Should You Date a Guy Who Doesn’t Pay for Dinner?

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pay for dinner

The rules of dating have really changed over the past few years. Now, people are getting married much later in life when they are more established financially. Because of that, there tends to be a bit of confusion over who should pay for dinner on a date since many women feel they work hard and can provide for themselves.

There are some places in the world where the answer to this question is easy. Take, for example, where I live in the deep South. If a man didn’t pay for your dinner on a date here in south Louisiana, your family would assume he was from somewhere else. He would not be considered a good catch, and your mama would wonder what his mama was thinking when she raised him. Welcome to my world.Β (Editor’s note…being from the South myself I couldn’t help but laugh as it’s definitely true.)

However, because I’ve had the great opportunity to live in a variety of different places, even outside of the United States, I’ve learned many more perspectives on this issue and have met women who simply want to pay for their own meals, simple as that.

Over time, here’s some of the data I’ve gathered about when women believe it’s okay for a man to pay for dinner:

1. If He Insists on Paying for Dinner

Many women today don’t automatically assume that their date will pay for their dinner. In fact, it’s pretty common for friends of mine who are dating to offer to pay for their part of the meal. It’s a nice, polite gesture, and the response is always really interesting. Most guys will insist, especially if it’s a first date. Some guys will accept, and some guys will act offended that their dates even offered. There doesn’t seem to be a general consensus on this one, but most of my single friends will graciously allow a man to buy their meal if he insists on doing so.

2. If He Extended the Invitation

Many women today don’t wait for guys to ask them out to dinner. If they like someone, many of them will go ahead and ask themselves. I’ve heard from a few friends that the person who extends the invitation should pay, whether they are male or female. So, if a nice gentleman extends the invitation for dinner and makes the reservation, I would assume it’s okay for him to pick up the check.

3. If He Believes in Old Fashioned Values

Again, using my example of growing up in the deep South, I know there are many men today who were raised with old fashioned values. They would never even dream of having a woman pay for her own meal, regardless of how successful she was or how much money she made. It’s not about being more dominant than her; it’s just a polite gesture that comes from his upbringing.

So, to answer the question posed in the title: Should you date a guy who doesn’t pay for dinner? I admit that I personally would be taken aback if a guy didn’t offer on the first date, but once you get to know someone and date for quite a long time, it really doesn’t matter who pays. Luckily, I don’t have to dabble in the world of dating, and I’m glad because it sure seems more complex than it was 8 years ago when I met my husband. πŸ˜‰


Dating is always a fun topic to debate, especially when it intersects with money, so please share your opinions in the comments below!

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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families.


  • On the first date I think the guy should pay (I guess I am old fashioned), but after that it should be more even. The only reason I wouldn’t pay on the first date is if my date was really upset that I was paying for her.

  • I like the “who asked is who pays” rule. I think that’s a more appropriate rule of thumb in today’s world. That said, if I was still in the dating game I would offer and likely insist on paying. Not really because I’m old fashioned, but just in case she expects me to offer and if I don’t I look like a loser. πŸ™‚

  • I think I would be a little taken aback if a guy didn’t offer to pay on the first date (providing he had asked- I’ve never been the one to take the initiative to ask, so I have no idea how I’d feel in that case). I wouldn’t say anything, but it would leave a certain impression with me- I guess maybe I’m old-fashioned too. But after the first date, I think alternating who pays is fair.

  • I think guys should pay for dinner on the first date and at least the first few dates. If you stay together then I think it’s okay to have a conversation about possibly splitting bills and the guy not always paying for the entire date. I think it makes sense for the guy to pay initially, though.

  • I would always sincerely offer to pay. The only times I would insist on paying is if the date was bad and I knew there wouldn’t be a second date.

  • Ha! I am like you, dating seems so far away, and I am glad that I do not have to think about things like this anymore, but back when I was dating, I definitely at least wanted the guy to offer to pay. I didn’t think about it then, but now I realize it is because you have to be a team in a relationship and if he is not willing to participate in the team from early on, it will not get better over time.

  • Pauline says:

    I always offer to pay, but if he doesn’t he should pay for the next. If I pay again, that’s a goodbye. Unless he is a broke student and I purposefully choose a place out of his budget that I want to go to, then I pay. Otherwise even if it is just ice cream, he should pay.
    Over the long term I balance things out but I like to alternate, not split every time.

  • I guess I’m old fashioned and I live in NH! I can’t see not paying especially on the first date

  • Grayson Bell says:

    I have always paid on the first date or even when I invite them out. That said, I don’t have to do that anymore as my wife and I just pay for each other out of our joint account. There are times when I will pay from my account like on her birthday or our anniversary.

