Dating on a Budget - Having Fun While Being Cheap

Dear Veronica,

I read a few of your Hub articles and I am hoping you could give me some advice. I just moved to a big city for my first real job. A little about me, I'm 22, I just graduated college, I have a nice job that I just started and a tiny apartment that I can barely afford. I have a bunch of debt from school. I am single and dating. I don't mean to sound like I'm broke, I'm not broke. I just have to be careful. I am only just starting my career and I live in an expensive city. I am meeting women all the time. I love dating and going out and getting to know different people. Here's is my problem, I can't afford picking up the check for 2 or 3 dinners out a week. I want to be a gentlemen and treat a lady, but I don't know what to do here. I've had a few really bad experiences with this already. One, this girl that works in my building, asked me if I wanted to go get dinner after work, I said sure. I ordered the soup and that's all I had, because like I said I'm really being money conscious. Well the check came and I put down my money for the soup and for a good tip and she was like, what are you doing. Meanwhile, she ordered a steak, and she had 3 mixed drinks. I had one beer. I tried to explain that I was very embarrassed, but she asked me if I wanted to grab dinner, I didn't realize that meant I was treating. And I even said hey I will treat next time, I'm really sorry about this. She says she only asked me to dinner because she expected me to treat. Honestly I'm not even sure this qualifies as a date. But I am willing to see it as a date since I did like her, right up until she embarassed the shit out of me and walked out of the restaurant and stuck me with her check. Then this other time a few weeks ago, I was at this bar and talking to this girl and wound up really hitting it off. She gave me her number, and I said to her I really would like to call you and ask you out for a date, and she said she'd like that. And I said right away, would you have a problem splitting the bill? She didn't answer me she just walked away and that was that.

Is there any way I can handle this better or avoid being embarrassed?

Justin

Dear Justin,

I'm very sorry to hear about the girl that asked YOU out because she was looking for a free meal. And that one will bring me to my first tip.

#1 - Be selective about whom you date.

While I applaud and encourage anyone your age especially to enjoy meeting different people, and dating different people, at the same time you should practice a little selection right when you are choosing the women you'd like to ask out. If for no other reason, because you can't afford to take all the ladies out.

Justin, that girl was just plain wrong. You didn't ask her out. She ordered something expensive and actually admitted to you she was looking for a free meal. That sucks, and it's not uncommon, and it's women like that that ruin it for the girls that would have just enjoyed your company.

It's OK to say no, or to pass up an offer, especially if you're thinking about a date you have coming up or another girl that you like too.

#2 - Avoid the places where you could get trapped into a bill you didn't sign on for. If a girl in the elevator or someplace on a whim asks you if you want to grab a bite, remove any possibility of confusion or embarrassment. Try any of these:

"Sure, do you want to grab a slice of pizza and take a walk?"

"I already ate, but I'd like to spend time with you, want to go to Starbucks?"

"I have to run some errands, why don't you call me when you're done eating and I'll meet you for a beer. Here's my number."

Again, let me stress, these are ideas for you to use if a girl asks you to go grab dinner, like the girl in the elevator. These are not ways for you to ask a girl out. These are ways for you to avoid any problems if a girl is asking you, so that you can be careful while still being the gentlemen you want to be.

There are ways to kind of weed out the girls that are trying to spend time with you from the girls that are up to something. If she just likes you and wants to get together, she'll go for something like a slice of pizza or a coffee. If she won't let go of the dinner thing by saying just come with me, or, we can have dinner tomorrow then, she's revealing an agenda like this girl you work with. You'll have your answer, and it should be, "No."

#3 - Be prepared with a bunch of ideas for a free or low cost date. For example, in New York City we have the famous Gray's Papaya on 6th Ave & 8th. There's 3 locations, but that's the best one. They are open 24-7-365 so whenever you're date is, you can go there. 2 hotdogs and a drink is like $4 bucks. Coffee is 25 cents in the morning. It's a Manhattan tradition. You said you're in a major city, there must be some cool finds and fun ideas.

