Updated on 03.26.09

A Reasonable Courtship

Trent Hamm

This is the first entry in a five part series this week on the stages of a relationship and how you can make financially sound choices throughout. Other entries include engagements, weddings, honeymoons, and marriages.

It’s a coming-of-age routine that almost everyone goes through at some point. You’re introduced to someone. That person seems interesting. Eventually, you wind up on a date – and you hope to impress and, perhaps, build something that lasts.

Along the way, though, you often burn through a lot of money buying gifts, paying for dates, and so on. Many people tend to buy into the idea that romance is best represented by breaking out the wallet and doing something impressive (read: expensive).

That’s simply not true. A relationship isn’t built on the money you spend – it’s built on the personalities of the two people involved. Instead of spending a lot of money to impress (and at least in part misrepresent what you’re all about), spend less money in ways that actually have meaning.

Here are ten dating tactics that not only save you money, but also create memorable moments and a solid relationship that can be the foundation for much more.

Never try to act like something you’re not. Many people work hard to put up an enormous “front” that misrepresents several aspects of who they actually are. They drive an expensive car and dress in expensive clothes and go to expensive places, but it’s not sustainable – and they know it. They’re just hoping to create an “image” of some sort of mainstream idea of success. While that might work over the short term, over the long term the other person will see that you built your initial impression on a lie – and that won’t go over well. If you’re looking for anything longer than a quick fling, be yourself. If you don’t, it will eventually backfire – but not until you’ve wasted a lot of money and energy putting up a false front.

Be thoughtful instead of flashy. Flashy, expensive things might do a great job at getting the initial “wow,” but unless it’s also thoughtful and well-considered, it won’t really mean anything at all. The best memories I have from dating my wife are simple moments – putting a lot of effort into building “big” moments are usually wasted. So, bother rarely – or don’t bother at all.

Tell your story – and listen to their story. Many people struggle with things to talk about when they’re first dating someone – and they often replace it with expensive dates and other distractions. In truth, it’s really simple – talk about yourself. What’s your story? What are your interests? What are your passions? What was your life like growing up? What are the ten or twenty best anecdotes or stories you can tell about your life? Your answers to those questions are all the material you need to talk about for hours and hours. Even better, encourage your date to talk about the same things – and listen, and ask follow-up questions. If your date is filled with such conversation, you don’t need expensive distractions.

Give yourself reminders for important occasions. A forgotten birthday or dating anniversary or other occasion can be disastrous. Remembering it, however, and coming through in some way when it’s not expected is golden. Help your memory out by setting up reminders. I use Google Calendar for this. I put in events like birthdays and anniversaries and certain holidays, then have a reminder emailed to me 10 days in advance so I can plan something. This way, I never “forget” – and it’s free.

The community around you offers a lot of free date opportunities – look for them. The average community is loaded with free things to do – here’s 100 of them, for starters. Look around for interesting things to do that don’t damage the wallet. You might be surprised how many engaging things you can do together without spending any money – and, after all, it’s the “together” part that’s important.

Entertainment books can save quite a bit on other dates. What about going out to eat, or doing things like going miniature golfing? An “entertainment book” is a great way to save money on these outings. You can usually pay for an entertainment book by using it just three or four times, which is easy to do if you’re dating regularly. Not sure you’ll use it? Offer to split the cost with a friend, and make a deal – you can take out, say, fifteen of the coupons yourself and then they keep the rest. Then you can cherry-pick the ones you’ll actually use for half the price.

Make something together. Make a meal together. Make a film together. Make a piece of art together. When you create something together, you not only discover countless things about each other, you almost always produce something wonderful, memorable, and shared. Even better, such creative processes are usually quite inexpensive – you’ve got to cook for yourself anyway, and if you already have the supplies, making films or making art together can be very, very cheap, too.

Involve the other person in the things that interest you – and be willing to try their interests, too. You have certain interests and hobbies, as does the person you’re dating. Share them. Have a movie night where you each pick your favorite movie. Have a date where you engage in your favorite hobby and attempt to teach your date, then reverse it the next time. Most of the time, these are very inexpensive dates – but they’re very memorable ones, too, since you often reveal much of yourself when you show what you’re passionate about.

