First date: Who pays?

How to negotiate the tricky art of picking up the tab

Most of us are old-fashioned traditionalists when it comes to paying on a first date. Men are expected to break out the cash; women are expected to break out a grateful smile.
A recent poll by National Savings and Investments (NS&I) reckons that men are so keen to pay on a first date that they’ll go into the red to fund it. But another survey by Moneysupermarket.com found that more than a third of women prefer men who are frugal with money.
What do you think? Should a man be generous or frugal? We asked real men and women for their views.

What the men said…

Rob, 32: “I like to pay on a first date with a woman. If I’m honest, it makes me feel like a strong, confident gent. James Bond wouldn’t expect a woman to buy the drinks! If I pay, I think she’s more likely to want a second date.”

Dan, 29: “The survey where a third of women say they want a ‘frugal’ man is total rubbish. It’s like when they say, ‘I like a man with a good sense of humour’ – yeah right! All women want a rich man they can sponge off.”

Harry, 22: “In my experience, girls want to split the bill. Maybe it’s an age thing? Fine by me – I’d never insult a girl by buying all the drinks, haha!”
 

Paul, 35: “I went out for dinner with a woman a couple of weeks back, and as soon as the bill arrived she vanished to the loo. I paid because she obviously expected me too, but I thought she was rude. I didn’t ask to see her again.”

Pete, 55: “I was brought up to be polite and pay for dinner. It shows the lady that you’re interested. And if I didn’t pay, it would reflect badly on me.”

Ben, 29: “When I go on dates I assume we’ll go halves. A good relationship is a friendship too, so you’re equals. The man should only pay more if he earns loads more than the woman, and that’s never the case with me!”

Rob, 32: “Once you’re in a steady relationship I think you should take turns to pay. Or if it’s someone’s birthday, the other person should pay as a treat. It’s not really about what sex you are.”

What the women said…

Lisa, 38: “I’d love to be taken out by a rich man, of course! But most men aren’t rich, and I don’t want someone going overdrawn just so he can ‘be the man’ and buy me dinner. You’ve got to be realistic. I don’t mind splitting the bill.”

Valerie, 35: “My husband’s brother flits from girlfriend to girlfriend, showering each girl with pressies and then being dumped when she gets bored with him. I think he makes women feel overwhelmed with his spending. He’ll buy a brand new girlfriend expensive jewellery and restaurant meals. He had to sell his house and rent a flat because he couldn’t afford the mortgage.”

Bonnie, 28: “I like frugal men. If a man shows off with cash on a date it makes me nervous. I’m quite careful with money, and I don’t want to prop up a boyfriend who keeps getting into trouble because he’s got a spending issue.”

Sarah, 33: “If it’s true that a third of women like frugal men, my tightwad ex must be fighting them off. I think not. You can keep your stingy blokes, I want a rich one next time.”

Sophie, 26:  “I feel like a prostitute when a man won’t let me pay halves on a date. It also makes me feel a bit insulted. I work really hard for my money and I don’t want to be treated like a little girl.”

Hannah, 30: “I love it when a guy pays on the first date. It proves that he likes me. If he can’t treat me on a first date, imagine how tight he’ll be after a few months together!”

Jess, 25: “My heart sinks when a bloke says ‘let’s go halves’. He might as well say, ‘let’s just be friends’.”

How to get the price right

Who asked?
As a rule of thumb, whoever asked for the date should pay. If it was a mutual decision to go out – say if you met online – then split the bill.

Read a man’s body language
If the bill comes and his body language is closed and quiet, break the tension by suggesting that you go halves. But if he’s puffed up and making plenty of eye contact with the waiter, he’s trying to impress. Let him pay – and offer to foot the bill next time.

Read a woman’s body language
If the bill comes and your date doesn’t make eye contact, or she adopts a closed posture with folded arms and legs, she wants you to pay. If you’d like to see her again, get the bill. Next time, ask to go Dutch.

Be grateful
Don’t make a fuss if your date wants to buy dinner. Be gracious and accept their generosity.

Dinner does not mean sex
A dinner receipt is not an access-all-areas bedroom pass. Don’t feel pressured to sleep with someone who buys you dinner, or even to see them again if you’re not keen.

Going Dutch isn’t a rejection
If a man suggests going halves, it doesn’t automatically mean he doesn’t like you. There are many other factors at play. Maybe he was brought up to see women as equals (lucky you), or he’s broke (not so lucky you).

After the first date, go halves
Once you’ve started seeing each other, split the bill or take turns.

Birthdays are different
If it’s your birthday and your partner doesn’t treat you to dinner (or at least cook it), dump the tightwad immediately.