When you have group activities for extended period of time (group traveling, for example) you need Bill Splitting. You will go together to restaurants, bars, renting things, etc, so we need a way to properly track and split costs that group has. It’s important to be simple and easy to use, so that we don’t spend too much time and effort. Two things are important:
- Application for bill splitting
- Strategy for bill splitting
My choice is Splitwise application. It’s free, available for iOS, Android and Web, simple and with excellent features.
After you install mobile app and signup, first thing is to create a group, configure it and invite people:
You can see that Vanja created the group “Peru Trip”, invited Patron and Petreski to the group and turned on “Simplify group debts” option. What does that mean? Imagine that Vanja owes $10 to Patron and Patron owes $10 to Petreski. If we want to settle – Vanja would have to pay $10 to Patron and Patron $10 to Petreski. With simplify group debts on, app is smart and knows that it’s enough if only Vanja pays $10 to Petreski. This way we avoid complicated and multiple settles. Now application looks like this – Vanja can see his friends, group without entries yet and all activities within the group (very important):
Vanja, Patron and Petreski went out for some beers, bill was $30 and Vanja paid. Now it’s time to add this bill to the app. Vanja can add the bill or anyone else in the group. It’s important to select who paid – in this case Vanja. Let’s see how to do that and what different types of bill splitting Splitwise offers:
Now we can see who owes how much money to whom, transaction is in the group and details about transaction:
Later that day, only Vanja and Petreski went out for a dinner. The bill was $150, Petreski paid and added exact amount split – Vanja $97 and Petreski $53. Patron was not involved:
It’s time to settle up and clear the debts because trip is coming to the end. Once debts are paid, put them in the app:
That was about the app, but the most important thing is to have strategy defined within the group, how to actually use it and how to solve some common problems, so let’s start:
- Make sure that everybody have Splitwise installed, knowledge how to use it and rules (strategy) for the group, group configured and all members invited to the group. Do this at the very beginning of the trip.
- If new member joins the crew – add him immediately to Splitwise.
- Make sure that simplified debt is configured and correct currency.
- Every bill is paid by one person.
- We cycle person who pays each time (I will call him Payer from now on). So once will pay Vanja, next time will pay Patron and next time will pay Petreski. Then we cycle. That’s how we keep things in balance.
- Payer has to enter the bill in the app AS SOON AS IT HAPPENS. Even without Internet, app will cache it and sync the data once connected. Choose equal split (even if it is not), so that waiter doesn’t wait for your math and attach picture of the receipt (extremely important) where ALL the details can be seen. Make sure that you include / exclude people involved / not involved. This complete step is the most important!
- Payer is responsible for his entry, so he has to make sure that all numbers for that transaction are correct!
- If everybody has a feeling that it was equal split in reality, then all is good.
- Otherwise – each participant in the bill can add comment for that transaction in the app “I had 2 Corona beers and chicken”, etc. That’s how Payer will be able to switch to by exact value bill split and adjust accordingly (remember that we have picture of the receipt). Set one day maximum to correct the transaction. So remember – each participant has to comment on his details and Payer has to adjust after that.
- If some participants share something, let’s say Petreski and Patron shared one bottle of wine, but Vanja had only one beer – that’s easy to calculate by looking at the picture of the receipt and just share value of the bottle between Petreski and Patron. Yes, some manual math is necessary, but not rocket science 😛
- If somebody requests settle in any moment – settle immediately – that person wants his money back.
- If some participant is about to leave the group, HE has to make sure to settle with everybody, even if he only owes 😉
- At the very end of the trip, everybody should settle onsite.
- If you share living space – make list of groceries and other things you share in common and split them equally. For everything else – each person buys for himself (food, drinks, etc). Then you can put your stuff in one bag, label it and leave it in the fridge.
- If you notice any irregularity – complain immediately, people usually don’t want to rebel, but they should – let’s use Kanban principle – stop the track, so that we don’t have to stop the track. And fix all problems as they appear.
There is some work to be done and principles to apply, but I think it’s simple, very logical and bullet proof. If you don’t want to bother with this, then you would have to settle onsite as soon as bill comes. But that’s always complication – waiter has to wait, we loose time at the place, not that pleasant, etc.