When there are problems, talk about them – don’t “solve” them with gifts. You’re not going to be perfect. You’re going to make mistakes – say things you regret, do things you shouldn’t. Some of those things are likely going to hurt the person you’re dating. Instead of trying to polish over it with gifts, talk about it. Admit your mistakes. Try to understand why the other person is upset. Don’t just try to “make it better” – figure out the real problem and either fix it or find a good solution.

Don’t “force” things to work – sometimes, they’re not meant to be. I know people who have spent countless hours and countless dollars trying to make a relationship work when it’s clearly not working. Never force it. When you find the right person, you’ll fit together quite well without the need to constantly try to “make” it work.

Got any good, reasonable, frugal advice for people who are dating? Please leave them in the comments.

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  1. Great post, great timing. I just started to date someone, these are useful tips. Can’t wait for the rest of the series.


  2. Oh man! DATING!!! Haha. I used to spend soooooo much money trying to impress my dates. I would take them out to nice restaraunts and go shopping and blah blah blah!!! What a waste of time and MONEY! If you have to impress a potential partner with the amount of money you are spending, you are a fool! I am lucky enough to have finally found someone who isn’t impressed by money and flashy things…if only I’d found her sooner! :)

  3. Stephen says:

    This is a timely set of posts. My ex-girlfriend (who I was planning on proposing to in 6 months… thank god I didn’t plop the $15000 on the ring yet, whew) and I broke up last week, with the main issue being money. She expected me to shower her with gifts and vacations, buy expensive clothes to fit in with her ideal guy and her friends, and take her to expensive restaurants, bars, clubs, and events. When I didn’t do these things, she took it as me not loving her.

    Anyways, I’m glad the relationship is over and look forward to meeting someone with similar financial ideas to me.

  4. Gabriel says:

    This is a very timely post – there’s a very sweet guy I sit next to in class, and I’m working myself up to ask him out. College seniors like to think they know everything, but when it comes to dating I’m still happily stuck in middle school :)

  5. Baker @ Man Vs. Debt says:

    I am definitely going to be looking forward to this series. I’ve been married for two years, however, I think this is a series area of finances that needs to be talked about. Judging by the first part, I can’t wait for parts 4 and 5!

  6. Brittany says:

    These are helpful and true tips I have seen work throughout my relationships. Being a college student in a relationship, I try hard not to spend so much money going out when there are many things we can do around the town for free. Great list! Thanks for sharing, and I’m looking forward to your next posts of the series.

  7. Great post.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series, since I”m getting married in April.

  8. Maureen says:

    My dh and I married while he was still an undergraduate. There was very little money to be spent on dates. We would go on long walks, bike rides and hikes on trails. We would browse in bookstores or go bowling. Occasionally we would eat out at Mcdonalds or a pizza parlour. I certainly didn’t expect any gifts or expensive outings. The most important thing was that we were doing things together. I was much more impressed by his good manners and great sense of humour than the money he spent on me.

  9. michael says:

    Meeting someone is a great opportunity to take a chance to try something new. My gal never went snow tubing before we met; it’s one of her favorite winter activities. I never tried different cultural food, and she’s always craving it. I now include Malaysian on my list of cultural foods I really enjoy. Trying something new with someone gives them insight to how you are outside your comfort zone.

  10. Courtney says:

    I have to say, that first one rings true for me. My husband and I went through some very hard times in our relationship because of his fiscal irresponsibility. I know that sounds harsh, but he’d say the same. There’s a reason why money is the number one argument in a marriage – it’s important to establish harmony about finances _before_ marriage, not afterwards.

  11. stephanie says:

    i agree with most of these . love the idea of making things, and finding offbeat, free dates. there is nothing more dull than being taken to the most expensive restaurant in town in someone’s flashy car. that said, i would suggest that the “entertainment book” idea might not be something you wanna bust out on the first date (and the idea of “splitting the cost with a friend, then cherry-picking the best ones” strikes me as…. kinda cheap) but busting out your coupon booklet on a first date might send the wrong signal. seriously, it has nothing to do with “showing who you really are and expecting the other person to be comfortable with it, otherwise they are not worth your time.” an entertainment book on a date as a “sensible approach” smacks of a future upholstered in brown polyester, with a little TV dinner in the waning light of evening. Ugh. It’s not about the date cheaping out on me. i’d rather do something free than watch someone extract their cherry-picked coupon from the billfold.

