Picking Up The Bill On The First Date

Last modified on October 12th, 2013

This is always a really great topic to bring up at the table after everyone has been drinking for hours. I obviously have my own opinions on this subject, but I thought it would be a fun one to bring out here.

Given that a lot of people nowadays use Lavalife or one of the many other varieties of online dating services, what is the general opinion with regards to the guy picking up the bill on the first date? If you’re a guy, is that cool with you? If you’re a girl, would you pay your own portion? I know lots of girls who would openly admit they wouldn’t go out on a second date without the guy picking up the tab on the first one.

Is that opportunistic, or just a slice of old-fashioned values?

38 responses to “Picking Up The Bill On The First Date”

  1. Leah says:

    On our first date, I picked up the tab! Mostly because I was so nervous. (Jay did offer, I refused, mostly because I was a little nervous) Then, because I was so damn nervous, I forgot to leave a tip. The next day I realized while looking at the receipt and was mortified so I called the restaurant and went in and gave the server a ten-ner, explaining that my nervousness had caused me to loose my head and that he was great.

    Under different circumstances, I’d insist on going dutch.

  2. Leah says:

    *lose my head. lose.

  3. Raul says:

    Regardless of who I go out with, I always attempt to pay the bill. If they let me, I’ll pick the tab on the first time we meet. The second time, I kinda expect going dutch.

    But if they pick the tab on the first time we go out, I insist on picking up the tab the next time.

    If I go out without any kind of romantic intentions (e.g. it’s not a date, date but just kind of drinks) I usually also try to pick the tab, though I’ve noticed that sometimes my dining/coffee companion will mention the total cost and add “should we split it”.

  4. It depends who I’m out with. If I’m dating a European (e.g. exchange student or visiting) then I expect we will split as that is what is common among the Central/Northern Europeans/Irish I’ve dated. Or, I would cover dinner and they cover movie/popcorn/drinks so it equals out.

    If they are Canadian or American, then I expect that I’m picking up the tab. Consequently I don’t date that many people from North America as I’m a student.

    I think of my dates as mutually exclusive and I’m not thinking about the next time really, just focused on that particular date.

    I would also accept someone buying me dinner as has happened in the past — it is a complete surprise and absolutely makes my day. It’s like Christmas in July.

    I like The Reef and I still have to see Batman…I’m just saying.

  5. Donna says:

    Now Duane… why is this tagged under “sex”. We’re only talking about the first date after all… Hahaha.

    Seriously. I expect the guy to offer to pick up the tab on the first date. I will then offer to pay my half. More often than not, he won’t let me. If it’s a second date, I insist on paying my half.

    To be honest, I wouldn’t be impressed if they didn’t *try* to pick up the whole tab on the first date. I think it is just old fashioned values for me. Gee, when I say it, that sounds horrible, but it’s true.

    There’s just one chick’s perspective for you…. and see, I didn’t even mention sex! 😉

  6. Seriously. I expect the guy to offer to pick up the tab on the first date. I will then offer to pay my half. More often than not, he won’t let me. If it’s a second date, I insist on paying my half.

    Well that’s a nice and elaborate set of expectations you have there. I hope every guy with whom you could potentially have a nice and fulfilling relationship successfully reads your mind or just magically guesses your exact set of expectations. I mean, I’d hate for you to lose out on happiness just because the guy doesn’t have magic powers.

  7. Donna says:

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. Easy there.

    I don’t think that’s fair. You’re telling me you wouldn’t offer? I’ll bet you would, so no one needs to be reading anyone’s mind then. Unless you’re from the moon, or, another country, you probably grew up hearing that it’s customary for the guy to offer to pay on the first date, so as the “guy” you probably would. I would think if I was going out with someone from other than Canada or the States, all bets would be off, and I would be the one left wondering what the custom was… so I would ask.

    No mind reading necessary.

  8. Sarah-Renee says:

    I don’t know…Maybe since I’m successful in my own right I would offer to pick up the tab all on my own. I mean why not? Women have fought for so long to be independent I think we should do it on all levels of the playing field. We can’t pick and choose what we want to be equal on, no?

  9. Danny Dang says:

    I usually pick up the tab or try to on the first date. It just feels like the right thing to do. I do respect if she wants to pay her own or would like to treat, but it rarely happens on the first date. I’m not fond of first dates, so much analysis going on!

