One big awkward aspect of dating is money. While my parents never addressed the who-pays-for-dinner question when I was getting ready for my first ever date, it is something I’ve since given plenty of thought.
When I first started going on dates back in college, the advice I received from friends was to let the guy pay; after all, who doesn’t like free food? That, combined with the fact that all students are pretty much broke, makes a very compelling argument for letting your date foot the bill. The trouble is you never know who you’re going out with until you’re actually there – will the lady or gent be civil, or not so much? Are there strings attached to that “free” meal?
I sincerely hope – and genuinely believe – that this isn’t the case with most people, but unfortunately for me, I blindly accepted a date or two’s “generosity” without knowing he had other expectations. Has anyone else had to awkwardly duck out after being told that you owe them something because they bought you half-decent sushi?
So there was the dilemma: pay for food, or have to hear another date complain that they are somehow entitled to something. Sure, I could have continued on and explained to each bad apple that a $9 dinner (or any dinner) could never entitle anyone to anyone else, but in the end, I didn’t feel it was worth my time. Anyone who is fighting the good fight, I commend you. Personally, I chose to avoid the issue, and, despite my wallet’s complaints, began insisting on splitting the check.
That habit has followed me into every relationship, and while it may be awkward to insist on splitting the bill, it’s always given me peace of mind. I no longer have to waste brain cycles wondering who should pay, or if my date thinks he somehow deserves anything from me.
Fast forward to today. I’m almost four years into a great relationship, and whenever we go out – barring special occasions like birthdays – we go dutch. Sure, when we first started dating, he would insist that he wanted to pay as it was the gentlemanly thing to do. Even though he has nary a creeper bone in his body, I would push back because neither of us made much of anything, and having him cover more than his fair share would make me feel guilty. On the other hand, if we go out with his family and we split, they’ll not-so-subtly let him know that they “raised him better than that.”
And here’s the new dilemma: I want to be an equal contributor, and he wants to be the gentleman his family raised. And neither of us has tons of disposable income.
A fair compromise could be to trade off, and we do every once in a while for small things. He’ll buy a smoothie for me as a nice surprise, or I’ll bring home some ice cream. Still, we’ve found that splitting most of our expenses is the best system for us.
Even before we moved in together, we would split the tab for meals we’d cook together at his place or date nights out. Now that we are cohabiting, it’s second nature to split everything. Rent, utilities, and parking are the obvious, easy things, but navigating furnishings and pet supplies? What about my sad obsession with orchids (why must they die), or his love of disaster preparedness? Plus, I was shocked when I found out how much he spends on groceries in a month (almost triple what I spend)!
So yep, we Venmo each other. And we found a good groove for it. My plants, although they brighten our space, are my financial responsibility. His pouches of emergency water and food, while I’m fairly certain he would share them with me in the event of zombie apocalypse, are his. When we grocery shop together, I’ll pay for the lion’s share of the cheap wine (a vice of mine, but Sprouts has really decent $3 bottles!), and he’ll cover red meat. Just about everything else is 50/50.
It doesn’t make us any less committed to each other, and it does alleviate some of the financial strain we’d feel funding each others’ lifestyles. Splitting the things we share down the middle may not be the romantic highlight of our date nights, but it allows us both to live comfortably without feeling pressure or guilt over our own spending habits, which lets us focus on the other things that make our relationship great.
Sure, he says he wants to spoil me one day when we have more money. I’ll do the same for him. For now, as two people on a budget, it feels good to be partners without having to worry about financially straining one another.
How do you handle the who-grabs-the-check dance? Is there a way that works well for you and your partner?