  12. Daina says:

    When my husband and I were still courting, and even when we were just friends, he won my heart a hundred times with his loving gifts. For my birthday he gave me a comic he made based on a story I wrote and the way we met. He sent me illustrated letters when I was working at a summer camp and didn’t have access to e-mail. Once we were renting a movie but couldn’t find Whoppers for me to eat while we watched, so the next time we were in a drugstore, he bought me a box. All those things were really special, and they cost him care and sometimes time and effort, but not much money.

    I wonder how the entry on engagement will deal with the ring issue. My ring is a family heirloom, set with garnets, that once belonged to my great-grandmother. My husband “gave” it to me when we got engaged, and it means a lot to me. It was easy for us, though, because we were both on the same page about the ring, in the end, since I hinted that I’d rather wear my family ring than a new one, and he eventually was happy with that. (He had originally wanted to give me one because he thought it was tradition, but discovered that the tradition didn’t go as far back as he had been led to believe, and it soured him on the idea of a diamond for us.)

  13. These are excellent points, and very good guidelines. However….and there’s always a however when it comes to relationship advice…..speaking as a female I have to sound a note of warning. I’m going to make the following generalizations while knowing that there are of course exceptions, and that people change over time.

    Biologically speaking, females tend to look for power and the ability to provide in a mate. In our culture, those concepts are intimately tied up with money. Being seen as “cheap” is the kiss of death for many young people. While I agree with everything Trent has said here, I think that younger women who have less life experience and perspective are more likely to buy into the idea that a good mate spends money at least willingly if not freely. The reasoning (rightly or wrongly) goes like this: “if he won’t spend money on X now, how is it going to be in the future?” Dating is a trial run for a possible future life together.

    I think that as both men and women gain perspective, they realize that money isn’t as important as many other things in life or in a mate. Of course there are some women who would prefer a frugal mate, even in early adulthood. But I think such young women are more the exception than the rule.

    My advice is to spend wisely. Know when and how to spend money to demonstrate what is important to you, and always in ways that reflect your own values and character. You should never spend foolishly just to impress someone. But remember that the person you’re interested in may find real value in a gesture that you yourself wouldn’t find value in. Balance those issues as best you can, and try to determine as quickly as possible if the person you’re spending time with shares a similar financial outlook. The sooner you know that, the better.

  14. Zannie says:

    Unfortunately, I think Kate is probably right about a large portion of the young female demographic. Personally I think its pretty disgusting if a guy tries to impress me with a fancy car or something; it feels like an affront to my dignity to assume that I would be more or less attracted to someone based on his material possessions. At 30 I’m probably beyond the demographic Kate was referring to, but I remember feeling much the same even in high school.

    Hopefully as the culture continues its shift away from “man provides for woman” and toward “partners support each other materially and otherwise,” young women will be less impressed by flashy things and more impressed by a potential partner’s support of her own personal endeavors, etc. I think that is probably more true today than it was 50 years ago, so we’re making progress.

  15. LindaB says:

    I agree with Kate in many ways. I’ve been married to the same wonderful man for 24 years. When we began dating, he was a 32 year old middle manager, with a $200 house payment, and no car payment. I was a college senior. So yes, I expected him to take me someplace reasonably nice to eat about once a week. I knew he could afford it. I didn’t expect him to spend a lot of money every time we were together, but I would have wondered what life would be like married to him if he was too frugal when we were dating. Please remember, he had a very good paying job and almost no expenses.

    When I dated college students of course my expectations were different. They didn’t have the income and their expenses (tuition, books, dorm payments) were very high. Just being together was all we could afford most of the time.


  16. m says:

    ATTN Men: A coupon book is NO WAY to pay for a meal on a date. This would kill any chance you had with the lady to begin with.

