Dining Etiquette: Splitting the Bill

Photo Credit: The Economic Times

Photo Credit: The Economic Times

After a wonderful meal with great company, there is no worse way to finish the dining out 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 (click to watch). 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.
      • 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 fair to the servers.
    • 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!
    • 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. We have been told splitting the check between so many credit cards is not possible; therefore, having cash will make it much easier for us to divide the cost ourselves.”
    • Always tell your server you wish to split the bill when he/she first greets you. 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 – bringing cash helps!
    • 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. 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?”

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

Happy dining!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Tailgating with Class and Style!

Photo Credit: Southern Living

Photo Credit: Southern Living

Football season is officially underway! As a BIG fan of college football (Go Terps! 🐢 Go Navy! ⚓️), it is one of the many reasons why Fall is my favorite season! As if the game itself is not enough to get you excited, having a well-planned tailgate is the best way to start the day! Here are my tips for how to kick-off your game day experience in the best way:

  1. Get in the Team Spirit!
    • Tie in your team colors and symbols to the table, tent, and lawn decor.
    • Dress the part! It’s time to break out those team tees, dresses in your team colors, and accessories that add to the team spirit (hello turtle earrings, anchor adorned purse, and team koozies!)
    • Football shaped food and mascot inspired trays or desserts are always a hit!
    • Make a signature cocktail that ties into your theme or your team, use festive drink stirs, or serve a beer that ties into your team name!
  2. Be Inclusive, Not Confrontational
    • While we all have our favorite teams and love our alma maters, be inclusive of those who may be cheering for the other team. Add a little of their team color or invite them to bring a dish tied to their team.
    • While a little bit of friendly competition is always fun, avoid getting into arguments or confrontations with fans of the other team. Remember, you are there to have fun – not to “bad mouth” others!
  3. Plan Ahead
    • Tailgates can range in size from small and simple to large and extravagant (I’ve seen it all!). No matter what size your tailgate, the following always apply:
      • Be sure to have an accurate count of how many people will be attending and buy/make your dishes accordingly. Running out of food and beverages is never a good thing!
      • Bring plenty of ice for drinks and food. Keep any food that needs refrigerated in coolers and ensure it will stay cold the duration of the day or else you will end having to throw it out (you do not want anyone to get sick).
      • Label your coolers to avoid confusion.
      • Remember trash bags and clean-up as you go.
      • If you are hosting, make a timeline for your set-up and when you need to start cooking. No one wants to miss kick-off!
      • Bring chairs for people to take a rest. You do not need enough for every person, but a decent number is always appreciated!
      • Here is a great checklist for all your tailgating needs!
      • Plan for the weather! If it’s a chilly day, bring along your favorite team sweaters and stadium blankets. Rain in the forecast? Get ready to set-up those tents!
      • Noon kick-off, how do you tailgate for breakfast?! Get those donuts, bagels, egg bakes, grilled bacon/ham/etc, and mimosas ready!
  4. There Is More to Tailgating than Eating
    • While the food (and drinks) usually take center stage at any tailgate, there are plenty of other fun things to do as well!
      • Just as you would in your home, be an excellent host/hostess and introduce guests to those who do not know each other.
      • Bring lawn games! Corn hole, ladder ball, bocce ball, and playing football in the parking lot are all fun ways to get people up and moving.
  5. Not Hosting, Just Invited to Tailgate?
    • Ask what dish, dessert, or drinks you can contribute to the tailgate.
    • Always help with clean-up!
    • Be a classy attendee – Dress for theme/your team and as mentioned earlier, avoid confrontation with others (especially from the opposing team).
    • Be social with the others at the tailgate and make an effort to meet new people!
    • If you have your own chairs, it is always a friendly gesture to bring them along.

For more tailgating inspiration (decor, food/drink, and games), visit my Pinterest board! Happy Fall and Football y’all!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

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

Photo Credit: MyMoneyPurdue

Photo Credit: MyMoneyPurdue

As young professionals making our way in our careers and becoming established on our own (hello rent!), 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 “how to be a grown-up.” Realizing these as very real challenges to young adults, I am writing a three-part blog on “Work-Life Balance.”

