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First date etiquette: How much should you spend? Who should pay? And can you talk about money?

By Emily Mee, Money team

Money isn’t the sexiest topic on a first date. 

No one would say the best part was when their date leaned over, looked into their eyes and said: “Shall we split the bill?” 

So if you want to save awkward vibe killer conversations, it might be worth thinking about money before you even set out for your date.

Can you talk about money?

TV presenter and dating coach Anna Williamson told the Money blog: “Typically as Brits we’re brought up to not talk about money – but I think there is a real sweet spot around being open and transparent in a respectful way around finances.”

If money is tight, she suggests the best way to make sure you’re not caught out is to take hold of arrangements, casually suggesting something low cost such as coffee, a museum, or a walk.

Just don’t get into this situation

Sexual health and relationships educator Lalala Letmeexplain agrees, and says low-cost first-dates avoid situations like this…

“I went for a first date with someone I’d never seen or met before and we booked in for a three-course meal. Right from the starter I knew that I didn’t fancy him and it was such an awful situation to be in because I was like, ‘Shit, we’ve got to get through the main and dessert’.” 

Who should pay – the do’s and don’ts

As much as society has moved on, the old-fashioned view that, on heterosexual dates, the man should pay lingers on. A 2019 survey conducted by online dating site Elite Singles found 63% of men believed they should be the ones to pay on the first date – and 46% of women surveyed agreed.

If you’re not expecting a second date, Lalala says it’s often considered fair to split the bill – but if you’ve “got a bit of a vibe going on” and want a second date, you might want to suggest paying. 

She adds that although there is no “hard and fast rule”, she would take a man’s offer to pay as a hint he is interested. 

“If he’d paid for me the first date, I’d be more than happy to pay the next time,” she adds. 

But while it can be flattering for someone to splash out on you, those who pay shouldn’t create a situation where “the other person feels that they are indebted or that they owe them something”. 

“If someone spent £200 on the first date and you didn’t ask them to and it’s completely their choice, are you then put a position where you feel like you have to sleep with this guy or see him again because he’s gone all out?” she says. 

“Be honest – don’t let somebody splash out on you if you know you don’t want to see them again.” 

There is no objective answer here

Lalala says the question of how much you should spend on a first date depends on who you’re talking to. 

“I think you have some people who feel like, ‘if you’re going to take me out on a date, I want to see you’re invested in that – that you’re buying me dinner or whatever’ – and then there are other people who are like, ‘You really don’t need to spend a penny and I’m absolutely happy to just go for a walk’.” 

According to a Sky News poll for the Money blog, the majority of people (40%) believe it’s reasonable to spend roughly £20-50 between two people on a first date. 

Another 39% say it’s reasonable for people to spend £50 to £100 (the total cost for both parties)…

You can listen to Lalala Letmeexplain’s podcast It’s Not You, It’s Them… But It Might Be You for more dating advice and tales here

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