First Date: Who Should Pay?

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?