Date Night: Who Should Pay for Dinner?

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who should pay on a dateThe only thing more sensitive than a money question is an etiquette question about money.

Today, we have one very specific (and sensitive!) money question in mind: Who should pay for dinner on a date?

LearnVest, working with TD Ameritrade, surveyed over 2,000 men and women, and found that the answer differs across generations—and between sexes.

When asked who should pick up the check on a first date, 59% of total respondents said that the man should always pay–unless the woman has asked him out. This opinion got more popular with age: While 50% of respondents who fell in Generation Z (ages 18-23) agreed, 71% of the Lost Generation (ages 67-82) felt the same way.

And when the distinction was made solely between males and females, 55% of men and 63% of women agreed that the man should cover the cost.

The next most popular opinion: 42% of respondents said that whoever asks for the date should swing the check, with a 36% to 49% split between men and women, respectively.

It’s great to have an idea of the accepted paying-for-date practices, but what’s the reasoning behind these answers? We spoke with eight members of the LearnVest community to find out who should be paying for a date … and why.

Olivia, 30, Editor

I don’t like it when men don’t even offer to pay at the beginning of dating. I don’t expect it, but the gesture is appreciated. For example, if the guy has picked the tab up for dinner, I’ll suggest going for drinks after, which will be on me. It’s a back-and-forth when you start going out with someone, and I think it should be 50/50(ish). Until recently, I always had the good fortune of dating guys who insisted on paying for the first couple of dates. Then, a few years ago, I met a guy who asked me out for dinner, and when the bill came, he just pulled out his half of the bill. Major turnoff. When the guy does grab that check, I’ll insist we split it, but that chivalrous act still counts for something.

Douglas, 35, Med Student

I would say it depends on who asked who. The person who sought out the date should be the one responsible for footing the bill, regardless of gender. If both parties agreed to a “blind date” situation, then I would think it would be only fair to go “dutch.” If a relationship develops, both parties should share the cost of any subsequent dates, since both parties are equally interested in pursuing the relationship. As the father of a little girl, I’d consider any boy asking my daughter to pay for anything on a date to be an unsuitable match for her—although I think that I would just use that as another excuse to not let her date! I guess I am old school: I still believe that if a boy is interested in a girl, then it’s his responsibility to “woo” her, so to speak.

Hank, 53, Brand Strategist

Whoever initiates the date should pay. If it’s unclear, it goes to the guy, especially for the first few dates. I’m old school and from the South, where the gentlemanly thing to do is to pick up the tab, unless you’ve been invited out by the woman. If you go out for a drink afterward, maybe the woman can pick that up or the cab. Once you have a relationship established, certain economic realities can become part of the equation, like if one person makes more money and can afford to pay more.

Anna, 26, Marketing Director

I don’t expect anyone to pay my way—in fact, I get a little uncomfortable when someone picks up too large of a tab on the first date. It feels greedy, and if I’m not planning on accepting an offer for a second date, it seems like I’m taking advantage. That said, if the guy is insistent on paying, I’m not going to create tension where it previously did not exist. If the guy kicks a fuss over who is paying or makes a point of not paying my half of the bill, I take this as a sign that he’s a.) a cheapskate b.) a jerk and c.) will carry this petulant attitude into matters of greater importance.

  • Val

    I think whoever does the asking for the first date should be fine with paying- but not object if the other person insists on splitting or paying in full.  I went bowling for my first date with my boyfriend, he paid for drinks and the first round, then I bought a second round of bowling.  Now when we go out, we often split the bill, but not always down the middle because he makes twice as much as me.   He insisted on paying for our dinner last night (Valentine’s Day), so I will probably chip in for our next meal out.

  • evr

    A guy should always pay for a first date if he asked the girl out. He should really pay for the first few dates. This is not primarily about money, it’s about psychology and the research/studies/statistics show that when a guy pays for the first few dates, there are several reasons why this is much more likely* to lead to a healthy, respectful, loving, long-term relationship. There are always exceptions, but this has become a standard for a reason.

    • lucy00

       I definitely agree. When a guy doesn’t offer to pay on the first date, to me it sets a tone that he’s not all that interested in putting in much effort.

    • Ms.J

       Amen to that! :)

    • http://kirascurro.myopenid.com/ Kira Scurro

      evidently a “healthy, respectful, loving, long-term relationship” to you means the man’s in control.

      • Bob

        Actually Kira I agree with evr here because paying is what a gentlemen would do.  I don’t believe evr is saying that the man controls the relationship, because I’m a guy and when i was really young my mom told me that, “If the girl isn’t happy, noone’s happy,” and i believe that’s right.

  • Barteau

    Regardless of who should or shouldn’t be paying for a date I’ve always found that where a guy stood on splitting the bill at the end of the date was an accurate gauge of his level of interest.  Any guy who accepted a check split and didn’t at least offer to pay was never very interested in dating me.  Guys who were enthusiastic about paying the check were equally enthusiastic about dating me.  I always offered and I always offered dating activities that weren’t very expensive.

