Why Men Shouldn’t Pay On Dates (Not Even The First!)

2012 October 16
by Kyle Bumpus
from → Commentary

This topic is a hornets nest, but considering I’ve already caught flak for my article on why women should buy their own engagement rings, I might as well kick this one as well. This article isn’t meant to be argumentative or negative in any way. L Bee wrote a post about how long she’s been a prostitute (sorry guys, pretty sure she was being facetious with the title, but it made you click, didn’t it?) and there was a pretty good discussion in the comments section. It was also civil, which is pretty rare on the internet. On that note, I’d like to keep this friendly. No bashing allowed.

I’d like to be clear: I’m not going to defend anybody out there calling the “dating for dinner” types as exemplified by this Jezebel article ”gold diggers” or “prostitutes” or anything like that, because that’s mean and uncalled for. You can disagree without calling names. We’re all adults here, right?

“Dating For Dinner” Is Wrong

By “dating for dinner” I mean any person (male or female) who goes on dates merely for a free meal with no intention of pursuing anything else and are dishonest about that fact as laid out in the Jezebel article linked above. If you tell potential dates upfront that you’re just interested in a meal and/or a drink and some friendly conversation and you don’t intend to pursue it any further than that, more power to you. I suspect almost nobody is that honest, of course, but I’m sure it happens occasionally. To me, this deception is unambiguously wrong. There’s an almost 100% chance she hurt more than one man with her exploits. That’s not okay. Actual gold-digging, though? That’s perfectly acceptable. At least you’re being honest.

But what about when guys lie about wanting a relationship when they really just want to hook up!?!” you might protest. It’s a valid complaint. I condemn that as well, but two wrongs don’t make a right. Besides, I’m not so sure this happens nearly as often as one might think. I’ve seen statistics thrown around that as many as 6 of 10 (and by that, I mean I saw it exactly once in the post I linked above) guys on dating sites are just there to hook up. I doubt that number. I have a far more nuanced theory on what might be happening there, but it doesn’t really belong on a site about personal finance. Ask me if you’re interested. Maybe I should start a dating blog.

So yeah, I think even if we can’t agree that “dating for dinner” is wrong, we can at least agree it’s a pretty shady thing to do. Nothing controversial there, in my opinion. If you can come up with a coherent argument for why this is not only morally acceptable but even commendable, I would love to hear it. Please leave a comment! Now on to what is controversial.

Why Men Shouldn’t Pay On Dates (Not Even The First!)

There are a lot of obvious arguments on both sides of this one. I won’t rehash those, but what I will do is attempt to refute a few of the most convincing (and most common) reasons people give for preserving this heinous tradition.

Argument: It’s tradition!

On the face of it, this would seem to be an easy argument to toss aside; however, I think it has some merit. Tradition is an important thing to people. A shared tradition helps us feel connected to each other and to the past and makes us feel as though we belong to something larger than ourselves. It gives us a cultural identity, and that’s unbelievably important. However, that in itself isn’t a valid reason to reject change. Traditions that no longer serve a useful function to society should (and will eventually) die out. It doesn’t have to happen all at once, but unless you can point out some meaningful societal value the tradition of men paying for dates holds, you don’t have much of an argument, not even on the it’s tradition!  grounds.

Argument: Men still make more than women for the same work, so men should have to pay for dates

The first part of this argument is true: on average, men do earn more money than women for the same or similar work. Unfortunately, the second part of the argument doesn’t follow from the first. The existence of a gender gap is a societal issue. While it’s true I am a part of the society perpetuating said injustice, it doesn’t follow that I’m personally responsible for rectifying it. After all, you’re part of the society as well. By that logic, wouldn’t you be at least somewhat responsible as well? This line of reasoning will quickly devolve into name-calling and hand-waving, so I’ll leave it at that. I like women. I think women should earn equal pay for equal work. It’s not any individual man’s fault (unless that man happens to be your boss, but stay with me here) you earn less than he does. Expecting him to pay for your dinner just because he’s unwittingly part of some greater inequality-generating machine is unfairly holding him responsible for a wrong he can do nothing to change. That strikes me as immoral and as I pointed out above, two wrongs don’t make a right. But then, I don’t actually believe most women who make this argument really believe it holds much merit. There’s a lot of injustice in the world. It sucks, but it doesn’t necessarily mean every member of some group owes you something. Feel free to work towards bettering society, though. I’m all for that! Let me know if you need any help. Just don’t expect me to pick up dinner in the meantime.

