The First Date Debate: Who Pays and How Should They?

A friend started a discussion on social media surrounding the age-old topic of who pays for the first date.

Several women, many of whom were Millennials, commented that they don’t really care who pays. But a majority of those who partook in the conversation, including men, expressed that a man should always pay, especially for the first date. The latter somewhat surprised me, but I found that this logic is not uncommon. In fact, it’s pretty much standard.

 

CNNMoney‘s Janet Lever, a professor of sociology at California State University, Los Angeles and David Frederick, an assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University, surveyed over 17,000 people while studying relationship trends for many years. Their research concluded that “over 75% of men report they still feel guilty accepting women’s money” when it comes to paying for the first date.

Now, this conversation seems to be more prevalent for people who are in the early stages of dating and who are not officially dating yet (because once you’re a couple, it doesn’t really matter who pays for what, as long as you’re alternating). I refrained from providing any comments on the aforementioned social media thread; however, I firmly believe that whoever asks for the date should pay. So if a woman asks a man out, even for the first date, she should foot the bill. It’s that simple.

Professor Frederick thinks that how a person pays for a date can determine the inner workings of a future relationship.

“How they decide to pay on a date can be a good signal of how they think men and women’s roles should work in the relationship,” he said.

How true is this though? Can the financial logistics of the first date really foreshadow a relationship? If so, that wasn’t the case for me when I entered into my first serious relationship.

During a first date to the movies with my high school boyfriend, I remember taking out my wallet from my purse upon being told the price for tickets. My then-boyfriend said quickly, “No, I got it. You don’t ever need to bring your wallet out when you’re with me.”

I was impressed. I was so impressed that I included this small bit of information when detailing the date with my mom and she, in turn, was impressed (perhaps she was more impressed due to his effort to take on such financial responsibilities at a young age). However, that was one of the few times that he actually offered to pay for anything. I mean, the dude didn’t have a job so I don’t know what made me think he could really keep paying for dates. We were in high school so my dating options were low, anyway. Nonetheless, I can’t help but think that his initial attempt to dole out money to cover the date was to impress me or exercise chivalry. It didn’t continue.

But that was high school. Many years later, people are still having conversations about who pays, but nowadays, it’s also a discussion about how you pay.

One woman was ridiculed for tweeting a few weeks ago, “If a dude uses Groupon on our date, I will kindly walk out.”

I could respect her opinion, but thought to myself, “If she has a problem with the ways in which a man pays for a date, then she should always be prepared to pay herself (although I’m sure that’s highly unlikely).” To me, this was a petty gripe that seemingly judges a man for wanting and knowing how to be frugal.

I say all that to state that the conversation continues, but with new technology, it changes. Not only is Groupon a part of the who pays and how do you pay discussion, but so is the new wave of online payment systems, including Paypal and Venmo, and the argument for going Dutch. With so much emphasis on the monetary aspect of dating, it’s no wonder people are having a harder time on the dating scene. It’s tough trying to focus on getting to know someone on a date when you’re worried about who is actually going to pay for it.

Who do you think should pay for the first date?