  10. Duane Storey says:

    I’m going to hold out on my opinion for a while. This is too much fun, and I don’t want to bias anyone 🙂

  11. Hmm, old fashioned values, like keeping the lady of the house barefoot and pregnant? Or, perhaps old fashioned like my dinner better be on the table at 6:00 sharp, woman?

    I’ll admit this strikes a nerve with me because it seems like many of our lady friends today are holding out for a double-standard, wherein they get to be treated like some fragile flower except when they get the notion to be independent and tear down the patriarchy. Perhaps I am being naive, but should it not work one way or the other?

    I treat everybody as my equal, and expect the same consideration. I’m a large guy; tall and heavy, and I get judged based on those criteria all the time as being some kind of macho bruiser e.g. “You must have played football in high school!” When I am almost completely the opposite sort of person. It’s a constant struggle to overcome this preemptive judgment.

    So when I hear about women who want to be treated like a presumptive old-fashioned “lady” in this enlightened age it really irks me. That they would allow themselves to be pigeonholed simply because it affords them some convenience cheapens the equality which is supposedly everybody’s goal.

  12. Pamela Dawn says:

    I always let my boyfriend (now fiancé) pay. I am a fragile flower and I expect to be treated as such.

  13. @Pamela: Congratulations on perpetuating your own stereotype. May the chains rest lightly on you.

  14. Tania says:

    I always split the cost. On first dates you hardly know the other person – and certainly don’t know if it’s going to lead anywhere. I would not feel comfortable letting someone I barely know pay the bill. That said, after some time has gone by and you’ve at least become friends, I think it’s fair if one person picks up the cheque one time to let the other pick it up the next – as a gesture of kindness, or something, even though it all equals out in the end.

    I like being able to take care of myself – not in some militant feminist way – just because I can. 🙂

  15. Pamela Dawn says:

    @Andy – He always insisted on paying. I was kidding about the fragile flower thing, I don’t see myself as that kind of person at all.

  16. it’s been a long time since i last had a date (been happily together with the same guy for 16 years) but, closet romantic that i am, i clearly remember our first date. it wouldn’t have occurred to me NOT to pay my tab.

    i’m all the way with tania.

    and double standards – yuk. while i do enjoy courteousness and have no problem with a guy holding up the door for me, i always find ways to repay (or advance) such gestures myself.

  17. Duane Storey says:

    @Pamela – Have you ever insisted on paying for him?

  18. Pamela Dawn says:

    @Duane – Yes I have! Many, many times and he told me he wouldn’t feel right about it. He likes to do things like they did back in the good old days I guess.

  19. I was always a 50/50 gal for first dates…keep it casual and all that..but with my now husband..he reached for the bill and I sat back..don’t know why….

    I do feel that nowadays the person who asks can pay and if there are other days then you can do turn about…make it fair…

  20. Sebrina says:

    I would feel uncomfortable letting the guy pay for me on a first date. I’m pretty independent. I even have difficulty letting good friends pick up tabs. That being said, I did let the last guy I dated pick up the tab on our first date, but we dated for 3 years and it was pretty equal. We took turns buying one another dinner and such things. It just makes me feel a lot more comfortable to contribute.

  21. Duane Storey says:

    @Pamela – so, that’s not really *insisting*.. it’s more like casually offering 🙂

  22. [snark on]

    Duane Storey August 15th, 2008 at 12:25 am

    I’m going to hold out on my opinion for a while. This is too much fun, and I don’t want to bias anyone 🙂

    Yeah, me too on the not biasing the discussion. When the rest of you have stated your opinions, I’ll tell you right answer.
    [snark off]

  23. Pamela Dawn says:

    @Duane – This is usually after him saying he’s paying whether I like it or not…and when I ask why he won’t let me pay, he says he wouldn’t feel right about it. I don’t think that’s casually offering!

  24. Pamela Dawn says:

    @Duane – sorry I was confused by your comment, I have insisted, really! Stealing the bill…giving the waiter/waitress my bank card or cash…it just doesn’t work!

  25. Rosie says:

    Not that I’ve had a first date in a while, but I never expected a guy to pay on a first date. It was definitely appreciated when he offered. However, if I guy didn’t offer to pay on a first date, he’d lose points with me but that wouldn’t prevent a second date. (Having said all that, if I asked the guy out, I’d pay for the both of us.)

