Go dutch or go broke: Should couples be splitting the bill this Valentine’s Day?

  • Forget going dutch, men should be paying for two-thirds of the bill this Valentine’s Day
  • One-third of female daters prefer to split the bill 50:50 on dates, compared to 10% of male daters 
  • More than 25% of all daters think the person who earns more money should pay for a larger portion of the bill

Dating is hard and so are our finances. Yet, at the end of every dinner date, we’re confronted with both through the age-old question: who is responsible for paying the bill? Is it the person who initiated the date, the person who earns more money or should the bill simply be split 50/50? While this most often comes down to a person’s personal preferences, one could argue that factors like the gender pay gap and racial inequities, as well as the cost to get ready for a date and the amount of food and drink consumed by each person should be considered when determining how exactly to divy up the bill. 

This study focuses on heterosexual relationships and the gender pay gap’s impact on modern dating.

To help with this, Credit Karma consulted with Professor Shireen Kanji, gender equality specialist at Brunel University, for her insights into the complexities of gender when it comes to dating and money. As part of this, Credit Karma launched the “Split the Bill” calculator, a tool that aims to help couples calculate what’s really fair when it comes to paying the check this Valentine’s Day.

According to the study, men should be paying for two-thirds of the bill this Valentine’s Day. This is largely driven by the gender pay gap, which has remained relatively unchanged for the last 15 years, with women continuing to earn 84% of what their male counterparts earn. Other factors, like the amount of money spent to prepare for a date didn’t vary significantly across genders, however the amount of food and alcohol consumed did. 

Here’s a breakdown of the cost split of the contributing factors by gender and race:

White menWhite womenBlack menBlack womenAll other POC men All other POC women
Money spent to prepare for a date $99.30$90.30$169.20$107.20$129.80$89.40
Spend on alcoholic beverages$52.60$32.40$47.90$51.40$63.90$36.50
Spend on food$86.90$64.70$51.80$41.40$44.00$30.20
*All figures represent the average amount spent per group

What’s looks got to do with it?

According to the study, 42% of respondents feel pressured to spend money on their appearance when they go on a date. As a result, men and women spend about the same amount to prepare for a date, with men reportedly spending an average of $104.30 per date, and women spending an average of $109.2. However, out of all groups, black men tend to spend the most to prepare for dates, spending an average of $169.20 per date. 

The top three things both sexes do to prepare for a date include cleaning their car or apartment (61%), purchasing a new outfit or accessories (45%) and purchasing personal care products, like skincare and makeup (42%). However, there were a few key differences between genders. For example, men were more likely than women to go to a barber, 48% compared to 29%, while women were more likely than men to get a wax, 46% compared to 14%.

What’s on the menu? 

When it comes to ordering, men and women typically enjoy a disproportionate amount of food and alcohol while on the date. According to the study, 31% of women say they typically eat less than half of the total food and drink ordered whereas nearly 50% of men say they eat more than half of the total food and drink ordered. 

Despite the fact that men tend to eat more on dates, 42% of respondents who go on dates don’t think the person whose portion of the meal is bigger should pay for a larger portion of the bill. At the same time, 35% of respondents who typically go on dates say they think it’s acceptable to split the bill evenly even if one person drinks and the other does not. 

So, who is paying the bill then? 

According to the study, 81% of men who typically go on dates prefer to pay the full amount of the bill, which is a good thing because 43% of women who go on dates prefer their date to pay the full amount. However, one-in-five daters prefer to go 50:50 and, most often they do so because they believe it’s the right thing to do (47%), they want to feel independent (28%) or because it’s just easier to calculate (26%). 

What’s more, even with the gender pay gap, nearly 40% of daters disagree that the person who earns more money should pay for a larger portion of the bill when on a date. In this instance, men were more likely to disagree than women, 44% compared to 34%. Instead, nearly half of all daters think the person who initiates the date should pay for the bill. 

“Money is a deeply personal topic for most people, and it can be scary to talk about when you’re just getting to know someone,” said Colleen McCreary, consumer financial advocate at Credit Karma. “Beyond the general discomfort of talking about money, there are clear pay inequities based on race and gender, which often aren’t accounted for in our relationships. The point of our Split the Bill calculator is to give people a tool to start talking about money and equity in their relationships. Ultimately, how you and your partner choose to split the bills in your relationship comes down to what you’re both comfortable with and what you agree is fair. Remember, this doesn’t have to be a one-time conversation, it can be an open dialogue that you revisit as things in your financial life change.” 

Disclaimer: This analysis aims to understand how the gender pay gap could impact money decisions in our relationships, specifically when it comes to splitting bills. However, we recognize there are a number of factors unaccounted for in this analysis, including racial inequities, sexual orientation and gender norms.


Starting from a 50/50 position, accounting for the gender pay gap, pre-date expenditures and consumption. Roughly a third of the bill or 34:66 split. However, by using the bill splitting calculator, daters can input their gender and earnings to get a more accurate suggestion. For same sex couples, the split will be based just on salary disparities. 

In order to find average expenditures on dates, pre-date spend and how much of the food and drink is consumed, Credit Karma commissioned Qualtrics to survey 1,042 US adults between the ages of 18 and above in January 2022.