Who Should Pay for the First Date? A Question of Hot Dogs or Splitting the Bill

June 18, 2013 at 1:30 PM 20 comments

The last time I went on a date with anyone other than my husband the year was 1999. I have been out of the dating scene for a very, very long time, so when my good friend M told me about her recent dating fiascoes I couldn’t help but realize how time and money have changed my perspective on who should pay for the first date.

According to M the inviter should pay for the invitee. Since a man typically asks the lady for a date he should pay and shouldn’t accept any money from the invitee even if she insists on paying.

Her basis for this is an interesting one. She, (and I believe many other woman), feel that paying for dinner is a man’s way of making the woman feel special. It’s his way of saying I want to spend time with you, I’m interested in what you have to say and I’m willing to shell out a few bucks to show it.

She compared it with pledging a frat. If you pay you get to stay and make friends. If you can’t fork over the money then you don’t get in. It’s as simple as that. There were some funny sexual jokes after that, but since this is a family friendly blog I won’t go on about that.

I’m not exactly in agreement. I don’t believe that forking over a few dollars shows that a man cares any more than the guy who expects the woman to split the bill. I’ve read a lot of posts recently on the same topic and the comments that follow and I realize that as a woman I tend to be in the minority on this subject. I just don’t think that money should be used as an indicator of interest, respect or desire.

I think a man shows how he feels about a woman in so many other ways. For example does he hold doors for you, offer you his coat if it’s cold or to share the food on his plate. Does he ask you questions about your life or family? Does he seem interested in what you have to say? These indicate interest and respect much more than how the bill was split at the end of the night.

I should point out that I made a six figure salary when I was working, which certainly sways my thoughts on the subject. I realize a woman in less fortunate circumstances may feel more wooed by a man who is willing to pay for her.

I personally think it’s unfair to expect a man to pay for every first date. How many first dates turn into second ones and how much money is he shelling out for women he may or may never see again. I think a new rule should be set in place. If the woman likes you enough to go on a second date then the man pays. If this is a one and done deal then she pays her own way as if to say “thanks but no thanks we won’t be doing this again.”

As we discussed the topic M stood firm in her belief that the man should pay. She pointed out that the first date doesn’t have to be an expensive one and posed the following scenario: A man asks a woman on a date to a free museum in DC, they look at the exhibits then walk through the city. At some point the guy buys hot dogs and ice cream for his date and they sit on a park bench eating, chatting and watching people. The man pays for the hot dogs and ice cream, but it would certainly be classified as an inexpensive date.

So the question becomes: Would most women prefer eating hot dogs or splitting the bill? Depending on how this date goes you could see the man as being very sweet and caring or you could see him as a cheapskate who didn’t want to pay for your meal.

What do you think? Do you think the man should pay for the first date and how big of a factor is that in deciding if you’ll go out again? Many of my readers are women, but I’d also love for the men to chime in on this topic.

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20 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Leslie Beslie  |  June 18, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    My thoughts on this tired topic are exactly what you hit upon at the end. Only do drinks for a first date! That one thing alone will solve a lot of dating problems.

    If someone buys all the drinks, it’s still cheaper than dinner. You two can take turns buying rounds instead of the awkward “splitting the bill” at the end. It is cheaper all around.

    Plus, it’s a first date! Why do you want to already commit to a time-intensive activity like dinner? You might not get along with the person immediately. Doing drinks gives you an easy out rather than the ~1 hour affair of dinner.

    • 2. One Frugal Girl  |  June 18, 2013 at 8:47 PM

      Love that idea!

      • 3. spike  |  June 30, 2013 at 10:47 PM

        Wow! You’re the first woman I’ve seen who would classify this as a “date” (whether a blind date arranged by friends or or a situation wherein I’ve asked some woman out on my own)–even if it’s “just” for a drink! Glad to know I’m not the crazy one for using the word for this situation. I get smacked w/ terms like “meeting” or “interview”.

  • 4. Mary  |  June 18, 2013 at 7:07 PM

    I’m a firm believer in no dinners on the first date – need to specify blind date, though. I like the comment above – just cash out after each round and split turns. But then the question becomes, who pays the first round?! Depending how the convo is during that one drink, that might be the end of the date!

    I don’t necessarily think the guy paying the bill is the only means of showing interest for his date. I think a large part of it goes back to traditional gender roles of dating. I’m still old school in that respect. For one evening, I would like to feel taken care of. I’m more than happy to split anytime after. Whether its hot dogs and/or ice cream on a bench people watching, or buying a round of drinks – just a little something.

    • 5. One Frugal Girl  |  June 18, 2013 at 8:53 PM

      Maybe the last one to pay should be the one deciding whether or not the night should continue. If you want to duck out you pay for the last round.

  • 6. BP  |  June 18, 2013 at 8:20 PM

    I personally think it’s unfair to expect men to pay for dinner. We women complain when we are not treated as equals:we want equal pay, we want to vote, we want to have a partner who’s willing to do chores etc, BUT we want the man to pick up the tab AFTER he already does the asking to go out?? I am not trying to stereotype, but women need to stop being hypocritical. Pick up your own tab or take turns. If you need to be wooed with money, then I’d say you need to look past the superficial.

    • 7. One Frugal Girl  |  June 18, 2013 at 8:49 PM

      I agree with much of what you wrote. It seems difficult to ask for so many things to change and then keep this old rule where the man pays the same.

