Dear Penny: Is My Boyfriend a Deadbeat if I Pay for 97% of Our Dates?

A couple look unhappy on a date with the boyfriend distracted by a text message.
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Dear Penny,

I have a boyfriend nicknamed Rocks. We've been dating for 20 months now. Rocks doesn’t ever pay for anything. I pay for all our restaurants, and that includes leaving tips. I pay for all our movie tickets, arcades, drinks and food, and parking for all events. If we go to a fast-food place, I sometimes buy him food for the next day. 

I thought I was being thoughtful. But recently I learned that he is complaining to his friends about some of the places that we eat are not good enough for him, and he was making fun of me using coupons at fast-food places. We often go to steakhouses where the bill is over $100, not counting the tip. I always pay for everything. 

I'd say I contribute 97% financially and he barely contributes 3%. I also do favors for him and fix things for him. He doesn’t do much. And yet he complains to his friends that we don’t eat at better places and his friends make fun of me. 

Rocks works from home, so he does have a job. He’s always looking for or shopping for things online. He buys lots of clothes for himself. 

What should I do? Am I being unreasonable, or is he a deadbeat that I should dump?


Dear C.,

Maybe you forgot to mention that Rocks rescues kittens and cooks six-course meals in between all that complaining and clothes shopping. But I have to draw my conclusions based on the information you provided. And the most redeeming thing I can say about Rocks is that at least he pays 3% of the time, and 3% is slightly better than 0%.

I suspect that when someone writes to an advice columnist about whether to dump their partner, it’s because everyone is screaming “Dump them already.” So they look to a stranger on the internet in hopes of getting a different answer.

Dear Penny

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Sometimes writing brings clarity, though. I’m hopeful that’s what happened as you described your relationship based on the last two sentences of your letter. But just in case you need a reinforcement opinion: No, you’re not being unreasonable. Yes, Rocks is a deadbeat. Yes, you should dump him ASAP. I don’t think I’ve ever typed the words “dump him” with greater conviction in my four years of writing this column.

You can give Rocks a few of those fast-food coupons he makes fun of you for using as a parting gift. He’ll need them since he’s about to become responsible for his own care and feeding.

One person paying 97% of the shared expenses is certainly extreme, yet the glaring problem with this relationship isn’t about money. It’s that you’re investing 100% of the effort.

I’m not sure whether you and Rocks live together. Obviously, severing ties will be much easier if you don’t share a living space. Sometimes when a live-in ex-significant other is a mooch, they’ll refuse to move out, in which case you’d need to go through the formal eviction process and possibly hire an attorney. Do what’s necessary to make the break.

Whatever you do, don’t keep in contact with Rocks. Don’t agree to stay friends. Someone who shows you such blatant disrespect doesn’t deserve a place in your life.

The good news here is that you’ve invested only 20 months of your life in this guy, not 20 years. But still, I worry that without clear boundaries, you’ll wind up dating a Rocks by another name in the future.

Splitting expenses 50/50 may not always be feasible in a relationship. Not everyone can afford $100-plus steak dinners. If that’s a splurge you enjoy and you want to treat your partner, that’s fine. But at the very least, look for someone who matches your energy and effort. Could you count on that person to drive you to the doctor if you were sick or water your plants if you’re out of town? Do they use their words to build you up or bring you down?

It takes time to get to know these things about a person. So don’t give a potential partner the opportunity to mooch. Avoid expensive dates at the beginning. Focus on getting to know each other instead.

If ever you wind up in a relationship where you’re paying a disproportionate share of expenses, do so only after you’ve had a discussion about finances. It’s one thing to foot more of the bills if you’re financially secure but your partner is paying off debt or building their emergency fund. But if you’re picking up the tab so they can shop more, that’s a much different story.

You can date someone rich, or you can date someone poor. But if your partner makes it clear that they don’t value you, cut them out of your life.

If you have more than $1,000 in your checking account, make these moves.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].