    Please scroll up and re-read Kate@LivingTheFrugalLifes’s second paragraph. There is a certain animal kingdom courtship dance that happens between men and women….and your “Entertainment” coupon book will render you without a mate.

  17. Sara says:

    First, I’d like to say that my husband and I met, dated, were engaged and got married while in college on a very small tight budget. We did all this, still graduating without student loans and we’ve never carried credit card debt.

    I agree with you Trent that the small thoughtful things speak volumes. These actions tell the date, “Hey, I think you’re important enough to care about the details of you.”

    However, unless you know your date very well and they know your sensitivity and generosity, I don’t think I would use coupons or the entertainment book on the first few dates. I think it could unknowingly communicate to your date that you do not value them enough to be generous toward them.

    That said, I also don’t think the first dates have to be swanky misrepresentations of your financial status. Take some of Trent’s ideas and put them to good use. Creativity goes a long way in nurturing romance.

    I also think you can have dates at creative times that do not require a full dinner to keep costs down. Go out for dessert, lunch or breakfast. Those dates will be cheaper than dinner or even drinks and appetizers.

  18. Adrienne says:

    I agree with most of the suggestions except the Entertainment book. I use Entertainment book all the time, but if I was on a first or second date with someone I would find it weird.

    I would also point out don’t be afraid to say “I can’t afford it” if someone you’re dating wants to do something expensive. It is honest and better than just suggesting inexpensive alternatives (which could make the person feel you’re insulted by their idea).

  19. Kevin says:

    I’d be careful on how you ask her to make a film together. That could easily lead to a restraining order. :)

    My wife and never actually dated. We just couldn’t get good service and it always ruined the date. So we just hung out instead. Good luck getting other girls to go along with that though.

  20. MegB says:

    @Kevin–I’m glad I’m not the only one who had a funny thought when reading “make a film together.” :-)

  21. Kris says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this. A friend of mine recently complained about a girl he took on an expensive date to a nice steakhouse in a nearby city. He said she wasn’t grateful for the dinner or the hotel. All I could think of was “Why did he take her there in the first place?”

    You can impress someone by spending money, but it’s not as genuine as impressing someone with your thoughtfulness. I’d rather have a guy care about me than buy me a steak.

  22. Well-Heeled says:

    As a woman in my twenties (probably in the demographic that Kate, comment 11 is referring to), I have to say that there is a difference between being thoughtful and fiscally responsible vs. just plain cheap.

    I’m financially responsible, but I do not consider myself cheap, nor would I wish to date someone cheap – i.e. someone who’s miserliness about money is inconsiderate and inconvenient to others.

    Example: if you find a great free event, by all means suggest it, but don’t preface it by saying, “hey, it’s free! want to go?”. Or, if you find a prix fixe menu at a nice restaurant for $10, don’t say, hey, would you like to go to dinner? And then make your date go dutch or force him/her to get the prix fixe (he/she who asks, pays.).

    In other words, don’t make your date feel like you’re only taking him/her to the event or the dinner BECAUSE it’s free / cheap. Of course, now I proudly tell my bf what great deals are out there, but initial dating? I’d consider that a no no.

    And big gestures ARE wonderful on special occasions. Or just because. For Valentine’s day I got wine (that I wouldn’t splurge on myself), gourmet truffles, and perfume. A pretty “big” gesture for bf. ;) Would I love my bf any less if he only got me a card? No… but that gesture was wonderful, and it will be remembered.

  23. TStrump says:

    I think it helps if your potential partner has a similar view of money.
    If you date someone who is pretentious and likes to spend money, it might not work if you’re more frugal.
    You’ll end up spending tons of money trying to impress this person and maybe feeling resentful.

  24. mt says:

    As a 22 year old (and probably closer to the cohort that Kate mentioned above) I can honesty say that two of the things raised here are far more important than lavish spending: creativity and spending wisely.