Argument: But he insists on paying! He turns me down even with I offer and he will feel like less of a man if I don’t let him pay.

False. Let me tell you what’s actually going on the vast majority of the time. If a guy is on a first date with a girl he likes and she offers to pay, he will usually turn her down. Most women assume it’s because he actually wants to pay because he’s a “gentleman” or some other such nonsense. The real reason he turns you down is that he thinks it might be a trap. At that moment, he’s thinking “if I take her up on the offer she’ll think I’m a cheapskate or that I see her as just a friend and I don’t want to send the wrong impression or etc etc etc.” It just catches most guys off guard, so they will naturally wave the offer away. I promise you, if you explain that yes, you really are just more comfortable going 50/50, that it doesn’t in any way impact how you feel about him, and explain your reasoning, 95% of the time the guy will happily let you. You’ll score major triple extra awesome bonus points. He’s also going to tell his friends how cool you are, so you’ll have an in with them before they even meet you.

Argument: But I need to impress women with my financial resources so they will want to spend time with me!

Nobody puts it exactly that way, but that’s the gist of the whole “guy insisting on paying for the first date” thing. The thing is, it’s dead wrong. If you’re awesome, any sane girl is going to go out with you again whether bought her a fancy dinner or not. And if you aren’t awesome, no amount of fine dining is going to get you very far with the kind of woman you’d actually want to date (actual gold-diggers excluded). If you’re the type of guy who thinks he has to impress a woman on a first date, I urge you to instead use that money to go out and actually do something to make yourself more intrinsically attractive to women. Travel the world, take salsa lessons, learn a foreign language, join a sailing club (they are surprisingly cheap!), have adventures, and generally turn yourself into the kind of guy people actually want to spend time with because, you know, you actually have cool things to talk about. I’ll let you in on a secret: women like interesting men! You’ll get far more second dates being interesting and not paying than being boring and springing for that $200 bottle of wine. That will be $197.95, guys.

 Argument: Well I just like it when guys pay. I don’t need a reason.

This is really the only valid argument, in my opinion. Just tell it like it is: you like it that way. There’s no need to justify yourself to me. Let me ask you a little favor, though – please don’t call me a cheap bastard just because I choose not to date you. I’m not cheap, I just have differing opinions.

What do you think? Should men always pay on the first date? I’m especially interested in opposing viewpoints.

Note: Personal attacks and misogynistic slander will not be tolerated in the comments. I’ll just delete you without acknowledgement, so don’t bother.

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17 Responses
  1. 2012 October 16

    All great points. I think your last point is the best. It’s fine for a girl to expect it or not to expect it, and equally fine for a guy to not want to date a girl who expects it if he differs in opinion. I am loving the dialogue this topic is creating! I must say, the insistence of paying can get annoying. As a server myself, even men argue over the cheque with eachother ALL THE TIME. It’s awkward for us and probably everyone else at the table, because each one insists strongly on paying. It’s a weird cultural thing where many men feel the obligation to pay, even when taking their own male friends out. And they get upset when they don’t get to pay. Maybe they feel “less manly”? Or like they now owe their friend? Or don’t want to look cheap? It’s all silly, whatever the reasoning. Especially since where I work, pretty much everyone is rich so the actual money doesn’t mean much to any of them anyway.

  2. 2012 October 16

    I don’t think men should always pay. I haven’t dated in around 7 years (been with the boy for that long) so I can’t say positively how I would feel. I would most definitely try to pay for myself though.

  3. 2012 October 16

    What makes me laugh is that you have women who fight about womens’ right, equal pay, getting into Augusta, and things of that nature but there is NEVER anyone putting up an argument for equal dating rights/roles. I happen to believe that gender shouldn’t matter in anything, but for the sake of the argument if a woman is good enough to earn as much as her male counterpart, why isn’t she good enough to pay for the first date? For that matter, why isn’t she good enough to make the plans or buy the ring and propose? Yeah it may be a bit extreme, but it makes the point: why fight on some points but not all of them?

    Hell, I would love for a woman to be confident and strong enough to come up and offer to buy me a drink or invite me to dinner and pick up the tab. I could care less what others may think about my manhood, it would just be nice to be on the other end for a change.

  4. 2012 October 16

    You should move to Scandanavia. That dream is a reality there, my friend!

  5. 2012 October 17

    great article on paying or not on your date. but sometimes it doesn’t hurt paying if you find someone really nice.