  • Even though times have changed, I think the man should still pay for the first date. Although my question is would you date a gal who never pays for dinner?! It’s fine for the guy to pay in the beginning, but I’d be leery of a girl who always expects that and never even offers to treat. For the first date, most times the girl “offers” to pay but doesn’t put up much of a fight about it. That’s fine.

  • Michelle says:

    I haven’t been on a date in forever, so I don’t know if my opinion really matters since I haven’t been in the situation haha. But I do think that whoever asked for the date should pay.

  • Kurt says:

    I have always offered to pay on the first date. However, if she does not at least offer to pay by the second date; my rule was that there was never a third date.

  • Michelle says:

    Unless I knew his financial situation (i.e. we were friends), I probably wouldn’t date him again if he didn’t at least offer to pay the entire bill.

  • E.M. says:

    I have tried to split the bill on the first date before, but generally the guy offers to pay anyway. I asked my boyfriend to the movies but he was nice enough to pay =). I agree that splitting is fine after a few dates.

  • Alexandria says:

    I haven’t dated since I Was 18. So, I have no dating experience past those “broke college years”. But college in the late 1990s, I found men were open to splitting the bill.

    Applying that to a post-college dating experience seems to appall most people. I’ve thought it about it over the years, and it comes down to this for me. First date? I don’t know that I care or that it matters (for me). BUT, for the long run, I’ve been taught to take care of myself. & a man who can not respect that would be a HUGE red flag as far as long-term compatibility. In fact, I don’t think I ever dated anyone particularly old-fashioned.

    Of course, then the polar opposite is assumed. A man who doesn’t pay is a mooch. Well, let’s just say I never dated anyone who expected me to pick up every tab. I’d never go for that. πŸ˜‰

  • I definitely think the guy should pay on the first date, and maybe even the second. But, the further along you get into a relationship, I think couples should start splitting the cost, unless one is significantly more economically advantaged than the other.

  • Jim says:

    In my (now done and over with – marriage will do that) dating experiences, I’ve always paid on date 1.

  • This was an interesting article. I had no idea so many women viewed paying for the first date was cool. If I have to pay for the first date…..that will be the last date. I think I am a women up with the modern times, but somethings and values need to stay vintage.

  • Mark Ross says:

    I think that the guy should pay for their dates, especially if it’s their first date. Paying for it in their first few dates is fine if you really want to impress her, and when the time that they get to know each other more comes, then the two of them can start splitting the cost if only the girl is okay with that.

  • I always assumed I’d be paying for the first (few) dates, but if a she insisted on paying or splitting the bill on a first date I wouldn’t be too prideful or old-fashioned to argue over it!

    • Haha that’s not a bad plan. She can’t get mad if she offered!

      • Becky says:

        I see it a little differently.. I always offer to pay my part of the dinner, but if he gladly accepts, then it’s a red flag for me.

        The guy I just went out with for the second time works in finance, while I am still trying to work my way through school. I offered to pay my half both times and he actually looked more than happy to split it evenly. I think it’s a little cheap of him, but I thought he was a nice guy, so I went out with him again (although I am a little uneasy about it).

  • I’m from the South as well, so I guess I’d kind of think they guy was cheap is he didn’t offer to pay. I’d probably want to pay my share after that, but thank goodness I don’t have to worry about rules like that anymore!

  • I’ve always thought the guy should pay, which seems more acceptable in practice than it does when I’m typing it out. I don’t know if that means I’m just old fashioned, or terribly out of touch. But there it is. I don’t think Mrs. Done by Forty paid for a single meal during our courtship. πŸ™‚

  • I would expect my date to offer, just as I would offer. If he offered, I think I’d be fine with whatever the outcome is. Somebody with old fashioned values wouldn’t be for me, because that often translates into inequality in a relationship, and equality is something that I personally value a lot.

  • Maybe it’s just that I am much younger than many of other commenters, but I think this archaic tradition of a certain gender paying for food, drinks, or anything else, even on the first date, is remarkably outlived. To be entirely honest, I am surprised to see an article discussing this type of topic on Frugal Rules, but oh well.
    Personally I let people who make more money than me pay if they wish to do so. Otherwise I sometimes pay for friends, but mostly we split the bill.

    • John says:

      Thanks for the comment Heidi! I’m going to let Cat handle the “tradition” aspect of your comment and I’ll handle the part of why it’s on the site. Most of the longer term readers of the site know I like to have posts from time to time that spur discussion around topics related to money and get us to think. This is one of those topics and one that there is a variety of opinions on and thus a lively discussion. πŸ™‚ While not directly related to frugality paying for meals out, whether on a date or otherwise, is an aspect of personal finance and therefore belongs on the site.

