Splitting the Bill

After a wonderful meal with great company, there is no worse way to finish the dining experience than having confusion over the bill. No matter the circumstance, a business meal, a group of friends, or a celebration in honor of someone, this type of confusion can always make attendees feel uncomfortable. In order to avoid any awkward moments, here are my tips for splitting the bill:

  1. Splitting the bill can be a touchy subject – The following are important to keep in mind as you plan group meals.
    • People do not want to “get stuck” paying for the expensive meals, additional appetizers, or alcoholic beverages of others when they do not consume the same. Not everyone can afford the same thing and it is important to keep this mind when you decide how to pay the bill.
      • Food for Thought: When the bill is split evenly between people who did not actually order things costing the same amount, those who are charged more often deduct from the tip. This is not the right thing to do as is not fair to the servers, but it does happen in an attempt to save money.
    • If going out as couples, it is often easiest to split the total as an even amount per couple; however, keep the first bullet point in mind!
    • Ordering as a group? First make sure everyone is OK with “family style” dining then agree to evenly split the bill for the food. If everyone is not consuming alcohol or ordering separate drinks (versus sharing a bottle of wine), considering getting a separate check for the drinks so that is appropriately split.
    • Bringing cash (and a variety of bill amounts) when you know you will be splitting the bill is a good idea. You do not want to owe anyone money after the fact or be responsible for holding up paying.
      • For those who are comfortable with digital payment methods, consider using the apps like Venmo and PayPal.
  2. If you plan to split the bill – Always make the plan known ahead of time!
    • If you are the organizer for a group get together, but you are not the host, you should let attendees know ahead of time the bill will be split. After receiving the R.s.v.p. list, send a confirmation note to all attendees including “reminders” and stating the plan for the bill.
      • For example: “A request to split the total for brunch as individual bills has been made of the restaurant. Brunch will be divided by what you order, not split evenly among everyone, in order to be fair to all. Thank you for understanding!”
    • If you make a reservation for a larger number of people, call the restaurant and ask if separate checks for a large group is possible. Also, ask if gratuity is added for a group of your size. Some establishments are unable to do separate checks; therefore, it is important to let your attendees know in advance if paying in cash will be necessary.
      • For example: “Please bring cash for dinner or have Venmo setup. We have been told splitting the check between several credit cards is not possible; therefore, having cash/Venmo will make it easier for us to divide the cost ourselves.”
    • Always tell your server you wish to split the bill when he/she begins taking orders. This way, when you order, your server can enter your drinks and meals as separate checks.
      • It is very frustrating for servers to receive a joint bill back that says, “Put $25.51 on the red card, $34.22 on the blue card, etc..”
  3. Ultimately, who is responsible for the bill?
    • Typically, if your boss/manager is present and extended the invite then it is his/her responsibility to cover the bill.
    • Similarly, with client lunches/dinners or interviews that take place over a meal, the hosting business is responsible for the bill.
    • If you are hosting a meal out for friends, family, etc., the cost of the meal and gratuity is your responsibility. Think of it as hosting at your home – You do not ask guests to pay for their meal in your home when you host; therefore, you should not expect them to pay when you extend the invitation to join you out for a meal.
    • If you are out to celebrate a special occasion for someone (birthday, promotion, etc.), it is customary that his/her bill is covered by the other people at the table. As a guest, be prepared to split the honoree’s tab!
    • If you are asked to evenly split a bill for a group whose meals are clearly not equal in cost, speak up in a polite manner to the person who is overseeing bill. Simply saying, “Excuse me, everyone did not order equal amounts and I think it would be unfair to expect each other to make up for our portions. May we split the bill based on our meals?”
      • If this is the plan ahead of time, but you know you will not consume at the same level as the other guests, you may ask the server to split out only your portion. This allows everyone else to evenly split the bill and for you to pay the appropriate amount for yourself.

No matter your age or the setting, splitting the bill is typically an uncomfortable situation to navigate. I hope these tips help you find a solution easily and relieve you of some dining out anxiety in the future!

Cheers, y’all!

AB

Work-Life Balance: Having a Social Life on a Budget

After the holidays and along with new year resolutions, a common theme to focus on is financial wellness. As young professionals making our way in our careers and becoming established on our own, it is very common to go through periods when we struggle to keep a healthy work-life balance. Whether it is from a financial, time management, or relationship perspective, it can be easy to get lost in the world of “adulting.”

