Apr 6, 2009

Combining Finances: Starting to Date

This post is the second post of a series on Combining Finances.

When two people begin to date, money is often the last thing that they want to talk about. However, money can also begin to cause a number of problems early in the relationship that may not be able to be repaired unless they are quickly and properly addressed.

When a man and a woman go out on a date - who pays? For a number of decades, this was not even a question that ought to be asked. The man would take the woman on the date, and he would pay for the meal, or the movie, or the drinks. Alongside equal employment and wages, however, came a shift towards equal payment on dates. A man and a woman would go out on a date, and they might each pay for their own meal. Or, they might take turns paying for dates, switching between them in order to simplify the dates. No longer can a woman assume that her boyfriend will pay for all of their dates.

Addressing the "who pays for dates" question is one that should come up early on in the dating relationship. It's not the only question that will arise, and its not the only one that must be answered. What happens when one invites the other over for dinner? Does one pay for all the food, and is that going to be reciprocated?

When Ashley and I started to date, we spent the majority of the time at her apartment. My apartment was shared with two other guys, so space and privacy was severely limited. However, that meant that we also spent a lot of the time eating out of Ashley's fridge and cupboards. We had to address if I would bring my own food, if I would feed her, or if she would feed me. I think we both felt the desire to keep it somewhat "fair", but establishing what is and isn't fair becomes and incredibly complicated procedure when you also include who does dishes or cleans up after.

My advice to those that are beginning to date is to talk openly about financial expectations. Your greatest chance for success is going to come when you are able to establish who is paying for what. It is going to be uncomfortable, but a lot of conversations that you have are going to be awkward. Avoiding awkward or uncomfortable conversations is just going to prolong and worsen the situation.

Talk about:
  • Dates (how often, who pays)
  • Food (where, what kind, shared or individual)
  • Commuting (where are you going to meet, hang out, is it farther for one person? does only one of you have a vehicle? will the other share gas costs?)
As it is with so many other things in life, taking action now will reduce the potential for pain later. Establish how you're going to go about dating, financially, and you'll reduce the chance for missed communication and misunderstanding.


  1. I will definitely take this advice next time I'm in a serious relationship. I tried a bit of it last time, but we were young and not very good at awkward conversations.

  2. Great pointers Alan. I think alot of it comes down to expectations. Is the girl more old fashioned and still expects the man to pay? Does the guys expect everything to be split down the middle? What about the nature of dates? Does the guy expect to wine and diner her with hundred + dollar dates? Does the girl expect to put on some sweat pants, watch a library rented movie, drink malt liqueur, and jump the guy for a make-out sesh before scene two?? Is that girls name Alicia?? ;)

    Expectations, communicate them

  3. Jeff - the ability to have awkward conversations is crucial. And don't worry about them being awkward, or being terrible. They will be, especially at first.

    Adam - Expectations are key. Figuring out what those expectations are (a lot are subconscious) and then coming to terms with them (aka compromising, and probably lowering) is an uncomfortable but necessary step in anyone's relationship.