  • 8. Mary  |  June 18, 2013 at 9:07 PM

    But then you can’t look down on them for not opening the doors, not pulling out your chair (you surely can do these things for yourself unless you don’t have arms), not giving you his coat – you should have dressed warmer or been better prepared. I make a 6 figure salary and certainly don’t need to be paid for. But on the first date, it’s a decent gesture. After that, I am happy to split, pick up the tab, whatever. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t expect it and ALWAYS offer. It’s hard to explain. I don’t know the relationship status of the readers, but if you go out on lots of dates, being made to feel special and cared for and provided for goes much further than someone who splits.

    • 9. One Frugal Girl  |  June 22, 2013 at 10:34 PM

      Interesting points.

    • 10. Happy Lady  |  June 27, 2013 at 1:52 PM

      100% agree with you!

  • 11. Bernie  |  June 18, 2013 at 10:09 PM

    My personal rule: s/he who asks pays. Regardless of gender. This is common sense, fair, and applies to all couples, hetero- or homosexual. I also think if there is to be a second date, the original invitee should (as a matter of courtesy and respect) suggest the date and then pay: “This was really fun. Are you free next weekend? I’ll take you out for dinner and dancing.”

    Obviously once you get into a relationship things change and each couple has their own system, but I’ve applied this principle consistently in my own life. I haven’t dated very much, but I (the girl) asked my prom date (a boy) to the prom. I bought the prom tickets but he took us out to dinner and paid for that. I’ve now been with my husband for so long I don’t remember how we split our bills at first but the prom episode is a fond memory.

    • 12. One Frugal Girl  |  June 22, 2013 at 10:35 PM

      I love the idea of the invitee offering to pay for the next date if there is one!

  • 13. Beatrice  |  June 19, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    I’m pretty old school when it comes to dating: unless it’s a blind 1st date that mutual friends set up or it was the woman who did the asking out, I firmly believe that the man should pay for the first few dates. This (along with his attentiveness/behavior) shows that he is truly interested in the woman. I can’t help but think that a guy is a cheapskate if he wants to split the bill on the first date. I know this may not seem fair but that’s how I was brought up and still feel today.

    • 14. One Frugal Girl  |  June 22, 2013 at 10:36 PM

      I think your sentiment is quite common. I asked a lot of friends and they said the same. No matter what year it is they expect the man to pay, (even men I asked seemed to think they should pay), and all said they would see the man as a cheapskate if he didn’t.

  • 15. Randall  |  June 24, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    I think it’s fine for a man to pay, but he should certainly avoid extravagant first dates that leave the woman feeling like she has some expectation to fulfill. I would also say that the invitation and the behavior that the man exhibits during the date should display his interest, not his willingness to pay. Paying should just be part of being a good and generous host, and giving the woman one less thing to worry about.
    Also, remember that the woman needs to be indicating her interest as well. A date is about two people getting to know each other, not a man “proving he is good enough” for a woman.

    • 16. One Frugal Girl  |  June 25, 2013 at 5:41 PM

      Great comment Randall and I totally agree that a date is meant for two people to get to know one another, not for a man to have to prove he’s worthy of dating!

  • 17. Dee Acampa  |  June 27, 2013 at 9:22 PM

    I believe that on the first date the bill should be split. It is more like an interview than an actual “date.” I’ve read articles about things to do on a first date and think, “you can’t be serious.”

    The first date should be coffee and pastry, or drinks and maybe appetizers. You are finding out if you even like each other. You may want to leave after 15 minutes. Usually you plan for an hour. You’ll know fairly quickly if there will be a second date.

    And, although it’s wonderful if the man offers to pay, it should not be expected.


  • 18. Sophie  |  June 29, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    I don’t think the traditional “dating rules” should apply in the 21st century. Of course I like it if someone buys me dinner, but paying or not paying for my own drink/food/movie ticket doesn’t imply I (don’t) want to date or sleep with the person in question. I perfectly understand that paying for dinner for 2 people more than once or twice can be a lot when on a small budget, especially as a young person. So, why not just split the bill or pay separately? ­čÖé
    (Maybe I should add that I live in Germany, where dating is a little different from what I know from American TV.)

  • 19. Lucinda  |  June 29, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    I think it depends on the guy. It’s been 20 years since I was dating so I’m not exactly on the scene now. But, when I did date, who paid often depended on who I was dating. My husband always insisted on paying. He had considerably more money than I did and he liked to eat at restaurants I couldn’t afford. I wasn’t going if I had to pay and he wanted my company. With some guys I would often suggest free or inexpensive places as we were both usually broke and they seemed fine with that. We generally took turns paying. Other guys insisted on paying no matter what because they believed it was their role and I couldn’t convince them otherwise. So while I don’t think paying=respect, I do think respect=taking the other person’s financial situation into consideration when choosing where you go and what you do. I also think guys are just as likely to perpetuate this set-up as gals.

  • 20. Liz  |  June 30, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    It depends on many variable and there is no right way and wrong way here. In my case, I will freely admit that I was looking for a man who would not mind providing dinner for me, having been the provider in my first marriage (as well as pulling most of the weight in other ways) which was not what I had signed up for. I wasn’t looking for a free ride, just some validation that my date didn’t mind picking up the first tab. I never ordered anything expensive, and I always offered to split the cost, but only two men accepted my offer. And I thought, if he won’t pay for my latte or my bowl of soup – on our first date – then he’s not someone I can see a happy future with. I happily reciprocated if the relationship continued, maybe by cooking a meal at home, or picking up tickets to a show, but dining out, unless it was his birthday or a special occasion or a thank you for something, it was important to me that my man paid the bill. My dad always paid for our family when we went out and I think I came to value traditional roles more over time.


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