Dear Nicole: Who Pays on a First Date?

Dear Nicole,

Who picks up the check on a first date? And what about when you’ve been dating for a while?

-Age Old Question

Who pays on a first date

Who Pays On A First Date?

Who pays on a first date seems to have gotten more complicated over time. There’s no clear and cut answer because it really depends on the person.

Ideally: Smooth Sailing First Date

Personally, I believe that the one who asks for the date should pay the bill.

If someone asks me out, and the date goes well I would definitely offer to split out of courtesy. But if my date accepted my money, I might be a little taken aback.

What would upset me is if I get asked out and end up paying the whole check.

Ideally, if the person who asked me out pays for the meal, I would want to pay for coffee/dessert or whatever the next activity is.

If there’s a second date, I’d like to pay for the bill, or if my date offers to split, it wouldn’t phase me. 

Here’s Where It Gets Complicated

If the first date doesn’t go well, then I would insist on splitting.

For some reason, if I let my date pay for the meal when I know there won’t be a second date, I would feel uneasy. 

This doesn’t mean that it’s not okay to let your date pay for the meal if there’s no connection between the two of you, it’s really about personal preference. 

Why Am I Always Paying?

Long-Term Dating

Once upon a time, I was in a terrible relationship where my ex liked to charge me for gas (I didn’t have a car or a license during most of our relationship) and he didn’t believe in splitting the bill (with exceptions).

As a poor college student, with a part-time job that only paid $30 a week (I could only work 3 hrs per week), I wasn’t keen on the idea of my turn, your turn.

At first, it was fine, but what ended up happening was that for some reason I would pay for the pricey meals.

This one time I ended up paying for a $115 meal because, in his mind, it was only fair since he had driven 40 miles to get there. Mind you; we drove to that city because he had some school project and I tagged along. And I had already paid for breakfast (at iHOP aka overpriced plain breakfast) that day.

I wanted to launch myself into the sun when I got that check.

Who pays on a first date

Paying for that expensive meal probably wouldn’t have bothered me if he had been equal about it.

But whenever we went to a place with meals that were $15+, he wanted to split the bill. Conveniently, it was always his turn to pay when we split, and he would end up paying for things like McDonald’s.

Of course, I didn’t know that this behavior was abnormal because:

  1. I was a damn fool
  2. Love makes you blind                                                                                                                              
  3. I never discussed it with anyone

And this nonsense ate away at my poor soul and wallet.

Oh, and I did discuss it with my partner but he would get mad at me for bringing it up and ultimately dismiss my feelings.

He Makes More Than Me!

What made things worse was that he was much more financially stable than I was.

He didn’t have a job, but mommy and daddy were giving him a nice monthly allowance. And let’s just say he was getting MUCH more than my measly $30 a week.

Moocher or Frugal?

There was one event that makes my ears burn as I write about it. We were at some school function and he wouldn’t stop talking about some meal he wanted from a food truck.

He went on and on about it for most of the event.

I kept telling him to just buy it. I think it was around $12-$14, but he kept whining about how it was too expensive.

After a while, I got tired and just bought it for him.


I think if both parties aren’t in agreement with how to handle paying for dates, then it’s a recipe for disaster. 

My ex didn’t see anything wrong with how we were splitting things, but it bothered me a lot and made me angry quite often.

Other people might not mind if their partner pays for most things or if they pick up the check more often, but it really depends on their financial situation.

I, a girl who was making $120 a month was buying my loser boyfriend meals and packing rice to eat at school every day.

In the end, I ditched him and lived happily ever after. 

Who Should Pay?

Long-Term Dating

I guess the moral of my story was:

  1. Don’t date a jerk
  2. Don’t date someone who doesn’t see eye to eye with you when it comes to paying for stuff.

When it comes to long-term dating, you and your partner should be open about how you want to handle stuff like paying for dates.

Some couples like to split everything, others take turns, and sometimes one person who is financially more stable than the other takes care of most expenses, etc. 

It’s all about what you prefer and what you’re comfortable with. 

Don’t be afraid to speak up. 

First Date

What Some Friends Had To Say

“I would say whoever suggested to go out on the date should pay. If I ask, I should offer to pay. If you ask, then you should offer to pay.

Once you have been dating for a while, since I believe a relationship is a partnership, there must be a balance. 

It can’t always be one person.
However, if one person makes a lot more than the person they are with and can pay for most date bills, then they should. It doesn’t mean that the one who makes less shouldn’t offer, but if you know you’re financially more stable, why not take care of the bills more?
An example of this is with one of my married friends. The wife makes less than the husband so they have this thing where the wife pays for all the groceries and the husband always treats when they go out to eat.
Maybe, I’m trying to be too perfect with this answer, but after a while, there needs to be a balance and that balance needs to be decided by those in the relationship. If they don’t agree, I think it can lead to the relationship ending.”
“For a first date, I think both should offer. I recently went on a date and took out my money, as did he. He ended up paying but I actually split the bill most of the time. I think it should be equal for long-term relationships.”
-Katherine Castillo


If you prefer not to pay, to pay, or to split the bill on a first date, then that’s fine. There’s no correct answer to this question because everyone is different.

If you’re conflicted, do what you feel most comfortable with.

Money is a very sensitive subject when it comes to dating and couples. You have to see eye to eye, for the most part, to make your relationship work.

Who do you think should pay on a first date? How about when it comes to long-term dating?

18 thoughts on “Dear Nicole: Who Pays on a First Date?

  1. Always a tricky topic! But you’re right, just go with what feels comfortable at the time – and definitely don’t date a jerk! Money is definitely one of those things that brings out peoples true colours but in a long term dating situation it shouldn’t be tit for tat!

  2. “Don’t date a jerk” I laughed out loud at that. So true! I always offered to split but I agree the person who asks for the date should pay 🙂

  3. yep that’s very well put, it is definitley an awkaward situantion and not everyone whats to talk finance but ,in order to have a healthy relationship it is a convo you gotta have .

  4. I completely agree with this! I’ve been with my boyfriend almost 3 years now and we have almost always had shots each on who’s paying.

    For the first couple of months it was him paying for the meals (we were both teenagers so we mainly went to places like the cinema with a McDonald’s or Pizza Hut or staying in with a takeaway) as he worked and I was only a student but if the bill ever came to a lot then I would insist on splitting!

  5. hilarious! Love this post. So my girlfriend & I always joke that she always conveniently pays for coffee, fast foods, or small lunches while I inevitably pay for the 5star Michelin rated restaurants. But that is ok. My mother always raised me to pay so it doesn’t phase me as a man.

    With the moocher category, I came to a realization one day that unless its a first time surprise, then you should know if you are hanging out with the moocher! Therefore, you have no right to be upset if you end up footing the bill! Why? Because you have a choice whether or not to join them in an event. Don’t want to pay the bill? Don’t hang out with a moocher. Want to hang out with a known moocher? Expect to be mooched?

  6. I’ve never given it much thought to be honest, but offer to pay regardless of who asked whom out.

  7. This is such a controversial topic. In my opinion, I think it’s polite for the man to pay on the first date. In a long term relationship, I think it depends on the situation. Husband and stay at home wife… odds are that would be the husband. Maybe a higher paid husband than wife? Husband might pay the bills and wife pays for food… However it works out, a long as everyone is in agreeance.

  8. What a jerk of a boyfriend you had,jeez! Ive always gone into a date thinking I’m paying for the whole meal. A lady likes to be taken care of. In my opinion if the guy asks the girl out, he should pay because he should want to impress her. If the lady even offers, don’t do it.

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