We budget everything in our lives — food, entertainment, travel, and so on.
One thing we don’t tend to think about in terms of savings though, is dating.
When we take somebody out for a night on the town, we tend to want to go all out.
This is especially true if you’ve just met someone and are actively trying to impress them.
After all, if you took someone out on a first date that consisted of McDonald’s paid with a coupon, followed by a Netflix movie at your buddy’s place, are the chances good for a second date?
However, that doesn’t mean you should spend tons and tons on the dating scene either.
If you do, then all your careful budgeting elsewhere goes to waste. Instead, set a monthly budget for dating.
Depending on your earnings, this budget can be high or low, though it should realistically never exceed 10% of your monthly income.
Stick to this number while still finding ways to have fun, and you’ll earn a reputation for being a fiscally conservative dating machine.
The most obvious way to budget a romantic dinner for two is to make paying the bill a project for two.
Unfortunately, not everybody likes to “go Dutch,” and find it far more preferable that one party foot the bill.
Namely, the party that is not them.
Now, if you CAN go Dutch, then absolutely do so. If not, then consider the restaurants you take your date to.
Clearly, fast food is out of the question, as are soup kitchens. In addition, expensive and fancy restaurants are no-go’s as well.
Save those for if the relationship gets to the point where you’re seriously considering marriage.
Until then, stick to mid-level restaurants.
The food is good, the selection is plentiful, the prices are not bad at all, and the atmosphere is inviting enough to make most any date seem fun and comfortable.
Also, once you get to know the person and they’re comfortable with spending time at your place, then introduce them to some of your delicious home cooking.
It tastes great, impresses just about everyone, and can shave just so, so much off your budget.
Going out to the movies every now and then is OK, but if you are a regular dater, it’s simply impossible to hit the cinema ever Friday and Saturday night.
For one thing, there aren’t too many months where that many good movies are released. For another, each ticket costs, on average, $8.35 these days, an all-time high.
However, that number includes both evening and matinee, as well as IMAX and 3-D movies, which cost more.
The typical evening movie ticket can run you $13 or higher.
And what if you guys want to munch on popcorn or candy, and wash it all down with soda?
An evening date at the theater can easily run you $40-$50, and you’re not even guaranteed to like the movie!
To keep your movie budget down, try to attend as many matinees as possible, and hit the local drug store for snacks before you go in.
You and your date can dine on those before entering the theater, since most won’t let you bring anything inside.
Also, don’t go to the movies every time. For one thing, that would get pricey. For another, it would get boring.
Consider alternate forms of entertainment, like …
Seeing a Show
Not every ticket to every show is a $75 seat at some opera house or rock concert.
Most every town in the nation has inexpensive entertainment of all sorts, and if the show is good, then your date almost certainly won’t care that the price tag on the ticket isn’t large.
Obviously, the first step here is to find out what your date enjoys.
If they mentions they like stand-up comedy, for instance, don’t take them to a Greek tragedy.
Until you get to know them better, it’s best to stick with what you know about them. Surprises come later.
Once you do that, research what’s around and what won’t break the bank.
There are always cheap shows featuring local bands and comics, and while a play might run you more, most offer good seats at a low cost.
And if your date INSISTS you pay top dollar for front row at an Elton John show or an orchestra seat at Macbeth, then they’re probably not the one for you anyway.
Most shows happen in the evening, but what if you and your date want to get together in the daytime?
Luckily, there are plenty of inexpensive activities all over the place, and all you need to do to find them is look.
The same rules apply here as do shows — if your date says they like amusement parks, hit one (but stay away from the games, which are rigged solely to suck away every dollar you have).
If they love aquariums, find one, but only go once a month if that. If they enjoy the beach, the park, or some other free activity, then you’ve just hit the budgeting jackpot.
Just because you’re a regular dater who does something with something every weekend, doesn’t mean you have to go broke doing so.
With a little research, ingenuity, and a dedication to your budget, you’ll be able to date as much as you want, keep your dates happy, and save money as well.
Mary Hiers is a personal finance writer who helps people earn more and spend less.