  • Nassaugal74

    I think during courtship the guys should pay for the date. If you become a couple then I think you should take turns 

  • ranavain

    Wait, aren’t the first two the same question? “The man should always pay — unless the woman asked” versus “Whoever asked should pay?” They mean the same thing, but have different percentages…

    This is of course ignoring that some 10% of relationships don’t have “the man” or “the woman.” If there was ever a topic where societal gender norms have taken hold and people can’t let go….

  • JJ

    I always make sure to have cash on hand so I could easily go dutch.  But with that being said, I do expect a man to pay for the first couple of dates – it’s a measure of his interest in me and also demonstrates that he’s does have some financial income.

    I always found it a major turn-off when a guy didn’t at least offer to pay.  And I never went out on a second date with a guy that didn’t offer.

    My husband now, when we first dated took me out on our first date for dinner and a movie, and another date we got pizza and rented a movie.  Nothing super expensive, but he never asked me to pay.  Once we became official, that’s when I started picking up checks i.e. he’d pay this time, or I’d pay the next, or even split as far as since you payed for food, I’ll pay for drinks, etc.

    Now that we’ve been married for 3 years, our budgets are completely combined so it’s a moot point :)

  • Lisa

    Just to add another perspective–I’m a lady who has only yet dated a woman, obviously didn’t have gender to fall back on to determine who paid for stuff, and I agree with the last opinion in this article–it feels natural to have whoever suggested going out to pay, and otherwise take turns. 

    Not trying to sound self-righteous, it’s just that I didn’t always let my girlfriend pay, and it’d feel odd letting another person I was dating pay every time just because he was a guy, as I’m just as capable of paying now (more so, with a full time job) as I was when I was in a same-sex relationship. If a guy were the one to ask me out first, I’d find it the polite thing to do for him to pay, but unless he were a Daddy Warbucks, I’d hope he wouldn’t insist on paying every time, else I’d feel guilty and unpleasantly indebted. Surely anyone my age I’d be dating would also be saddled with student loans!

    To each their own, and if all parties are happy with one person paying, great! But for myself, if someone is willing to treat me, I like to do them a nice turn as well! 

  • Guest

    You Pick, You Pay

    I’ve pondered this question for years.  Instinctively, I don’t think “dating” should be a line item on anyone’s budget.  Perhaps it’s the time I spent on a tight budget in college, but I also believe that if you pick the place, then you should pay.

    Why should my budget, or theirs for that matter, suffer because one of us is feeling extravagant?  I have no business assuming my date has budgeted a similar amount for the evening. A courtesy offer to pay is always good policy but nobody likes being suprised with a bill way over what they intended to spend.

  • Ms.J

    What a sad state of affair we are in today. I’m sorry but if a man asks you out on a date then he needs to pay. Especially on the first date and if he doesn’t then that just sets a bad precedent ladies. That’s just called being a gentleman. But hey maybe I’m just being too old fashion…

  • http://kirascurro.myopenid.com/ Kira Scurro

    this is sooo depressing. evidently equality is still not here. why isn’t it 50/50 regardless who asks? if a woman accepts then the bill should be shared. it’s a no-brainer to me. why should a woman be wooed anymore? sheesh!

    • Angelica L

      I do not thinks its depressing. I think that during the first dates its a way to distinguish between a regular friend/acquaintance and a potential romantic interest. Its the little detail that makes it special and different. Men and women are different and we have to learn to appreciate the differences. When a man really likes a woman, he will want to make her feel special and taking care of the check is one form. Its not entirely about control. Ultimately, you get to know one another and see if one is compatible with the other. In the following dates, there can be a discussion about splitting/budgeting.  

  • 2Deuces

    Whoever asks should at least offer to pay and what happens then is a lesson about where they will go as a couple. It should reveal a hint about how you will get along and if you share similar values in control, roles, and money. Of course, I haven’t been on a first date in twenty years…

  • OldProf

    Whoa – too fast!  Just what defines a first date?  Coffee?  Drinks that maybe move to a casual dinner?  You’re still doing the dance at this point to see if you want to pursue something more.  That expensive date to that dream restaurant that shows how much you wish you made (face it, dining out in style really eats into the budget!) isn’t something to be worrying about until you have something to celebrate.  Keep it real while checking each other out and the bill then becomes a minor consideration.

    • Lisasilverwoman

      Your perspective is so simple, yet so very true….i think your words speak volumes, and if you don’t get the OldProf’s message, then turn down the volume of that
      rappin through your ears and look up from that blindly,
      distractive object that you hold clenched between your
      palms…..WakeUp folks, or you will become that awesome flamingo, going nowhere just anytime now!

  • kateinsf

    This article is interesting but it ignores a big percentage of “dates” – what about same-sex couples? I wonder what they do? Other than the article saying “whoever does the asking does the paying” it fails to include the perspective of LGBT. 

  • Ted Jenkin

    It’s simple. Don’t make the first date put you in that kind of situation. With so many opportunities to find a place to connect even a hip coffee house, there are many places to connect that don’t require a $200 dinner.