This week, part one covers financials. In no way do I mean to be a financial adviser (I 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, an anniversary, the holidays), 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!
  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. 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.
    • A lot of 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 really do 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. In DC, a great blog to follow is Free in DC! 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! Enjoy your social life and keep doing things with friends and loved ones!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

The Characteristics of a Great Volunteer

Photo Credit: Carmel Valley 5K

Photo Credit: Carmel Valley 5K

As a Program Specialist for a nonprofit organization, I rely heavily on my volunteers to ensure my programs run smoothly and to help me engage with our public. From preparation activities to program day, volunteers make my programs possible! So, what makes a great volunteer? Here are my thoughts on the characteristics of a volunteer you want on your team!

  1. Passion
    • Volunteer for a cause you are passionate about! Volunteers who truly relate to the cause they are supporting, will enjoy engaging with the individuals benefiting from your program and be enthusiastic about what they can contribute to the cause/program.
  2. Up for Anything
    • A “no job is too small” attitude is a must! From taking out the trash to helping with set-up and break-down of an event, a volunteer who is willing to help out wherever support is needed is essential. Not all jobs are “glamorous,” but they do support the greater cause and that is what is important to keep in mind as a volunteer.
  3. Initiative
    • This goes hand-in-hand with “up for anything.” Be a volunteer who is proactive and willing to jump-in when you see something that needs to be done – just be sure to follow the procedures laid out by the Program Manager.
  4. Knowledgeable
    • Educate yourself about the mission of the organization and the goals of the program so you can speak to about them intelligently when asked by a participant, sponsor, or even a friend considering volunteering!
  5. Sensitivity
    • Depending on the organization’s and/or the program’s mission, sensitivity to an individual’s personal information and reason(s) for participating in a program can be very important. Ensure you safeguard people’s privacy when volunteering with sensitive causes.
  6. Enthusiasm
    • Having an upbeat and positive attitude while volunteering is a necessity! No matter what task you are asked to handle, complete it with a smile 🙂

Now get out there and volunteer in your community for a cause you are passionate about!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Summer Transitions: Military Ceremonies Edition

The summer is typically a very active time in the military community. Many service members are changing duty stations (Permanent Change of Station or “PCSing”) and it is also a very common time for Change of Commands to take place.

This year, the summer is a very exciting time for my family – Next week, my dad is retiring from the United States Navy after 30 years of service. To say I am proud of him is an understatement. I am extremely excited to attend his Change of Command and Retirement ceremony and am looking forward to witnessing all the military traditions which will take place during the ceremony. In honor of my dad’s retirement, this week my focus is on military protocol and proper etiquette while attending military ceremonies.