    I’m all for a first date (assuming it’s out to a meal) showing more about a person’s personality rather than how much money he/she has. I had a first date with a guy at a local Indian restaurant; turns out he was really into Baliwood movies (can you guess our second date…). My current boyfriend took me out to his favorite brekafast place-because he’s more a fan of long, leisurely breakfasts than going out to dinner somewhere fancy. Expensive experiences can also be rather sterile. Both of these dates gave me nonverbal clues into their personalities; something much harder to acheive at a fancy place. In that sense, it goes along with not putting on a false impression of who you are.

    As for gifts, thoughtful is far more important than price. Flowers may be a nice gesture (to many women) but if you’re with someone who doesn’t like them-totally unnecessary. Occasional splurging is thoughtful in a different way (the “i care enough to spend this much on you” mentioned above), but it’s also off-putting if that is always done because it’s what’s easy.

  25. Alice says:

    I’m a 24 year old grad student and I’m not sure where these men are who like to spend the big dollars – certainly no one I’ve dated has been like that. In fact, the guys I’ve dated have generally been more than happy to let me pick up the check, and sometimes start expecting it. The people I’ve dated are generally creative and interesting and frugal, but lacking emotional maturity. Maybe future posts could talk about emotional preparedness for relationships?

  26. Razlan says:

    This post is timely. I am at the point to decide if I should continue the relationship. When you start dating someone, you should ask yourself these three questions:

    1) Do you have mutual interest? At least some things in common?
    2) Do you have chemistry? Do you find yourself drawn to each other?
    3) Do you share the same ideals for your future? Afterall, you will build your life together, no?

    I know that your post is more on the financial side of it, but balancing it with a healthy “emotional investment” is worth going into, too.

  27. Leslie says:

    Stephen – $15,000 on a ring?!? Holy cow!

  28. Kevin says:

    I just wanted to add a little perspective from someone who’s well past the “dating” stage. My wife and I dated for 7 years before we got married, and we’ve been married for 9 years.

    I think with the younger crowd, it’s a lot easier to impress a person with frugal creativity, because their expectations are lower. Let’s face it – a 20-year old hasn’t seen a lot of movies, so an evening of watching your favorite childhood film, or a couple old Oscar winners is a no-brainer.

    But once you both get older, the things you want to do together are still very meaningful, but cost a lot more. Things like revisiting the French town we honeymooned in, go see the singer we saw on our first date, even though now his only shows are a 6-month engagement in Vegas, etc. Those are still very personal and meaningful, but they’re no “breakfast in bed.” Been there, done that, it’s not “special” anymore.

    I don’t mean to take some of the sheen off the romance, but in all honesty, there are only so many poems you can write before they just start to pile up in the bottom of a desk drawer. Remembering your favorite flower is a fantastic way to impress for your 6-month anniversary, but after a decade, it’s not exactly going to blow her socks off.

    The key is keeping the romance alive in fresh, new ways as time goes on. I’m hoping Trent will address this in his upcoming posts, but keep hope – it IS possible. It just might cost a little more money than spending Valentine’s day watching a Bollywood marathon on Showcase.

  29. IRG says:

    Overall, some really good points, especially the bit about not trying to solve problems with gifts and things. That alone could save any couple a LOT–fiscally and emotionally. (And everyone can fall victim to this thinking. Even the most frugal and/or enlightened among us. Societal pressure and one’s own families are a part of it, too.)

    Also, very important to share and listen to stories. They can tell you a lot about the person.
    Who they are, what matters and how they relate to people and things. And what really comes first.

    You also have to pay close attention to what people you date spend money on. (Clothing, cars, housing, their friends and families, etc.) That will tell you what really matters to them. Beware the man/woman who only spends on themselves, for example, and not on others.

    Unfortunately, in dating, appearance is a major factor. Women often have to spend a lot on grooming and clothes to “compete” (Ugh. Hate that word but it’s true.) for attention. If you live in a big city, it may not be at the level of the characters in Sex and the City, but really you can’t hang out in old jeans and Tshirts and expect to meet the kind of man you’d like to marry. (Not saying that guys who wear jeans and Tshirts themselves, on occasion, are not marriage material. But if I live in a major city, and I see somebody dressed as if they are working on a farm…well, that doesn’t get my attention. Now, if I’m in the country, that’s another story.)

