Who Pays for the First Date? Turns Out No One Really Knows Anymore

Remember that one time I wrote about how millennials hate dinner dates?

Well, now there’s more information that further solidifies the fact that first dates are absolute dumpster fires and should be avoided all together.

Have you ever been sitting at a dinner table across from the rando you matched with on Tinder, feeling your palms sweat as the server places the bill right in the MIDDLE of the table?

Do you do “the reach”? You know, that sneaky move where you pretend like you’re going to grab your wallet, but you’re actually hoping your date insists on footing the bill?

Sometimes the reach works, but according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, it’s not as reliable as it once was.

We’re Going on More Dates, and It’s Getting Expensive

In traditional etiquette, a man is responsible for paying the bill on a date. Surprise, surprise. It’s no longer 1822, and traditions are no longer the norm.

The Wall Street Journal reports that easy accessibility to dates is starting to blur the lines when it comes to who pays — and it’s making stuff incredibly awkward in the process.

According to the article, online dating has changed the dynamics of the dating field.

Now that it’s easier to get a first date, more people are going on them, and it’s burning some big holes in their wallets. The article gives examples of dates in New York City or San Francisco that total up to $130. Someone who goes on three dates a week could spend more than $20,000 a year.

The high costs are putting pressure on men and women alike when it comes to paying for dates.

According to the article, women are now reluctant to do “the reach” because they may actually split the bill or cover it in its entirety in the end.

I’m not saying it’s terrible that a woman would ever responsible for paying for a date. If a gal wants to foot the bill, by all means, she should do it.

The real point I’m making here is about the people who don’t initiate the date. Are the ones who are asked on a date still somewhat responsible for paying the bill?

This is where it gets weird.

The article quotes Jaclyn Suchta, a woman who was asked out on a date on her 18th birthday. As she and her date got to the ticket counter, “her date looked at her blankly for several uncomfortable moments, until she ponied up cash for both tickets, plus popcorn and sodas.”


Another young woman, Alex Paull, went out on a Tinder date and didn’t do the reach because her date invited her and picked the place.

The result? She got home from the date with a $20 Venmo request for her share of the bill.

No, she didn’t pay it.

Why are We So Confused?

Theories are mixed as to why no one knows who should be responsible for paying for a date these days.

One theory is that women don’t want to come off as “gold diggers,” so they don’t do the reach.

On the other end of the spectrum, though, is a theory that the differences in gender equality should be taken into consideration when deciding who should pay.

Tinesha Zandamela, a self-proclaimed feminist, told The Wall Street Journal, “There’s a huge gender pay gap. The least a guy can do is pay for a date that he initiates.” Some men think if they do pay for a date, they’ll fall into stereotypes. To “embrace what they consider to be a more progressive view on gender roles,” they let the woman pay the bill.

When it comes down to it, there’s one thing about all of this that just doesn’t add up for me.

One of the most talked about characteristics of millennials these days is how open they are when it comes to talking about finances.

Sure, maybe you don’t want to talk credit scores and 401(k) balances with your rando Tinder date, but if talking money isn’t taboo for millennials these days, why bother beating around the bush about it?

Maybe we should be a little more transparent with each other before we order the lobster.

Just sayin’.

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.