In no way do I mean to be a financial adviser (I definitely do not have a finance degree), but I do have experience with “having a social life on a budget.” So, I am sharing my tips on how to maintain your social life while on a budget!

  1. Always Plan Ahead!
    • If you know a celebration is coming up (someone’s birthday, the holidays, etc.), put a little money aside each pay period to save for gift giving.
    • Taking a trip soon or want to plan a trip? The same thing applies! Set your money aside early in the pay period so you can gradually save and treat yourself to the vacation you deserve!
      • Be smart about planning as well! Book your flights and accommodations early using trusted travel sites with true deals.
  2. Pay Your Bills On Time (or early, if possible!)
    • Not only will your credit score thank you, but so will your stress level! Keep a calendar with due dates of bills and/or put reminders on your phone for exactly which day of the month your bills are due. Also register for the bill reminders via email or text. This will ensure each of your bills is paid on time and serves as a helpful reminder to set money aside when you know a bill is coming.
    • Most companies now offer automatic payment online. While this is a great idea, it is still your responsibility to ensure the payment went through and there is enough money in your account to cover the payment.
      NOTE: If you set-up automatic payment, always check the amount withdrawn to ensure you are being charged the right amount.
  3. Cut Costs Where Possible
    • Have you been looking forward to a night out? An easy way to save your money for the weekend is to pack your lunch during the week rather than eating out. You can also make your own coffee in the morning rather than taking your normal coffee shop run on the way to work. It is truly amazing how quickly all those little expenses add up to quite a chunk of change!
    • Rather than driving somewhere and paying for gas and parking, see if public transportation is available or if you can set-up a carpool.
    • If you are really looking to save more, consider cutting out some luxuries to give yourself a bit more freedom in other places. For example: If you have cable that gives a million more channels than you ever use consider downgrading your cable package.
  4. Track Your Budget
    • Keep a record of your income and your spending. The best way to start changing your finances is to realize just how much you make versus how much you are actually spending. By keeping a log of how much you spend and what you spend your money on, you will be able to identify areas where you can save!
  5. Take Advantage of Free Activities and Deals at Local Places
    • Most cities have a plethora of free attractions, museums, and monuments which anyone can visit. You can even find exercise classes and outdoor activities if you are looking for a discounted way to workout.
    • Attend happy hours when drinks and food are discounted.
    • Sign up for the rewards cards at your local grocery store and pharmacy/drug store – it can really save you a lot!

If you are mindful of what you are spending and make an effort to save a bit each pay period, you will begin setting yourself up for financial success. While all these cost saving tips are helpful, make sure you find a good balance between cutting costs and treating yourself. It is OK to treat yourself once and a while, especially when you know you have saved for it – That is the whole point of the work-life balance!

Happy socializing, y’all!

AB

Time to Hit the Gym!

Happy New Year! With resolutions top of mind, it is the time of year when many people head to the gym to better their personal health. For this topic, I turned to one of my best friends, Meredith Reiber, a multi-faceted fitness and nutrition professional who manages a gym as well as owns Pure Movement and is also a Diet Doc Consultant. Together, we have put together our tips for being a courteous gym member and workout buddy!