    • Hi Heidi! Thanks for taking the time to comment! Oh I definitely think the tradition is getting more archaic in certain parts of the country especially for people who are older and dating, but as I was chatting about in the post, it’s definitely not “remarkably outlived” here in the deep south. Not at all! πŸ™‚ Anyway, it was just a fun topic to talk about really. I’m always interested to hear different perspectives and appreciate you sharing yours. πŸ™‚

  • I’ve always been the kinda girl to take care of the bill πŸ™‚ I always offer to pay on the first date. I guess it’s my way of saying, “You don’t have to take care of this girl!” LoL. My husband and I met in college and back then, I was always fine splitting things down the middle – we were both poor college students. I think the deal-breakers for me back then (and they still are) were doing the gentleman stuff – I do love that my husband still opens the car door for me and I found that out on our first day πŸ™‚
    I do agree, I am glad I don’t have to deal with the whole politics and rules of dating anymore.

  • Alex says:

    I believe the gesture of a man paying for the first date or two is commendable, yet there is an undertone of inequality and could make the lady feel uncomfortable. From a man’s perspective, it’s difficult to fathom what the individual lady would prefer and there is a kind of weight of responsibility to still be gentleman-like.
    Not that I would know anything around the subject since I don’t go on dates πŸ™ heh.

  • When we were dating – I always bought dinner
    Now I’m married – I often “forget” to bring my wallet out with me

  • Debs says:

    I was recently asked out on a second date. He said ” May I take you out for dinner”? I Just assumed he was taking me out and paying! I was very wrong and it was awkward when he said at the till lets go halves. Of course I quickly got my money out. I wouldn’t have minded he was drinking alcohol and I wasn’t as I was driving. Right or wrong this really turned me off! If he had stated in the beginning lets grab something to eat, then I wouldn’t have assumed. I always offer to pay on subsequent dates and in the past have insisted, saying “This is my treat”. There won’t be a third date πŸ™

  • Nate says:

    I sort of view this whole, “I’m the man and have to take her out to dinner, and pay” mentality as nothing more than a consumer behavior model created by the industry that wants to take your money, regardless of who is paying. I venture to say restaurants and cafes make a lot of their revenue this way( I personally think there are better options but that’s just me). Many men, but not all, will likely choose a nicer place to take a date, and he probably doesn’t want to seem cheap, so he’ll end up paying more. Even a man with the best intentions still wants to be a bit showy if he has the income to do so, or even if he doesn’t really have the income to do so. To some guys that also builds an expectation from the girl, or guy (I’m not sure if this works the same way with other sexual orientations, but I assume it does – I don’t really know). My question is this: if I am just getting to know this woman then why am I going to spend what might be considered a lot of money on a date with her? Am I paying for her company? Is this placing pressure on her? Besides all that, simply going out to dinner or coffee has become a bit cliche and boring. Yeah, you can sit there and talk, but there are other things two people can do on a date than sip over priced coffee during what is essentially an interview, being that it’s a first date. If someone is in the city there are plenty of events and venues that don’t cost anything, and if they do it won’t break the bank, and you can still get to know someone while hopefully having a good time. I really hate being corralled into thinking there are only two alternatives: to pay or not to pay. There are other options out there for a fun date that do not require a man, or a woman, to shell out a lot of cash. In my experience, most, if not all women, want to feel loved, cherished, respected, and beautiful. It doesn’t take a big pocket book to do that.

  • Mike says:

    I’m going to go against the grain here and say that a guy shouldn’t necessarily pay on the first date. I believe that in these modern times if women want to be seen as equals they should expect to be treated as equals. If a guy is paying for her then there is some kind of expectation set right away. The hidden message here is that the man is still the provider. It’s one of these archaic things that doesn’t want to die and men are just as guilty of not letting it go as women are. People will say “whoever asks is the one who pays.” That’s all well and good but who is usually doing the asking(even these days)men or women? And are women still really expected to pay even if they ask the guy out? I think it should be split evenly as much as possible. All that being said I still understand this is an unpopular opinion(even among many men)so the solution for me personally is to not make a big deal of the first date and just get coffee. That way if I don’t pay no big deal and if I do it’s only coffee again no big deal. I also came up with something(that I never heard anyone else say)and that is I would ask her if she could contribute some of the bill(assuming it’s dinner)without paying for the full amount or even half(just helping out to show she’s not in it for the free meal). I don’t know if I would ever have the nerve to do this though and it would probably be more or less the equivalent of having her pay. The bottom line is I would know I found the right woman when she doesn’t expect me to pay for her(especially in the beginning). People have to find what works for them though and not sacrifice their values(or as little as possible)regardless of what they are. It’s also maybe not a bad idea to discuss it before you go out with a person so there’s no confusion or awkward moments when the check arrives.

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