As a single mom, I bow down before the frugalistas who help us trim costs on everything from housekeeping to vacations to running a business on a dime. Budget ninjas wield coupons, savvy lifestyle choices and negotiation strategies to reduce the cost of everything, and regular folks like me learn a lot from them. Hurray, frugalistas, with your 10 Tips to Save When Shopping For (Blank). Thanks for leading the way.
Except. I'd love there to be one exception. Please, Frugalistas, leave dating alone.
As a single mom, I'm really worried that advice for cheap courtship will mess with the natural order of things. At least during the early stages of dating, following the advice of pennypinchers who tell you to make budget-dating a shared project will throw an moldy, damp, buzzkill blanket over the glowy embers of a budding relationship.
Credit Image: ilovememphis on Flickr
Mark my words, squeezing a dime in the early stages of a relationship may cost you the whole shebang. Don't be pennywise and boo foolish, is what I'm saying.
I'm not saying that you should show off, intentionally waste money or feel expected to be lavish or live beyond your means. If you aren't flush, you can still find love, to be sure. But, please, for the love of love, taking about cheap dating as though it's a shared project should be like passing gas -- sure it's natural, and it's going to be a topic of discussion some day, but let's not have that on the first date.
Frugalistas unfortunately disagree. For example, I recently read a press release with "9 Frugal Dating Tips for Cost-Conscious Lovebirds" from Consumer Savings Expert, Andrea Woroch (@AndreaWoroch) who has been featured as a media expert on NBC's Today Show, FOX & Friends and MSNBC. I'm sure she gives great advice on other topics, but don't do as she says when dating, anyway! Let me show you why -- here are a few of her tips and my breakdown:
Cutting Alcohol. Andrea says:
Even if you find a cut-rate meal (early bird special, anyone?), a couple drinks can greatly add to the bill. You might want to hit a restaurant that doesn't serve booze or make it an afternoon date.
Whaaaaa? Is Andrea dating 90-year-olds who need to back home to take Nap #3 during Jeopardy? Even sober daters don't want to have dinner at 4 pm when dating. Early bird specials ain't no way to bring sexy back!
Date with Gift Cards or Daily Deals. Andrea says:
If you're worried about appearing "cheap," redeem the offer when your date is in the restroom.
Whoa, playah, that's just not smooth and not necessary. The last thing you want to be on a date is a sneaky! Even if you are upfront with couponing, it's awkward that your number one reason for the suggestion of where to spend time with your date is the deal, and it'll get all weird when your purchases have gone over the limit and someone's tiramisu wasn't within the terms of the deal and should you split that or what and then you need to squabble with the hostess that there was supposed to be $60 left on the giftcard not $50 and ... oh, just don't do this.
Plan a Freebie and Go Cultural. Andrea says:
Many libraries and coffee shops offer free poetry readings and musical entertainment. Look for art gallery tours or free museum days to improve your cultural IQ while impressing your date.
No, no, no! Well, yes, if this is your jam, but ... plan the activity first because you love it, not because it is cheap and sounds impressive. If what you love HAPPENS to be free or cheap, fine. But nothing is more of a buzzkill than a poetry reading no one wanted to attend in the first place or an obviously comped, random experience. If planning dates feels like scrounging for ways to fill time, your bed will be un-filled for a long, long time.
Here's the thing. Evolution provides a natural budget control to relationships, but it works on averages over time, and dating is no time to cheap out. You need to be free-flowing up front with meals (bought or made); booze, if that's your thing; tickets and activities; shiny clothes; little gifts and surprises. It's not at all that people are golddiggers. Well, some are. But mostly, it's primal, and early spending equals safety. It's just how it is. Trust the math of dating.
If you both pass that early tests, mutual sex drives will take over for awhile, and that extremely versatile activity can save you lots of dough. Later, you'll also be able to have important budget discussions along the way as your relationship deepens, and you'll sculpt shared values about how to save money. You'll have lots and lots of discussions of all kinds. About recycling day and couches to buy and in-laws and children and whatnot. Including coupons. All of those discussions are free.
Look at it this way:
1. Courting = enjoy NOT pennypinching.
2. Sexual Relationship = maybe a bigger lingerie bill, but otherwise lots of cheap fun.
3. Discussion Faze = cheap, until Marital Therapy is needed.
So it all averages out. I say allow for the free-flowing resources of the dating days to build memories and get to know someone without going overboard with frugal tips. There will be plenty of time for being cost-aware down the road, if you are lucky enough to get that far with someone worth your time.
Unless, of course, you are a freaky little girl or guy who gets turned on by a bargain. Then go ahead, find yourself a freaky little partner who gets turned on by a bargain. Who will roar with desire at your ability to provide a wild night fueled on Groupons and CVS extra buck wine. There's someone for everyone, primal wiring be damned. Maybe the best dating advice is to be yourself and let it fall where it may.
But me? I just don't think the early bird specials would cut it for me. I don't need limos and luxury, but I do think candlelight suppers work best, you know, when it's dark outside. It's the natural order of things.
Deb Rox blogs at Deb on the Rocks and isn't incredibly frugal about anything except time and Nutella. She just wants to make sure there is some Nutella there in the morning because after that, everything else will take care of itself.
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