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Who Pays for Dinner?

Dear Philippa,

What would you do if a guy invited you to dinner then at the end of the meal told you that he'd left his wallet at home? I really like this new guy I'm dating but he barely makes ends meet and is always talking about money. The thing is that I wasn't expecting to pay for that dinner so I had barely enough money with me to pay the bill.

�Sarah, Bellevue, WA


Dear Sarah,

I get the feeling that you think he "forgot" his wallet to avoid paying for the meal. If he just got caught in an embarrassing situation I'm sure he'll want to reimburse you for the bill. I don't know whether this guy is a cheap bozo or just a forgetful chap. I do however have some strong opinions on the whole subject of sharing expenses when you are dating.

In your mind it seems clear that he invited you out to dinner so he should pay. Communication, however, is rarely that simple. I wonder what was going on in his brain when you discussed dinner. And, who first brought up the subject of getting together for dinner, you or him? Did he pick the place or ask you where you wanted to go? If he suggested a restaurant, did you suggest somewhere more expensive? I'm just asking these questions to help you consider the bigger issues here.

The subject of who pays for meals makes everyone uncomfortable. No one wants to appear cheap or unable to afford something. Even when a relationship seems very equal and both parties want to share the expenses there is still uneasiness about who pays. Some women worry about appearing too assertive when they pay for the meal and some men resent women who don't offer to share the costs.

Who ever does the inviting should select a place that he or she can afford. If you do the inviting and your date suggests somewhere more expensive place, there are several options. You can be up front and tell them you can't afford that place right now but you'd love to go there if they want to go Dutch. If the idea of telling someone you can't afford to eat somewhere seems unpleasant then you can suggest another restaurant or a picnic or even a home cooked meal as a more romantic alternative.

The whole subject of money in a relationship is an important one. We all have our own style of handling money. Some people live by the seat of their pants and are always on the edge of defaulting on bills and being broke. Other people count all their pennies and live by a carefully defined budget. Most of us are somewhere in between. No one way is the right way. You just have to find someone with a compatible financial style. In this way, the ebb and flow of who pays for what and when never seems an issue.

The guy you describe may well be the seat of the pants type. Would he do better finding himself a woman who is more comfortable with his living style? Figure out what your financial style is by examining how you pay bills, how you save, and how you spend your money on entertainment. When you are meeting men, find out about their financial style and share yours. Think about the kind of man you want to meet in positive terms. Instead of saying that you don't want someone who is cheap, you might say, "I want someone who knows how to save and invest and yet is willing to spend to enjoy himself once in a while, a guy who accepts my support as I accept his." And then you'll start attracting guys with whom you are more in sync with their financial style and other important ways they deal with life.




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