Museums, art galleries, sometimes you can find some cool historical tours and things like this for free. Some people don't realize this, but often the "ticket price" to enter a museum is only a suggested donation. You don't have to pay it. I am of course hoping you can, and that if you can't you will at least donate something. But just to let you know, especially if you go repeatedly to the museums in your city, you don't have to pay the full suggested admission donation every time. I have a friend that works at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan on Central Park West. He said the museum never wants to appear empty of visitors, or appear to have an exhibit that isn't drawing crowds. He said he'd always rather have those people that can only donate 5 bucks each but still walk through and make an exhibit seem popular or successful. You can always tell her to walk ahead while you get the tickets, and you can handle this part privately.

Think of all the other free or very cheap things you can do. Frisbee in the park, rollerblading, finding those matinees or cheaper second run movie theaters. Bowling and shooting pool are usually not too expensive. Have some ideas prepared.

#4 - Time dates away from meals. If you're asking a girl out, specifically state, let's meet after dinner, say around 8 or 9? Is that good for you?

#5 - Learn to make a few inexpensive meals. Spaghetti, cous cous. Fast, cheap and easy. If you've already had the first date with a girl, this may be a nice follow up date option. Invite her over and say you'll make dinner, and then you guys can watch a movie that is very meaningful to you that you'd like to share. Surely you have some DVD's of some classic favorites around. If she's seen them all, you can always say, "Good, I'll just throw it in, but this way if we get distracted from it by our conversation it won't matter. I was really looking forward to talking to you, and getting to know you better."

Honestly, my husband and I have had many many date nights over our 14 years together where we've done nothing but sit on the couch watching stupid videos on youtube and laughing, and talking. Eating popcorn, drinking a few cocktails, just remembering funny movies or tv shows or commercials, and looking for them online. One leads into the next, and that leads into a story.

#6 - There can be a lot of significance in gestures. Opening the door, pulling out her chair, picking flowers for her, these things are signs of your being a gentlemen, and they matter. Many years ago when I was in California, a guy I dated showed up one morning at my house with coffee, just the way I liked it. Between classes and working, I never had time in the morning to get a good cup of coffee. I was flying out of the house, when there he was, sitting on my car, with a new thermos with a bow on it, filled with home made coffee, exactly how I take it. He remembered how I take my coffee, and that I'd said I never get good coffee in the morning. He made a little card that said he hoped this would start my day off with a smile. He mentioned that he couldn't afford to take me out to dinner this week and he said he didn't want to go a whole week without seeing me.

Well played? Maybe. It certainly worked. I'm just saying, there are ways to let a woman know you're into her that don't involve dollar signs. Find them. Speak to her with those gestures. Even if you're dating lots of different people, you can still let someone know you like them, and that they are special, and that you're paying attention.

When you invite a woman over for your 2nd or 3rd date and offer to make dinner, have a merlot because you've noticed that's what she drinks. Or have fresh fruit for dessert because she mentioned how she likes strawberries. Don't let it look like an accident, go ahead and let her know you tried to pick things you thought she'd like.

#7 - Be honest. The wording is important. In the example you gave where you had asked the lady if she'd like to go out for dinner with you, and then asked her if she'd mind splitting the bill, she had no way to know from what you said, what you really meant. Were you saying you don't want to treat because you don't consider it a romantic date? Were you saying you aren't a gentlemen, you don't think men should pay? Really, she couldn't tell. And she assumed the worst and walked away shocked. In her defense, it really did come off a little creepy. Had you said, "I would love to get to know you, and I'd love to take you out for a really nice dinner but unfortunately I can't afford that this week. Is there anyway you'd consider getting together for dessert and coffee instead?" Or, ask her if she'd mind if your first date is at Gray Papaya. Tell her if she wouldn't mind you'd be honored.

