Who Pays on the First Date? The 10-Second Trick to Decide


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It's one of the biggest questions if you're single – who should pay on a first date? I wish there was a magic wand I could wave that could clear this up for everyone.

Like most money etiquette questions, it's contentious, and like most people, I have my own opinions about dating and money etiquette.

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Being raised in the south, for me, it's sort of de rigueur that the guy should pay no matter what, and honestly, it's something I've come to expect.

Who Pays on the First Date? One Friends Perspective

Talking with a guy friend over dinner the other night,  he felt differently and made a remark that women want to be treated as equals, they should pay their own way.

Okay, that's a valid point.

When I asked him why he said it was because he didn't want to be taken advantage of.

As it turns out…a lot of guys don't pay on the first date out of fear of getting played.

Because there are a lot of women out there giving this custom a bad name.

In 2011 Business Insider published a piece on a young woman living in NYC who dated guys specifically to eat $1200 worth of dinner each month. There are a lot of things wrong with that article (like her budget and priorities, and the fact that she was tracking her dates' spending like it was income), least of all how she's giving other women a bad name.

More recently in Aziz Ansari's new Netflix show, Master of None, which I highly, highly recommend, his character goes on a date with a girl who orders like, THREE entrees.

Who Pays on the First Date? The 10-Second Trick to Decide

So, who should pay on the first date? Whoever did the asking.

If a guy asks, he should pay, and I don't think it's wrong for women in this situation to have the expectation that he's going to at the end of the night. Similarly, I think if a woman wants to ask a guy out, she should pay for the date.

I look to the etiquette of same-sex couples for this example. The person who pays on the first date should be the one who did the asking. (I double-checked this with homosexual friends of mine.)

Emotions and intentions aside, someone asking you to dinner is an invitation. You should accept because you want to, and they should pay because they invited you out. Treating them shows you have a generous spirit, which is important when seeking out a potential partner.

Like, accept that I'm a strong woman who can pay her own way, but pay for my dinner anyway because you asked, obviously like me and want to impress.

With that said, my buddy Martin also recommends doing a lower-cost first date to both relieve the pressure and save your wallet in this post. 

After the first date,  the couple can take turns, which sets the tone for a more financially equitable relationship than say, making him (or her) pay for the first 3-5 dates.

And yes, being a guy who pays for first dates is expensive.

But, if we're comparing apples to apples, being a woman is just as expensive. We pay more for beauty treatments, clothes, hair care, and healthcare.  Guys can get away with paying less for things and perhaps this comes out in the wash within our dating customs.

Which, in the modern age, is something to think about.

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