  1. Greet the front desk staff when you sign-in for the day!
    • If you have a quick question or request, feel free to pop in to the main office, but if you have in-depth question about membership or training we suggest scheduling an appointment with a staff member.
  2. When using the locker room:
    • Be sure to leave room for others. Do not spread out all your personal belongings across the bench, counter top, etc.
    • When changing or heading to the showers, avoid being totally naked. Use a towel or at least stay in your underwear.
    • Place all your personal belongings in a locker, do not leave anything laying out, and use a lock to secure your personal items.
  3. Personal Appearance
    • Wear appropriate gym clothes.
      • While at the gym, it is tempting to show off how you great you look, but remember to still keep it classy. For the ladies, avoid booty shorts (NOTE: there is a difference between yoga shorts and booty shorts) and letting the girls hang out. A supportive sports bra is not only appropriate, but you will thank yourself later for investing in good undergarments!
      • Wear freshly washed clothes each gym visit! Stuffing your sweaty workout gear in your sweaty gym bag amplifies your hard work (AKA sweat) stench.  Do your clothes, and your gym buddies, a favor by not wearing them again until washed!
    • Use deodorant! Let’s be honest, we all sweat, but let’s try to keep the smells to a minimum.
    • The mirror in the class studio and weight-room is to check your form on exercises. Avoid checking yourself out and/or obsessively fixing your hair and makeup. Additionally, beware of adjusting your clothing in the mirrors. Gyms are covered with mirrors and you would be surprised at how many people can actually see what you are doing (i.e. picking at your underwear).
  4. Be conscious of a busy gym and/or if there is a wait for machines.
    • Do not be a “machine hog.” If someone is waiting to use the same machine as you, take turns alternating sets.
    • The gym can get pretty crowded, do not try to wedge yourself into a tiny space between people. Be sure you have enough room for your exercises, but also be aware of taking more room than you need. NOTE: This is especially true during fitness classes!
    • Leave your cell phone behind! The gym is not the place to be snapping selfies, checking emails and social media, or responding to text messages, especially when it is busy and people are waiting.
    • If you know an exercise class fills up fast, register ahead of time and arrive early to ensure your spot in the class.
    • Gym rats! Be courteous of new gym go-ers.  It may be frustrating to have to share the equipment you have been using all year but these newbies have to start somewhere, and who knows, they may end up becoming a regular, like you, by next year!
  5. Respect other people’s privacy.
    • Some people do not like to socialize while at the gym. If someone has headphones in or you can tell they are super serious about the workout, let him/her be and speak to him/her after the workout.
      • There is a misconception about Fitness Professionals being able to workout all day.  The hidden truth is that it is actually harder to workout once you start working at a gym! If you see a staff member working out, hold off on those class, billing, etc. questions until after you see them wrap up their workout and are back in their office.
    • Try to avoid staring at people or watching others workout. If you are interested in the workout someone is doing, ask him/her about it after he/she completes the workout.
    • With that being said, still be a friendly individual. Smile and/or say hello as you walk past people.
    • Keep your comments to yourself.
      • Unless you are a personal trainer or member of the gym staff, do not critique other people’s workout. Leave this to the professionals!
      • If someone is not “in shape,” DO NOT make any comments about him/her. They are there working hard to get in shape, encourage them!
  6. Control the noise.
    • Avoid dropping weights on the ground when you are done with your set. Not only is it distracting, it’s not good for the weights or the gym floor.
    • Keep your headphones to a level at which you can hear them and get pumped up, but not motivate the entire gym (not everyone enjoys the same music).
    • Limit the grunting, groaning, and other expressive noises. Your goal should not be to have everyone looking at you, take Kevin Hart’s advice.
  7. Clean up after yourself!
    • Wipe down the machines and mats you use when you are done. All gyms now have sanitary wipes ready for use!
    • Put back all the equipment you use (free weights, medicine balls, kettle bells, etc.) to where it belongs.
    • If you used a towel from the gym, be sure to place it in the hamper.

While going to the gym or a fitness class is great for most people, we know working out at home is also a popular practice. If you are looking for a way to increase your personal wellness, checkout Meredith’s Virtual Workout Subscription!

Virtual Workout

Happy workouts, y’all!

AB + Meredith

Celebrating Holiday Traditions

In the spirit of the holiday season and families and friends (both new and old) coming together, many of us will be sharing, or maybe starting, holiday traditions. From those we have been celebrating with our families for generations to those we have created on our own with friends, they bring us together and make many special memories. The link between traditions and etiquette may not be apparent, but I have a few important thoughts worth sharing:

  1. Participate in the cheesy stuff! You may think you have grown up too much to do the childish activities, but trust me you have not. The smile it will put on your parents’ or grandparents’ faces is well worth it! Plus, it is your job to teach the next generation!
  2. Include others in your traditions. If you have a significant other or friend spending the holidays with you, be sure they are included in the fun. Teach them about what your family does, how it came to be a tradition, and have them fully participate in the festivities.
  3. If you are not able to spend the holidays with your family, ask the people you will be with if you can share your tradition with them. Whether it is eating a certain dish, singing a certain song, or a certain activity you always do, most hosts will welcome your addition. Just be sure not to take over the occasion and be respectful of the traditions already in place.
  4. Be respectful of making changing to existing traditions. If you have an idea of how to “enhance” a current tradition, be sure to speak with those who started it or those who rank “most senior” in the family/group. Perhaps they go about the tradition a certain way for a reason you do not know or they feel strongly attached to the way it has always been done. It is important to speak to everyone involved before making a decision which will effect the entire family/group.

