How To Split The Restaurant Bill When You Didn't Order Any Drinks, According To Experts

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Many of us have been in this awkward situation: You go out to a bar or restaurant with friends, and they order drinks but you don't. Then, you're all expected to split the bill evenly in the name of fairness. But it's not fair for you — because you didn't order drinks. You shouldn't have to pay for other people's orders, especially if you consciously declined drinks to save money.

Even if you know this, declining to pitch in can get uncomfortable. After all, it's easier to divide the bill by the number of people in the group than to calculate what everybody's spent. Sometimes, it's worth taking one for the team and cutting your budget in other ways, social skills and etiquette expert Rosalinda Oropeza Randall tells Bustle.

"If you spent $2 less than everyone else, it's likely not worth the hassle of insisting you pay your own way," Kendal Perez, savings expert with CouponSherpa.com, tells Bustle. "Establish a threshold you're willing to cover and whenever the total bill exceeds that amount, ask to pay for your dish separately."

But people shouldn't take issue with you advocating for yourself. "If they are your friends, they'll understand and accommodate, especially if this is temporary situation," says Randall.

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Here are some ways to avoid getting stuck paying for drinks you didn't order without pissing off your friends.

1Tell Them In Advance

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If you want to avoid an awkward situation where your friends are asking you for money you don't want to spend, you can explain to them in advance that you're trying to save money and don't plan to order drinks, says Randall.

2Ask For Separate Checks

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That way, the issue of splitting the bill never even comes up. Perez recommends requesting this right when you place your order so that it's easier for the server.

3Propose An Alternative Way To Split The Bill

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Instead of just saying you don't want to split the bill evenly and leaving it to your friends to figure it out, make a suggestion. Former etiquette teacher Dr. Gayle Carson, who doesn't drink herself, tells Bustle she likes to say, "Since I didn't have anything to drink, if you will take that off and then split the rest, I'd appreciate it."

4Ask Them To Come Up With A Fair Number

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If you ask a question like "what is my portion of the bill for what I ate?", you convey that you're not going to pay for their share without coming off adversarial, since it sounds like you're looking to cooperate with whatever they propose, says Carson.  

5Say "I'll Pay For My Own"

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This also gets the same message across without appearing adversarial. Writer Janet Maile, who doesn't drink either, tells Bustle she says "I'll pay for my own" to appear firm and avoids "I hope you don't mind but..."  or "I thought I might..." so that nobody tries to take advantage of her.

6Bring Cash

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It may be easier to put your foot down when you have a finite amount of cash rather than a credit card the restaurant can draw any amount from. "When your party suggests splitting the bill evenly, let them know you only have enough cash to cover your portion," says Perez. "No arguing with that!"

7Just Tell Them

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Honestly, not paying for stuff that you didn't order is a very reasonable request. If anyone gives you a hard time about that, it may be time to have a talk with them about respecting your financial boundaries.

With all these tricks at your disposal, you should never have to be pressured into paying for other people's drinks. You work hard for your money and deserve the right to choose how you spend it.