Relationship Advice

Who should pay on a first date?


As modern as we are in the UK in the 21st century, we still haven’t figured out any hard and fast rules about who should pay on a first date. Traditionally, the man picked up the bill in the knowledge that it was very likely he earned more than his female companion, but, in 2010, is this really necessary? There are some women out there who would be offended at the idea of a man paying for dinner or drinks.

Then again, there are some women who think it’s the man’s place to pay for dinner. After all, in many sectors pay women are still paid less than their male counterparts. Plus, women have other costs for clothing and grooming.

Alternatively,  perhaps we just need to be completely clinical about it and always split the bill down the middle, so no one is offended?

We know you’ll all have views on this topic, so come on, let us know in the comments below!

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142 thoughts on “Who should pay on a first date?

  1. Any relationship at any stage is about going 50/50 so to me dates are not different. I find it really patronising – and not romantic! – when a guy believes that they should pay for everything and open the door for you and blah blah blah you should feel “lucky”! I would rather date someone whose priority (right from the start as yes, 1st impressions do count!) is to find his companion and not his doll. And, as a girl, I am also looking for a real companion not a guy I can use as a financial aid and loneliness buster in exchange of a smile and some home cooking.
    I don’t like guys who need to show off in order to get girls or that think that opening a door equals knight in shinning armour (??) I mean, if that’s the best you can do then sorry, no offence but you can’t really do much, can you? Equally, I don’t understand girls who feel they should slave in the kitchen and giggle silly at their every word or whatever in order to repay or please them.
    Anyways, my 1st date would defo not be on a restaurant though! A coffee shop or quirky bistro would be much better!
    Personally, I would not want to date a book of manners with a wallet but a genuine, intresting and charismatic guy with a mind of his own. If he is a multi-millionare then good on him lol but I would rather not find out until I fell for who he is inside ;)

  2. I think go with tradition, the guy pays for the meal, if we go for drinks then maybe I can pay for the drinks.

  3. Steve, Manchester

    November 9, 2010 at 1:24 AM

    And why would you like to go with “tradition”? Is there any logical argument you can offer to back that up? Other than my suggestion that the “drinks” would likely be substantially cheaper!

  4. Nothing wrong with opening doors for people, I do it all the time.

  5. Steve, manchester

    November 9, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    I don’t think Marie was objecting to having doors opened for her but perhaps the idea that buying meals, opening doors etc was the making of a man when in reality these are easy jestures and real jestures of love/companionship are when you are true companions.

    I also will never let a door shut into someone – it’s basic manners.

  6. Pesonally, I think splitting the cheque on the first date is the way to go. Some men would insist on paying, some women might expect it. But the way I see it is its a first date, when the meal comes to an end you should at least offer. Taking your cues from each other and how the night has been is a good idea. Its also a good idea to start as you mean to carry on.

  7. When dating I always use my calculator to evenly divide the bill (including my travel expenses). I then issue an invoice to the other party which she has 30 days to pay in full or her details will be passed to a debt collection agency & her future credit rating may be adversely affected. I issue her a receipt if requested & keep all relevant paperwork to file with my accountant. Time is money people.

  8. Steve Manchester.
    Ive read all your many comments under the various heading & find them entertaining & very truthful,frequently mirroring mine . You have clearly had many negatave experiences with girls not paying their way & so have I. I don’t like it either but I’m also a realist & know that many girls will expect me to pay for them, at least initially so I tend to go with the flow. If, some time down the line the girl is still not contributing then that’s when I drop them as clearly that is not fair. Its all a game really & those are the rules unfortunately.

  9. Steve, manchester

    November 25, 2010 at 7:13 PM

    Rob, I’ve also had lots of good experiences!

    And going with the flow is roughly what I do and like you if I reach a point where it appears I’m the only one paying for stuff or cooking then I lose interest. Fortunately the free loaders are usually obvious within the first couple of dates.

    At the rate this site works though, it looks like dating is going to be very cheap! The majority of my matches don’t have a photo or if they do, they are unable to communicate probably due to being tighwads!

  10. Just a point re tightwads. My membership ran out a few days ago and I told eharmony that I wouldn’t be renewing. However, they’re still sending me matches so some of those matches could be people who have let their membership lapse, for whatever reason, as well as those who won’t pay.

