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How to Date Without Breaking The Bank

Swipe left?  Swipe right?   Stay in and bury yourself under a duvet?

The trials, tribulations, and tales of dating that are disclosed to me in the therapy room span the gamut from shocking to heart-wrenching.  Over and over, I hear about how the experience of trying find and meaningfully connect with a significant other can be exhausting and discouraging.

Dating is hard.  For a million reasons.   It is growing increasingly complex in the current online dating bizarreverse.  There are some scary characters and some odd ducks out there fishing for. . . well, I’m not sure what.  Or, in some cases I am quite sure exactly “for what” and am just rolling my eyes because, quite frankly, stand alone sexual escapades don’t equal real relationship or connection.  If you are genuinely seeking the latter and repeatedly are met with someone only interested in the former, it can be disheartening to say the very least.

Do you know what else dating can be?  BLOODY EXPENSIVE.

Here you are, you’ve pushed through a draining workday.  You’d rather be wearing slippers than stilettos, but you are summoning the energy for the date on your calendar.  You show up to the bar just outside the dining room, spot the person you have spent two hours Google stalking, and suddenly wish you had made plan B with Netflix.  But you’ve been seen.  Dang.

Fast forward a few painful hours.  You’re more than ready to part ways.  You split the bill to send a clear message that no one owes anyone anything when you bid farewell (which, by the way, is always.the.case.  always.  Bar tabs and restaurant bills do not buy bedroom behavior under any circumstance.). 

You’ve lost your night.  And then you realize you’ve also lost the money spent on pricey (not to mention sadly overcooked) chicken and the $15 cocktails you leaned on (too much) to cope throughout the evening. 

Dating is difficult enough.  Don’t let it create financial strain.  Save the steak dinners and spendy sangria for when someone has passed the relational litmus test.  Dating  is frequently centered around dining and/or drinking.  This can get expensive, fast.  Especially if you are trying to increase your odds of connecting with a non-jerk, non-weirdo by filling your calendar with as many dinners as you can muster. 

Thinking outside of the dinner-and-drinks dating box can help you create experiences where you can actually engage more meaningfully than you may be able to in a crowded bar or noisy restaurant.  More good news:  creating an enjoyable dating experience it doesn’t have to cost much.   This is gold for young adults fresh on the dating circuit and couples who have married for three decades alike.

What is there to do, you ask? 

  1. Make a meal in together.  Can’t cook?  I don’t care.  Do it any way.  It may turn out to be even more entertaining and memorable that way.  Decide on a recipe.  Discuss food favorites, memories, and disclose stories of culinary shortcomings and skill deficit.  Take with a trip to the grocery store.  Talk while you peruse the aisles and people watch.  Take the goods home.  Chop.  Peel.  Sauté.  Watch a YouTube tutorial if you need to.  Enjoy a glass of something with bubbles while you prepare.  Sit.  Eat.  Enjoy (and it’s okay if what is actually eaten is the Plan B PBJ Backup).  Bam.  You have an experience and more margin in the “eating out” category of your budget.  Side bar:  if said category does not exist, it should.  If budget does not exist, it most definitely should.
  2. Get outside. Dates don’t have to center around eating.  Walk, climb, ride, row.  Just move. Most parks and many out door spaces are not going to charge an admission fee.  If you are interested in venturing forth into some place in nature with a cover charge, it will probably be a nominal fee.  Want to find someplace to meet someone that does not involve your phone?  Two words:  dog park.  It’s amazing how four-legged friends can help to break the ice. 
  3. Volunteer together.  You won’t be charged to spend two hours giving back and making the world around you a better place.  If the other party balks at this idea, perhaps you are gathering some useful intel about the nature of his or her character.
  4.  Attend a lecture at a local university.  Find some free common ground that will also provide conversational fodder following the event.  It will be cheaper than a ticket to the movies, a $12 bag of popcorn, $8 Diet Coke, and $5 box of Sour Patch Kids.
  5. Plan a picnic.   Enjoy a grocery store adventure to grab a few simple bites.  Bring a board game.  Situate yourself someplace outdoors.   Spread out a blanket.  Soak in some sunshine.  See what unfolds.

Try it.  You may be pleasantly surprised by the quality of conversations you have, what you learn, and what you observe.  Worst case:  you’ll have a story and more money in your bank account than you would have following the yawn-worthy, unoriginal restaurant routine or bar scene. 

Swipe right.  Swipe left.  Whatever you do, don’t swipe yourself into stressful financial space by pulling out the plastic at the end of night.  Save the money for a massage you may need to treat yourself to following your meeting.  Better still, hold on to it for when you find someone who is worth your investment and really counts. 

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February 21, 2020

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