The 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.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
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.
Spencer, 32, Renewable Energy Investor
It depends on what you define as a date. In the early stages of a relationship, everything is a date. Eventually, being together, going to dinner, movies, etc., becomes just living your life. In the 'living your life together' phase, I think something equal or close to equal (if one person makes much less) is important. Even in long-term relationships, I think it is important to make time for dates to do something special and deliberate. I think paying is less about the financial aspect of it and more about the effort. I wouldn't expect my partner to set up the dinner, plan everything and then ask me to pay. I'd expect to plan the night as a gesture to her, and then paying would be a natural extension of my taking her on a date.
Whitney, 27, Development Associate at a Nonprofit
I always do the "wallet grab," but I fully expect the guy to wave me off and take care of the check. That being said, I always offer to pay for a beer/coffee/movie after. That's how I handle first dates, but as you get to know each other, it's easier to figure out who's paying for what. If I found this great Groupon to do [insert activity here], I'm certainly not going to ask you to pay me back. I used to say, "Oh, I'd never let a guy pay for me! I can take care of myself! I'll open my own door, thank you very much!" But let's be serious here: I work for a nonprofit and don't make a whole lot of disposable income. Plus, if he's not willing to at least offer to pay his share, I'll assume he's cheap or rude—or both.
Even in these days of "equality," I still think the guy needs to pay initially.
Paul, 59, Civil Attorney
I think the man should pay on a date, but in a serious relationship, if a guy has limited means, the girl should be sensitive enough to either volunteer to go dutch or make dinner. Even in these days of "equality," I still think the guy needs to pay initially to avoid the impression of being cheap, socially awkward or a "loser."
Ariel, 30, Writer and Performer
At first, whoever does the asking does the paying. From there, I think it needs to more or less trade off, so if one person is doing all the asking at first, the other person should offer to pay at least by the second date. I would not be impressed if someone asked me out on a formal date and didn't pay; I'd be much more relaxed if it was just a "get cocktails" situation. As I've gotten older, I've grown a little more rigid in terms of my expectations for manners. Of course, taking someone out for dinner can sometimes be cash-prohibitive, but I still expect someone to do something nice for me to make it feel date-y.