The bill arrives for dinner. Yikes. You didn’t anticipate spending that much money. But what can you do? Taco Bell didn’t seem like the best way to impress your date. Good thing you have your credit card.
Does this scenario sound familiar? How much do you spend on dating each year? Have you ever done the math?
According to a recent study from Match.com, singles spend an average of $1,600 per year on dating. The amount can vary by a few hundred dollars depending on where you live and your gender (men spend more than women).
For some, that is a big chunk of their annual income. But what can you do? How can you reduce the cost of dating without seeming cheap or just avoiding the dating scene altogether?
The answer is simple—you need to make a shift. You need to move from dates that are rich in cost to dates that are rich in creativity. Here are few suggestions on how to be an expert at cheap dates without seeming cheap:
1. Know your state and national parks. Spend hours discovering the beauty of your local parks together. You will have ample time to get to know your date as you wander on the trails and exploring other activities the park offers. And they are cheap. Parks sometimes have a minimal entry fee but many are free.
2. Be a community calendar guru. Is a concert a good option? Usually. What about a free concert? Absolutely. Towns and cities often hold events like festivals, exhibits, and concerts for their community members. And they are often free. Keep up with your local community calendar (and maybe community calendars of neighboring towns). You may spot an upcoming event that is perfect for your next date.
3. Be smart. Looking for an intelligent and cost-effective activity? Consider going to a museum. History, science, and art museums are places that can prompt some great conversations. At every turn, there is a something new to view and discuss. They also rotate out exhibits, so there are reasons to return for another date. And, of course, museums are usually inexpensive.
4. Avoid making a meal the centerpiece of your date. Dinner is usually the most expensive part of a date. We invest in the meal because it is often the centerpiece of the date. So don’t make dinner the focal point. Instead, make eating a necessary evil. Plan your date in such a way where you must “grab a quick bite to eat” so that you can spend time doing something else (like going to a community event, park, or museum). This planned “quick bite” tends to cut costs without making you seem cheap.
5. Know your way around small towns. Discover the towns that are around you. Spend your time exploring the shops. Sit down and people watch. Find out what the locals recommend and try it. Have your own small-town adventure for the day.
6. Know how to use a stove. Okay, I know that I said to avoid making dinner the centerpiece of your date. Here is the exception—when making dinner is the date. Pick out a recipe that you and your date want to try. