Who Pays For The First Date?

Couple Toasting With Wine

A few years ago, I went out with a woman three times in a couple of weeks. We had great chemistry, and despite the fact that I was a customer service representative at JDate pulling in barely $30K, I’d paid for everything. First date was $60. Second date was $90. The third date was brunch the morning after the second date. She’d ordered a dozen bagels and then realized she’d forgotten her wallet. No big deal. An innocent mistake. She generously offered to pick up our next date.

She called me at work the following day to tell me of a play that sounded like fun. She said she was busy at work and asked if I could find out if there were tickets available. No problem. I called the theater and learned there were only six left. What’s a guy to do? No big deal, I bought a pair of tickets and figured she’d pick up dinner before we went out.

After our $40 meal, she put down her credit card and went to the bathroom. When she came back, she noticed that I didn’t put in my credit card to pick up or split the check. Upon which she glared at me and said, with a ton of venom and not a shred of irony: “What am I, your sugar mama?!”

Being generous, especially to someone you care about, is an incredible feeling – right up there, I’m told, with having everything paid for by someone else.

Yeah, being a guy isn’t always the most rewarding thing in the world. But what are you gonna do? I’ve stopped wondering about what’s “fair” and have decided to embrace the system I’ve inherited. In this system, a guy pays unquestionably, and if a woman offers to pay, he is supposed to say no. At least on the first few dates. Or as long as she’s being courted. Or maybe always. It depends on the woman. We can never know unless we let down our guard and allow her to pick up a check. And by then, it’s often too late to justify your behavior.

This is a quandary all right and there is no one right answer. Until now. As your friendly neighborhood single dating coach, I’m going to give you the definitive rulebook on how to negotiate this tricky territory, once and for all….


HER: He should WANT to pay for me.

Yes, and, generally, that is the case. Being generous, especially to someone you care about, is an incredible feeling – right up there, I’m told, with having everything paid for by someone else. The one time I forgot my wallet on a date, she gracefully picked up the check and told me not to worry. This was both extremely classy, and extremely appreciated.

HIM: She EXPECTS me to pay for everything.

Yes, and that’s the precedent that was established way before you were born. Don’t fight it, just do it with a smile, ’cause if you don’t, you ain’t getting another date.

HER: He SHOULD pay, especially at the beginning.

This logic is a little dicier. Why should a man pay? Because it’s chivalrous? Consider that chivalry started at a time when men worked and women didn’t. Women, literally, could NOT pay. Thus, men picking up the check sprung out of necessity, not out of kindness. It has since been codified into a gentleman’s code, which is considered in very poor taste to question. I’m not questioning, but see how angry you are that I’m even bringing it up?

HIM: But SHE asked me out.

So what? If etiquette says that you pay for the first date, and she expects you to pay for the first date, and you can afford to pay for the first date, then pay for the damn first date.

HER: It doesn’t matter what he makes. A gentleman always pays. It indicates how he feels about me.

If you offer to split, and he lets you split (or even pick up) the check, he has done absolutely nothing wrong.

If a guy makes a ton of money, I can assure you, it’s his absolute joy and pleasure to spring for every last drink and spa treatment. But there’s a big difference between being cheap and being poor. Cheap means the guy asks the woman to pay for the fish when he ordered the less expensive chicken. Poor means that the guy has trouble making rent if he has to pay for five dates in a month. Put yourself in his position: it’s hard to blame him for wanting to alternate checks.

My solution is, not surprisingly, an equivocation. Let’s all try to understand one another.

Guys, be as generous as possible, not only because she expects you to, but because it’s genuinely rewarding to “be the guy” and make life easier on her.

Women, be sympathetic to the grad student or schoolteacher that doesn’t have the means to be as chivalrous as he’d like. You may not be our sugar mamas, but please don’t take it for granted that we’re your ATM’s, okay?

Postscript: A version of this article was written five years ago. Since that time, I find myself in a much greater position to be generous. I remain sympathetic to men who can’t blindly pick up every single check.

My slightly revised position for who pays on a first date is this:

He grabs the check immediately.

She does the “fake reach.”

He waves her off and insists on paying.

She thanks him for his generosity.

End of scene.

Presuming the man can safely afford it, this script should play out on every date during the courting phase.


You, as a man, can’t get mad if she doesn’t make the offer to split. If you offer to take her out, expect to pay for the whole thing, and be pleasantly surprised if you don’t have to.

You, as a woman, can’t get mad if he accepts your reach. If you offer to split, and he lets you split (or even pick up) the check, he has done absolutely nothing wrong. It’s not a game or a test, unless you treat it like one.

One final, overriding note for men: It doesn’t matter if it’s coffee or dinner, whether you make more or she makes more, whether you asked her out or she asked you out. You can never go wrong by paying.

Join our conversation (316 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 181


    All of you, listen!

    There’s a very simple hack here. It’s going to change your life for the better.

    Never, ever pay for anything. I mean…anything. I’m being serious.   Only good things will happen to you. It actually makes you MORE attractive.

    Here’s the secret – women are not attracted to men who buy them expensive meals. It simply doesn’t work like that.

    Sure, women like free stuff – who doesn’t? But do not kid yourself that paying for her shit makes you any more attractive. It really makes you less attractive, and lowers your value. Whats the subtext here? I hope we’re all old enough to have learned that the worst thing a guy has ever done in dating is buy a drink for a woman he doesn’t know. What does that convey? That he considers himself beneath her and has to purchase a few minutes of her time. Its the same principle with paying for expensive meals; the subtext is the man is paying the woman to be with him. Its a horrible frame to set.

    Every woman here will cry ‘no! I hate a cheap man! I want him to pay for me!’ Of course they want a free meal! We all do.

    What we’re interested in is what creates attraction, and whats attractive is a man who doesn’t need validation, who is confident in himself without needing to bribe a woman with expensive meals and theatre trips.

    Don’t believe me? Try it. Don’t take the word of strangers on the internet. Experiment. Respect yourself and women will respect you. If she wants to eat in a Michelin starred restaurant you make it clear she can pay for that experience. She will respect you – a woman needs to respect you if she is to feel any attraction for you. The women here will disagree, and of course from the point of view of their lives and their finances, I’m wrong. But in terms of attraction, I’m right.

    With great power comes great responsibility. Use it wisely grasshoppers.


    1. 181.1

      Most girls will be turned off by a dude who makes money arrangements a pre-date issue and DEMANDS that she pay for her own shit as a precursor for a date with his noble esteemed self. Just like most dudes would be thrown off by a WOMAN who pre-demands that HE pay for his own shit.

      I agree that Dutch is better though. Money should not be a communicator when dating. Assume everyone is buying their own mojitos and dating becomes more fun and relaxed and sincere because it’s body language and words that actually send the messages.   it’s just the US it seems that still holds onto old-school chivalry. Chivalry in the traditional sense can’t did fast enough for me.

      But Allan, your way makes money MORE of an issue which is counterproductive.

  2. 182

    If a man doesn’t pay for me for the first date I will not go out on a second date. All women like generous guys. My ex paid for the first three dates. I offered to pay on the fourth one. Then the following dates, usually one on him and one on me, sometimes I would pay twice and he would pay three times. We never split bill and I hate calculating money and talking about that when having sweet relationship. It doesn’t have to be 100% equal amount as long as both parties pay. Is it a good suggestion to guys? Jus to avoid awkwardness 🙂

  3. 183

    I feel like if a man OFFERS to take you out on a date then he should be the one who pays, especially if it’s your first date. They’re shouldn’t be no “let’s split the bill” or “could you cover me?” That shows a guy that you’ll easily be a doormat for them and they can get whatever they want from you with no repercussions. You have to show a guy how to respect you and how you want to be treated. Things like this, I would NOT tolerate. It’s not about gold digging, it’s about teaching him how to be a MAN! He needs to earn you. If he’s truly interested in you then he will step up to the plate and do that. He will not run for the hills when it comes to things like this, and if he does he’s not worth your time nor investing any kind of relationship with. I know this from experience. If he wants sex, but acts as if he doesn’t want to do anything nice for you then kick him to the curb. This new generation set of morals when it comes to love is ridiculous and it isn’t doing anything but making things to easy for guys and making us women look as if we have no respect for ourselves. If he steps up to the plate and does what a man is supposed to do and earns your heart then that’s when you start giving him sex and contributing financially to your relationship. Do not allow him to get comfortable in using you and disrespecting you! I have a very old school soul with old school values and morals on top of that. Nothing wrong with being an independent woman and being a boss, however you can’t play both roles in a relationship and expect him to be the man! Fellas you can’t expect her to submiss herself to you and let you take the steering wheel in the relationship if you make and expect her to do all the work! Trust me I been through it and a lot of the time it does not work unless the woman is willing to settle for less and tolerate being disrespected and be a doormat by a guy because she’s afraid of being alone. Thank me later. If this comment offends you, then you’re apart of the problem.

  4. 184

    @Jadee if you can’t afford to go on expensive dates tell the man before you meet them. I am setting up my own business so I have lots of costs I tell the man this if they won’t go to something which is in my budget they aren’t the man for me.

  5. 185

    The guy I’ve been dating paid for dinner and drinks a couple of times but then I sensed he was getting resentful so I started paying half. It makes me feel like he’s not really making an effort And that he wouldn’t be generous as s boyfriend. It’s almost putting me off him as I think the balance is unequal.  From my perspective it’s not about money it’s about investment and about a man showing he can take care of things. I buy clothes get my hair nails done and spend ages getting ready so I can look the best for him. Women have way more expenses and things they Have to do just to be ‘desireable’ by society standards. I feel like turning up completely unmade up one day to show what it’d be like if we were going equal

  6. 186

    I genuinely disliked it when a guy absolutely insisted on paying on the first date and wouldn’t take no for an answer, especially if it was more expensive than just one drink. A first date should be about getting to know a guy and finding out if I actually want to continue seeing him, without the pressure of knowing that he just paid for an expensive dinner. Him forcing me into letting him pay would leave a sour taste in my mouth that I couldn’t say no to a second date, even if I didn’t feel like it. It also showed me that he was more concerned about any sociatel norms than my actual feelings.

    I very much preferred splitting the tab for the dating phase and only got more relaxed about it further into relationships. I don’t remember if my husband offered to pay on our first date, but I do remember that we spoke about that topic fairly early on and it was never an issue between us. He accepted that I prefer to split the check and I got more comfortable with him enjoying to treat me to a fancy dinner every once in a while as our relationship progresses.

    Although I am living in Austria (Europe) where the guy ALWAYS paying for the first couple of dates isn’t as strict a rule as it appears to be in the US. While I know both men and women who believe that, the overwhelming majority of people I know prefer it the way I described: Stricter financial separation on dates in the beginning and more blurred lines the longer the relationship.

  7. 187

    To all the women and men who talk about masculine and feminine, a woman has to be ‘feminine and receiving’ and a man has to be ‘masculine and giving’, do you still believe and subscribe to these gender roles?

    If that’s true men should never be doing household chores and women should never be independent and working. Just curious if it’s a case of keeping traditions when it suits you vs abandoning them when it does not?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *