Who pays when you go on a first date?

It’s always been a thorny issue but the debate about who pays on dates is becoming more relevant than ever given the rising cost of living.

Even before prices skyrocketed, it was a hotly debated topic of who is responsible for paying for the first and subsequent dates. Ask for opinions on the matter on who pays the bill, and you’ll hear plenty of different responses. Some believe it’s firmly in the man’s ballpark to pick up the tab for the first meeting. For others, the notion the gentleman should always pay the bill is outdated. In a recent survey, 78% of respondents said they think men should pay for the first date, with men more likely than women to think it’s a man’s role to foot the bill.

Another view is you navigate the conundrum by ensuring you always split the bill. It’s even further complicated by those who think responsibility falls to who did the asking out, believing it’s the person who initiated the date that should pay.

Things aren’t made easier with the escalating cost of living, which is leading to some single people cutting down on the amount of dates they go on. A separate survey found 40% of people aren’t dating as frequently due to the financial burden associated with a night out. 

So how to you tackle the situation when you are (hopefully) enjoying a night out together? You can gauge how the other person feels about it by asking them if they mind if you pay on this occasion or asking them how they feel about splitting the bill down the middle. It’s also best not to just assume your date will pay. First dates can be confusing enough without a tense back-and-forth about who pays, so usually it’s polite to offer to contribute after somebody has offered to pay, but graciously accept if they turn down your offer.

As the cost-of-living increases, you may want to set boundaries as you continue to get to know each other. Make sure you are both on the same page about what you can afford to avoid a scenario where one person feels they are struggling to keep up with the dates you have planned. Casual drinks can have a different date etiquette, with rounds making it easier to sort out who pays for what. This sort of night out can take the pressure of facing a bill at the end of the night out and having to decide how you’ll deal with it.

Perhaps a good way to swerve the issue is to suggest cheap date ideas, which are rising in popularity as an antidote to the rising cost of a night out. These days it’s not unusual to suggest a picnic in the park, or a chilled walk with a takeaway coffee in hand. Some single people want to be sure a date will be worth the financial outlay before committing to an expensive meal and drinks. A low-key first date can help you decide if there may be a connection there before you arrange more fancy date night which costs a lot more. Nobody wants to be left with a big hole in their pocket because of a date which didn’t set the world on fire.

It is good etiquette to be conscious of what your date’s budget before suggesting an expensive night out. There are other benefits to a modest date idea, whatever your budget. With the pressure being taken off with a low-stakes activity, you may feel more relaxed, and it can sometimes be a better way to judge the character of your date. You may find it useful to carry out an element of pre-screening before meeting for a date by leaving voice notes and having a few phone calls to ensure you are curious to find out more about each other before committing to a date.

While there may not be right and wrong answers, it is clear it really pays to be mindful about how your date may feel about an expensive night out when budgets are stretched. The bill doesn’t have to be a massive issue if you are prepared to discuss it and being prepared to contribute can be a lot fairer than just assuming the other person will pay. We’d love to know what you think about who pays on dates – share your thoughts over on our Facebook and Instagram pages!

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