  6. 2012 October 17

    Coming from a slightly different perspective:

    I often have business lunches / business dinners with people I’ve met through networking and industry events. The majority of those are men. And I always make a grab for the check, in part so I can be respected as a colleague and equal.

    I find that about half the time, I’ll pay at the first meeting; the other half the time, they will. I always take a mental note if they grabbed the last check, so that I can grab the next one.

    But again, that’s a reference to business meetings. I haven’t had experience in the dating world in years.

  7. 2012 October 23
    Opinion permalink

    This is purely my thought processes as a girl. It isn’t that I think a guy should pay, it’s that usually when a guy really likes a girl, he will make the effort to pay for dinner. Therefore, I use whether or not a guy pays as a measure of how much he really values our date. This is just from personal experience: if a guy is willing to spend money and does not push for physical contact, he likes you. If a guy is willing to spend money and does push for physical contact, he may be “paying for sex.” If a guy is not willing to spend money and does not push for physical contact, he’s probably just looking to be friends. If a guy is not willing to spend money and pushes for physical contact … he’s a poor and horny college kid.

    So obviously, the best case scenario I’m looking for in a dinner date is the first option: guy pays and does not push for physical contact. It probably means he likes me, wants to get to know me, and values our time together.

    That’s why a guy should pay. I’m guessing I’m not the only girl in the world who has the same mentality.

  8. 2012 October 23

    Fair enough, except guys know most women think that way and some will use that knowledge for manipulative purposes. Speaking for myself, if I pay for you and don’t push for physical contact, it’s because I DON’T like you and you probably won’t get a call.

  9. 2012 October 24

    I actually hate this whole topic because I find the whole thing awkward. It’s not something I want to bring up pre-date and say “so who’s gonna pay tonight?” I mean if I barely know the person I’m going to look like I’m up to something asking that question.

    I always try to go by the rule that if the guy asks me to go, I expect him to pay. If I ask him to go I pay. It just seems simple and less awkward to me that way.

    But sometimes yes I do just like it when guys pay.

  10. 2012 October 24

    Here’s the problem with the whole “the person who asks should pay” thing: the guy does the asking 95% of the time! It’s easy to advocate that when you only have to pay 5% of the time. And if pigs fly, I’ll take you on a vacation to Paris. It’s easy for me to promise these things when I know it will never happen!

  11. 2012 October 26

    I think there is a big difference between civil equality and social/dating equality. What attracts a man to a woman and a woman to a man are fundamentally different things. We are genetically programmed for the man to be the provider and even though that has changed with the times, our baser instincts still respond to a man showing that he is a provider.
    We think this is a really interesting topic and would some people to contribute their opinions and stories here: http://wotwentwrong.com/blog_posts/139-love-and-money-a-troubled-relationship

  12. 2012 October 27

    I’m gay…so the guy pays 100% of the time. Haha. I wish splitting the tab would start to become the social norm, both gay and straight. It just seems to make the most sense to me. There are no expectations to see the person again solely because they spent money buying you a meal. Splitting the bill is guilt free for both parties. It’s win win.

    I look at it like this: A nice meal costs around $80, so $40 per person. Would you feel comfortable buying a person you’re going out with the first time a present that costs $40? I wouldn’t. “I just met you and I bought you a watch. Enjoy” Is there a difference between spending money on food and spending money on something else?

    I think one person paying for a meal should be reserved for long after the relationship has flourished.

  13. 2012 October 30
    MRWriter permalink

    For the last 10 years I’ve done it all: Dutch, he pays then I pay the next (whatever) or I pay the majority of the time. That’s been my experience. And what I’ve discovered is that men DON’T appreciate the woman when she does genuinely offer, contribute and/or pay. They act entitled. So for all the men out there whining about how women are gold-diggers? Really? Think again.

    The new curve ball that has me spinning is that I do “treat” even in the very beginning, I offer (first meet & greet). And, yes, men are taking me up at hello. These men are all too happy to also accompany me to shows and events I get free tickets for because of my job. Do they reciprocate? Yes, by cooking and I don’t mean Lady & the Tramp romance…I mean cooking a casual meal, watching TV and being only 10 ft from their bedroom. Huh. No dinners out. No nothing. If you finally want to go out and suggest something, these men then take the stance of “You’re asking them out” so I pay. You do what they want to do and it still might be 50/50.

    Now where does that start to be taking advantage? The men cook and I had one guy this summer ask me to stop at Trader Joe’s with a grocery list and of course I paid. Did he ever take me out to dinner? Coffee, yes. I’m not sure how restaurants are even staying in business.