As I get ready to celebrate my traditional Italian Christmas Eve, I know I am blessed to have family, friends, and loved ones celebrate with me. Cherish these moments and enjoy them!

Merry Christmas, y’all!

Alexandra

Handling Holiday Stress with Grace

As we shop for gifts, welcome house guests, and prepare for parties and holiday meals, the joy of the holiday season has a tendency to also bring quite a lot of stress. While stress levels increase, our positive attitudes and mannerly ways often times decrease. This year, let’s not have that happen! Here are some of my tips to ensure you have a merry and bright holiday season!

  1. The Shopping Experience
    • Be prepared to handle the crowds. Do not push your way through people, simply say “excuse me” as you move.
    • Always thank the sales associate who help you find the gift you want, the right size/color of an item, and sometimes even do your gift wrapping. They appreciate polite customers 🙂
    • Avoid fights with other shoppers over the last item in stock. You will find something else and let’s be honest.. Getting dragged out of the store by mall security is not worth it.
    • Give people their space while looking through clothing racks, items on the shelf, and standing in line.
    • Speaking of standing in line, do not huff and puff because the line is long. Instead, use that time wisely. Get your coupons and method of payment ready so you can be quick at the register.
    • When you check out, do not be on your cell phone. Give the sales associate your full attention and be sure to wish him/her “Happy Holidays.”
  2. Welcoming House Guests
    • Create a welcoming guest room.
      • Make a cute sign/photo frame that has the WiFi password posted.

        Graphic Available for Download on Life of Verde's

        Download Sign at Life of Verde’s

      • Put extra pillows and blankets in the closet.
      • If you use your guest room for extra closet/storage space, clear some space for your guests to hang their clothes or put them in the dresser.
      • Have a luggage rack in the room.
      • Put together a travel toiletry basket (toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, cotton balls, band-aids, etc.) and leave it on the bathroom counter in case your guest forgot anything.
      • Ensure the room smells clean, but avoid using too much fragrance – some people get headaches from overly scented rooms.
    • If you have a visit packed with events, make a festive itinerary and send it to your guests in advance! Perhaps these guests have never joined you before and do not know your traditions, the area, or even what to wear for your events; so, this is a great way to make them feel welcome before they arrive.
    • Plan your menu and/or make reservations far in advance.
    • If there are things you know your guests like (a snack food, certain type of soda, etc.), try to stock up on a few things. For example, I do not drink coffee, but I know most people do so, I make sure I have it prior to guests arriving.
    • It is certainly easier said than done, but try to check as many things off your to-do list as you can before your guests arrive. That way, you can enjoy the time with them. For example, make sure gifts are wrapped and any food preparation you can do early is done.
  3. Hosting the Party/Holiday Meal
    • Set your table and decorate our home ahead of time.
    • Plan out where you will place the food and make sure the serving dishes fit so when food is ready to come out of the kitchen, it goes directly to the table.
    • Do not wait until the last minute to shop for ingredients. It is better to stock-up early and have enough for the season so you do not have to run to the store at the last minute.
    • Prepare as much as you can before the day of the event. If you can make certain dishes and freeze them (without losing any taste quality), go for it. If you can cut up ingredients and store them before making a mix or tossing them into a recipe, get all the prep work out of the way.

I hope these tips help you to have a low-stress holiday and one you can find some time to relax! Remember, as busy as your schedule gets, always be polite and think positively.. You will get through it! Enjoy the time with your family, friends, and loved ones!

Happy Holidays, y’all!

AB

The Essential Table Manners

As the holidays approach, we will soon be gathering around the table with family, friends, and loved ones. In the spirit of enjoying such divine meals, having good tables is an incredibly important asset yet so commonly overlooked. From social to professional settings, food defines our culture and is present everywhere. Whether you are with family, friends, coworkers, a new client, or distinguished guests and dignitaries, it is always important to mind your manners, especially at the table.

This week, I am sharing my list of the essential table manners everyone should follow.

  1. Sit Properly (aka Have Good Posture at the Table)
    • Sit straight in your chair with your shoulders back.
    • Keep both legs on the ground in front of you. If you want to cross your legs, cross at your ankles.
    • Pull your chair up to the table so you can comfortably reach everything at your place setting and your legs are under the table.
  2. Use a Napkin
    • Place it in your lap when you take your seat and keep it there the remainder of the meal.
    • Wipe your mouth with your napkin, not your hands.
    • If something gets on you fingers, wipe it on your napkin. Licking your fingers is not a good look!
    • If you get up from the table, place your napkin on your chair. Only place your napkin on the table at the completion of the meal when you exit the table.
  3. Avoid Gulping, Slurping, and Playing with Things
    • Drink your beverage slowly and smoothly. Do not gulp it down.
    • Avoid playing with your straw, chewing on it, and making sucking noises with it.
    • Leave your utensils where they are until you are ready to use them.
    • Put the spoon in your mouth when eating soup or cereal to avoid slurping it off the end.
  4. Basic Manners Run Down
    • Wait to begin eating until everyone has been served and the host gestures to begin eating.
    • Use the butter knife on the butter dish to slice butter from the full stick and place it on your bread plate. Use your own knife to spread the butter on your roll/bread.
    • When eating bread, gently pull off one bite from the roll and butter that piece only. Do this for ever piece.
    • Always pass the salt and pepper together. Even if someone asks for only salt, pass them both. Think, salt and pepper are “attached at the hip.”
    • If eating “family style,” the Guest of Honor (seated to the right of the host) is served first then pass the serving dishes to your right around the table.
    • Bring food up to your mouth. Do not bend down to the plate to get food in your mouth.
    • Cut one bite of food at a time, eat that piece, then cut another piece. Repeat for the whole meal!
    • Do not talk with food in your mouth.
    • Always use your knife (not your fingers!) to get a piece of food onto your fork.
    • When eating spaghetti, use the side of your plate to twirl the pasta on your fork. It is not typically proper etiquette to use a spoon, but it is often found to be helpful for smaller children.
    • Put your phone away to ensure you enjoy the meal and your company with your full attention!

Keep these essential table manners in mind, not just during the holiday season, but all year long. These tips will truly help you in both the social and professional setting by giving you that little extra touch of polish!

Cheers, y’all!

AB

The 3 Table Settings You Need to Know

With event and holiday season upon us, many of us are attending family gatherings, formal galas, and even hosting such events (maybe for the first time!). Whether it is knowing how to set the table properly or being knowledgeable of your place setting at an event, learning these three traditional types of table settings will help you in any dining situation!

Basic Table Setting

Photo Credit: Emily Post

Basic Table Setting Diagram Credit: Emily Post

  • This table setting is to be used on an everyday basis. Whether hosting a casual luncheon or setting the table for your family dinner in the evening, this is perfect!
  • An easy way to remember the placement is to make connect your pointer finger and thumb on each hand. When you look down:
    • Your left hand makes the shape of a “b,” this tells you your bread plate is above your place setting on the left.
    • Your right hand makes the shape of a “d,” this tells you your drink glasses are above your place setting on the right.
  • Use a simple 3-piece flatware setting – Fork to the left of the plate. Knife and Spoon to the right of the plate with the knife closest to the plate (blade facing it).
    • A butter knife should be added to the bread plate if rolls are being served.

Informal Place Setting

Diagram Credit: Emily Post

Informal Place Setting Diagram Credit: Emily Post

  • This place setting is used for an informal three-course meal (soup/salad, main course, dessert).
    • (a): This is where the main plate will be placed.
    • (b): Two Forks – The smaller fork to the outside is for salad. The larger fork to the inside is for the main course.
    • (c): Napkin – Once seated, place the napkin on your lap.
    • (d): Knife – The knife is placed with the blade facing towards the plate. You may use this knife throughout all courses, but not for your bread and butter (review (h)).
    • (e): Two Spoons – The rounder, larger spoon to the outside is for soup. The spoon to the inside is for dessert.
    • (f): Glassware: The water glass is to the left. The wine (or alternate beverage) is to the right.
    • (g): Salad Plate – If salad is served as the first course, this plate will take position (a). If salad is to be served during the main course, you do not have to set a separate plate, you can put it on the dinner plate. NOTE: Some people prefer to have their salad on it’s own plate so the dressing does not get on the other food; therefore, a salad plate is a good idea!
    • (h): Bread Plate and Knife – Be sure to use your butter knife to spread the butter, not your dinner knife (d).
    • Dessert Flatware – Not shown here. Typically, a dessert fork and teaspoon will be provided prior to dessert being served. If you prefer to set the table with the dessert flatware out, place both pieces of flatware above the dinner plate with the spoon on top (handle facing to the right) and the fork below (handle facing to the left).
    • (j): Coffee Cup and Saucer – This does not have to be placed on the table for the entire meal. If you prefer it is, place it to the upper left of the dinner plate on the outside of the glassware and flatware. If you prefer to bring out the coffee after the meal, set the cup and saucer in that place then pour the coffee.

Formal Place Setting

Diagram Credit: Emily Post

Formal Place Setting Diagram Credit: Emily Post

  • This place setting is used for the most formal of occasions which typically have several courses.
  • NOTE: This is just one example of a formal place setting. Depending on what food is being served, and how many courses this place setting and the utensils may vary. The guiding rule for flatware is: set the flatware so you “work from the outside, in.”
    • (a): Service Plate or “Charger”: This plate is stationary throughout the early courses and serves as an underplate for all courses prior to the main course. When the main course is served, the charger will be removed for the main dish to take it’s place.
    • (b): Bread Plate – Sometimes, individual butter slices/balls will already be placed on this plate.
    • (c): Dinner Fork – Use this for the main course.
    • (d): Appetizer/First Course Fork: Depending on what is being served, the smaller fork to the outside is used for the first course(s).
    • (e): Salad Fork: If the salad is served following the main course, it is set to the inside of the dinner fork (as shown above); however, if it served prior to the main course, it should go on the outside.
      • Dinner Order: Salad, First Course, Main Meal – Set the forks in the order listed (Left to Right) with the salad fork the furthest to the left of the plate and dinner fork closest to the plate.
      • Dinner Order: First Course, Main Meal, Salad – Set the forks as the diagram shows.
    • (f): Dinner Knife – Use this for the main course. The knife is placed with the blade facing in (towards the plate).
    • (g): Fish Knife – Only include this in the table setting if fish is being served.
    • Salad Knife: Not shown here. Just like the placement of the salad fork with the others, this depends on order of the courses.
      • Dinner Order: Salad, First Course, Main Course – Set the knives with the salad knife the furthest to the right of the plate and dinner knife (blade facing in) closest to the plate.
      • Dinner Order: First Course, Main Course, Salad – Set the knives with the salad knife the closest to the right of the plate and first course knife furthest from the plate.
      • All knives should be placed with the blade facing in (towards the plate).
    • (i): Soup or Fruit Spoon – Only include this in the table setting if soup or fruit is being served as one of the initial courses.
    • (j): Oyster Fork – Only include this in the table setting if oysters are being served. This is the only fork placed to the right of the charger, all others forks are always placed to the left.
    • (k): Butter Knife – Be sure to use your butter knife to spread the butter, not one of the other knives.
    • (l): Glassware
      • (la): Water Glass
      • (lc): Red Wine Glass
      • (ld): White Wine Glass
      • (le): Champagne Flute or Sherry Glass: Only include this if there will be a champagne toast or if a desert wine is being served.
    • (m): Napkin – Once seated, place the napkin on your lap.
    • Dessert Flatware – Not shown here. Typically, a dessert fork and teaspoon will be placed prior to dessert being served. When placed, both pieces of flatware go above where the plate will be placed with the spoon on top (handle facing to the right) and the fork below (handle facing to the left).
    • Coffee Cup and Saucer – Not shown here. This will be served after the meal and set to the upper right of the dessert plate.

I know that seems like a lot, but just remember to review these on a case-by-case basis! For occasions involving both informal settings and formal settings, review my 8 Foundational Dining Etiquette Tips!

Cheers, y’all!

Alexandra