Dating Etiquette: “Who Pays for the First Date?”

Strategies to help avoid awkwardness when the bill comes.

How do you handle yourself when you’re on a date and the check comes?

Succeed and you can impress her without uttering a word. Mishandle this situation, however, and the date might go downhill fast.

The dilemma is further complicated because there’s no uniform “right” answer. Every date and financial situation in modern dating is unique.

That being said, there is crucial dating etiquette knowledge that sheds light on this often confusing point.

So, without further ado, here are our tips for handling the bill on a date that applies to online dating and meeting women in person alike.

Tip #1: Factor in Cost When You Pick the Venue

Picking a date venue is a major decision, whether you’ve met her on a dating app or in person.

On one hand, you want to impress her and take her somewhere she’d be interested in; on the other hand, you don’t know her at all and no one wants to spend a ton of money on a date going nowhere.

To help solve this issue, we teach our clients a mantra from the real estate world: Location, Location, Location.

Your comfort with the chosen location goes a long way in determining the value of the date to you and to her. 

Are you comfortable with the venue’s atmosphere, ambiance, and price range?

There’s no question that money plays a significant role in the comfort level you feel for your date.

You need to be honest with yourself. If you pick a trendy, expensive restaurant or exclusive club, will you be too worried about the bill to enjoy yourself?

Who pays when it’s loads of cash?

If you’re nervous about spending, try finding a venue with little to no cost to solve this dating etiquette issue. Examples include…

  • Hiking.
  • Dancing.
  • Coffee.
  • A bar for a drink or two.

If you’d personally like to start with a nice dinner on a first date, go for it! We’re not saying you absolutely can’t.

We’re just saying it’s a red flag if you want to start small but she insists on going to at an expensive restaurant. You two clearly have different ideas on spending.

Finding the right venue for your first date is worth the effort so you can enjoy yourself and your date without being distracted by costs.

Tip #2: In General, the Man Is STILL Expected to Pay

There’s a temptation to think the paradigm has shifted and women are expected to pay their fair share of the tab.

As this CNN article shows, however, a man paying the date tab is still the general convention.

It reports on a survey of 17,000 single people in which 84% of men and about 60% of women said men still pay more dating expenses.

Our dating etiquette advice to men: Choose where to take her based on financial comfort in mind. 

Then when the bill comes, be at peace with reaching for your wallet.

We recommend this because non-verbal signals intensify when the bill comes.

If you feel you’re paying too much, your face and vibe will convey your unhappiness no matter how hard you try to hide it.

As a result, she might feel added guilt that you just paid for her. Guilt and frustration greatly dampen any chemistry you’ve built.

A calm, “no problem” demeanor when paying, however, is a confident non-verbal signal.

A generality does not equal a universal rule. There are many situations when a woman will offer — and maybe even insist — on paying.

This is where your ability to read people comes into play. If she reaches for her wallet, is it a courtesy gesture or does she genuinely want to pay?

If her offer is genuine, you can tell her you’ll not refuse if she’d like to treat you to cookies later, but you’ve got this one.

This is a playful way of conceding while also taking care of her in this small but significant way.

Tip #3: What About After the First Date?

If you and your date hit it off, you’ll want to see each other again. That’s great news!

But who pays? Certainly not you every time! After the first or second date, things become more evenly split.

One common solution that evolves naturally with many couples is that whoever asks or plans an outing pays the bill.

If you’ve been on several dates and you pay every time no matter who planned the outing, you have to decide if you’re okay with that arrangement. You may or may not be.

If not, you can bring it up like this:

“Hey, I really enjoy spending time with you. One thing that’s been on my mind lately is that I’ve been paying each time we go out. I’m happy to pay, and I know everyone has different views on money in dating. Now that we know each other more, I’d personally like for the money part to be something we share, that we both do. It just feels more natural to me at this point. What do you think about that?”

This is a great way to bring it up because you’re not being accusatory. The past is all fine; it’s the future you’d like to discuss.

With talk like this, you’re not saying you want to be in a relationship (learn how to have that talk here); you’re just saying that now you’ve gotten to a point of comfort to be able to talk about these things openly.

Summary: Paying on Your First Date is Great Dating Etiquette

There’s no blanket solution to paying the bill beyond the first date. What works for one couple may not work for another.

It is, however, a vital flashpoint for non-verbal signals. Your confidence and ease during this crucial time period need to shine through.

After all, the point of dating should be straightforward: Meet people and explore a romantic connection.

By figuring out ways to keep money from muddying these waters, you’ll take a major step toward that goal.

Now, what about all the other parts of attraction beyond the scope of this article?

Enjoy! And don’t forget to grab our free ebook. It goes into depth on finding your UNIQUE attractiveness that is like no one else’s, it has become our readers’ favorite resource of all.

And if you’re looking for a dating coach for men, specifically for introverted men, then check out our Launch Your Dating Life program page. We help men from Los Angeles to New York to everywhere in between and beyond so you can all start dating women who are great matches for you while becoming more of yourself in the process.

Sarah Jones
Sarah Jones
Sarah Jones is founder and CEO of Introverted Alpha; the premier dating coaching company for introverted men; featured by Forbes, Business Insider, Cosmo, and more. Pick up your free copy of Sarah's 22-page ebook inside the blue box just below.

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