Date Night: Who Should Pay for Dinner?


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.

  • 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.

    • SunnyDeigo

      Sure. Please share with us who usually does “the asking?” It sure is not the female species.

  • 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! :)

    • 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…

  • 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.

  • Jake

    Nice to see some gold diggers out here in full force. Funny how psychology comes into play when you expect the man to pay for your meal. If I meet a girl that expect that from me, there won’t be a second date.. and what better way to enforce that by making her pay her share..

  • sk

    what if i asked if he wanted to grab dinner, i didn’t know where to go and i’m not a native of the state. So, I told him he can pick and he picked a really expensive place. Can we split it?

  • Jazzy Jones

    Guys should always pay.It is just a respect thing.And it tells the women/young lady that he is a gentleman. And that he should pull the chair out, open the door, let her get what she wants in the restaurant,etc. It is just more gentlemen like!