    The comments were very interesting, especially the honest admission that some women (who tend to still make less than most men, regardless of what they do) do look for financial stability (which may or may not be related to frugality. Not sure there is always a correlation.) and are turned off by cheapness. Given that the average woman can’t earn as much as a man, even those women who want co-partners do expect, and rightly so, that a man can hold up his end (and vice versa, for women to hold up their end). NOBODY should have to commit to a mate who starts out wanting to be totally taken care of. Just my opinion. That’s a turnoff.

    It’s a fine line when dating, between fiscally prudent and outright cheap. I’ve dated millionaires who were outright cheap while I, a working person, was the one who treated and splurged so we could enjoy certain things. (Don’t ask!)

    Unfortunately, depending on how old you are when you are dating, you really can’t always tell what someone’s financial “attitude” and goals are. Over the years, I’ve watched young couples who dated in college and married afterwards, models of fiscal prudence, “blossom” into people we and they didn’t recognize. Sometimes, it was both partners, who ended up wanting the stuff and buying into the whole “we gotta have it” of yuppiedum and consumerism. Sometimes, and where it really caused problems, was when only one partner developed very expensive interests, hobbies and tastes. And one partner decided to say pursue a career/work that while satisfying, was not meeting the monetary standards of the other partner. Oh, it can get ugly.

    More than a few marriages ended not just because of the obvious money issues, but of the much deeper things they represented: A need for “status” /power/ stuff, etc. that was dormant in early years but became very obvious as they progressed in certain types of careers. A disregard for a partner who failed to meet the other’s financial/social expectations, etc.

    First, be very clear about who you are and what you want. Then,as you said, be honest (but not rude) about that as a relationship progresses (There’s no need to turn off a potentially good partner by telling all upfront. One needs a context to appreciate the other person.)

    Most important, if fiscal prudence is a deal-breaker to you, pay very close attention to how the person you’re dating handles their money. You don’t need to see their financials to figure out whether they’re in debt, or courting it. (20-something women with low-paying jobs wearing designer clothes? Hello. Credit card debt. Young men in low-paying starter jobs with flashy cars and apartments and lots of expensive vacations? Yep. DEBT.)

    It may seem like fun to have stuff and do lots of stuff, but it’s not so funny when you then take on someone else’s debt and it affects YOUR life in a zillion ways daily.

  30. Sandy says:

    I forget the exact title of the book, but I believe it’s The 5 (or 7, I forget) Love Languages.

    It explores what each of us holds as important in a relationship, be it showering with gifts, closeness, experiences together, or what have you. If one of you is trying all kinds of ways to impress in a way that the other feels is silly or unnecessary, it can be the end of a relationship, because you aren’t treating him or her “right” Learn to speak their love language, and you may meet “the one”!

  31. Battra92 says:

    Or, ya know, you could just be destined to live alone like me. It’s not that I’m cheap ($20 or so is tops for a date for me, honestly) it’s that I have yet to find that girl who would complete me. I don’t believe such an animal exists at this point in my life.

    No, I’m not one of those guys who believes that all girls are golddiggers out to get my money but I do believe that society (at least at my age – mid 20s) puts this impression that I am supposed to be this Mr. Mealticket for the girl.

    I also don’t want kids at this point in my life so that’s the kiss of death for most girls.

  32. Jen says:

    One of my partners got me a $7.95 paperback copy of my favorite book with a short inscription inside. It was supposed to do double duty for my birthday and Christmas. It didn’t feel thoughtful, it just felt cheap. She would also complain and complain if we went out to eat and she had to pay for anything, even a $2 slice of pizza. She would also only go to the grocery store once a month and her regular dinner was soup made out of tofu, carrots, and water.

    My next girlfriend expected me to pay the entire rent on our apartment (way more than I could afford) and all of our food and entertainment expenses. We lived 4 hours round trip from my work place because she wanted to be closer to her family. She didn’t have a job and she would buy presents for herself with the spending money that her parents gave her–new guitar, clothing, etc. I owed this to her because one day she was going to be a famous rock star and then we would live in the lap of luxury together. Needless to say, we are not together any more and she is not famous or successful.

