First Date: Who Should Pay?

First Date: Who Should Pay?

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Since we’ve been talking about the traditional dinner date, a question that naturally comes up is, “Who should pay on a first date?”

It seems that the easiest answer is that whoever asks, should offer to pay. Assuming in most cases the guy has been intentional in his pursuit of a woman and been clear in communicating that it is indeed a date, then it would be the guy who pays. When a guy offers to pay, it’s a chivalrous gesture and helps communicate his intentions.

But what if a guy, for whatever reason, isn’t in the financial place to pay for a date, or at least not dinner for two? There are a few options: Plan a date that doesn’t involve an expensive dinner. Ideas might include a free outdoor activity, cooking dinner and renting a movie from Redbox, or attending a free community event or something at a local church. Even the frozen yogurt trend in the U.S. is a good alternative and doesn’t cost more than a few bucks per person. A little creativity can go a long way! When it comes to first dates, it’s less about the activity and how much it costs, and more about a guy putting a little bit of thought into the date and having a plan.   

So if a guy starts out the relationship by paying on the first date, does this mean he pays for everything for the duration of the relationship? It seems to me that for the first few dates, if the guy is the one asking (whether it’s the second date, third date, etc.), then he would continue to pay (again it doesn’t have to be expensive!).

But once a relationship is defined and there’s a level of commitment, I would say don't assume that the guy pays every time. However it goes, it’s best to talk about what your expectations so that one of you isn’t resentful of the money being spent or not spent. Maybe you trade off who pays when going out or choose to cook more meals at home to save money. Maybe one of you likes to cook and doesn’t mind the time and money that goes into planning and preparing a meal.

As I talked to my guy and girl friends about this topic, a few things came up that I think are helpful to talk about.

A note to the guys: Where you take a girl on a first date and if you pay are not signs of whether or not you are a provider. It’s simply a first date, not the indicator of your financial situation. When it comes to a man being able to provide for a wife and family, character qualities such as a strong work ethic, being a wise steward of your finances, and being a faithful worker who has integrity in the workplace are important. When a woman looks to a guy she’s dating in light of being the provider, these are the things she looks at, not the number of zeros on your paycheck or how fancy of a dining experience you plan for her.

A note to the girls: Be thankful for the date, whether the guy pays for your $3 frozen yogurt or $30 steak dinner. No one wants to feel like they’re being used or like the only reason you’re agreeing to another date is because it’s a free meal. Regardless of your interest in going out on a second or third date, being appreciative for the date and expressing that to him is important. Acting entitled or judging a guy’s “dateability” based on how much money he spends is placing value on the external rather than the internal. Don’t start a relationship valuing the wrong things.

At the end of the day, it’s less about the rules of who should pay for a date and why, and more about treating each other with respect and consideration. Let’s not get too hung up on our expectations that we miss the person.

Do you agree that the person who asks is the person who pays? What about when the relationship is defined? 

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  • "When a woman looks to a guy she’s dating in light of being the provider, these are the things she looks at, not the number of zeros on your paycheck or how fancy of a dining experience you plan for her."

    Don't be so sure.  Most women DO care to some extent how well he will provide if marriage is in the future.  Meaning if he's just working at Wally world as a janitor and isn't really trying hard to climb the corporate ladder I doubt most women would find that appealing.  Likewise, if a guy for a first date told her, "Hey, let's go on a first date to McDonald's, I've got a coupon" when it's obvious that he COULD afford something better, she will most likely take it that she isn't that important to him (although some ladies might find this a plus because he is thrifty).

    Bottom line: Initially, whoever asks should generally pay.  Once things begin to get regular, payment should be whoever feels like it (maybe not even one picking up the whole check, go Dutch).

  • My most recent second date is my personal highlight here. Had the first coffee date on Sunday 10 February this year, then after she confirmed she was interested in more realised, Argh! Valentines Day is on Thursday!!! I don't have a plan!!! While I have financial means to pay for a nice dinner at a restaurant, getting a booking wasn’t going to happen. With a little flair and, I suspect, divine inspiration, I took her to a nearby trendy place for entrées (no booking required) then walked back to my place to cook her a steak and salad dinner (housemate’s great recipe) under the stars finishing with a baked chocolate pudding and ice cream. We had a great evening, I didn’t spend a fortune, and God taught me that it is possible to plan a great date in a hurry!

  • I think this issue fades in importance as you get older...especially if both are working and have the disposable income :)  While I've never been on the receiving end of a dinner invitation, I would at least offer to split it.  But if I ask I expect to pay...pretty simple. But it's pretty common for a date to offer to get the tip, which is a nice gesture...and gives the feeling of teamwork.  As far as post don't know - haven't gotten there yet! Lol.

