Dujanovic: Who pays for the date?

Jul 4, 2024, 6:02 PM | Updated: 6:04 pm

dating at her age cohosts caitlyn johnston and debbie dujanovic stand side by side...

Editor’s note: This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

SALT LAKE CITY — It was a pristine day on the water — crisp, sunny and the creatures were biting by the dozens.

This was the date of my lifetime. The two of us on a river with a professional coach to teach us the finesses of fly fishing.

What I didn’t realize, until our guide floated us back to shore, is that my credit card balance was about to swell by $1,000.

If dating was a catch-and-release program, I’d taken the bait. I got stuck paying the entire bill for that date.

Related:  Johnston: Real human connection feels unnatural. I want to change that

It’s funny how an experience like this can pack one’s brain with a flood of questions: who pays on first, second, third, fourth dates and so on? How do I make sure to not get caught in an expensive trap again? Should we have ironed out an equitable payment option, like splitting the bill down the middle, before we set off on our fishing journey?

One woman’s opinion: the person who asks, pays

In our new episode of Dating at Her Age, my cohost Caitlyn Johnston digs her heels in: “The person who asks the other person out on the date pays.”


I think her approach is reasonable and easily applied for the first few dates. Yet, for me it didn’t shake out that way.

He’d asked me to go fly fishing and I paid the bill for both of us.

Most men feel obligated to pay

A Nerd Wallet survey published by CBS News, suggests 78% of men feel it’s their job to pay for first dates. Men, it seems, shoulder tremendous pressure to finance outings like dinner, movies, and bowling.

It surprises me that many women, 68%, also feel it’s a man’s responsibility to pay for the date.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but I, in fact many single women I know, recognize we are in an era no longer steeped in traditions of yesteryears, traditions that say a man asks and a man pays.

Related:  Dujanovic: Introducing the “Dating at Her Age” podcast

I don’t think a man always has to be the one to ask me out, nor should he be obligated to bankroll all our fun.

If a relationship takes flight, yet one or the other is always stuck with a tab, dating can feel more like a financial drain than a road to romance.

Applying Caitlyn’s Wisdom about who pays

Applying Caitlyn’s advice, whoever asks should pay, here’s a few lessons I’ve learned.

After the first few dates, as awkward as it is, I prefer to talk it out.

But before you get there, if you get there, keep early dates inexpensive. I like meeting for coffee for a host of reasons and among them is that a coffee date for two is affordable for the one who did the asking.

If there’s a spark, level up to lunch and then dinner. But stay aware that life is pricey, and one person shouldn’t be perpetually saddled with dishing out piles of dough for every dinner date.

As for the person who didn’t do the asking, and won’t be picking up the meal tab, please refrain from ordering filet mignon flanked with shrimp and lobster tails.

Baked chicken will suffice.

What happens next?

Within a few dates, as early as the second month of consistently seeing each other, we should be opening a door for honest talk about expectations — what’s financially reasonable and what’s not. For many, it’s simply not reasonable to fund expensive dinners, high-priced concerts, or lavish trips for a newly minted relationship that might not make it to next weekend.

Who pays and which experiences get split shouldn’t be shrouded in mystery. Dating isn’t a guessing game. A critical component of a solid foundation in any blossoming relationship is having honest discussions from the start.

I’m not suggesting you present each other with your tax returns at this point. But saying, “I like you, and I want to see you more, it’s just that $200 dinner dates once a week aren’t in my budget,” is okay to say.

“How are we paying for this?”

There’s something that’s not okay. I was so smitten that this man had tapped into my adventurous spirit and asked me to book a fly fishing trip, I didn’t ask an obvious question.

“How are we paying for this?”

When the fish were caught our guide returned us to shore.  And an inevitably awkward moment was upon us. Or more specifically was upon me.

Because I had booked the trip and my credit card was on file, I agreed to pay the entire tab. I wanted to avoid a public discussion of how to divvy up the fees. I took the path of least embarrassment and never approached him for his half.

And I abruptly promised myself to never wind up in that same position again.

What should I have done?

Discussed it beforehand and insisted we split the cost. He pays his half. I pay my half.

Although he’d asked me, this is one of those times I hadn’t applied Caitlyn’s wisdom, due to the expense involved.

Not long after I footed the bill for the most expensive date I’d ever been on, I got the call. He wasn’t as into our relationship as I was. Our short-lived time together was done.

Like I said, if dating were a catch-and-release program, I certainly took the bait.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that I learned two lessons that day. One, there’s beauty in fly fishing. And two? Cut bait before I find myself on the hook for another pricey date tab.

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Dujanovic: Who pays for the date?