Jun 20, 2007

Dating: Who Pays?

A few years back, I had just graduated from college and was a full-time intern (aka slave) with a decent amount of savings (savings=for grad school one day) and a boyfriend who had started his six-figure attorney job the same year (note: he graduated from law school with no student loans thanks to his mom and dad and some savings). At that point, we were together for over a year. I had spent hundreds of dollars on plane tickets flying around the country to see him, as we had met in one city, then spent a good chunk of our relationship long distance.

Given, I'm not the type of girl who expects men to pay for her, one of the reasons our relationship ended was that I could not stand his stinginess. I know I wasn't broke, but it would have been nice for him to offer to pay for a movie ticket every once in a while. I felt like I was holding him back from the life he could have, since it wouldn't kill his piggy bank to go wine tasting once a month, or enjoy a decadent meal every once in a while. There's nothing wrong with avoiding pricier options, but at the time, well, every cent counted. Really.

Now I'm in the reverse situation. It's kind of funny, actually. I'm dating a guy who is unemployed. He does have a savings (from my understanding of it, he has just about the amount I have in savings) and he lives at home (so no rent, whereas I pay $1050 a month in rent.) Supposedly his parents are footing the bill for grad school if he decides to go. (My parents are not, as far as I know, though my dad has mentioned that in 3 years when he can access his 401k, there will be some money available to help out if I can wait that long.)

(Anyway... the details are rather unimportant as a generic entry about who pays for things in a relationship, but as this is my personal finance blog, I'm writing details. Hope y'all don't mind.)

So guy #2 loves to pay for me 75 percent of the time. We go out to dinner and he often offers. He let's me pay occasionally. I don't push him enough because in the back of my mind I'm always thinking, if he pays, that's another $15 I can pocket for grad school... or a new shirt. It feels rather icky to be the stingy person in the relationship. Sometimes I feel like I should pay more frequently since I'm working and he's not. Then again, it's his personal choice to be unemployed (he has a degree from a top school, I doubt he'd have much trouble getting a job) and if he wants to pay for me than who am I to object? Plus he's got his parent's money for grad school and if I actually ever figure out what I want to do with my life for the long-term, I'll need to foot most of my bill for all graduate school fees.

Obviously I'm not talking about the first couple of dates here. That's the subject for a whole other entry because at that point there's somewhat of a societal expectation for the man to offer, even if the woman ultimately is sane enough to grab the check and split the bill fairly. But for people in LTR's, money is a whole other issue.

Sometimes, I admit, I dream of dating someone (*cough*gold digger*cough*) who takes me out to nice places and... takes me shopping. It's ridiculous, as I'm NOT a gold digger. Really. I wouldn't date someone just because they were rich. It's just a nice thought, since life out here in Silicon Valley is so damn pricey and everyone else around here seems to be loaded.

To tell you the truth, I'd rather be the one making the big bucks. I doubt that will ever happen as a journalist, even though I've managed to do quite well for myself in the generally poor-paying profession. But I'm not going to kid myself into thinking I'd ever be looking at a six-figure salary. It might be possible if some day I make a name for myself and start my own website, but I'm not going to start dreaming about that now. Reality is I'm making an OK salary, but I'm living in one of the richest counties in the country...

[[The median income for a household in the county was $70,819, and the median income for a family was $80,737. Males had a median income of $51,342 versus $40,383 for females.]]

Ok, so in a few week's I'll be making more than the median income for females. That still means nothing (considering that my life involves interacting with venture capitalists and other well-to-do types)... and while I know money does not equal happiness, there's always the underlying fear of taking out loans for grad school and having to deal with debt (the "good kind") and then never being able to afford a house or any other form of stability in my life.

It's all kind of hypocritical of me, since I'm terrible at saving, and I always end up spending too much each month. Why does it matter if I spend too much on a shirt versus a nice date with my boyfriend? It's probably better to spend that $70 on a date.



3 comments:

K said...

The hubby and I used to take turns paying. The person paying also came up with the agenda.

So if I was broke, broke,
it was a dinner at my place
and a video rental.

apex said...

In general most of my dates are paid for by me. However, if the girl ever offers to pay, which surprisingly does happen no days, I let her.

Mike, Nicki, and Josh said...

I think people with different backgrounds (cultural, geographical, age, etc) have different expectations when it comes to the who pays issue.

I'm 31, married, and no longer in the dating scene. I was raised in the South and was taught from Day 1 about chivalry. Unfortunately, I think it's a fading trend in the States, but I was taught to believe that the man pays. The woman offers, but the man pays. If she doesn't offer, she's not interested. If he doesn't pay, he's not interested.

My wife grew up in Northern CA and is about 5 years younger than me. In CA, it seems much more common to either "go dutch" or to alternate who pays. Plus, in my wife's age group, it seemed more common not to go out on traditional dates - at least within her friends' circle. Instead, they hung out a lot in groups with their friends, but were like "friends with benefits". Much more casual.

When my wife and I first started dating, I paid all the time, which bothered her some (she told me that later on in the relationship) because she wasn't used to it. As we got more serious, the money issue became less important and sometimes I agreed to let her pay... sometimes.

Long story short, if the person ends up being important enough to consider a future with, the short term loss of dating money is just an investment in the long term gain of having a good life partner. If you're sweating over whether to pay for the date or save it for grad school (or a sweater), then you may not be that interested in the guy.

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