Who should pay on the first date? Experts weigh in on the age-old question.


It’s Valentine’s Day, and some couples might be going out together for the first time. The special occasion brings up an age-old question as the unwritten rules of dating change: Who should pay on the first date?

As it turns out, a majority of Americans still hold traditional views on that topic. Over 70% of Americans believe that in heterosexual relationships the man should pay on the first date, according to a recent survey form NerdWallet. Although 68% of women expect their male dates to pick up the tab, even more men — 78% — place that expectation on themselves, saying they should be responsible for the cost of the date, the survey found.

For those who eschew old-fashioned dating norms, there are other ways to determine who pays on the first date, according to personal finance pros and etiquette experts. 

Invitations, bills and tips go hand in hand

One rule of thumb is that the person who invites someone on a date should pay the tab, including gratuity. 

“The rule when it comes to dates in general — and especially the first date — is the person who extends the invitation also pays and tips. The bill and tip go hand in hand,” said etiquette expert Diane Gottsman. “Once we know that rule, we can absolutely bend it.”

For example, if you meet up in person for the first time with someone you saw on a dating app, but are less than impressed, offer to pay your part, Gottsman said. 

“You can say to the server, ‘I’ll take my check.’ You can take yours so you’re not wasting that person’s money,” she said. “Be gracious. Say this is a dutch treat, that way they’ll hear it, too.”

Who earns more?

Another way to determine who the payer should be is based on which party earns more money. But salaries aren’t typically disclosed on first dates, so it’s more of a consideration for couples who have begun a relationship. 

Fifty-seven percent of Americans say the person in the relationship who makes more money should foot the bill more often than the person who makes less. 

But there are plenty of reasons to open up about money, even in a fledgling relationship. 

“You don’t want the person who has been footing the cost of all dates to be suffering in silence and break their budget because they want to impress other person,” she said. “If you’re trying to impress someone at the expense of your own financial security, you can’t do that long term. Say, ‘I like being with you, but I can’t spend all this money going out to dinner.'”

When’s the right time to talk about money?

There are subtle ways to bring up money in conversation on early dates, according to experts. And it’s wise to do so, to set expectations early on. 

“You can bring money up casually early on by talking about your job, what your upbringing was like, what you like to do for fun and your hobbies,” Rathner said.

For example, if someone has costly hobbies like skiing or scuba diving, that could be a sign that they have disposable income to support those activities. 

On the other hand, someone who says they currently hold two jobs and don’t have much free time, could be signaling they’re focused on earning rather than spending. 

“Money is awkward for a lot of people and dating is awkward, so it’s doubly awkward to have these conversations. There’s no pressure to talk about it on the first date, but by the 20th, you want to talk about these things to know you’re well-matched in terms of your values,” Rathner said. 

“Loud budgeting” makes transparency trendy

Money talk shouldn’t be taboo in dating. In fact, it’s something Americans can agree on. More than two-thirds of Americans agree that couples should talk about money matters within the first six months of dating, according to the NerdWallet survey. 

And a new trend on TikTok, called “Loud Budgeting,” is emboldening people to be upfront and transparent about their finances, and embrace frugality, especially when money is tight. 

It’s an approach Yuval Shuminer, CEO and founder of personal finance app Piere encourages.

“If it’s not in reason for you financially to pay for a date, be honest about that,” Shuminer told CBS MoneyWatch. “Share your financial positioning with your partner.”

No matter what the reason, she encourages transparency around money matters for happy endings.

“If it’s important to split it, because that’s how you approach finance, or if you think splitting represents equality in a relationship, be vocal about that too,” she said. 

Dating coach Natalia Juarez also embraces this approach and encourages radical transparency in how you think about money. 

“If you’re the kind of person who wants to be in a relationship 50-50 financially, state that early on in the dating process,” she said. 

Or if you’re loath to spend money on extravagant dates, but don’t want it to be misconstrued as a lack of interest, be forthright. 

“If there’s a reason you’re dating on a budget, use the date as an opportunity to share with your date why this is the case. Perhaps you’re putting yourself through school, or you’re saving up for something important — share this. It will help your date to understand why you’re selecting your locations or experiences,” Juarez said.


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