First date question: Who pays? The new rules and standards of dating — and paying


You've swiped and emojied, texted and 'liked'. Maybe you've even — gasp! — talked. It's time for the real deal: a date

Question is, how much cash are you willing to drop to impress? And who is going to pick up the tab?

First date norms are changing.

Dating rules of chivalry and traditional gender roles have been upended by a more egalitarian approach to dating, because, well, feminism.

LGBTQ dating also tosses "the guy pays" schtick on its ear — what if there are two men? Or no men at all?

Gay couples have, according to a survey, found a pretty clear rule of thumb to determine who should pay: 62% of LGBTQ respondents say the person who initiated the date should pay.

Other couples should take note. Straight men and women continue to struggle with the awkward, pocket-book "reach" and the "no I'll get it" dance around paying for a date.

Here's where the "rules" stand today — and how to navigate your way around gender norms and modern expectations.

How much does a typical date cost?

The average amount spent on a date depends on whom you ask. Figures vary widely, are largely self-reported — and entirely unscientific. But they are helpful as a guideline.

For example Paint Nite, the evening out art-spot, did a survey that found we spend an average of $43.50 on the typical date and an average of $20,000 over our dating life.

GQ pegs the cost a little higher. The magazine says the spend depends on your age or life stage: If you're in college, you might spend $50 to $100, and any one beyond that should be looking at $150 to $250 for a night out.

Yet another poll of men and women says that men spend an average of $80. It also reports that guys who spent three times as much — $240 or more — on a date increased their chances of being in a serious relationship by 34%. Men who plunked down less than $80 were more likely to be a sexual player. 

This information comes to you courtesy of, a dating site where men can actually — in 2016 — bid on a woman. Men name the price they'll pay to take a woman on the site out and and if she's up for it, off you go. 

Dating is really all about economics, writes founder Brandon Wade on the website: "Dating is about supply and demand, quality over quantity... We know what it takes to capture the attention of a beautiful girl, but after that first date, the rest is up to you."

That puts, perhaps, too fine a point on the cost of a date. But the site pitches itself as a place to be honest and upfront about what exists in the dating space already. Sigh.

How much should I actually spend on a date?

How much you actually shell out will depend on whom you're taking out, where you are going — and what expectations have been set up. 

A low-commitment coffee date to weed out weirdos? Call it even. 

An actual, "I'm really looking forward to this and want to impress him/her," kind of outing will cost more. 

And if you're in a place like New York City, it will cost a lot more: The average NYC date — two movie tickets, two drinks, two cappuccinos, and dinner for two — sets spenders back $174, according to a study by Zoosk, the online dating site. The least expensive night out, the study says, is in Indiana, where that same date costs only $83.

While you might want to impress on the first date, once you've gone out a few times, dropping lots of cash can start to be a drag.

Dan Nainan, a standup comedian in New York City, told U.S News and World Report that he had to have a very direct conversation with a woman he dated.

"Two weeks into our relationship, I sat her down, and I said, "We have been going out for two weeks, and in that two weeks, you have not offered to pay for a single thing. Not for dessert when I buy dinner, or the tip or a ticket on the subway, anything. Therefore, from now on, if you still want to go out with me, You have to pay for half of everything. If we go to a restaurant, you pay half. If we go on a trip, you buy your own airline ticket and pay for half of the hotel and half of the expenses."

He said she immediately got up and left, but then came back and said, "Ok."

Who should pay on a date — really?

Go dutch? The asker pays? His treat? 

At least for straight couples, men still foot the bill most of the time, and women still want them to. One Learnvest survey showed that 55% of men and 63% of women agreed that the man should pay for the date. 

Other researchers have examined the idea that women should at the very least offer to pay: They found that 39% of female respondents wished men would reject their offers to pay — and 44% of women were actually bothered when men expected women to help pay.

The study found that while an overwhelming majority of straight men and women reported sharing the expenses of dating after six months, men still pay more.

For this reason, men are getting fed up, at least according to dating expert  Matthew Hussey. In one video he explained: "The moment you say to a guy, 'You have to fucking pay for my time,' you're saying, 'This relationship isn't equal.'"

Hussey argues that most successful partners acknowledge gender norms — but find their own sweet spot: If a woman goes on a date and doesn't offer to pay her share, she wasn't taught right and if a guy goes on a date and doesn't pay, he wasn't taught right, he said.

"If I was dating someone and they never offered to pay," Hussey said in the video, "I wouldn't be dating them."

His advice: Flip the script and take the romance and desire out of it for a second.

Think of your date as a best friend — which arguably you may like them to be. Would you always expect a best friend to pay when you go out? Would you put up with always covering them? It is no different with a romantic partner. 

If the dating is going somewhere, you'll want to be teammates working out who handles what and taking into account what each individual can offer proportionally.

So, as the relationship kicks into high gear, talk early and often about money, to avoid nasty and avoidable fights.