    However, the best first date I ever had was spent in a subway station eating cookies and drinking milk from the same container. Probably cost less than $5. Sometimes it is all about the attitude/outlook you have on life.

  33. Amelia says:

    I laughed out loud at the suggestion to use the entertainment book. I was a teacher when I met my husband. He had just moved and was working a temporary job until he found something permanent. We met on match.com and corresponded for five weeks before he had the guts to ask me out. He shyly admitted that he wasn’t in a place to take me out for an expensive dinner and I was totally okay with that. I liked his honesty and it told me that he managed what little he was making at the time well. It also opened up the door for me to say, “I’m really thrifty, so for our second date, we can use a buy one get one free coupon from the Entertainment Book I just bought from one of my students!” We’ve spent very few days apart since then.

    Two months ago, he admitted that he thought I was a miser when we first met, but now that we have a child and he’s in school, he’s never been more thankful for that quality. :)

  34. Sara says:

    I’ve had guys bring flowers and some bring wine. But none of those really ever stood out for long. One boyfriend I had brought me a pack of my favorite gum that I have a hard time finding as a gift on our second date. That 89 cent pack of gum was way more romantic than any bunch of flowers or cliche gift.

  35. Mubongo says:

    NO, NO, NO! to the coupons on dates idea! There are so many inexpensive ways to have a great and romantic date. Don’t spoil something nice with coupons.

  36. kz says:

    @Kate: To a certain extent, I’d agree. I don’t think it’s about the amount of money that the person is willing to spend (I was much more interested in frugal dates than expensive dates when I was single), but that they are willing to spend from time to time.

    One instance that comes to mind with my husband and I when we were dating is with his cell phone. I had an out-of-area number on my cell, which was my only phone. He had local calls only on his land line and a cell phone, which he always used to call me. My problem was that, for months, he seemed really reluctant to call me before 9 p.m. on weeknights (he had free nights and weekends). I finally spoke up and told him that it bothered me because, while I knew it would be expensive for him to go over his minutes, it signaled to me that I wasn’t important enough for him to use his minutes to talk to me. Once I talked to him about it, he made more of an effort and that was all I needed. I didn’t want him to go over his bill, so if he was close, he’d let me know. I also made more of an effort to offer to call him back on his land line, if he initiated the call (I never come close to using my minutes).

    Anyway, it’s a silly anecdote now, but at the time it seemed telling. I’m glad I took the time to talk to him about it, rather than writing him off as a cheapskate. I’d have missed out on so many wonderful things in my life…

  37. partgypsy says:

    The dates that I went on with my eventual husband were: beer and conversation at a local bar, free art exhibits, sharing a 40 ouncer under a scenic underpass, reading his favorite comics in his attic apartment, him taking me to where the best corned beef hash and eggs breakfast in town was, walking his dog, watching old Star trek episodes. He didn’t have very much money but he would spend his last dollar on food for his dog or to take him to the vet. He had many friends and if one called needing help he would drop everything to be there for that friend, very unselfish. In contrast I’ve turned down dates with guys who spend alot on “dates”, suspicious that those kinds of dates would expect something in “return” for their investment.

  38. viola says:

    I don’t recommend busting out with the coupon book on a date unless you KNOW for sure the other person will like it….which is likely beyond the first several dates.

    You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but a little is reasonable…like maybe $40 max for dinner for 2. Personally I want someone to pay attention to me & find interesting things to do, and find me interesting as well. This has nothing to do with price. This may be because I feel like I make my own money & I’m not looking for someone to support me financially.

    I can’t speak for others, but from a young age I’ve realised that money can come & money can go, but how the man treats you and loves you is what matters.

  39. viola says:

    Oh I always think of something else 2 seconds after I hit submit :)

    For you men with little funds, buy some high quality ingredients and prepare a meal for your date at your apartment/house (make sure it’s CLEAN, candles are nice too). A man that can cook is worth his weight in gold.

  40. Mister E says:

    The title of this post sounds like the title of a really boring period movie to me.

