Who Pays for the First Date: What is the Modern View?

by TTMK on February 8, 2012 · 13 comments

What’s the best way to get a second date? If you’re a guy, make sure that you pay for the first date.

OK, before you assume that I’m suggesting that all people are that shallow, I’m not 🙂  Clearly, handling expenses is not what’s most important. If the two people have no chemistry to begin with, there might not be a second date anyway.

However, for better or worse, how the expenses of the first date are handled can play a role in the perceptions the two people have of each other.  It’s a topic that has taken on increased discussion in recent years. After all, gender equality in the workplace is deservedly the norm and rightfully expected, and more than 50% of undergraduate and graduate degrees are now being awarded to women.  This isn’t the 1950’s.

Taking this into consideration, this begs the question: Should the guy still be expected to pay for the first date?

This question takes me back to my first date. Keep in mind that I was raised in an old-fashioned way to open doors, let the girl order first, etc. This is the mindset I had when embarking on my first real date, way back in the stone ages J Anyway, I planned to take the girl out to the movies, and then for ice cream later. Yes, I realize that to some that might sound sickeningly wholesome, but that’s what I did.

So, we went to the theatre after car ride of teenage conversation, and eventually made our way up to the ticket counter. I asked for two tickets, and the guy told me how much it would be.  I paused, and then glanced at her. She didn’t flinch. I quickly realized that yeah, I’m going to be paying.  It all processed quickly, and just instantly figured that I should do this.

Later, we went out for ice cream and soda. Did I say this was wholesome? Anyway, I ended up paying for that too. Again, she never flinched. She nicely asked if she could get soda, I remember that, but of course I paid for it all.

I recall talking to my father about this subject way back then. The girl actually had a part-time job, while I didn’t. So she probably had more disposable money at that time.  When I mentioned that to him, he responded with smile by saying:

“Love it, or leave it!”

This was in reference to a totally unrelated saying at the time called “America: Love it or Leave it”. His point was that this is how the dating world is, and you can either accept it or don’t date. OK then!

I happen to think this this way too, as it turns out. On the first date, the guy should pay.

What? Is this old-fashioned, and unenlightened? That’s a good question. Perhaps it’s both. But it’s just the way it is, even today.

There are other ways to look at it. One could say that whoever asks is who should pay. Or, maybe just say that whoever clearly makes more money should pay. Or, perhaps just make it a practice to go Dutch.

In reality, while this might be a generalization, I think that the best outcome for both people is when the guy pays on the first date. For the guy, you can’t go wrong. You don’t have to break the bank for the date, but it’s your best move to pay. You’ll feel good about it. For the woman, you might be able to tell a lot about someone’s generosity, values, and true interest level by the effort he puts forth. If he’s genuinely interested in you, and/or interested in being a gentleman, he will fully and gladly plan to pay for the first date.

What Do You Think?

Do you think the guy should still pay for the first date, or do you think it’s an offensive and outdated custom?

Or, do you think that other factors should determine who pays?

What were your experiences on first dates in terms of who paid?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeremy @ Personal Finance Whiz February 8, 2012 at 5:24 pm

I think its generally expected that the guy should pay. I believe it’s tied to the our society’s expectation that the man should pursue the woman in the relationship. I think most women would agree that they prefer to be the one being pursued than the one that has to do the pursuing.


TTMK February 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Jeremy – I think that you’re probably interpreting society’s expectations fairly well, from a general point of view. This seems to have been the practice historically.


Evan @ Smartwealth February 8, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I personally think a guy should still pay for dinner, especially on a first date. If a woman insisted on paying or splitting dinner, a part of me would take it personally.


TTMK February 10, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Evan – it’s probably the safest thing overall for any chance of future dates, with the least chance of anyone offended, if the guy pays for the first date. Personally, I don’t think I’d be offended in that case, though it might indicate an interest on her part to keep the friendship platonic. At least that might be a perception one could have.


Daisy February 8, 2012 at 10:42 pm

As a woman, I don’t believe the guy should always pay for the first date; I think that whomever asked the other out should pay.

In a perfect world, society would be okay with going dutch on the first date – I think it creates an awkward pressure for both parties with one person paying, haha.


TTMK February 10, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Daisy – yeah, I can see how one might feel some obligations/pressures. Never thought about it as much as I could have pehraps, as I was never the one being treated on a 1st date!


Michelle February 9, 2012 at 10:26 am

Well I haven’t been on a first date in forever, but I would assume that whoever asked the other person out should pay.


TTMK February 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Michelle, interesting how of the 1st 5 comments, the 3 men indicated that the guy should pay – while the 2 women indicated that whoever asks should pay. Thanks for your opinion!


Paul @ The Frugal Toad February 9, 2012 at 10:59 pm

I would have to agree that the man is expected to pay. However I think whoever asked the other out should pay.


TTMK February 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Paul – there are still expectations in our society on such things, even if not as set in stone as before. Seems like you see a bit of a disconnect between what you perceive as expectations versus what’s ideal?


Miss T @ Prairie EcoThrifter February 11, 2012 at 2:51 pm

I think for our actual first date, my hubby paid but I had offered to pay as well or at least split the bill. The next date I think I paid. We always tried to be fair with each other.


TTMK February 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Miss T – that’s great, keeping an approach of being fair with one another. Good spirit to take.


Suba February 11, 2012 at 6:29 pm

If both the guy and the girl have done everything right up until that point and are genuinely interested in knowing each other, I think who pays is just a technicality. I say this because I don’t remember whether I paid or my husband paid for our first date 🙂 It wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

Nice new idea for a blog! Good luck with the new venture.


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