    The worst situation would be for any hint of awkwardness to show up during what should be the simplest part of the date - paying the bill.  And if it's going bad, you probably can't pay it fast enough anyways...

  • I really like what happened in the beginning of my fiance and my dating relationship. We met at a get-together at his house, thrown by his roommates. He asked his roommates (friends of mine) to get me to their house more often, and after a couple of weeks he got up the courage to ask me to dinner.

    He bought me dinner at a really nice restaurant, and then I cooked him dinner at my apartment a few days later. We kind of kept switching off like this, but he definitely did the majority of the treating in the beginning, before we had our official dtr talk. When I became his official girlfriend after about a month of hanging out and dating more casually, I brought up "the money thing" and asked him what he thought about it and what we should do. He said that he wanted to take me out on dates sometimes, and he expected to pay when it was a date. But he said that sometimes we are hanging out more casually, like when we go to Whole Foods to do work, and we can buy our own dinners. I sometimes will take him on a date, too. Now that we're engaged we laugh because "all the money's going to the same place anyway!"

    Honestly, one of the reasons I'm marrying my fiance is that awkward issues like this haven't that awkward with him. It is easy to communicate with him and come up with solutions that work and made us both feel appreciated and happy.

    I think things like this are actually not cut and dry...they actually are tests to see how communication goes with you as a couple. I dated lots and lots before I met my fiancé, and went through a lot of weirdness in regards to this issue. The weirdness warned me away from the guys.

  • Mr A(TOF) often jokes about how I asked him on our first date and then he paid for dinner. :P  He says "It's like saying, 'Hey, do you want to go boating? Awesome! Better bring your boat!' " :P But I'll be honest, Him making the guesture really went a long way toward solidifying the impression that I already had that behind all the joking and silly awesomeness, he was a great guy and a class act.

    Long before I met him, I remember having a conversation with some guy friends in college that asserted that "Going dutch" was the best thing to ever happen to guy/girl relationships. I thought then, and still think, that's stupid. The conversation basically ended when I asked all of them to raise their hand if I had ever cooked dinner for them: Every hand in the room went up. I asked them to lower if it they had ever bought me dinner. A vast majority of the hands when down.

    My point was basically that paying for dates are only a small part of any relationship. When we were dating Mr. A(tof) often paid for dinner in evironments where the waiter picked up the check from the table (though not always) and I picked up other expenses (like movie tickes, or Chipotle noms) sometimes. I also often cooked dinner for both of us, and even quasi suprise-planned a trip for us to go up to Cedar Point one weekend.

    More important than who-pays-for-what is this: Is the person you are dating adding value to you or devaluing you? Are they a suck on your time and your resources and a kill-joy who only wants to do what they want to do (whether that is a $3 yogurt or a $30 steak dinner) or are they someone who wants to experience all that life has to offer together, who makes an effort to learn about and enjoy things that you like to do? Do they want to grow as a person? Do they value committment in general? Do they show forward potential in life, are you drawn to the same things and goals? Do you have compatible morals and values?

    Those are all things you should be able to take away from a good first date, and none of them have anything to do with who picks up the bill.

  • Like MikeTime, I disagree on this point:

    "Where you take a girl on a first date and if you pay are not signs of whether or not you are a provider. It’s simply a first date, not the indicator of your financial situation. "

    But I think I disagree for different reasons.  It might not indicate what type of provider you would be if you became a husband, but it does indicate whether you're willing to provide for that date.

    If you can afford a $3 yogurt, but just don't want to pay - well, that sends a message too.  It's a "I know I asked you to go get ice cream and I know that I can afford $3, but I'm not yet sure that you're worth it."  That's a bad deal.

    Can't afford a $50 steak?  Totally fine.  Don't ask her to go there.  Otherwise, if I find out you can't afford it, but did it anyway and charged it, I'd see that as a sign of money mismanagement.  You shouldn't start out dating in a manner that you can't reasonably continue.  Meaning, that if you can't afford (or even can afford, but don't want to make this kind of thing a habit) $50 steaks, don't make that a first date and then have to do the picnic basket thing for the next 18 months.  

    If you're like me, you'll have the most disposable income when you're single and I think it's fine to spend money to date.  It takes money to do things, some times.  But be careful of the message you send on a first date.  I don't think it's wise to do a huge splurge on a first date.  Maybe you spend a little more (Applebees vs. McDs) for a first date, but it shouldn't be radical.

    My now-husband paid for most of our dates, when they were officially dates.  If we were in a group get together, then we paid for our own - that was mostly for the benefit of the people in the group.  i.e.: if a group of us went to lunch after church, we paid for ourselves.  But if it was him and me, then he paid.  I did invite him on dates from time to time where I paid for dinner or tickets to something.  But I'm sure he paid way more than I did.  That's the way he preferred it.  We, though, were in our late 20s/early 30s and could afford to do this.  So, if you're in the struggling college days, your situation might be different.

