This part of the finances of an unmarried couple applies more to newly dating couples. I've found from interviewing dating couples, they fall into a routine where they both pay for things and feel it evens out. No one ever feels that one person is more put out than the other.
However when you start dating, I've heard from many singles it's tough. It's expensive and you never know how it will turn out. And they often hear from married/coupled friends to go on cheap dates. Which is great when you've already started more serious dating, but the reality is most people do not start out that way.
I think a perfect first date is coffee or a happy hour drink. Why? Because it's a cheap way to figure out if you have any chemistry. And if you don't it's easy to end the date while not suffering through an appetizer, dinner, and dessert. Then the next date can be a full dinner potentially or lunch.
But why is dating so expensive? Consider that most people will go out to dinner and have an appetizer, drink, dessert. Where I live, when all that is said and done with tax and tip at a restaurant where entrees cost $15-20 (average of chain restaurants), for a date you are looking at $60. Then a movie? Or music bar, etc. It adds up fast. But who pays?
Most men and women say men, but I question this. If both people are exploring the possibility of a relationship why isn't more the norm to just split the date? Why is the burden placed on one more than the other?
Our current roomie is single and he moans about the cost of dating. As a single guy it gets expensive to date. Plus even free dates like hiking costs him money because he has to rent a car, gas, and still pack lunch. Another cost of dating is looking good. This is more a cost factor for women than men. Having to maintain themselves to be able to attract the other sex.
So how did you split the initial dating costs? When and how did you switch to a more informal splitting of costs? Or is there a large disparity of income which makes one party more likely to treat the other?