Do It Jointly

Who Pays for Dates When You Are Shacked Up

Read on for tips on keeping date-night romantic and fair when you are splitting household expenses.

You’ve just moved in with your partner, and you are getting ready for your first date night since the move. As you are getting dressed you think to yourself, “I wonder which one of us should pick up the bill now that we live together?” This is a topic that almost all cohabiting couples face.

According to a study conducted by Nerdwallet, 77.4% of people in a relationship (both men and women) believe men should pay the bill on a first date, but there is not a clear consensus on what to do when you live together.

“I’ve always been very independent, and the idea of someone paying for me every time makes me uneasy.”

I can’t speak for everyone who goes through this scenario, but I can speak from my own experience. My fiancé and I faced this issue when we moved in together. I was living in Texas, and he was in Ohio at the time. He decided to move down to Texas to start a life with me.

After Chris was in Texas and settled for a couple of days, he actually brought up the dreaded discussion. I was a little nervous about it, but after talking, we realized we shared similar views on money. We talked through all of the household expenses and made the decision that we wanted to split the bills right down the middle.

The conversation went pretty smoothly, in part because he brought it up early, right after we started living together. Still, who should pay on dates was something we struggled with since there is a considerable sway in our social norms that say men should pay. For me, this creates an internal conflict that I suspect others are also experiencing. I consider myself a feminist who carries her own weight, and I am capable of paying for myself, but where’s the romance in that?

Sometimes I do want to be “wined and dined.” So we made a decision to have date nights, and sometimes I treat for the date night, and other times he does. Usually, we alternate,  which has turned out to be a system that works well for us.

We decided on this approach because I’ve always been very independent, and the idea of someone paying for me every time makes me uneasy. And also, we think it’s fair. The fact that we have similar incomes played a big role in our decision.

However, our terms are flexible.  When I was laid off from my job, my fiancé picked up the slack and paid for both of us. And if the tables were turned, I would do the same. The reality is there is no one size fits all solution. And while we happened to see eye-to-eye on this issue early on, it can lead to much heartache if couples have different perspectives.

Why Couples Struggle with this Topic

Here’s the thing… paying for dates is a fraught topic because societal norms heavily stem from traditional gender roles. In a study conducted by NerdWallet, 35.9% of men pay 100% of household bills, compared to 14.3% of women. Slightly more than one-third of men and women split household bills.

There is also the reality that, in America, women still earn $0.79 for every dollar that men earn, and women’s median annual earnings are almost $11,000 less than men’s. So while there is some economic basis for these norms, many people are defaulting to dated roles, as opposed to finding a finance plan that works for them and their actual incomes. It is best to just have a conversation about who pays as early as possible, to prevent fights in the future and keep things fair in your relationship.

How to Bring Up the Convo

This is a tense subject, and both parties bring expectations to the (literal!) table. Here are a few tips on how to bring up the topic with grace:

  1. Share something about your beliefs first, to open up the discussion.  For example, you can start with, “Growing up, my dad was the one who paid on all the dates. I think the idea is nice, but I don’t think the responsibility should always fall on the guy. What are your thoughts about this?”
  2. Schedule a time on a calendar to discuss your finances. This way is more formal. Start with, “I want to talk about our dating schedule and who should pay when we go out.” Make it fun! It can be done over treats, wine, whatever you both like.
  3. Just ask your Significant Other how they feel about who should pay on dates.  Sometimes it’s best to just jump right in, especially if you’re in the middle of a conversation where it seems natural. Ask your partner why they feel a certain way, to really get an understanding of where they are coming from. Is this something they feel regardless of the incomes at play, or are their feelings income-based and specific to this relationship?

A Few Ideas You Could Bring to the Table

If you are going to bring up the topic, it’s important to have a few solutions in your arsenal.

  1. Split the costs 50/50. This was the method my fiancéand I decided upon. We keep a mental check of who paid for the last date and make sure that the other person pays next. Another way we do this is the, “I fly, you buy” method. One person is responsible for being the designated driver and the other one pays. And it saves on the costs for alcohol since only one person will be drinking when we go out. (Jointly, the coming-soon app, can help you keep track of this!)
  2. Assign certain types of dates to a significant other. If you want to split the costs but don’t really care if it’s 50/50, another route is to assign a type of date to a significant other. For example, your S.O. can pay for all the movie dates, and you’ll pay for all the dinner dates. It may not be exactly 50/50 in the end, depending on what you guys like to do the most, but it makes it easy to remember whose turn it is to pay.
  3. Go the traditional route. In a study conducted by Elite Daily, 30% of women reported that they do the “fake wallet reach, but don’t really want to split” on a first date. Although this is a study based on first dates, there are still women who believe that men should pay, period. Just make sure you keep your partner in the loop if this is your preference. No fake-outs necessary!

Any talk about money is sure to feel a little awkward. But the truth is, if you and your significant other are on the same page, in the long term it will relieve stress from your relationship. It’s 2018. Isn’t it best not to default to 1950’s gender roles without at least having a conversation about what each person wants?