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

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.


Sunday 30th of June 2013

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.


Saturday 29th of June 2013

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.


Saturday 29th of June 2013

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? :-) (Maybe I should add that I live in Germany, where dating is a little different from what I know from American TV.)

Dee Acampa

Thursday 27th of June 2013

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.


Monday 24th of June 2013

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.

One Frugal Girl

Tuesday 25th of June 2013

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!