When You’re On a First Date, Who Pays?

Let’s say you’ve met someone intriguing on one of the various dating apps, and you’ve agreed to meet up at a bar or coffee shop.

Who pays?

I’d be willing to bet that an answer immediately popped into your head—in my case, it was we both do!—and that you have plenty of ways to justify that answer.

The problem is that there are ways to justify pretty much all the answers. (Yes, including the “man always pays” one.)

The Why Oh Why podcast spends its most recent episode asking a bunch of people who should pay for the drink on a first date. Nearly every possible answer is discussed: both people should pay, the person who asked should pay, the woman should pick up the check to see how the man reacts, etc. Host Andrea Silenzi presses her guests to give detailed rationale for their preferred answer, and we learn that different people prefer the “man always pays” answer for different reasons:

  • Men offer fewer romantic gestures (and/or emotional labor) as a relationship progresses, so get it while the gettin’s good
  • Men like treating women
  • Women earn less than men do, so men should pay to make up the disparity

(You can probably guess which of those three answers was provided by a man, and which were provided by women.)

The point of the podcast isn’t to solve the “who pays” question, though. Silenzi explains that, since so many people have so many different opinions about this, you can use it as a way to figure out whether the person you’re first-dating shares your values. You don’t need to make a big deal out of who grabs the check, but you can use it as a data point: is this person likely to be compatible with me?

So. Who should pay for the drink on a first date? And would you turn down a second date if the person on that first date didn’t agree with you?

This story is part of The Billfold’s Money and Relationships series.