Asking Tinder Dates to Split the Bill

My fingers trembled over my iPhone keyboard. I spent 30 minutes pecking out a message that I was about to send to an internet stranger.

Hey, I’m looking forward to meeting you. I have a request and hope it’s not too awkward – can we pay for our own dates? It’s less about money and more about meeting up as equals. How does that sound to you?

Message sent. I waited with bated breath, until an hour later…

Hey! Yeah that’s totally cool.

A wave of relief washed over me. Ultimately, small changes like this text led to a better dating life in the 21st century.

Circa 2016. I was, like a lot of single people, consumed with online dating. I really wanted to find my boo.

As a cisgender male unconsciously conforming to stereotypes, I often paid for dates.

Going on a string of first dates started to add up financially.

On average, I was spending at least $40 a date. Many of my guy friends easily spent $100+. 

One particularly bad date shook me from my default programming. I was lectured about feminism, and understood that my date really wanted a feminist partner. Fair enough. But when the bill came, she leaned so far away from the check that I thought she was going to fall out of her chair.

And yet…I paid for dinner anyway. It’s like the old ghost of chivalry past overruled me in the moment.
Objection? Double standard? Denied!

I realized that I was reinforcing traditional gender norms, date after first date.

“If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product”

A 2017 survey from Money and SurveyMonkey found that 78% of respondents think men should pay for the first date. Surprisingly, men (85%) were more likely than women (72%) to think that men should foot the bill. 

Assuming the role of the provider is a form of benevolent sexism. This is the notion that women are fragile and need men’s protection. 

And it’s not always so benevolent. Some men feel entitled to sex just because they paid for the date. 

Expectations for the man to pay – even if that expectation also comes from men – reinforces traditional gender norms.

It’s not like I didn’t have examples of powerful, independent women all around me.

My single mother raised me and my two sisters, who are both the heads of their households. Most of my female friends are doing quite well financially and in their careers. Many of them have the kind of equitable relationship I admired.

It was high time to update my standards. Was there a way I could practice financial feminism?

About last night’s text 

I spent endless rounds editing the text to strike the right tone. Here it is again, in full glory: 

Hey, I’m looking forward to meeting you. I have a request and hope it’s not too awkward – can we pay for our own dates? It’s less about money and more about meeting up as equals. How does that sound to you?

The message focuses on equity over specific dollar amounts. (Ok fine…I also didn’t want to seem cheap). The text is a bit devious. The way that it’s phrased compels someone to agree, because they probably don’t want to be seen as taking advantage of me. 

Admittedly, I feared that sending this text would kill my chances for going on dates. But I did it for two reasons. 

One, I figured that if the date didn’t happen because of this, then it probably wasn’t a good match. If the date happened, it proved we were willing to navigate a difficult conversation—a must in relationships. 

Sending the text ahead of time also involved expanding my vocabulary around uncomfortable subjects and practicing the art of asking

But I was mostly surprised by the responses. I damn near fell over when I got compliments for sending that message, saying something to the effect of:

I’m actually glad you said that. Nice to get it out of the way

The real test was when the bill came. I resisted the urge to put down my card first. The air is tense like a showdown. I reach for my wallet. She reaches for hers. Shall we just split it? Okay, cool.

Relief. Success.

Don’t blame the player, blame the game

About 75% of American millennials support gender equality and agree that the ideal marriage is an equitable one. However, equality is expected in the workplace more than at home

This cognitive dissonance points to how culture is slow to change. Most people aren’t good or evil, they’re just doing what is normal to them. By going first with that text, I was communicating my values upfront. The right women showed up.

Like the women who insisted on picking up the tab, or the ones who dare ask me out. (That did a lot for my confidence.)

This has ultimately led to dates that started off on the right food, and ultimately relationships that feel equitable. I’m happy to report that my girlfriend and I largely agree on finances, including when to split bills or treat each other.

If you want a relationship of equals, then date as equals.

How do you feel about splitting the bill on dates? No wrong opinion here.


I often hear the reason that the person who asked for the date should pay. But if men still do most of the asking – which they do – then they’ll still end up with the check. 

This doesn’t mean we throw notions of fairness out the door. 

  • The person who suggests an expensive dinner may be unfair to the date, who may have a different budget. 
  • Consider how much effort the date will be expending just to arrive. If my date is going out of her way and schedule to accommodate mine, I account for that. (I don’t account for how much effort a date puts into makeup or getting ready—that’s her preference).

Assuming that men continue to initiate dates, the simplest opportunity is for men to set up fun, inexpensive outings. There’s no reason to set up a fancy dinner on a first date, lest you’re showing off how much you make

Either way, feel free to steal my script and text your date. Especially if you’re a woman and enjoyed this post! In my experience, it hasn’t backfired the way I feared*. It has only served as a helpful filter in the Tinderscape.

In the words of Dr. Seuss: Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

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