Who Should Pay on the First Date? Modern Dating Customs Explained

Should the guy pay on the first date? And should the woman offer regardless? Or, is it best to split the cost fair and square down the middle?

If you’re gearing up to go on a first date after it’s been a while, you’re probably experiencing a few first-date jitters. For example, what will you wear? What will you talk about? And perhaps most importantly, who should pay on the first date? 

The topic of paying on a first date can be an awkward one. As if talking about finances wasn’t uncomfortable enough, now you have to sort out who ought to pay when you’re only just meeting each other for the very first time. And throw in some gender norms, old-fashioned ideas of courtship, modern dating etiquette, and the gender pay gap for good measure, and you’re probably more confused than ever. 

Of course, if you were going on a first date in the 1950s, you’d expect the guy to cover the tab, but it’s 2023, and the lines and expectations have blurred when it comes to the modern dating world.  

So, who should cover the bill during a heterosexual date? Should the guy pay on the first date? And should the woman offer regardless? Or, is it best to split the cost fair and square down the middle? 

The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer. In fact, men and women seem to have varying opinions regarding who should pull out their wallets on the first date. 

But don’t fret; we’re here to help you navigate this tricky topic. Follow our guide below as we answer some frequently asked questions about paying on the first date to help you find the best course of action when it comes time to pay the bill. 

Should the guy pay on the first date?

If we turn back the hands of time to years ago and look at traditional dating etiquette between a man and a woman, this wasn’t even a question. It was expected that the man would cover the cost of the first date—no questions asked. 

However, it’s important to remember this was also an era when the average woman didn’t always have a job or often made far less money than the average man. Therefore, men were typically more financially stable with more disposable income. This, paired with the idea of chivalry, gave men the wherewithal to pay on the first date.

Although the gender pay gap still exists today (in 2022, women continued to make 82 cents for every dollar earned by men), plenty of women make good money. In fact, many women make more money than men these days. Modern-day women are more financially independent than ever before, and some find it empowering to pay the bill. 

But even with these advancements and changes in society, many men and women still expect the man to pay on the first date. 

According to a recent survey of 300,000 American singles, 64% of men believed it’s the man’s responsibility to pay on the first date, while 46% of women agreed. This data suggests that even though it may be considered old-fashioned, many men and women assume it’s standard and perfectly acceptable for a man to pay the bill on the first date. 

Should the woman offer to pay on a first date?

While it’s a nice gesture, it appears most men don’t expect the woman to pay on the first date. In fact, that same survey revealed just 2% of men would like the woman to foot the bill, with only 5% of women saying they’d prefer to do so. 

Some men appreciate the woman making an effort to pay and see it as an attractive trait, but there are some out there who are still offended by the idea of it. You might even come across men who feel insecure or even emasculated at the mere thought of a woman paying for them (which could be a potential red flag).

That all being said, we don’t think it hurts for the woman to at least offer to pay, even if their date refuses. 

What about going Dutch?

Splitting the bill 50/50—or at least suggesting to do so—seems to be a happy medium as it shows that you’re both equally invested in the date. You’re both coming to the table and equally contributing, which could be a great sign if you’re looking to build an egalitarian relationship together. 

However, while we’re all for equality, it appears some men still aren’t on board with the idea of going Dutch. According to the survey, only 7% of men believe couples should go halfsies on the first date. Meanwhile, 18% of women were all for it. 

Whether you’re a man or a woman, if you feel more comfortable paying your portion, simply ask your date if they mind sharing the bill. 

Are there other considerations? 

Depending on who you ask, some will say the person who arranged the date should pay. According to this mindset, the person who did the asking is inviting that person out as their guest and, therefore, should cover the bill. 

So, if you follow this school of thought, then it could be the man or the woman who pays, depending on who asked who out. 

Are there different opinions when it comes to LGBTQIA+ couples? 

As for the LGBTQIA+ community, gender isn’t the deciding factor when it comes to who picks up the tab, as it appears many align with the “you invite, you pay” rule mentioned above. 

If we look at a recent survey of LGBTQ individuals 18 years and older, 62% believe whoever initiated the date ought to pay. But that doesn’t mean they’re opposed to splitting—of those surveyed, 44% preferred to split the bill.

So, what’s the verdict? 

Well, according to the data, it appears that more than half of all men and nearly half of all women still expect the man to reach for his wallet on the first date between a heterosexual couple. 

With that said, in this modern dating world, everyone seems to have an opinion, which means, anything goes! If you’re dreading when the bill comes around, consider breaching the subject with your date. If you feel strongly about paying your way, suggest splitting it 50/50. Or, if you’d prefer to pay the entire cost, ask if they’d mind you covering it. 

At the end of the day, if you foresee a relationship with this person, it’s best to learn how to have uncomfortable conversations from the start. Not to mention, if the relationship is meant to be, whoever winds up with the first bill shouldn’t make a huge difference as there will be plenty more opportunities to take turns paying down the road!

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