Who Pays For Dinner with Your Parents or Family?

dinner with parents

Who pays for dinner when you dine out with your family?

Every few weeks or so my husband and I meet my parents for dinner at a restaurant half-way between their house and ours. We typically eat at low-to-mid range restaurants, like Red Robin or Macaroni Grill and the typical meal ranges in the $10 – $15 range. Most of the time we split the bill in half. While my parents don’t always allow us to pay, we do offer money every time we go out.

Who Pays for Dinner with Your Girlfriend’s Parents?

My husband will always offer to pay when we go out to dinner with my parents. He’s been doing this since we first started dating and the pattern hasn’t stopped just because we’ve been married for a few years.

He believes it’s always important to share or even pay the entire bill. If my parents want to pay they decline his offer, but he will always present his credit card as a gesture of good will.

Who Pays for Dinner with Parents?

While we pay our fair share when my husband and I are out together, it’s a totally different story when I go out with my parents alone. If my parents take me out to lunch or dinner without my husband I almost never pay. This is in part because I don’t always offer and also because when I do offer I’m usually refused.

My dad is retired and my mom works a part-time, relatively low paying job, so I like to contribute more when we go out together. After all my husband and I are actively employed and combined we make more than a decent living.

So every time I go out with my parents I’m torn. On one hand I know that they love to take care of me and provide for me. On the other hand I know that I can afford the meal much better than they can.

So what do you think? Do you think I should take control of the bill and pay more often or continue to allow my parents to pay for me? It’s not a lot of money and we don’t go out together often, but I don’t want to impose on my parents and at the same time I don’t want to pay if that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Every time I offer they say, “we’re so happy to be with you. we love you. we want to pay for you.” I guess the question is whether or not I should let them.

Who Pays for Dinner with Family?

I asked a group of friends for their suggestions and created a list of their answers below:

  1. The youngest party always pays for the eldest. In this case the kids always pay for their parents.
  2. The oldest party always pays for the youngest. In this case the parents always pay for the kids.
  3. Both parties always split the bill. This can involve splitting it equally or paying for what you ordered. Among family it usually makes sense to split the bill evenly, but if you tend to have a relative who orders extravagant meals then you may choose to pay only for what you ordered.
  4. Each family takes turns. One time the kids pay for the bill and the next time the parents cover the tab. This can get tricky because you have to keep track of who paid. You also have to account for the difference between restaurants. After all, one restaurant might cost a whole lot more than another. It helps if you let the paying party choose where they want to eat, because they can choose how much they want to spend.
  5. Traditionally, whichever family member creates the invitation pays. So technically, if your mom and dad ask you out to dinner, they are expected to pay for your meal. Does that mean they should? Of course not. If you can afford to pay, you should offer to do so.

Who Pays for Dinner When Parents Meet?

Lastly, when our parents first met my husband and I offered to pay for the entire meal ourselves. Since we were hosting the get-together it seemed reasonable for us to pay. These days we tend to split the bill evenly when both families dine together. We don’t itemize each item. We simply spilt the bill into thirds and each pay an equal share.

24 thoughts on “Who Pays For Dinner with Your Parents or Family?”

  1. Try paying during the meal. I or my husband usually get up during a family meal (since we make a lot more than anyone else) "to go to the washroom" and give the server a credit card or cash and ask that no bill be brought to the table. This always ends in pleasant surprise when someone asks for the bill and the server says its been taken care of. It may not work for you all the time but it is a nice gesture. THis also works for business meetings and birthday parties – the server will just discreetly hand you your receipt on the way out – they do this for a living!

  2. My parents and I fight over the bill, too. I feel like I should pay b/c they have paid for things my entire life and I want to give back. But, parents will always be parents. As some of the other folks have commented, by them paying the bill, they have a sense that they are still taking care of me. I always offer and show appreciation. I think if there is no offer, then they may feel taken for granted or even taken advantage of. When I drag them out to help me with something, I always insist on paying. I think it makes them feel bad, but they appreciate it, too. …it just means they are quicker to the bill next time we go out 🙂

  3. I had wonderful generous parents who always paid when we went out to eat. My mother in law, who gets a decent monthly check after her husband oassed away, doesn’t even so much as offer when we go out. E-VER. Its causing me to really duslike her for being such a cheapskate. I always pay for my grown kids. I ‘m appalled by a woman who isnt poor, always waiting on her son to pay her way. Shes nice in every other way but that and now shes goong to live with ys for a year. God help me!!

    • Have Children ever wonder growing up, parents paid for everything, so now as an adult and in employment, don’t you think it’s nice to treat your parents out? Yet they look forward to their inheritance. Does meaning being a parent, you never stop paying for your children? Doesn’t sound very right to me? Surely you would want your parents to live comfortably in their child free years?

    • Only a bum would let his mother or mother in law pay for any meal. A grown man should never let his mother or mother in law pay for any meal, ever. It is the most generous, kind hearted thing a man can do for them. Remember, it’s better to be appreciated as a grateful gentleman than as a bum. Mothers and mother in laws deserve respect and honor. It isn’t about the money as much as it is more gracious an offer because both women have already done so much for their children in rearing and preparing, supplying meals…

  4. As an example , the 40 year old adult child (makes 150k a year)should pay for the parent’s father’s day $20 lunch instead of requiring the parent to pay his own.

  5. Adult children in paid employment should always contribute something to the meal. Expecting to be paid for is very poor manners.
    By your early twenties you should be refusng mom and dads handouts.

  6. I’m 74 years old with 3 adult children, and a 2nd wife. Following my divorce, I had shared custody of all three from their early teen years to college. They all have solid relationships(2 married) and careers. My first father in law paid for every family meal. Until recently, I paid for every family meal of my children and spouses. The last 2 years, all three children have alternately taking care of the bill, alternating with myself and them randomly. It is nice that they feel comfortable enough as they all work and we seldom argue over it.

    • I love this. Thanks for commenting Irwin. I think it’s great that everyone can handle the bill at different times and that you rotate without a specific rotation schedule. I think this is a lovely way to handle it.

  7. I’m 40. My parents paid when I was in my early 20s. Then I paid because I was in a much better place financially. Then the situation reversed. And then it reversed again. Bottom line: I think it should never be 50-50. If you can, just pay the bill, and do it with love. Accept this kind gesture graciously, and hope that one day, you will be able to cover all the meals going forward. It might not work for everyone (I come from a loving, tight-knot family) and we “fight” for the privilege to pay for others. But this is the best gift my parents could have given me. We are there to support each other and no one is keeping the score.

    • You raise a great point. Just because you can easily pay at one point in time doesn’t mean you can perpetually do so. As my parents have gotten older they are much more willing to let us pay the bill. As time passes things change and it helps if we are all be flexible, loving and supportive. Thanks for the comment.


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