Who Pays on the First Date?

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pays on the first date

Who pays on the first date? It depends. Listen to this video to learn how this topic is being handled in the modern dating world.

The age old question: who pays on the first date? What is considered “proper etiquette” in dating today? The answer has changed over the years, and it’s time to revisit this issue once again. It depends on several factors: age, income level and gender of the daters, to who initiated the date, and when splitting the cost of a date might make sense. Let’s dive in!

Who Pays on the First Date? Here are a few things to consider: 

Did You Initiate the Date?

Generally, the person who invited you on the date is expected to cover the cost. While this is not always the case, if you initiate a date, make sure it’s within your means to pay the entire bill. 

However, if you’re the person who was asked out, don’t assume your date will pick up the tab. While most women feel it’s the ‘right’ thing to do when a man pays, be prepared to pay your half in case he asks you to split the tab. 

To avoid misunderstandings, pay attention to the words your date used when asking you out. If he said “I want to take you out”, that implies that he’s probably paying. Some men will even say, “You pick the restaurant, I’ll pay”, and that makes it very clear.

If he says, “Are you available to hang out/meet up on Tuesday after work?”, it’s more likely that he’ll only pay his share.

A good way to avoid misunderstandings is to listen closely to the exact wording of the invitation. Or even ask, “Is this a date?” 

My tip: When the bill comes, I recommend you ask your date, “Do you need help with that?” The wording is important, as it implies that a man might NEED help, and most men will say “No, I got this, but thanks for offering.” If you don’t want to split the bill, don’t offer. Wait and see how a man responds to your question about whether he needs help with the bill.

When Should You Split the Bill?

Many people dating today expect to split the cost of the date or alternate paying for dates, especially with Gen Z and younger. There’s more equity than there ever was in dating. If you keep the first few dates at a low cost – coffee, ice cream, smoothies – it’s easier to split the cost or alternate who pays.

As you continue to date and/or dates get more expensive, speak with your date about who pays and when you will split the cost of dates.

My tip: Women 50 and over tend to offer to pay half and then resent the man for accepting their offer. Ladies, if you don’t want to be disappointed, don’t offer. Tell your date that you appreciate his offer to pay. Tell him what it means to you. And if/when you’re in a relationship, paying becomes more equitable. That’s the time to have a longer conversation about splitting costs.

What if There are Income Disparities?

If there’s a big income gap between the two of you, most people expect the person with more money to pick up the bill most of the time. If you want a more equitable experience, find activities you both can afford, such as picnics, hikes, bike rides, and car rides.

In Conclusion… 

This is a complex issue, and it varies from person to person. Decide what you’re comfortable with when it comes to paying on a date. Don’t feel if the other person pays, you owe them something – whether it’s picking up the next tab or sleeping with them. Dates don’t have to be transactional. 

Here are some potential issues:

  • If you offer to pay half, your date might assume you’re friend-zoning them. 
  • If you pick up the tab on an expensive first date, the man might feel emasculated, as evidenced in this article about a 35-year-old man who felt humiliated when his date slipped the waiter her credit card on her way to the restroom. Although they both earned a very good living, when she covered the $190 tab, he felt emasculated.

To avoid misunderstandings about who pays on the first date, get clear about what works for you, and remember that your date might view money differently than you do. Paying or not paying doesn’t necessarily indicate how much they liked you. Dating is supposed to be fun, so if your date treats you to a nice meal, you can pick up the tip, the valet, drinks, or dessert. 

What are your thoughts on who pays on a first date? Please share in the comments below.

If you’re curious about how coaching can help you work through issues like trust, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, shyness, repeated dysfunctional patterns in dating and more, let’s talk! I offer a complimentary 45-minute breakthrough session to anyone who’s seriously interested in working with me. Apply here: https://lastfirstdate.com/application

Join the Woman of Value Club, where we have a monthly masterclass on topics like this one. Learn more and join here: https://lastfirstdate.com/the-woman-of-value-club/

Join my free Facebook group for women 40+ https://facebook.com/groups/yourlastfirstdate

Check out my books, Becoming a Woman of Value; How to Thrive in Life and Love and Choice Points in Dating: Empowering Women to Make Healthier Decisions in Love.


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