Setting A Monthly Dating Budget

If you’re spending more time and money than you can afford to on dates, you’re not alone. Here, one finance whiz offers smart tips to help other singles set up a monthly dating budget of their own.

By David Bakke

o one ever said finding love was easy (and if they did, they sure didn’t say it was cheap!). The economy is finally back on its feet, but it’s certainly not running any marathons yet, so spending your money wisely is still of utmost importance. There are life’s absolute essentials — like rent, utilities, and food — which represent significant
Paying for two people to go out to dinner and a movie can add up in a hurry.
monthly expenses everyone needs to budget for, according to each individual’s income. Love, on the other hand, is something that doesn’t fit easily into an Excel spreadsheet — but that doesn’t mean it’s not an essential human need just as deserving of your financial investment.

Whether you’re a man or woman, the quest for companionship is hard to quantify. But just like everything else, in a practical world, dating does have a dollar amount attached to it — and it’s critical to your financial well-being to determine how much you can reasonably spend every month on it. For some helpful tips on how to strike that perfect balance between love and money while manage your dating expenses in the best possible way, read on...

Five budget-setting tips for single men
Men and women face different financial challenges when they’re looking for that special someone, but both have the same ultimate goal: finding The One. Here’s some advice for men looking to budget their money wisely in the hopes of finding love.

Tip #1: Figure out what you can afford — and then stick to it
It’s likely that you already spend a certain amount of money every month on entertainment and leisure activities. If you’re hoping to land yourself squarely in Cupid’s sights, though, it’s time to cancel that Netflix account and get up off your couch. Reconfigure your entertainment budget for covering dating expenses instead, then figure out exactly how much you can afford to spend each month on your love search. (And guys, unless it’s made absolutely clear up front who’s paying for a particular date, you should expect to be responsible for footing the entire tab, just to be conservative.)

Tip #2: Focus on grabbing lunch or coffee for your first outing with someone
Paying for two people to go out to dinner and a movie can add up in a hurry, depending on where you live. Instead, try making lunch or coffee dates your default choice for first encounters. It’s a lot cheaper and less time-intensive experience than other dates, which means that if you find that the other person isn’t a good match for you, at least you haven’t invested too much money in figuring that out. On the other hand, if there are mutual sparks, you can still spring for that romantic dinner on date number two to help kindle the fire into a roaring flame.

Tip #3: Don’t be afraid to use a coupon to keep date-night costs in check
“Deal of the day”-style websites (like Groupon and LivingSocial) are great resources for finding discounts on restaurants and other date-centric activities. Sure, it may be considered tacky by some… but what’s so wrong about busting out a coupon on your first date? If your love interest reacts positively, mark one down in the “win” column. If not, you may have to move on — but at least you’ve saved some money in the process.

Tip #4: Take romance outdoors while the weather’s nice
One way of saving even more dough is meeting up at a local park for your first date. A couple of coffees or even a picnic with a bottle of wine, some cheese and pre-cut fruit can save you a significant amount of money, and your sense of creativity may even impress your date, too. Free outdoor concerts and movies in the park work nicely as well for day-to-evening date options.

Tip #5: Make very specific plans that can’t easily be extended to avoid over-spending
Don’t get roped into paying for dinner when the date you originally agreed to included just meeting up for a couple of drinks.
A healthy financial life translates to feeling less stressed.
If you’re meeting for cocktails, make it clear that you’ve got other plans for afterwards that can’t easily be changed. If you think your date may be spilling over into dinnertime and you sense an entrée order on the horizon, it’s time to cut things short. (One way to avoid this scenario: meet somewhere that doesn’t serve food.) Of course, if things are going well and you want to make a bigger investment of time and money in getting to know each other, then by all means — go for it!

Four budget-setting tips for single women
Despite our cultural assumptions, women absolutely need to budget for dating just as much as men do. And while the categories that single ladies spend their cash on before a date may vary a bit, money is still money — no matter what your gender:

Tip #1: Calculate how much you already spend and what you can actually afford on dating
Women typically invest more money in their appearance than men do before the date even starts — and from hair to nails, clothes to skin care and everything in between, these expenditures can really add up. Determine how much you want to spend on all these pre-date pampering measures (as well as for the expense of each date itself) and how these costs fit into your monthly budget. If a man offers to pay the tab, be sure to thank him for his chivalry — but don’t get caught running up a credit card bill you can’t afford if he asks you to split the check with him instead.

Tip #2: Carry coupons with you on dates — and tell men you’re OK with using them, too
Bring a coupon along on your date, ladies, and I promise that any guy is going to love you — that is, if he doesn’t already. Whether it’s actually fair or not, a man may be perceived as somewhat uncouth by offering to pay for a date with a coupon. However, if you (the woman) are the one who suggests using a coupon and then proffers one to your date, you’ve not just broken the ice — you’ve actually shaken it up and poured it into a pair of half-price cocktails. If the man insists on paying, you’ve just managed to cut the cost of that bill in half. And even if you split it, you’re both getting a discount… everyone wins!

Tip #3: Don’t buy new clothes just to impress your date
If you want to purchase new outfits, shoes, or jewelry before a date — this is hard for some women to hear, but honestly, don’t do it. Men generally aren’t as concerned with what you’re wearing as you are yourself; plus, it’s not the clothes themselves that make a good impression, it’s how you wear them that matters. Keep your go-to dating garb simple by sticking to a few pieces you already own that make you feel especially confident and sexy. If you really want to dress something up, spend your funds on lower-cost accessories, like scarves, shawls and belts that will breathe new life into any outfit — just remember to wear everything with confidence.

Tip #4: Be choosy when signing up for free online dating websites
I’ve heard from too many women who got suckered into paying for a meal all because the man they met online “forgot his wallet” or “just lost his job” at the end of their dinner date. If you feel you’re being subjected to such a scheme, stand your ground. A waiter and restaurant manager are almost certainly going to side with you, so in cases where something seems “off” to you, insist that your date should do whatever he has to do in order to settle the tab before you capitulate. (Trust me, ladies — you won’t be the one spending the rest of the night washing dishes.) Shenanigans like these can often be connected to the more unscrupulous types who join free online dating websites, which appeal to singles who are generally less financially comfortable and unwilling to pay a monthly subscriber fee just to meet someone. They may also be less serious about finding a long-term committed relationship, and more interested using you as a short-term meal ticket. Take whatever approach you feel most comfortable with when you’re looking for romance online, but make sure to clearly communicate who’s paying for what when you do finally meet each other in person for the first time.

A monthly dating budget means less stress — and more energy for finding love
Once you’ve figured out how much you’re willing to spend on dating each month, incorporate it into your overall personal budget. If you don’t already have one in place, you’re simply going to be spinning your financial wheels from here to eternity. You can use an online tool like Mint, an Excel spreadsheet, or even an old-fashioned pen and paper to sort your financial numbers out. If you find you’re making more money than you spend, then no worries — you’re already good to go. If not, you need to start slashing some unnecessary expenses here and there. Cupid can be relentless with those whom he targets, and you should be, too. A healthy financial life translates to feeling less stressed, which means you can devote your emotional energy to finding love instead of dealing with mounting credit card debt.

If you didn’t have a pre-set monthly dating budget before, following these tips should help get you on the path towards being a more financially savvy (and responsible) dater.

David Bakke is a single father residing in Atlanta. He writes about personal finance and lifestyle on the popular blog, Money Crashers.
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