    A decade of nothing but men offering to cook (I wash the dishes in exchange) but if we do anything outside of that, it’s on my dime. I just dumped a cheap bastard for saying he loved to take walks around the neighborhood with me but when we turned the corner and I suggested we have a coffee, he had no compunction about standing back, hands in pockets and letting me pay for the cappuccinos. I let it slide. After all, it’s just coffee. I took him to dinner and drinks. I paid. We walked past a gelato place right after dinner and it was a nice night so I said we should share a gelato and sit outside. He’s was all too happy but he also ran to the bathroom after I ordered. I paid. My friends wouldn’t even do that.

    So how did he reciprocate? When I was at an event on his behalf (there to benefit him in his career) we had a 3-hour window to go to dinner. I mentioned I was hungry. He fiddled with his phone but put me off. When we left he said he’d warm up something at his place.

    Is this romantic? Love how he got all put out when my career interfered with him seeing me. He complained about that even though I’m having to work so I can pay my “fair share.” How’s that for hypocrisy? I adore how he hit me up at an event “You wanna buy me a drink?” I think it’s so neat how when he was hungry he moved heaven and earth to get fed and then took my $5 to cover my portion of the meal. He bought me In and Out and said “I could get him next time.” Wow! I’m swooning!

    And he’s not alone. He’s maybe the worst offender in my last decade of moochers, cheapskates and assclowns but they are all pulling these nasty tricks. I went into the dating world (after a two-year relationship with a credit destroying mooch) at 26 prepared to pay but also to be treated. It would go both ways. Not anything fancy on either side. I thought mistakenly that a good man who saw I wasn’t out for his wallet would relax and we could have a fun time without me having to say “Let’s go somewhere” and then act like, well she asked me so I pay. This is from “boyfriends.” What men do now is not offer much in the way of anything and then if the woman offers, she’s on the hook or at least it’s 50/50 which isn’t as bad but kinda sucks when they want the woman’s time, body, empathy, emotional support…and won’t shell out a dime. Show me the equity there? I feel hosed, used and broke.

    Happy 10 years to me and the new game that has now turned me off forever from paying my way, or his way ever again. Men just like the trollops are abusing this and in every instance of what is a manipulatively cheap man — they were stingy in other crucial areas too. I booked.

    So, while I agree with your philosophy, please respect and understand that men are also taking this to ugly new levels. My girlfriends are also complaining of this new epidemic. I have girlfriends who work 60+ hours a week to pay the bills with their live-in boyfriends who work part-time and has money for their toys but nothing significant to contribute. They admit that they started the relationship Dutch and now they are being Dutched to Death.

    The pendulum swings both ways. I thought I had run into a rough patch but no, men want EVERYTHING all on their terms and the quickest way I’ve found now is to see how liberal and “equal” he is with his wallet and what he contributes. I know I don’t want to be married to any one of these cheap SOBs

    BTW: Cheap bastard I sited from. Yeah, his wife paid for everything in their marriage until she had enough. He still won’t own his responsibility so once this attitude is ingrained it sticks. Contempt, disrespect — that’s what being a selfish, stingy cheap man earns. Short-term, fine. Long-term…oh, boys are you every borrowing trouble.

  14. 2012 October 31

    I’m not exactly sure what you’re trying to say here other than “some people are douchebags.” Yes, that’s true. Not sure what that has to do with this article, though.

  15. 2013 January 25
    Lin permalink

    A man who is interested in a woman as more than just friends should offer to pay for meals. It is a symbolic gesture – like a caveman brining home hunted game – saying that I am will to do the work necessary to provide for our future family. The same way a woman who is interested in a man should offer to do household chores like cooking, cleaning, etc. This is in preparation for the compromises they will have to make when they have children. Unless the couple is truly comfortable with reversing their roles… A 50/50 split is usually uneven just cause a man can never carry a child inside his body and be drained of the energy and nutrients necessary to produce a whole separate being. Osteoporosis is predominant in women for a reason.

  16. 2013 January 25
    Lin permalink

    Equality does not mean financially equal. It means an equal partners in a relationship and in maintaining a household. It’s not we split the dinner 50/50, we split the chores 50/50, we split the bills 50/50, we go to work 50/50, we spend time with family 50/50, we spend time with friends 50/50… That is the most ridiculous notion I have ever heard. Don’t people know that the sum equals more than the halves combined…

  17. 2013 January 25

    That’s pretty sexist.

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