    Just saying.

  41. Penny says:


    I think your series has potential.

    Daters (of any age): look for someone with similar cultural values to your own, and try not to be the extremist in either direction. Easy enough, right?


  42. Sandy says:

    Great article!! And so true. The best memory I have of dating my husband is a walk we took in the rain together. We had umbrella’s and talked for hours!! It was so great. All we spend that day was about $4.00 for 2 cups of tea at the end of our walk!! Wonderful time!!

  43. Mercy Mei says:

    It’s not the most romantic notion, I know, but a friend once described the dating process as a job interview or an audition.

    To an extent, that’s true, but I also think it’s a good time… if you’re getting serious… to see if your values are complementary or not. For example, (you knew this was coming) attitudes about money and spending.

    My husband told me (after we were married) that he was VERY impressed with the fact that I refused to carry a balance on my credit card and that I would go “shopping” in my own closet before I’d got to a store to buy new clothes and shoes.

    I was impressed by the fact that he had a prepaid cell phone and was very disiplined in his spending. He bought used cars from a wholesaler, in fact and paid cash.

    Now if there was no chemistry and love between us, these things wouldn’t matter. And there was a lot more to our mutual attraction, of course (back rubs! flowers! he cooks!) but attitudes toward money and spending are important elements of compatability and if you’re on the same page with that stuff, it decreases the chances for conflict later on, since money and spending are issues that can cause big problems in relationships!

  44. autiger says:

    I think there are a lot of factors to consider when you are talking about how much to spend on a date at the early stages of the relationship. If you are in school or just started a new job, moved, etc, just say so upfront. Showing that you are just being financially responsible is going to play better than being cheap.

    However, if you have a steady, good job and have said as much, you might not want to make *all* of the first four or five dates cheap ones. The reasoning for me is not that I expect a man to take care of me- just the opposite. *I* have a very good job and can take care of myself, but I also don’t want to marry someone who *I* have to support. I’m looking for an equal and if we’re in our thirties with good jobs and only going out to the cheapest venues when we *start* dating, that doesn’t come off well. I’m happy to help pay for the date, but again, I’m looking for a partner, not a leech, so making it clear in some way why you are being cheap/frugal/whatever is a good idea. Better yet, hold off on being your most frugal until you know each other somewhat. No need to go to fancy places to impress, but if you have a good job and are still only taking your date to burrito joints and cheap movies, they are going to start wondering why.

  45. Solid post! Definitely be yourself.

    I would also add that I have heard many stories that high maintenance women were surprised when the bill for the courtship came into the marriage as debt . . .

  46. Laura says:

    I know this will sound crazy, but:

    when my husband and I were dating, he was making 9, 000 a year as a grad student, and i was making about 24k. He always had money for movies and dinner (nothing fancy, obviously), and I never seemed to have any extra cash for these things. He is extremely frugal. However, he came to me at some point (long before we got engaged) and explained how frustrating the situation was to him. He couldn’t really afford to pay all our going out expenses himself, and was troubled that the limiting factor was me. So, we started a budget together. Every payday, I wrote him a check (just like it was the water bill) for my half of our monthly date money. We always had money after that, to do what we wanted, and it ceased being an issue. I don’t expect this is a solution that would work for any but a very few people, but it worked for us, and I thought I’d share. We’ve been married for almost 15 years, now.

    BTW- he was always a phenomenal thoughtful gift-giver, though never extravagant. The thought really does count when the thought is really there.

  47. Anthony says:

    Good post! My wife and I went to college 5 hours apart. We talked on the phone everyday and when we were able to meet up we did simple inexpensive things to spend time together. We didn’t want to waste any time together. We raked leaves in a local park to jump in the piles. Watched a children’s fish derby in Waterworks Park and then had a picnic at Gray’s Lake. We cooked a meal together and ate at my apartment. My dad kept trying to tell me I had to spend money on a girl to keep her. But the most fun we had together happened be when we didn’t spend alot of money.

  48. Charles Cohn says:

    My favorite quote from Amy Dacyczyn is “Don’t make a good impression, make an accurate impression.”

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