Maximize Your Dating Dollar

Looking for ways to boost your love-life mojo? Here are some tips to help budget-conscious daters put their money where it matters most in making the right impression — and some surprising items to skip.

By Kimberly Dawn Neumann

ating costs plenty of dough, no doubt about it. But when it comes to spending your hard-earned cash, where should you invest it in order to get the most mileage when it comes to dating? In other words, before hitting the meet-and-greet scene next weekend, what's really going to make you more attractive to the opposite sex — and what's a
Add a pop of red to that smiling and laughing mouth.
waste of your dating dollars? Before you max out a credit card trying to win your date's affections (or convince someone you're hot), check out these interesting tidbits we dug up for more budget-conscious men and women. Because when it comes to putting your best flirting foot forward, it doesn't always have to be about your shoes!

Women: Blown out vs. pushed up
Trying to decide between a pre-date trip to the salon or Victoria's Secret, ladies? Go for the fab hair option. According to a recent survey conducted by Pantene, 60% of men surveyed would rather date a woman with great hair than big breasts — and 74% of them said they notice a woman because of her hair. In fact, a full 44% of male respondents said that hair the first thing they notice about a woman… even before her clothes (26%), legs (25%) and makeup (4%). Most of the men who took Pantene's poll also said they'd be more likely to approach a woman at a bar with great hair than one who was wearing a low-cut shirt. This is great news, since monthly hair upkeep is more of a necessity than sexy lingerie if you're a woman who's on a budget. Of course, that doesn't mean you can't wear sassy underwear if you've got it — but when change is tight (like in this tanked economy), it's good to know that a well-timed mane flip can still make you a main attraction.

Men: Hot wheels vs. posh meals
Guys like cars, sure — but are women equally impressed by them? It seems that if you're a man who's looking for the real thing, then you're ultimately better off sinking your cash into thoughtful gestures (i.e., dinners, flowers, etc.) than those flashy wheels to get the girl of your dreams. A study of over 1,000 men conducted by researchers from Rice University, the University of Texas-San Antonio (UTSA), and the University of Minnesota revealed that being in possession of a Porsche did make a man more desirable to women than owning a non-luxury car, such as a Honda Civic. However, the attraction ended there.

While women found men showing off a flashy product — like a brightly colored sports car — to be more attractive when it came to dating, that same trait didn't make men more desirable as marriage partners or for long-term committed relationships, the study's authors explained. In fact, they found that women inferred from men's flashy spending that they were only interested in having uncommitted sex with their dates. So if you're looking for something more than a fling, don't worry what you're chauffeuring your cutie around in — focus on making her feel special instead.

Women: Painted pout vs. high-stepping out
Should you invest in a pair of high heels, or that new Chanel red lipstick? If you're forced to choose just one of these items, research says rouged lips are a better bet. In a recent survey of over 24,000 men and women, 88% of respondents said their date's laugh made a bigger impression on a first date; only 12% picked shoes (there goes that perfect excuse for buying a new pair of Manolo Blahniks, right?).

Add a pop of red to that smiling and laughing mouth, and your attractiveness spikes even more, according
Brush your teeth, wash your hands, and use deodorant.
to a study from the University of Manchester published in the UK's Daily Mail. Researchers tracked the eye movements of 50 men and discovered that that in the 10 seconds after meeting a woman for the first time, the average guy will spend more than half of his time gazing at her mouth. If she's applied lipstick, he'll find it even more difficult to look away: a dash of pink can hold his attention for 6.7 seconds, while red keeps him fixated for 7.3 seconds. According to the study, full pouts on ladies were the overall preference, though the appeal of thin-lipped women increased by 40% when lipstick was applied — but when the ladies went completely bare, men tired of looking at their mouths after only 2.2 seconds. So regardless of your lip type, ladies, it pays to paint your pucker on date night.

Men and women: Gym fees vs. whiskeys
If you're looking to up your sex appeal on you next date, what will serve you better: looking hot, or getting the two of you intoxicated? This may be a no-brainer, but if you're thinking of having something more than just a fling, spend your dollars getting rid of your doughy middle and strive for six-pack abs instead. According to the 2011 Great Male Survey by, 38% of men think that great abs are appreciated the most by women (and most of us gals would agree). This gym expenditure goes for women, too: having a fit figure is definitely going to get you more long-term action than a martini ever could. In fact, 47% of men surveyed by said they'd dump their girlfriend for getting fat (OK, to give some men credit, 53% said they wouldn't), and that's some good motivation to hit the cardio circuit.

If that's still not enough to convince you, keep in mind that working out will also increase your prowess in the bedroom. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology indicated that treadmill exercise duration predicted sexual activity duration (specifically, a 2.3-minute increase in sexual activity duration for each minute of treadmill time). So the next time you're tempted by the hottie who's running on the gym treadmill next to you, why not ask that person out?

Men and Women: Pre-date hygiene vs. Alexander McQueen
While Mark Twain famously said that "clothes make the man" (or woman, as the case may be), all the designer duds in the world won't impress your date if you haven't had a shower first. In fact, a recent poll asked nearly 35,000 men and women to name their biggest turn-off on a date. The responses included bad breath (11%), dirty fingernails (1%), body odor (16%) or all of the above (72%). Not surprisingly, bad hygiene is a mood killer for romance.

In terms of dating economics, it doesn't matter if you're dressed in Prada, Armani or something from Old Navy (just make sure to wear whatever fits well and makes you feel confident). What absolutely, unequivocally matters is that you're clean and smell good before you arrive. Brush your teeth, wash your hands, and use deodorant; for maximum marketability, always put your money where your mouth is!

Kimberly Dawn Neumann ( is a popular New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Redbook, Maxim and frequently online. A certified dating/relationship coach, she's published two books: The Real Reasons Men Commit and Sex Comes First and is the founder of
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