05 am

      I’m not sure why you said “you sure seem to gravitate to hanging around with drinkers”. It is EXTREMELY hard to hang out with the younger crowd (20 somethings at least for me) without them wanting to always meet up at or go to a bar or something. I myself have been trying to socialize more and join groups around my age and I cannot find any of them (with people my age) that aren’t “bar hopping!”, “let’s meet up at this bar!”, etc.

      If anyone has any advice for trying to find a group that is not centered around drinking and is in the 20-30 age range, that would be great!

      • Dee October 14, 2015, 11:28 am

        Anon – Why are you limiting yourself to the younger crowd then? You could be a few years ahead of them in maturity and that’s the conflict you’re feeling. If you attend groups or clubs that are of interest to you and not specifically age-related you may find kindred spirits you connect with easily. That they may be considerably older than you quickly becomes a non-issue when you are sharing interests. Some of my youngest-at-heart friends have been 20, 30 and 40+ years older than me and those times we get together can be side-splittingly fun, and more than a little “dangerous” once we decide to go on a “mission”. You’re having a conflict with stereotypical people in your age group – it doesn’t mean there aren’t any non-partiers your age but it may be significantly more difficult to find them so you have to decide if age really is more important to you than having good company.

      • LaconicLola October 14, 2015, 10:54 pm

        Don’t know how to meet them. My group before I moved and married consisted of game nights and pool halls. Parties and New Years were game nights (board games, card games, etc) until we couldn’t stay awake any longer. We would meet up for games of pool, yes at a bar but at most someone would have 2 drinks. After my move and wedding, my husband and I set up a rotating hosting date. Each month a different person hosts the get together at their house. You make whatever strikes your fncy. Once our friends made steaks. The next round we had seven layer nachos and chicken and rice. I’m planning on Chinese food for our turn. It’s always bring your own alcohol. Sometimes people don’t feel like drinking other times everyone spends the night in guest rooms and blowup mattresses. Activities range from bring your favorite terrible movie. (You know the one you love even though it’s terrible…one of my friends LOVES xanadu) to skeet shooting. Just ideas you might employ.

      • chelee74 October 16, 2015, 11:41 am

        Anon, try http://www.meetup.com/
        There’s something for everyone!

    • Willynilly October 14, 2015, 12:48 pm

      The OP never says she is a non-drinker. She says she is a light drinker.

      • Dee October 14, 2015, 4:47 pm

        Willynilly – In her earlier days she says that she was a light drinker but in the context of the issue of her current dining companions she says, “neither of us drink”, so that is her/their drinking status when they are out with these friends. In the eyes of these friends she/they probably appear to be complete non-drinkers.

        • Willynilly October 14, 2015, 9:21 pm

          OP and her husband aren’t drinking *at these dinners* but that doesn’t mean they never drink with these friends. Which could be part of the not noticing issue – if the friends have shared wine or a cocktail with the OP and her husband on other occasions they might not be noticing the dry dinners.

  • Shannan October 13, 2015, 12:52 pm

    Ask for a separate check. Problem solved.

  • Shoebox October 13, 2015, 1:04 pm

    I don’t think you even need to have a formal discussion with your friends, honestly. Just make it clear, in the space between now and your next get-together, that you don’t drink. This can surely be done naturally and conversationally (perhaps when you’re offered a drink at someone’s house?)

    Then, when you go out, quietly ask for separate bills as advised above. If anyone notices and objects, just throw them a big smile and remind them that you didn’t have any of the wine. If they then proceed to demand that you chip in for expensive extras you didn’t order not want, you have an excellent cue to seriously rethink your friendship with that person.

  • PJ October 13, 2015, 1:07 pm

    I’ve been in the same situation– with wine and just with some families ordering lots of large plates while others ordered more modestly. The next time we were out together, I just told the waiter my family would be on a separate bill. Most restaurants have no problem doing this at all. The first time I did it, another person at the table did the same thing; I suspect she was also frustrated by the situation.

    If others don’t like it, they can complain, but will just end up sounding petty when it boils down to they want you to subsidize their indulgence.

  • Lady Catford October 13, 2015, 1:09 pm

    Ask for a separate bill. This also means that you are not subsidizing the people who order the most expensive items on the menu. We regularly go out with a group and we all ask for separate bills.

  • The OP of this post October 13, 2015, 1:28 pm

    Many restaurants have policies that you cannot separate a bill among a large party.

    • Willynilly October 13, 2015, 3:49 pm

      While that is certainly true, most places do give two subtotals – first the food, then the alcohol – which are then tallied. So even on a group check it should be relatively easy to divide the first tally – food – by 8, then the second number – alcohol – by 6. You and your husband only pay the first price, the others pay both.

    • Z_squared82 October 13, 2015, 3:59 pm

      But not all of them. My friends and I went to a Very Fancy Restaurant here in my city and they split our bill. Heck, they even split the bread for the table six ways! (The fact that there was a charge for the bread means I have zero interest in going back, however.)

    • Cat October 13, 2015, 7:01 pm

      Your only solution is then to tell your friends you will not be paying any part of the bill for alcohol. You will pay for what you had and they will have to pay for their own dinners without any help from you.

    • Jelaza October 13, 2015, 7:12 pm

      I’ve actually had the exact opposite experience. More and more of the restaurants I visit ask right at the beginning if there will be separate checks for a party of more than 4 or 5 people. Each bill still incurs the mandatory (usually 18%) service fee if the restaurant has one and the total party hits the listed size for that.

    • Skaramouche October 13, 2015, 10:50 pm

      Hello OP,

      I share your predicament and I really think the only solution to this is to bring it up with your friends. I’ll be charitable and give them the benefit of the doubt for the possibility that they may not have noticed that you are not drinking. Do they order more expensive food as well? Or is it just the booze? If so and if they really haven’t noticed, it should be an easy problem to rectify.

      I also have to say though, I never understand these people who say “let’s just split the bill evenly”. I *only* suggest that if I know for a fact that my actual share is less than everyone else’s. Otherwise, as a matter of principle, it’s not my place to suggest that someone else should subsidise my meal, even if it’s a matter of a few dollars. Even if it means convenience…

      • Margo October 14, 2015, 4:15 am

        I think this depends a little on how much variety there is in the cost, both in cash terms and in terms of the proportion of the total, and what the relationship is like.

        For instance, if I’m eating out with a group, we’re all ordering roughly similar amounts of food and drink, and the total for each individual, if you split the bill is (say) £40 then the fact that one person’s meal might actually work out at £38 and anothers to £42 wouldn’t be a big deal.
        If one person is ordering soup and water so their meal would cost £10 and another is ordering steak and wine, so their meal costs £30 it’s a bigger issue, and similarly, if the bill is only £7-£10 each then £2-£3 difference is more significant.

        Equally, with a close friend or friends that I go out with regualarly, we may split the bill as while I may pay more and ‘subsidise’ their meal one day, the opposite will be true on another ocassion, and we are both happy that things even out over time. And with good friends the ‘equalling out’ may not be purely financial.

        However, I agree that this only works if everyone is happy with the arrangement, and that it is not rude or inappropriate to ask for separate bills or to only pay your fair share.

        OP, I think you need to speak up at the start of the next outing and ask for a separate bill, and meantion that you won’t be drinking so don’t want to ‘go in’ on the wine.