  1. Arriving at the Ceremony
    • There’s no such thing as being fashionably late in the military. The military is a punctual culture and to them, arriving on time is arriving late.
    • At most ceremonies, there will be a greeter and escorts. At formal ceremonies, there will be reserved seating (by name or by section) for distinguished guests. These guests will be personally escorted to their seats.
      • If you are attending the ceremony as the guest or date of a service member, he should escort you arm-in-arm. Service members are not allowed to hold hands in uniform.
  2. The Ceremony
    • Read the program! An overview of the ceremony and event’s history is typically included as well as the background of your host/officiating officer and guest of honor (their biographies will be in the program).
    • Parading the Colors: Stand while the American and service flag(s) are brought into the room and remain standing while they are present. The National Anthem will most likely be played as well. If so, face the flag with your hand over your heart. If the service’s song is played, you continue to stand, but you do not have to keep your hand over your heart. Do not sit until the colors are retired (paraded out of the room) and you are told to take your seat.
      • This is NOT the time to take photos. You should stand in respect of the flag and the playing of the National Anthem, not be snapping photos of the event while this is happening.
    • Invocation: The Chaplain will say a prayer to begin the ceremony.
    • Speeches and Reading of Orders: Depending on what type of ceremony you are attending, the “Order of Ceremony” can and ceremonial pieces included can vary; however, the Guest Speaker and the Host or Guest of Honor will make remarks. Additionally, if it is a Change of Command, Promotion, or Retirement ceremony, the official military orders will be read.
    • The Ceremonial Traditions (my favorite!):
      •  Side boys: When the official party enters and departs the ceremony, “Two to eight side boys, depending on the rank of the Officer, will form a passageway at the gangway. They salute on the first note of the pipe and finish together on the last note.” (Source: Naval Customs, Traditions, & Etiquette)
      • The Change of Command: The current/outgoing Commanding Officer will read his/her new set of orders followed by the incoming Commanding Officer (CO) reading his/her set of orders to take command. Together, they will approach the Officiating Officer, usually a General/Flag Officer, who will relieve the outgoing CO of his/her duties and confirm the new CO reporting for duty. These steps will be acknowledged by the service members rendering salutes.
      • The Passing of the Flag / “Old Glory”: This is a beautiful ceremony in which the American flag is passed hand-to-hand by individuals representing the ranks the retiree has held while in service. While the flag is being passed, “Olde Glory” is read. For a full (Navy) description, you click here.
      • Reading of “The Watch”: One of the last parts of a retirement ceremony is to read “The Watch.” A junior service member will recite it to symbolize relieving the retiree of his duties and the acceptance of that responsible by those who remain in military service. After this is read, in the Navy, the Sailor “goes ashore” for the last time. To read The Watch, click here.
  3. After the Ceremony
    • If there is a receiving line, be prepared to shake hands (potentially a lot of them) and always go through the receiving line before entering the reception.
      • The host is the first person you will meet followed by the co-host, if there is one, and then guest(s) of honor.
      • You should not have anything in your hands. Keeping your purse in your left hand is OK, but be sure to keep your right hand free and ready for lots of handshakes!
      • This is not the place for long conversation. Give a simple greeting and congratulations/thanks such as, “Congratulations, Sir/Ma’am! This is such an exciting/special day, thank you for including me.”
    • The Ceremonial Cake Cutting: If it is a service or Corps birthday, the youngest person and the oldest person serving at the command or who are members of that service cut the cake together using a traditional military sword. If it is a ceremony honoring someone (Change of Command, Promotion, Retirement), that individual will make the first cut in the cake using his/her sword.
    • The Reception
      • If you are attending on your own invitation, be sure to mingle with those you know, but also introduce yourself to new people. This can be a great networking opportunity.
      • If you are attending as someone’s date, take his/her lead on who you need to meet. He/she often has many officers or senior officials who are important to greet.
      • Again, be prepared to shake hands! Always leave your right hand free to shake hands by holding your drink/food (and purse if you have one) in your left hand.
        • A quick review on introductions! Extend your right hand, say “hello,” and introduce yourself using your first and last name.
      • Before leaving, always thank your host!

If you get invited to one of these ceremonies, I hope you take the opportunity to attend! Military ceremonies are beautiful, touching, and very patriotic. If you are attending as someone’s date, remember you are an extension and a reflection of your date – You will be meeting your date’s Chain of Command (his/her bosses) as well as the service members he/she leads and it is incredibly important to leave a positive impression on them. For all those attending, be polished, positive, and poised while also having a wonderful time and experiencing some great military traditions!

To conclude on a personal note, it’s been an amazing life growing up in a Navy family. I am incredibly proud of my dad and thankful for his service. With that, I would be remiss if I did not mention my mom in that same thought. I know my dad could not have succeeded as he did without her by his side. Dad and Mom, thank you both for your service. Wishing you “Fair Winds and Following Seas.” Go Navy! ⚓️

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Celebrating the 4th of July!

Photo Credit: Lilly Pulitzer

Photo Credit: Lilly Pulitzer

This weekend we celebrate the 4th of July! Happy birthday America!
As we celebrate our freedom and our country, be sure to sparkle in all the right ways! Here are my tips for an amazing 4th of July celebration!