    If a guy never offered to pay on future dates, I probably wouldn’t continue to date him.

  26. Phaedra says:

    I haven’t been out on a date with a boy in almost 4 years, so I am really dating inept. My thoughts are though if it’s a casual meeting(coffee shop,lounge) then each should pay their own. If it’s a “date” date(and I don’t mean going to the club and getting wasted) – like a nice restaurant, dressing up, then traditionally I would like the man to pay IF he asked me out on the date. I’d still probably still offer up some cash though.

  27. I usually pick up the bill when I go out with my parents. I pick up the bill a lot of times when I go out with my older sister and she makes way more money than I do.

    I’ll pay for drinks when I’m out with friends.

    For me, the issue isn’t about picking up the bill. The issue is about caring enough about the person that I don’t care about what picking up the bill means.

  28. Todd Jordan says:

    Having only dated my wife for 25 years and change, I’m going with those who ask pay.

    On non-date dinners, I enjoy treating. I like being treated as well, so if the other party offers, I’m in for it. I also don’t mind alternating picking up the tab.

  29. @duane

    Adding on to what I said above. The Canadian and American students I’m meeting are not offering to pay 1/2 on first dates. The Europeans I meet do. This may be because of the student community I’m a part of, but it is also part of the Canadian culture. If person x here asks out person y to dinner, person y can assume that person x is paying.

    So rather than a gender thing, I think of it as an asking thing. Among the Canadian/American students I know, guys are doing the asking and therefore the paying for 1st dates.

    Also, for the people in relationships with both parties working and familiar with one another, I see as being different from the dating world where the point of a first date is to get to know the person. The cost of first dates can be an unknown depending on the tastes of your date: Do they drink wine, will you do a movie afterwards, do they prefer Italian to Sushi…

    I think that’s why I don’t date many Canadians/Americans. I instinctively double what the date will cost, while the Europeans I’ve dated, I know I only expected to pay for myself.

    Good topic Duane.

  30. Sarah-Renee says:

    You know I posed this question to one of my employees today and she insisted that the guy always pays, that’s just how it is. She also added that she’s a princess and she feels like she should be treated like one, that the guy is LUCKY she chose to go out with him. Not that I agree with all that but it’s just another opinion…

    We also did some discussing on it and we realized that the standards are different out here in the middle of nowhere than they are in the city. I just moved from Portland, OR (rather large city) to Albany, OR (tiny tiny small town) and the women expect different things. My coworkers up north in Portland expect the guy to pay and they expect to be taken to the Portland City Grill where you’ll spent approx. $75-$100 on dinner. The expectation down here in Albany is not nearly as high as the nicest place in town is Red Robin (which I LOVE btw) where a couple will max out the tab around $35. Now I know the cost of living is different, but that’s confusing for someone like me who is making more money down here in the small town as opposed to the money I was making in Portland.

    Also as I’ve never dated before so thank you Duane for bringing this subject up as I’m sure it’s something I’ll be facing *hopefully* rather soon…tho I have to admit Albany, OR is not the best place to pick up guys, you never know. There are some rather attractive Mennonites around here…maybe some of them are single…

  31. Rebecca says:

    I can’t remember who paid for our first date – we had a bunch of Mexican food and too many margaritas…

    3 years later, not much has changed 😉

  32. Ciavarro says:

    I wouldn’t want a second date with a girl who insisted on picking up the tab.

  33. Sarah-Renee says:

    Ciavarro- That was actually a question I was going to ask.

    What about a woman who picks up the tab on the first date? Or even more broad spectrum kind of opposite of what Duane is asking…Are men intimated by successful woman?

  34. […] threads on their blogs about the whole online dating thing (read Tanya’s great entry here and Duane’s awesome post here, although his is more focused on who picks up the […]

  35. Jen says:

    Coming into this a bit late from Raul’s site, but I firmly believe that the asker pays. It’s highly practical, since it puts the cost of the date firmly within the asker’s control. Want to take me to CinCin? Lovely. Want to take me for a coffee, or a picnic in the park? That’s great too!

    I think it’s just an extension of invitation etiquette in general. If you invite people to your wedding, don’t expect them to pay for their own drinks. If you host a post-college party, BYOB gets a bit stale. Offer generosity in whatever capacity you have, and anyone who complains it’s “not enough” is the rude one.

    And for the record, before I was married I did my fair share of being the asker on dates and paid for dinners, concerts, picnics, coffees and being the asked, and treated to dinners, concerts, picnics, coffees.

  36. Beth says:

    Also coming into this discussion a bit on the late side…

    I completely agree with the general sentiment I’m seeing here that equality requires equality all the time, not just when it’s convenient. I believe that there should be equal pay for equal work, that people shouldn’t be stereotyped based on their gender (or anything else), and it would be unreasonable to then expect that the man should always be the one to ask the women out, to pay for dinner, etc. On a first date, I think each person should pay their own way. When it gets to be a relationship, I think it’s reasonable that the person who makes more can pay more often (although, in practice, I personally find it difficult to let the other person pay more often even if they make more money. I think it hurts my ego).

    Re: Sarah-Renee’s question – My experience is that some men are intimidated by successful women and others aren’t. I have a friend who doesn’t like to talk about her work (she’s a physicist) when she meets a potential date, because she’s met too many men who were too scared away by her success and intelligence. My take on it is that any man who is intimidated by my success and intelligence is not someone I’m going to connect with. There are plenty of men who appreciate successful women to waste my time on ones who are scared of us.

  37. Duane Storey says:

    I think any girl who goes out on a date expecting the guy to pick up the tab all the time should give her head a good shake. I actually have old fashioned values, and used to always pick up the tab, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been walked over by girls because of my generosity.

    Also, it’s a complete useless gesture if the girl offers to pay her share but will hold any ill-will towards the guy if he accepts. If you’re not serious, don’t offer. If you’re adamant that you want the tab picked up by the guy, then be an adult and express your expectations before you drink $100 worth of wine or chomp on lobster for a few hours. I have no problem paying for a nice date if I invite someone out, but I think on the first date people should go dutch honestly.

    Also, I’m fortunate enough to have achieved a decent level of financial success at this stage in my life. While I appreciate what Beth is saying above, I don’t agree the person that makes more should be expected to pay more. It’s one thing when you’re a married couple — I would be the first person in a committed relationship (i.e. marriage) to suggest we pool money. But in a dating relationship I don’t think it’s realistic, and I would keep finances completely separate. In fact, the legal ramifications for not doing so can be pretty steep, especially for guys in some cases (if you’re dating a girl with kids for two years or longer, courts will often make the guy — even though he’s not the father — liable for child support).

    I love taking my friends and my significant others out for nice dinners and drinks, but only when I get to pay willingly and not where it’s expected of me. Lots of people actually assume I should pick up their bill nowadays simply because I make more, and I’ve never understood that reasoning. Sure, I make decent money now, but I also sacrificed eight years of my life in school to the tune of $50,000 in debt to get to where I am.

    I have a sour taste in my mouth from my last relationship. My ex girlfriend hardly made any money, and yet she had insanely expensive taste for food and fashion. When I was a poor student, I never placed any expectations on anybody to pay anything for me. If we went out, I’d try to pay my way. I’d even save to pay for my girlfriend at a realistic restaurant. If a restaurant was out of my league, I wouldn’t go there, end of story. My ex didn’t really care as long as she was spending my money, and it’s not a situation I ever care to be in again.

  38. Sarah-Renee says:

    Beth- I’m not going to say that I’m supremely successful in the grand scheme but compared to where I come from and even in the small community where I now work I am at the higher end of it all. I have the impression that makes me intimidating, though I have no idea if that is true or just my perception.
    Unfortunately I have another disadvantage. I manage a Jewelry store. I didn’t realize the disadvantage this was until a guy I had met at a concert was going to drop by my work and give me a cd that I didn’t have. This was in my old mall in Portland, OR which is very high end and the store I was managing the office of was huge and also rather high end. When the guy came in I was standing next to the engagement rings discussing and inspecting a $20,000 2ct loose diamond with my boss. The guy bee lined into my store handed me the cd and immediately walked very fast in the other direction. This makes me very nervous.
    I don’t agree with not talking about my work on a date. Now I have yet to date but I can’t imagine that’s a good thing, I am proud of what I do and I love my job and my industry. I work with more than just engagement rings but jewelry in general I’ve learned is something most men are scared of. Yes I know it’s a very intimidating line of work to discuss on first dates, but right now it’s my life and I feel it’s almost dishonest to hide it.
    Silly society and all of its preconceptions and expectations. Why can’t we all just be honest and open not have to worry about all of this crap?

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