  11. eharmony Post author

    November 25, 2010 at 10:36 PM

    Hi Cat,

    If you like, you can turn off your matching:

    1. Log into your account and click the ‘My Settings’ tab
    2. Here you’ll be taken to a ‘Basic Preferences’ tab – you’ll see the option to turn off your matching (‘No, please do not send me new matches until I say otherwise.’)

    Hope this helps!
    eHarmony Advice

  12. Ah, yes, of course I can, I forgot about that, sorry. I’ve done that now, thanks.

  13. Steve, manchester

    November 26, 2010 at 7:25 PM

    yeah you’re right Cat, some people can let their subscription expire and forget to turn off matching.

  14. I have read all the comments with great interest and decided to add my 2 pennies worth.
    I have been on quite a few dates mostly with men who I expect to travel a fair distance to meet me.I have always insisted on picking the first bill(I like expensive restaurant,so they know what they are in for) to compensate for the expense of travelling(few months).With all of them I have had several dates,then it depends ,if I travel my date picks the bill or viceversa.After a few dates the bill has never been an issue,
    Only on one first date I insisted 50/50,and we saw each other for 8 months and alternate with the bill.
    With one particular date,when it was his turn to pay he always made sure that he took me to more expensive restaurants and I did my fair share of driving.
    The experiences have been good on both sides and I am still friends with them .
    I do not think the expenses can be 50/50 but there must be willingness on both sides and one does not feel been taken advantage of,
    good luck with the dating and enjoy!

  15. People,
    Time is money, dating is a barren desert of uncertanty & mediocrity, only the ruthless hunter survives.
    Try dating ‘The Joey Way®’ for guaranteed success.

  16. Lot’s of interesting comments here. The women have totally surprised me as I admittedly love to be with a generous man who offers to pay most of the time. I always reciprocate with lunch, cinema, theatre, me cooking dinner etc. I would never pay if we go to a nice restaurant, I thought that would make a man feel inadequate, not happy. As for Steve, Manchester, not surprised you are single hun, talk about chip’s on both shoulders, phew !!! You really need to get off that high horse and chill out. Most women love a man who has a generous heart, not a hard heart. I support my family following divorce, have my own business so capable of taking myself out, but still love to feel spoiled as I spend my life taking care of everyone else. Prefer someone to support me, and I’m not talking financially, but every little bit helps !!So taking me out for dinner and making me feel cared for is top of my list !!!

  17. Lots of very valid points here. Not sure there is a right or wrong answer, I think you just see how you feel at the time. I have only been on 2 dates so far, and both times I assumed (I am female), that the bill would be split for the first date. That said though, if you go on multiple dates and it starts to move towards a relationship then obviously it can be he pays/you pay next time kind of deal. Personally, there are some people on here who are seriously looking for a partner and may need to meet a few before they meet a compatible one. Therefore, if the guy were to pay everytime, he could be pretty out of pocket. Like previous people have said…if I go out with my mates, I dont expect them to pay! And if I have paid my share, then if I have had a good time but do not feel that it should go further, I feel more confident saying so, when I know I the date was ‘equal’. May be a weird stand point, but I can only say how I feel.

  18. Some comments on here show women as having having hypocritical dual standards. They demand equality in all things then write things like they would NEVER pay at a nice restaurant, they love being spoiled, want a generous man etc. Most men these days have a limited budget & sex equality means that the woman may be earning more than the man, why should men be seen as a bottomless pit of treats, money & nice suprises? This is the 21st Century.

  19. Wow, there is a lot of controversy on this subject! You have all got me really worried now…I have been chatting to guy on this site for quite a few weeks now and we are meeting up this week for the first time. It was his idea to meet up, but as neither of us are drinking I suggested we have some pub grub instead. Now I am panicking about what happens with the bill! I would always offer (and would prefer to pay half), but I don’t want him to feel obliged. After all it was my idea to go for food! Should I let him know before the date that I am more than happy to pay my way? Or am I killing all romance before the date has even started?! Help please!!

  20. If we consider the raw psychology, a woman is looking for someone who can provide for her and her family. It will take more than a couple of decades to wipe out the effects of evolution.

    The guy should pay unless his date insists on paying her share.

  21. It is very sweet and thoughtful if the gentleman always offers to pay. I prefer all or nothing – I think going dutch is extremely unromantic, especially in the first few dates. When my date offers to split the bill, I offer to pay all of it instead as splitting the bill is such a turn off, it ruins the atmosphere of the date. Even more so when the guys keeps asking to go ‘halfsies’. These boys never progress beyond first date!When my brother (or other gentleman) has a girlfriend, they are always saving up to take them out or buy them something pretty. And that does make us feel cherished and adored!

  22. My ex never paid ever for me at a restaurant…I always paid because he said he never earned enough. I always treated him to all the home cooked meals and then he tried to get me to pay for flights, shoes, clothes, cigs etc. as well. Like a fool I did (I did not have much more money and I also had 4 kids). I really tried with the relationship but in the end I realised that I would have to end it because he was too much of an extra weight.
    Now I think that on the 1st number dates both should go dutch. If a relationship develops then I think one or the other could pay as a treat but I still think it should be kept fairly even for the respect and care of each other.

  23. i earn more then men that i have met, yet, i find it uncomfortable to insist paying for dinner. men should pay for dinner, its a gentlemanly thing to do.

    no matter what century we now live in, what is wrong with a man pursuing a woman in an old fashioned way? including paying for drinks/dinner. doesnt it show that he will care for her and look after her in the long run?

    of course once the relationship is established, women should be more involved with the pulling out of purses and sharing.

  24. I pay my own way until I know someone well. I do have some close friends who earn a LOT more than me and I feel no shame in having them buy me a drink or part of a meal – the same would go for an established relationship. If the woman earnt more than the man he shouldn’t be ashamed to have her contribute more in this day and age. But it is still the case that in many relationships, men do still earn more than women. It’d be a bit miserable if the person earning less always had to turn down the starter and glass of wine because they couldn’t afford it.
    I’ve had experiences in bars before where SOME men think if they dance with you once or ask your name, they have a right to your attention, and to grab at you, for the rest of the evening. For that reason I never let strangers buy me drinks, because they might then feel entitled to more. In the same way, having someone you’ve never met before pay for you feels like being ‘bought’ – whether they’re trying to ‘buy’ a second date, or sex, or whatever. Call me a cynic but this is based on bad experiences with what I hope is a minority!

  25. However high earner I might be, at the end of the day I want to date a man who is intelligent,powerful, generous and warm.
    Splitting first bill on a first date kills any romance in me.
    It gives this message that the man is pessimistic and calculative,and in a weak position, not warm and open, not ready to share, hence passion gone. I feel that he is not interested in me. Man is a man and woman is a woman. Centuries comes and goes but rule of nature stays the same!!

  26. T, dont agree at all. We are in the 21st century after all. It would be polite of a women to offer to split the bill as 1. It shows generosity and 2. Removes any suspicions of gold digging. I would always offer to pay for a first date but if the offer back of splitting the bill didnt arise it sends the first signals that this relationship would be very old and traditional. Id even go as far as saying your opinion may be slightly sexist. Man may be a man and women a women but we can both achieve the same goals. Passion, as you suggest, should not be all about what man can offer you. In my eyes is not one sided. If you want that old tired traditional values relationship stick with your opinion but at least try offering to pay once. It speaks volumes.

  27. Here’s an interesting one- I visited the UK for the first time, and stayed for a month. Before the visit I had connected with a couple guys from dating sites. One just didn’t work but we still are friends. The other – we emailed every day for a good month before the trip, then met up and got along great. Except! He paid for first date, then to my shock we alternated. I mean religiously alternated. I met many people on the trip and nobody ever let me pay. Now phone calls are religiously alternated. He is well paid. And lives with his mother… Somehow I just didn’t feel ‘looked after’.

  28. Silly as it sounds when it gets to paying the bill it can all get clumsy, which I find very embarrasing, and sometimes it is hard to know how to tackle this.

    However, on a first date recently, my date just simply asked ‘I would like to pay for us both, do you mind’, left the table and paid at the bar. Straight forward. We continue to date, and we now share the bill.

  29. On the first date I would always expect the offer for the man to pay all of it. In relationships past I was always the one to pay for everything, which at the time I didn’t mind, but looking back I feel like a fool. I would never want to pay the whole bill for this reason, however would offer every time to pay for what i have eaten/drank. After all, If you cant afford to pay for what you have had, you shouldn’t have had it in the first place…

  30. If you are planning on meeting again let him pay ( is he wants to )as it will even out. If not split the bill. Keeps it simple.