  1. If You are Hosting a Party
    • Be festive!
    • Creating a signature cocktail, whether in how it looks or the ingredients you use, is a great way to put your own creative spin on the party. Here is a cute idea for serving a “Sparkling Spritzer”
      Photo Credit: Style Me Pretty

      Photo Credit: Style Me Pretty

    • Have party favors for your guests to take home or have things you can pass out during the party to get people into the American spirit!
  2. If You are Attending a Party
    • Offer to contribute an appetizer, drink, dish, or dessert for all to enjoy.
    • Take a host/hostess gift.
    • Dress the part – Proudly wear your red, white, and blue!
    • Offer the host/hostess your assistance during the party.
    • Write and send a thank you note within three days of attending the gathering.
  3. Honor and Respect the Flag 🇺🇸
    • Fly the flag all day! Be sure to keep a light on it when the sun goes down.
    • I know it is cute to use plates or napkins that have the American flag on them as a decorative piece, but here is something to keep in mind: Even though it is not technically a real flag, eating off the flag and the act of wiping your mouth or using the flag to clean your hands is disrespectful. Avoid using American flag plates and napkins if possible.
      • NOTE: A design of stars and stripes is great, I mean the actual American flag printed on something.
    • If you are wearing apparel or accessories with the American flag on them, ensure they are tasteful and appropriate. The flag should not be partially displayed (it should always be displayed in it’s entirety), tattered, or “distressed” in any way. You should also never drape yourself in the flag.
    • Watch this interview featuring Gary Biggs of Protocol Partners for additional, valuable flag protocol information.
  4. Remember and thank the service members who have fought and are currently serving to continue protecting our freedoms.

    Photo Credit: Love Bakes Good Cakes

    Photo Credit: Love Bakes Good Cakes

I would love to see how you all incorporated my tips into your celebrations so please share them with me! You can submit a photo or comment on this post or through my Contact Me page.

Have a wonderful 4th of July! God Bless America! 🇺🇸

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Father’s Day: Showing Your Appreciation!

Photo Credit: Lilly Pulitzer

Photo Credit: Lilly Pulitzer Print Studio

This weekend we celebrate Father’s Day. Just like on Mother’s Day, I think it is safe to say, we all owe a lot to our dads (and to those men who acted like and watched over us like a father). On Father’s Day, be sure he knows how much he is appreciated! Here are some ideas for simple ways to say thank you!

  1. Make a Statement, Write it Down
    • No texts or emails and not just a phone call. Find a beautiful card, or make one, with a sentiment that expresses your gratitude. If your dad is someone who appreciates the little things, having this card to keep will mean the world to him.
  2. For All He Has Done and Still Does, Give Back
    • Growing up, we all know our dads have given a lot to help us; now it is our turn to give back. Find something your dad does and do it alongside him.
      • If your dad volunteers, take the time to go volunteer with him.
      • Does he have a favorite hobby (i.e. golfing, riding a motorcycle, cooking/grilling, wine tasting, etc.) he has tried to get you to do with him? Give it a try for a day!
      • Is dad always keeping the yard tidy or fixing all your household and/or tech problems? Treat him to some help extra help around the house, pay for a yard service, etc..
  3. Give a Meaningful Gift, Small or Large
    • A great keepsake and simple gift to put together is a photo album. Collect photos of you and your dad throughout the years, put them in an album, and write down your favorite memories.
    • Do you have a favorite memory or an “inside joke” with your dad? Find a small trinket that commemorates that!
    • Send your dad for some “guy time” or “R&R” (whatever that means to him) and let him enjoy the day.
    • Has your dad mentioned wanting a certain something, but will not spend the money on himself? Splurge for him!
  4. Spend Quality Time with Your Dad!
    • If you can give nothing, give of yourself. Amidst our busy lives, we often forget to plan time with those most important to us. Sometimes, we even take them for granted.
      • No plans this weekend? Hop in the car and drive home to see your dad!
      • Plan a weekend trip (or even just a meal) your whole family can attend. This is especially meaningful if your family lives in different areas/states. Pick one weekend to gather everyone in the same place!
      • You are never too old to plan a “Dad and Me” Day! Go out for lunch and a movie you have been talking about seeing. Get tickets for a sporting event. Go do or see something the two of you have been talking about for a while (park, monument, etc.). The ideas are endless!
  5. Give Your Dad a Hug and Tell Him You Love Him!

What simple things have you done that have meant the most to your dad?

To all the dads out there, especially my own, THANK YOU!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra