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6 Graceful Ways to Handle the Tab on a Date

You’re on a date. It’s going great. You’re laughing. You’re completely lost in each other. Then the check arrives—enter, the timeless conundrum. According to data from American Express, 49 percent of people say the man should pay. Only 14 believe in going Dutch, and a mere one percent say a woman should foot the bill. (The first step to going on a date? Landing one. These are The Habits Most Likely to Land You a Date.) Regardless of your opinion though, in this moment, most of us do 'the reach' for a wallet. 

While it's certainly fine to split the tab, pay yourself (if you set up the date), or let him pay, we tapped dating experts to dish on ways to avoid 'the reach.' These creative alternatives will show your appreciation (if he's paying) and eliminate any in-the-moment awkwardness.

Skip Dessert (at First)
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Slyly wave off dessert at your first stop on the date, suggests dating coach Neely Steinberg, author of Skin in the Game. Let him pick up the tab, but then ask him if you can treat to some after-dinner ice cream, says Steinberg. He still feels like he's taken care of the lion’s share of the burden, but you can show you enjoyed spending time with him.

Next Time, It's on You
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The vast majority of men really like to treat a woman on the first date, so don't feel like you have to insist on paying. “Instead say, ‘That's very kind of you to pick up the tab, how about I get next time?’ This way you're being appreciative, but also letting him know that you like to pay too, sometimes,” Steinberg says. More importantly, though? This method shows you’re open to a second date. (Next time try one of these 7 Sporty Date Ideas Inspired By William and Kate.)

Catch the Waiter Before Dinner
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If your guy always insists on footing the bill, get creative to show your love once in a while. “Find the waiter beforehand and give him or her you card,” Steinberg says. “Ask that the bill is prepaid and so when the waiter brings over the tab, it will already be taken care of, and you can say, ‘Surprise, thought I'd treat you tonight, honey!’” You can tell the waiter to add a 20 or 25 percent gratuity, sit back down, enjoy your meal, and watch him light up with surprise.

Propose an Exchange
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A good one for our married and settled ladies: Grab the tab—but make sure you’re both contributing to this deal. “You can say, ‘What if I pick up the tab in exchange for a back rub tonight?’ Steinberg says. “How could a guy resist getting to touch you later after a romantic dinner?'"

Plan (and Treat) on Atypical Dates
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If your man always likes to feel like a provider, take care of non-dinner dates. “You can be responsible for atypical dates, like cooking dinner and buying the ingredients, which is also a serious turn-on,” says dating expert Laurel House, author of Screwing the Rules: The No-Games Guide to Love. “It shows that you are a nurturer!” It’s also fun to mix it up from time to time, enjoying dates that don’t involve that obvious tab. (We've got you covered: Check out 5 Tips For a Delicious Date Night at Home.)

Be Appreciative
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House is a firm believer in allowing guys to pay on dates. “Do you want to know what the majority of my male dating coaching clients say about women offering to pay on dates? ‘It's awkward!’” she says. “‘It feels like a test.’ ‘I question if she actually enjoyed the date.’ ‘It just feels wrong.’ ‘Of course I will pay the check!’” So, what’s a woman to do when the check arrives? “Don't rush up and go to the bathroom,” says House. “Be confident in knowing that it's OK for him to pay. Let him pay. When he puts that credit card down, look him in the eye, smile, and say, ‘Thank you so much. I really enjoyed dinner/lunch/drinks with you.’” (This is especially true on the first date.)

(Now that you've mastered the check, you've still got some dating hurdles to overcome. Up next? When to Stop Seeing Other People and More Dating Tips.)

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