Dating on a Budget - Having Fun While Being Cheap
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?
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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