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I’m buying.

I dated Girl Ninja for 3.5 years before I popped the question. During those 3.5 years we went out to dinner at least once (usually twice) a week. Since we didn’t live together, and we were both relatively busy, dinner together was the easiest way to guarantee some quality time. I’m just ball parking, but I’d guess we ate out about 300ish times together during our dating years. Some meals were cheap (Rubios) and others weren’t ($190 valentines dinner). Wanna know how much all those meals cost Girl Ninja? Probably about $100.

And thus brings today’s topic: Who should pay for dinner when on a date?

Personally I’m a big fan of chivalry, and part of that (to me) means picking up the tab…every single time. Can it be expensive? Sure. Is it a great way to show your significant other you like to provide for them? Abso-freakin-lutely. I could afford to pick up the bill, so I did. Not because Girl Ninja expected me to. Not because I felt like I had to, but because I wanted to. Nothing more, nothing less.

That said, I know that not everyone shares a similar belief. The other day I had a lady friend tell me that her boyfriend rarely offers to pay the whole bill. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for her to pick up the tab instead. She was wondering if that was a bad sign.

Do I think it is weird for her to want to be provided for? Heck no. But I also don’t think that it’s fair to expect him to pay the bill. Would Girl Ninja like it if I opened the car door for her every time we drove somewhere? Probably, but I wasn’t raised in the south and often forget that opening the door for a woman is a sign of respect and love.

I don’t open doors and my friends boyfriend doesn’t pick up the whole dinner tab. Neither of us are horrible people, but we both have some work to do to become the husbands/boyfriends these women deserve. It’s a continual learning process!

Now that I’ve had my few moments to preach, I’m curious to hear your thoughts…

Men: Do you pay the whole bill when you go on a date? Once you get in a serious relationship do you continue paying the bill every time? Do you think women should pay their share? What does chivalry mean to you?

Women: Do you expect to get a free meal on a first date? Would it bother you if your boyfriend asked to split the bill every time you went out (let’s assume said boyfriend is financially stable and able to afford it)? What does chivalry mean to you?



  1. Yes, a man picking up the check on a first date is nice. I appreciate that. But if dates are a regular thing, I would prefer to trade off who treats or otherwise make it more even. My now-husband and I were undergraduates when we met and then went straight to graduate student stipends (where we still are) so on our equal, small salaries I didn’t think he should be burdened with paying for both of us all the time. Once I graduated from college I didn’t want to feel that my lifestyle was being subsidized by anyone else – my parents or a boyfriend.

    I guess I would say that chivalry itself isn’t important to me but the concepts behind it, of male leadership and being the protector/provider, are something I buy into – AFTER marriage.

  2. Before I became a bitter dog lady and gave up on dating, I always showed up prepared to pay. If the guy wouldn’t let me, I would at least insist on paying for coffee or dessert afterward. I don’t like the feeling of owing someone, and I never wanted to give the impression that I expected a guy to pay for my food. But I also didn’t make it weird if he wanted to pay.

    In a regular dating relationship where both parties have jobs, I agree with Emily – taking turns is a must, unless one person makes significantly more money or something. I think chivalry is admirable, but in real life, I always thought it was better to be in a relationship because I _wanted_ to be, not because I depended on that person’s money. Apparently that’s a huge turnoff for guys, which is why I am now cynical and entering my third year of being single. Thanks for letting me whine for a minute. 🙂

  3. Like Emily, my husband and I met while in college so our budget was definitely limited. We did some eating out and I believe that we shared costs for most dates. If we did something bigger, like a weekend trip with family, he paid for those. For the most part, he planned for those and so he budgeted accordingly.

  4. When I went on dates it tended to be “dutch” unless he explicitly stated it was on him; generally, I’d ask. Sometimes it would be he got the tab, I got the tip, and if I initiated I expected to pay. After being through several major relationships that, when we got serious, I was suddenly the expected bread-earner and resented for being so, I am seriously rethinking how that works myself. I don’t want to be militant, either way – but really don’t know what is chivalric and proper anymore.

  5. I haven’t been on a first date in forever, but I would expect everything to be even. I wouldn’t expect him to pay, maybe whoever asks the other to hang out?

    • I agree. Whomever initiates the first few dates should be the one to pay for those. After that, I think it’s more of a trade-off.

  6. I would pay for the first date because I was probably the person who made the plans. Once things got a bit more comfortable we would either alternate or whomever made the plans would pay. I totally don’t mind paying for things, but I do not like it when it is expected of me or that someone feels entitled to a free whatever…

  7. Expecting the man to pay is a holdover from the Leave it to Beaver era when women were not supposed to work or have independent incomes. Now that most women work, I see nothing wrong with splitting the bill, so long as both parties are comfortable with that arrangement.

  8. I’m with you Ninja, and I always paid when I first started dating my girlfriend. I probably pay about 75% of the time and my girlfriend pays the other 25%.

  9. My boyfriend & I have been dating a little over 2 years: the first year, he picked up the tab. The next year, we started splitting, and I was okay with it but didn’t think it was romantic. We just got a place together a few months ago, and agreed that if I paid rent, he would buy all of our food – so we’re back to him always picking up the check. (Occasionally I will, if I make him go out with me!) I have to say after doing both – even though we’re both breaking even now – I much prefer being *treated like a lady* when we go out. It makes my lady finance brain happy.

