Who Should Pay on a Date?

BlogHer Original Post

Some women firmly expect that a guy should pay their way on a date, while on the other end of the spectrum, some women insist on paying their half -- every time, without exception. My feelings on the subject are a bit more fluid. While I appreciate someone offering to pay my way (and will take them up on it if they do), I always try to bring cash so that I can easily hand it over if my offer to pay is accepted. I do have opinions about who should pay on a date -- keeping in mind that if you don’t want to spend big bucks on the first date, that’s okay, too.

Situations where neither person pays anything: it is perfectly acceptable for nothing to be bought for the other person, especially on a first date. Meet somewhere that’s free, like outside, or an inside venue that doesn’t cost anything to get in. I’ve said this on more than one occasion to a male friend who’s complained about the high cost of taking a first date to dinner (especially when he realized pretty quickly that they didn’t have anything in common and he didn’t want to see her again).

Coffee or quick lunch: whenever I meet someone for coffee or a quick lunch (usually during work hours), I arrive a few minutes early, get in line, and order what I want before he gets there. It’s only a few bucks, and it’s something I probably would have bought anyway.

Dinner or alcoholic drinks on the first date: I’ve never gone somewhere ultra-fancy or ultra-expensive for a first date, so I always offer to pay. Most of the time my offer is turned down, but there have been a few times where it’s been accepted (one of those guys I went out with several times after that, so not paying isn't an automatic deal breaker). An exception to this would be...

An expensive venue for dinner/drinks, or a place that the guy has specifically chosen: I don’t have money problems and I could afford to pay for a nice dinner, but the fact of the matter is, most of the time I choose to be conservative with my cash. So if someone invites me to a place that’s obviously pricey, I would expect 1) if it were a first date, that I would halfheartedly offer to pay and he would turn me down, and 2) if we’d been out on a date previously and then he invited me to a pricey place, I would assume that he was paying and I wouldn’t offer.

Subsequent dates, when you’ve made it past #3 or so: time to share. Even if the person with the bigger paycheck (male or female) pays for the expensive dinners, at this point I happily whip out my debit card to pay for drinks, or both of our meals at a less-pricey place.

Even if your dude is generous, or prefers to pick up every bill for dinners out in restaurants (or shows, or whatever else you’re doing), I think it shows that you’re appreciative if you make an effort to pay for other things. Buy the movie tickets online so they’re already paid for before you guys get to the theater. Offer to make dinner one night, or pick up the ingredients if he’s the one being the chef. Make note of something he likes and buy it for him. (Obviously this would be a number of dates in. It’s not the best idea to go around buying random presents for someone you’ve just started seeing.)

Agree? Disagree?

Related Reading:

Babs O'Leary doesn’t approve of splitting the bill on a first date. But, like me, she acknowledges that dates that “won’t break the bank” are perfectly acceptable.

The girls and I had some discussions about going dutch on the first date. I think the general consensus is that is a no-no for us. Simply put, if a man asks a woman on a date he is expected to pay. Now, we understand completely that a man might not want to invest a lot of money into a first date, particularly if he is dating a lot. But that’s not our problem. There are plenty of suitable first dates that won’t break the bank. Meeting for coffee, ice cream or an ice cold cola is perfectly fine for a first date.

Victoria Namkung gives us 5 Things Not to Do on a Date, and one of those is for a person not to “be cheap.”

Sure, we're in a recession and no one would fault you for wanting to save a few bucks, but some offenders take things too far, like the guy who refused to buy his date a hot dog in Central Park. Traditional etiquette would tell you that if you ask a woman out then you should pay for the date. Most rational women will offer to go dutch or take you out after the third date. If you're looking for inexpensive fun try bowling, wine tasting, hitting a museum, taking a picnic to the park or going on a bike ride.

Kristy at Master Your Card looks at the issue from a traditionalist and feminist perspective, and says she falls in the middle ground.

The middle ground is pretty simple: whoever invites is the one who pays. Most women in this category feel that if a man invites the woman out, he should pay and vice versa. That’s not to say that these women do a whole lot of inviting; however, the option is still out there should they invite someone to dinner.

Personally, I tend to fall into this category. I’m appreciative of a guy who pays for dinner on a first date and find that I’m more attracted to a man who does as opposed to a man who doesn’t...unless I invited him. I’ve never asked a guy out before, so I haven’t really put this theory to the test, but I’ve gone Dutch on the second date and been ok with that.

Kat Wilder discusses “the fake reach.”

Now, most gals offer to chip in or at least start reaching for the check. But we're not always 100 percent honest -- that fake reach is often, well, fake because deep down we really want to be courted. If a man pays, it's like a neon light flashing, "He's into me!"

And while a lot of men I know say that they appreciate that fake reach -- although I'm not quite sure they know that it's fake -- they want to be The Man. And The Man pays, especially on the first date. Period.

(Contributing editor Zandria blogs at Zandria.us.)

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