Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I have several friends I eat out with. For years we’ve split the bill
evenly. Last year I changed my eating habits, and now often order a
few appetizers rather than a full course meal. Lately I’ve stopped
drinking wine, which virtually all my friends do on the weekend. I
haven’t said anything about changing the money rules, even though
it’s cost me at least a couple bucks each time it’s happened. Then last
night, when I ordered a dessert coffee, my friend who’d had a glass of
wine said, Your coffee was a little more but let’s just split it. I was so
stunned I kept my mouth shut. Is it too late to say something? How do
I not look cheap?

Dear Changing:
One of the side effects of changing any part of your life is getting to
watch how it spills over into other areas of your life. It sounds like the
changes you are making will benefit your health, as well as your
wallet. But to keep your relationships with your friends unchanged will
be a trickier act. I’d recommend a simple conversation with each,
saying in essence, For years we’ve split the tab without worrying about
who ate or drank more, assuming it would all iron out in the end. Do
you want to continue doing that? My diet is changing and I cannot
predict if what I order will cost more or less than you. I’m comfortable
with a machete level split, or for whoever’s meal cost more to ante up
more of a tip. But it seemed like a time to be sure we’re on the same

The benefit of this kind of reality check is that each of you has a
chance to clear the air about any inequity, perceived or real. It’s
always interesting, in a dispassionate mood, to see how those line up,
assuming each is honest. Your preference for splitting does not, btw,
have to be the same for all parties. Don’t forget you too get to say,
You always drink lots more than me, and it costs more, so I’d rather
split based on what we order. That’s not cheap; it’s prudent.