  10. Both my wife and I were in college when we started dating. My budget for dating was small. I had to be very creative. Once a week I was invited over her home for dinner. We spent additional time together and it made my budget go further. It helped that she was in college relatively nearby and came home every weekend. Women can reciprocate by cooking dinner or fixing a picnic. Males can cut expenses by cooking dinner and other inexpensive creative dating.

  11. For the first date and the several that follow, I think the man should pay. Once my husband and I were more serious and knew we were getting married, I would offer to pay for myself or opt for cheaper options.

    And as far as opening the car door goes, if it’s convenient, that’s fine and dandy. But if the guy has to go out of his way to go to girl’s side of the car, it just seems unnatural and kind of goofy to me. We are very capable!

  12. I have always been a bit old fashioned, so I will always attempt to pick up the tab. However, my girlfriend sometimes tells me “don’t worry, I got it”. Some guys may feel intimidated or even offended by something like that, but to me it shows me my girl appreciates it when I pick up the tab. I think the man should always offer to pick up the tab, but every once in a while it’s great to have the woman treat the man.

  13. My boyfriend and I of about 2.5 years (not living together) tend to alternate who pays for casual expenses – dinners, movies, that sort of thing. For our ski trips or other big expenses, we alternate who pays for hotel lodging or tickets and things, and we keep a shared spreadsheet (called “the tab”) where we figure out whose turn it is to pay and every few months we’ll even up. It helps with one-way expenses – if we’re out shopping and one of us forgets a wallet and the other pays for purchases that are exclusively for the forgetter’s use – or if we’re splitting expenses with other people on the trip too.

    I would expect whoever asked the date to pay for the first date, or, if it was the girl, to at least offer on the first date. On my second date with my now-boyfriend, I insisted on splitting the check because I wasn’t sure whether I liked him at the time and I didn’t want to feel like I was taking advantage of him. However, if he wanted to split the check *every* time, I’d get annoyed, just because it’s a pain for the server. (I do notice he tends to order more drinks when it’s my turn to pay, though…)

  14. I like to pay for myself. That way I can order what I want and I don’t have to feel guilty over the price. I’m not sure I believe that whoever asks to go out should be the one paying. I find that eventually those people stop asking to go out and wait till you do it so they don’t have to pay.

  15. Okay I’m probably not going to win the popular vote but I believe a man should mostly pick up the tab for his date especially the first couple of dates….I’m old fashioned like that…….that being said my husband as of 25 years ago never had to pay for anyone else’s meal but mine. He was a smart man and I was a lucky gal! and he got lucky because I was a frugal gal sometimes we would just go out for chips and salsa and stare in each others eyes, or we would have picnics up on the mountain top in West Virginia……and I do believe in exceptions if both kids are in college……or both people are struggling etc….my husband and I had lots of movie nights with my home made beefaroni but it was true love 🙂 by the way Mr. CBB sent me over here!

    • Ditto. I’d never go on a date again with a man who asked me to pay on the first date. I too am old fashioned in this way so it would be a total turn off.

      That said, I do pay for dates when it’s my treat. There are also dates where we stay home and I cook dinner or we just find something low cost to do. Dinner dates here in the DC area can get expensive when you’re a foodie LOL!

  16. I prefer to split the bill on the first date, and that the man pick up the tab on the second date or after a few dates. I don’t like it when the man buys the meal on the first date because then it feels like you owe them something. It’s better when they buy your meal because they love you and the gift has meaning.

  17. Also, my bf of 7 years and I have a rule that whoever invites the other person out to dinner pays the bill. We’re trying not to eat out as much so this keeps us from wasting money that way – and makes treating each other special when we do.

  18. Ehhh he paid for a majority of our dates. We started dating in college too, but he had a job and always wanted to pick up the tab. I’m glad we ended up together because he would have lost a bunch of money if we didn’t!
    He often jokes that he was too far into it to back out of our relationship. He couldn’t imagine starting over with another girl lol.

  19. What is chivalry? First if all, a bit archaic!

    It’s “the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms.” How’s your dexterity in arms, Ninja?

    The idea of the male paying for everything is also a bit archaic. For a first date, I’d say, whoever asks, pays. Maybe same (with roles reversed) for the first few, then split either 50/50 or pay-for-your-own, unless it’s a birthday treat or something.

  20. I don’t mind going on a cheap date, exploring a part of the city or hanging out in a park, but if we go out, I expect the guy to pay. I am ready to pay for what I had and will always offer to, although I think the guy should invite me. And pay for dates he offers, while if I suggest trying a new place, I generally buy.

  21. I could go either way, really. When I started dating Greg, he usually paid. Once we got serious, he went back to school and I paid for almost everything. Then we got married and it all became our money anyway.

  22. We split everything 50-50, occasionally he’ll pay but then I always pay for the next thing. We both make roughly the same income and are the same age (23), why the heck would I expect someone else to pay for me? That’s archaic.

  23. I think it’s dangerous to lump everyone together and say that men should always pick up the tab. My partner did for the first little while we were dating but now, we make similar amounts of money and therefore we both tend to go 50/50. We’ve been together for almost 6 years and it’s worked for us. I would never assume that the man should pay on the first date because it’s not 1950 – but I would expect him to offer, just as I’m sure he’d like me to offer.

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