  • Couldn't the two people involved just pay for their own meals? It takes away the awkwardness and nobody feels like that

    don't owe the other person anything.

  • Koopagrrl: I've never liked the idea of "going dutch" because to me, that's just hanging out with a buddy. If you want to go out and we both pay for our meal, that's fine, but it's not a date because I'm not investing in you and you're not investing in me. Equality is awesome in friendships because it sets good boundaries, but in a dating relationship the boundaries should be inherently different. At least, I think so -- which was the other argument I made to all those fellows in college that had eaten dinner at my table -- should I have started charging them for groceries?

  • Ashley Boyer wrote: At the end of the day, it’s less about the rules of who should pay for a date and why, and more about treating each other with respect and consideration. Let’s not get too hung up on our expectations that we miss the person.

    Well put.

  • MrsAshleyTOF: I usually like going "dutch" because I think its a good way to sort out weeds.  There have been times I have gone on dates with guys who have paid for meal, most of them usually want something in return for that. By that time they usually get the boot in the rear end.

    I guess I'm too skeptical of a guy who wants to pay for my dinner. I met too many weeds.

  • Koopagrrl: There are some non-weed nice guys out there, so don't write us all off. :-) If possible, I normally pay the bill before the lady has a chance to object. I expect nothing other than the pleasure of her company in return. (If she was to storm out or spend the whole evening looking at her phone without a reason, I'd still pay, but don't expect a second date!) If a lady does object, I discuss my reasons why I consider it a privilege to spend time with her, that I wasn’t asking for or expecting anything in return, and ask her to trust me on this little thing. As far back as I can remember I’ve always paid on a first date, and have always been worthy of that trust. :-)

  • My husband paid for 95% of our dates and that was very important to me. Dates didn't have to be fancy or expensive at all (just coffee was great!).  His paying was one of the signs that showed me that he truly cared about me and would care for me, such that he was willing to invest his money.  Though some (most?) may disagree, I believe that men should pay for dates.  Who knows gentlemen, you may be investing in your marriage!

  • On the first date with my now boyfriend, there was an awkward moment when we both pulled out our wallets, but he got to the cashier before I did. Then that set a trend of him paying for each date. But when it'd been a few months and things were more natural between us, I offered to pay and now sometimes I do pick up the tab. Usually he suggests going dutch rather than letting me treat him, but honestly I would rather treat him! I like giving gifts to the person I love^^

  • Aussie Paul: I hope some wonderful woman gets you and won't let you go! :)

    I know there are some good guys out there, but as late its really hard to tell the good guys from the  entitled "nice guys" .

  • I was always told as a young adult that the guy should pay for dates.  All of them.  No matter what.  "If he can't afford to date you, he can't afford to marry you."  In both of my previous dating relationships, the guys made it clear from the beginning that they considered it a privilege to pay for our dates.  Of course, I also did my share of picnic-packing and meal-cooking during those relationships as well, so it wasn't like they were buying meals and paying for activities every time we saw each other.      

    But I've often asked myself how I'd handle the financial side of a relationship if the guy didn't automatically expect to do the majority of the paying.  I'm 30, I have a full-time job, and I support myself financially.  As much as I'd love for a guy to pay for dates, is it really fair to expect him to, especially when we are in a similar financial position?  What I've finally decided is that I'd like for the guy to pay if he asks me out, not because that is an indication of how well he can provide for me and/or a family, but because it is a sign of respect and intentionality.  However, I'm not opposed to paying some of the time, or cooking for him, or packing a picnic for us, etc.  It all boils down to respect in how we treat each other.    

    What I do NOT want to happen is what happened to a friend of mine.  A guy asked her out on a date, and took her to an expensive steakhouse (one of the most expensive in the area) and then to a movie, where he bought the tickets and popcorn and coke and basically treated her to a very expensive evening.  She felt so guilty that he'd spent so much, that the next time he asked her out she felt obligated to say yes, and insisted on paying...and he was happy to let her.  During their two year relationship (that lead to an engagement that both families were against, and that ended two weeks before the wedding was to take place), she did the majority of the date-paying.  According to her, it wasn't unusual for him to ask her out and suggest an expensive restaurant and activity, and then after he picked her up, he would say "By the way, I'm out of money this week, so you'll have to pay for this one."  My friend ended up spending all of her savings and even going into debt trying to hang onto this guy by paying for everything.  She was completely blinded by what she thought was "love," and wouldn't listen to reason.  So that is an example of how things should NOT go financially in a relationship!            

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