  31. A gentleman should offer to pay, no question. It is the polite thing to do, and demonstrates that he respects his date.

  32. It’s precisely because people believe sexist claptrap such as ‘the man should pay’ that we still have a pay gap. Ditch the old-fashioned, sexist attitudes, and watch the pay gap close.

  33. I’m single, 40, traditional. Guy should invite a lady properly. e.g. I’d love to meet you. May I take you on a date? That is CLEAR – he invites and pays! But… I would offer out of ‘politeness’ to buy a drink or pay for something! I don’t earn much and it’s shocking if a guy accepts! It means no 2nd date. If you invite someone out and say you’d like to treat them – do it!! Don’t be a tight arse and accept a drink. Especially guys dating single mums who have part time jobs (earn little) and kids to support. If you’re working full time you should be able to pay for the whole date without her contribution. Surely? Otherwise I would immediately interpret this as ‘selfish’, not interested and totally thoughtless. It also indicates the man is obviously going on alot of dates (and I’m just another) so he needs to cut corners because I’m really not important!

  34. ” If you’re working full time you should be able to pay for the whole date without her contribution. Surely? Otherwise I would immediately interpret this as ‘selfish’, not interested and totally thoughtless.”

    So why is it thoughtless and selfish of him not to want to pay for you, but OK for you not to want to pay anything at all? Why that asymmetry?

    Are you only ever going to date well-off men? And expect them to pay? Or could you not just do this on an equal footing. If you’re strapped for cash, there are cheap alternatives. And by cheap alternatives, I don’t mean freeloading off your date.

  35. Ladies, we should all be prepared to pay our way,even if the man invited you on a date. I would always offer to split the bill, it makes it clear where everyone stands. I would accept if he offered to pay, but the next date (if there was one) I would treat him.

  36. lara B from Manchester

    August 21, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    Sorry but I have to agree with Steve from Manchester. I went on a date as I was kindly invited to; I chose the restaurant – I drove there, pay for my own parking, offered to pay the first drinks and any taxi if we had too much to drink. He kindly offered to pay for the restaurant (expensive one). As we live in a modern society, and dating sites are a bit more complicated than normal dating, these terms and details should be discussed in advance. I think men will appreciate the fact that I woman can take care of herself, including financially. The man appreciated also being thanked face to face, not only by a following up call or text. I see him now regularly and have a great time!!

  37. A woman who equates chivalry and gentlemanly behaviour with the flash of a credit card is the biggest turn-off for me. In my experience the women who earn the most are the worst offenders in this respect.

  38. I always feel confused on dates as do not know which way to go. Some men feel offended if you pay your share, other are offended if you don’t! So, to make it easier, I think a man should pay on the first date and maybe others. A woman can make a nice dinner at home or get tickets for movies. But I do not really like the picture of a woman taking out her purse in the restaurant.

  39. Reading some other websites, some people call women spoilt to expect a man to pay for a date. I disagree. A man should pay for the first date. I just think its good maners and its shows a lot about his character. Also yes I do like being spoiled every now and again, what woman doesnt?

  40. A man shows his character and dating know-how on a first meeting/date. A man should pay, especially if he did the asking. A man recently asked me to lunch, waited to pay when check arrived and then asked me how to ‘handle the bill.’ It was $40. I handed him a $20 as I don’t teach Dating101 at age 45. He asked to see me again. HA! That is NOT gonna happen. Sorry. First impressions matter. Cheapskate.

  41. Just interested in peoples opinions on my situation.
    I am saddled with debt from a previous relationship, in short I had 2 options. Either accept the debt or see the mother of my child sent to prison for fraud and as I didn’t want my daughter to be without her mother I chose the first.
    As a result of this I can’t afford to foot the whole bill for expensive restaurants etc… I can assure you I am a generous and loving person, what I do have I will share and I can provide for my partner in every other way including putting food on the table and petrol in the car.
    Would I be deemed tight and not worthy of a second date because I cant afford to pay for an expensive date?

  42. At the end of a recent first date I called for the bill only to be told the lady had already taken care of it. I have to say it made me very uncomfortable

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