It's a little harder to make that kind of arrangement on a first date. A first date is that first impression thing, and usually if you can, you should make it a nice as possible. Not necessarily expensive, but a little more than a couple of hotdogs. Maybe this can be part of your planning or budgeting. When you've already had the first date and it's gone nicely, you can call and tell her you are so anxious to see her again, but that you really can't swing going out to eat this week. If she's on your wavelength she should be receptive when you suggest pizza, or walking through a museum, or meeting for coffee. She may even suggest splitting the check, or treating, or doing something inexpensive. That's a very good sign.

I realize this may not feel very gentlemenly. Don't do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. The best dating advice anyone can give you, is to be yourself. Don't pretend to be something you're not. If anything feels fake or off, just don't do it. However, if you can manage to find your comfort zone, you'll find there are ways you can be honest about money while still being chivalrous and creative. Try to open your mind to this economy and to the situation you're in. Everyone is cash tight. Everyone is watching their dollars and looking for work. You're doing great. You are a college graduate, you're employed, you're out there living on your own, and you're starting your life. Bravo to you! You are a catch! You're doing great! You have nothing to feel odd about.

And that brings me to my final tip.

#8 - Never let anyone make you feel bad for spending within your means. If you can't afford to do something, and there's a girl that has the nerve to try to make you feel guilty about that, screw her. She's not worth it. If you are genuine, and honest, and you just think things out and plan a little bit, you can absolutely date and have fun on a budget.

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9 comments

hailyk 6 years ago

Veronica I think you forgot to post your take on this? It ends with his question. Or was there even more?

This is my take on the situation from what I have read, those girls are jerks. There are plenty of people from any gender that are jerks so don't be too surprised and don't blame yourself.

I live in a big expensive city too and saddled with school loans. Where I live, this is quite common for a young adult. I am however, a bit old fashioned.. so if you are interested in a girl on the first date I think you should pay to show her your interest, give her the green light. 2 or 3 a week is A LOT! I am talking the first initial date. If she asks you, then it's fair to split.

Every lady is different obviously, but to give you some reference this is what I typically do. First date, I like the guy? I offer to split, or if he says he will treat I ask "Are you sure?". Honestly, I may get a slight bad taste in my mouth if he says ok to splitting.. just won't like him as much. I am being honest. If I don't like the guy? NO WAY will I let him pay for my meal, I don't want to send HIM the wrong message.

2nd date with a guy I like? I offer to pay unless he really really insists on paying. Why? I like being treated but perhaps he will feel obligated to get the next one. Maybe he feels competitive now, he wants to 1 up me. I like to show him I am nice and fair too! Whatever the case, we like each other and I think that sets good grounds for date 3.

Date 1, I think dinner is normal. It's public and easy to talk during, especially if you don't know each other well yet. Date 2 can be a movie or something where you don't talk but dinner again isn't bad. Date 3 why dinner again if you are poor? Go over to each other's houses and watch a movie for free! Or cook together!

I guess my first reaction is, be a little more selective before asking a girl out. Choose one that you think matches your personality and won't mind your cheaper lifestyle. Set yourself up for success by NOT asking out the wrong type of girl.

After some dates, and spending time together in free or cheap ways you are well on your way, far away from that pay for the dinner first date situation. Pretty soon you are at the point of girlfriend and boyfriend, the going out on dinner date thing should lessen and not be a problem. Order in or cook. No need to impress her 2-3 times a week!


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Veronica 6 years ago from NY Author

hailyk,

Thank you! You were right, I tried to save while I had to walk away for a moment but somehow accidently clicked publish! I was able to finish it, and add the pics and everything. Thanks again.

Your comments hopefully will show Justin exactly what I was thinking - that a decent person will understand that he's not very well off right now, and want to work with him to figure out how to get together and not embarrass each other or be in an awkward position if they can avoid it. It's very nice of you to offer to split the check. Like you admitted, it may make a bad impression if he accepts but if that's the case maybe don't put it out there. At least it should show Justin that if a lady offers to split the check, maybe its an opportunity to suggest something else. Those kinds of conversations should show you how affable a girl is, whether she wants to spend some time with you, or whether she is taking advantage.


