Ask E. Jean - Tormented? Driven Witless? Whipsawed by confusion?

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To split or take turns paying? My boyfriend and I have been dating about 4 months. He is a few years younger than me and although I don't know for sure, I suspect I probably make more money than he does (not a lot more, but probably a little). Since we started dating, we take turns paying the tab when we go out on dates, and I am perfectly fine with this. I'd feel extremely uncomfortable expecting him to always pay for me because it's not like it's the 1900s and I am fully independent financially.

My issue is when we go out on the weekends with friends, the night usually ends up being significantly more expensive because it involves dinner, drinks, and sometimes an activity like a movie as well. It winds up being a lot for one person to pay all at once! Last weekend I spent over $100 when I joined him and his friends for dinner, drinks, and a movie. I only had $50 left in my checking account and had hoped to stretch it to last until I got payed today, but wound up having to charge part on my credit card and then had to buy groceries this week on my credit card as well. I'm trying to stick to a budget to save for a downpayment on a house. The next night he and I went to dinner at a diner-type place he picked, and he paid, and it was about $30 including tip.

Now I'm not trying to be super stingy and keep score, it's just that when we take turns paying it becomes incredibly difficult for me to budget unless I just set aside hundreds of dollars per month for going out. If I only have to worry about paying for myself, I can choose to do things like order a cheaper meal and not get a drink to save money. With the situation last weekend, it's not like I had a say in the plans. I just showed up to the movie and restaurant his friends had picked.

I'd prefer to each pay our own way in situations when we go out with friends, and alternate paying for only our date nights. Before I bring this up with him, do you have any feedback? If I really am being cheap or stingy please let me know!

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    The usual rule of thumb is that whoever invites, pays the larger share. For example, if he invites you to go out with his friends, he should pay the lion's share of the tab. As in you pay for the movie and he pays for the meal and drinks.

    And good for you to be saving money! That's hard to do nowadays.

    And it may help to look into creating more inexpensive dates. For example, go take a walk somewhere and have a picnic at the end of it. Something to drink, a baguette, cheese and fruit while watching the sunset can be very romantic. Or order a pizza (or make one) and challenge him to a game of poker or gin or scrabble. Or take up a hobby together. Or find some out-of-the-way, interesting spots around where you live. Some organizations offer historic tours for little-to-no money.

    You could even expand this to include groups of friends. As in host a poker night (or dance-off or whatever) at someone's house and make it potluck. Rotate whose house to go to each week.

    There are lots of ways you can spend time together that won't break the bank.

    reply to Jill
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    Had to chime in here that I do not think in any way shape or form you are being stingy. If anything it sounds like both of you have been generous with each other, and attempting to work out the going out money issue fairly.

    For starters, who pays for what and when if at all is an extremely common and albeit tricky topic. Or, it certainly can be and it wouldn't be the first time someone has posted about this on AV.

    I second Jills advice on everything completely. Then next step will be just to be wiling to have an open and honest chat with him about this. As cliche as it sounds communication really is best.

    Also don't hesitate to firmly state what you can and cannot afford, and what your expectations are (find out his too..). Ideally you guys can find some common ground.

    And since situations where couples spend money are ever changing and always slightly different (Different restaurants, expensive or cheap, drinks or no drinks, friends or no friends, meeting up with either parents or someone's family, etc.) this will need to be a topic of ongoing discussion/ clear communication.

    You have every right to chat with him about it! I'm sure that will help tons. Let us know how it goes.

    reply to Barbara
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    Thank you both!! Excellent advice, and I will definitely use your suggestions. In hindsight, with the situation with the movie and dinner/drinks, before I accepted his invitation I should have just explained my money situation and said I could either pay for myself separately, or I could just eat at my place and meet them for the movie only. He has been very supportive when I've said I need to stay in and save money so I'm sure it wouldn't have been an issue.

    I'm going to do more things like cook dinner for us, like making a pizza or grilling food or good stuff like that! We haven't gone out with friends since, so I'll probably wait on bringing up that topic for now. I just don't want to sound like I'm holding a grudge about it by bringing it up 2 weeks later LOL. But in the meantime I'll just be honest if I can't afford something.

    I think I'm just paranoid because my ex boyfriend was a narcissist who got mad at me and said I was a cheapskate and no fun whenever I tried to save money and didn't want to spend money on things like gambling. It's so weird to date someone who actually cares about my goals! Weird in a good way of course! Haha.

    reply to anonymous
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