The evening is coming to a close and the server arrives with the bill in a leather casing. The amount is still a secret, and you're scared to uncover it.
No problem. Someone else does it for you.
"18,000! How do we go about this?"
Before you can digest what you just heard, another friend speaks up.
"Let's divide it equally?"
You swallow your mounting tension. Suddenly, those words grab all your attention. You quickly calculate in your head. Six people on the table. You sit up straight, brain buzzing with the mathematics of your expected share as compared to the exact total of what you ordered. You realize the stark difference, one that clearly doesn't work in your favour.
It never does.
Still, you reach out for your wallet, carefully counting the notes inside and taking out a bunch that covers ‘your cut’.
Your poker face hides your frustration well. You’ve had enough practice. This time too, pride prevailed. You successfully pitched in and left the venue laughing at a random joke. Nobody could tell that you were crying inside.
They wouldn’t know of the panicked calculations raiding your mind as you drive back home. And they will remain blissfully unaware of the mental note you make to check your bank balance the next day.
All in the name of social courtesy.
The “you” here is innumerable millennials finding themselves in the same rut every time they step out. These are the bearers of a new social age, the weight of which can be crushing. These are the 20-somethings making fixed incomes with carefully devised budgets that are supposed to last an entire month till the next pay cheque arrives.
When social obligations start eating into one’s livelihood, a pressing issue emerges, threatening the very survival of the working class.
So why continue making peace with a routine that's so painfully unfair?
Paying extra during one outing might not seem like the world’s end, but when you look at the collective spending over a considerable period of time, the sum total might shock you. All that money you could've saved and invested, taken away by courtesy.
Maybe it’s time people started taking their financial limitations into account over everything else.
Showing you can afford the same luxuries as the other members of your peer circle is not going to prove any point. It is not going to elevate your actual status.
And as far as the good, old tradition of evenly splitting the bill regardless of exceptions is concerned, it has birthed many kinds of sufferers.
The first ones are those facing a money restraint, picking the cheaper items on the menu. Then there’s the case of the light eaters, the vegetarians, the odd teetotaler, the latecomer who walked in minutes before the party ended, the person who simply dropped in to say hi and had one drink.
On the flip side, there are people who slip out halfway through the scene without paying. Some manage to forget their cards at home. Some avail discounts on another’s expense. Some splurge by ordering for 20 with 10 in presence.
Paying more in such circumstances is a disservice to every minute of labour you put into your job.
And if you think about it, there are various solutions to this problem. Asking for itemised bills is one of them. Requesting your server for a personal tab before the table’s order goes out is another. Being frank about wanting to pay for your fair share in a collective bill works well. Getting your drinks straight from a bar is an excellent option too.
Adopting any of these methods will not make you cheap. No one will look down upon you. And if some do judge, it's their problem, not yours.
You don’t have to be the victim here. Just put a stop to those internal conflicts and shy silences once and for all.
Being frank is better than being broke. Politeness is great, but not when it trumps practicality. Be smart. Depending on your personal earnings and choices, if you feel the need to - ditch the ‘dutch’. It’s perfectly okay, really.
Don’t let others decide what you’re going to spend.
It’s your money after all. Make the best of it.