Justin 6 years ago

It's so cool that you answered me. I am honored! OK first I want to say thank you for making me feel good about myself. I am trying to do the right things I want to treat just can't always. I have tried lots of things you said and you were right! I am still trying to date different women but I am being more selective. I've been good at avoiding dinner dates and like you said to I spent some time and got prepared. I have a good list of inexpensive places that are fun. You were right it weeds out the girls looking for free meals.

I made dinner for a date!! That was good advice. I thought I was a bad cook but you were right spaghetti and meatballs was pretty easy. She loved it. She cooked for me a few days later so it really turned into a few inexpensive dates in a row with her but I still got to spend time with her. Then I was just honest with her that I want to spend time but I can't afford to take her out to good places alot and she was fine with that. She understood. So things are going much better. Thank you for your help. I will keep you posted.


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Veronica 6 years ago from NY Author

Justin, it's great to hear back from you. I'm so glad I was able to give you some ideas that will work for you, and that you're doing good. You know what another "easy" dinner is? Tacos. Buy the Ortega full dinner kit. It's just all prep work, cutting up lettuce and tomatoes. Making rice and beans is easy. It might be fun to do together. If you want, email me and I'll send you a few very easy recipes for your dinner dates at home. Best to you!


joey 6 years ago

Hey Veronica, how about sharing those recipes! I could use some ideas too!


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Veronica 6 years ago from NY Author

You know what Joey, that's a great idea. I will write a Hub with some easy recipes for you guys, and link it back here. Thanks!


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Veronica 5 years ago from NY Author

Here's that Hub, with some uber-easy recipes anyone can cook.

http://hubpages.com/relationships/Dating-on-a-Budg...


Pam 5 years ago

Having this conversation with my sister right now.

Her take: If she likes a guy, she'll let him pay. If she doesn't, she'll do her best to pay for her half.

My philosophy: Male, female, Whoever asks the other person out should pay! Or at least, expect to pay. The invitee should also offer to pay for their portion, but the inviter should definitely try to pay.

As a girl invitee, I follow this personal rule. And if I'm doing the inviting, I definitely expect to pay. As a starving grad student, I won't turn down offers from the other party if they are working, but if they're also starving grads, I wouldn't expect them to pay for me as well.

My only caveat: if the guy is well established and working and can ~easily~ afford it, I would hope that he would be a gentleman and not accept my offer. But it would not seem unfair to me if he did. Are we independent women or aren't we??

Future dates: In the past, I've tended to pick up the check if I am dating someone making less than me; and leave the bulk of the paying for the guys who are making more. I think that's totally the easiest solution for people to spend time together.


Pam 5 years ago

Having this conversation with my sister right now.

Her take: If she likes a guy, she'll let him pay. If she doesn't, she'll do her best to pay for her half.

My philosophy: Male, female, Whoever asks the other person out should pay! Or at least, expect to pay. The invitee should also offer to pay for their portion, but the inviter should definitely try to pay.

As a girl invitee, I follow this personal rule. And if I'm doing the inviting, I definitely expect to pay. As a starving grad student, I won't turn down offers from the other party if they are working, but if they're also starving grads, I wouldn't expect them to pay for me as well.

My only caveat: if the guy is well established and working and can ~easily~ afford it, I would hope that he would be a gentleman and not accept my offer. But it would not seem unfair to me if he did. Are we independent women or aren't we??

Future dates: In the past, I've tended to pick up the check if I am dating someone making less than me; and leave the bulk of the paying for the guys who are making more. I think that's totally the easiest solution for people to spend time together.

And yeah, I am all about the homemade dinners!! And I love when guys cook for me, and I love when they appreciate food that I cook for them! :)

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