Survey: Most Say Men Should Pay for First Date in Hetero Couples

A new NerdWallet survey shows how Americans think about dating and finances, and how much they expect to pay for their Valentine’s Day plans this year.

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Written by Erin El Issa
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Love is in the air, and if it’s not, you may feel compelled to find some: According to a new NerdWallet survey, 60% of Americans agree that there’s pressure on single people to have a date for Valentine’s Day.

The survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults — among whom 1,218 plan to spend money on Valentine’s Day — conducted online by The Harris Poll, asked Americans about their planned spending on dates and gifts, as well as their thoughts on dating and finances in general.

Valentine’s Day date and gifts cost $188, on average

Americans who plan to spend money on Valentine’s Day plans or gifts this year say they’ll spend $188, on average. Women are more likely than men to say they’re spending $0 — 47% vs. 35% — suggesting that they’re opting out or that male partners are picking up the tab. And younger generations plan to spend more than their older counterparts — millennials and Generation Zers who plan to spend on Valentine’s Day say they’ll pay $274 and $197, on average, respectively. That’s compared with $144, on average, for Generation Xers and just $96, on average, for baby boomers who plan to spend on Valentine’s Day.

While there isn’t a right amount to spend on Valentine’s Day plans and gifts, you should aim to keep your spending within budget and avoid going into costly credit card debt.

“The ideal amount to spend on Valentine’s Day depends on your individual financial situation,” says Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet. “Overspending or taking on more debt to celebrate the holiday can backfire, creating more stress and even harming your relationship. A romantic gesture that costs nothing can do far more for your relationship than a pricey gift that takes months to pay off.”

Most agree men should pay on the first date in hetero relationships

So who’s paying for the Valentine’s Day date and beyond? It depends on whom you ask.

Most Americans (72%) agree that in a heterosexual couple, the man should pay on the first date. Interestingly, men are more likely to say this than women (78% vs. 68%). Whether this is based on old-fashioned gender norms, recognition of the wage gap between men and women or something else, we can only speculate.

Some think the asker should also be the payer. According to the survey, 65% of Americans agree that if someone asked them out, they would expect that person to pay for the date. Women are more likely to say this than men (77% vs. 52%).

There’s more of a split when it comes to whether you should pay based on income. While 57% of Americans agree that the person who makes more money in a couple should pay for dates more often than the person who makes less, 43% disagree.

Of course, every couple should decide for themselves how they want to divvy up dating expenses. For relationships that go beyond a few dates, it’s probably a good idea to iron this out together to set expectations and avoid resentment.

Many agree couples should discuss money early

After figuring out who pays for what and under what circumstances, you might want to have a deeper money chat beyond the cost of dates. According to the survey, more than two-thirds of Americans (68%) agree that couples should talk about their finances within six months of dating. This discussion might include divulging credit scores, incomes, debt loads or other financial responsibilities, as well as your overall philosophies on making, spending and saving money.

“Talking about money early on in a relationship doesn’t have to be awkward and in fact can help avoid discomfort later. Broaching the topic in a casual way can lead to a meaningful conversation about finances, values and expectations,” Palmer says.

Arguably, this doesn’t sound like the most romantic conversation to have during the carefree honeymoon phase of your courtship. But if you see the relationship continuing, it’s probably a good idea to know if your financial values mesh.

“Getting on the same page financially early on can help set the tone for open and honest communication about finances throughout your relationship. Or, it could help you decide that the partnership is not a good fit. Either way, it’s information that can help you make an informed decision about where to take your relationship next,” Palmer says.

Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet from Dec. 14-18, 2023, among 2,061 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 2.7 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact [email protected].

Disclaimer

NerdWallet disclaims, expressly and impliedly, all warranties of any kind, including those of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose or whether the article’s information is accurate, reliable or free of errors. Use or reliance on this information is at your own risk, and its completeness and accuracy are not guaranteed. The contents in this article should not be relied upon or associated with the future performance of NerdWallet or any of its affiliates or subsidiaries. Statements that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties as indicated by words such as “believes,” “expects,” “estimates,” “may,” “will,” “should” or “anticipates” or similar expressions. These forward-looking statements may materially differ from NerdWallet’s presentation of information to analysts and its actual operational and financial results.

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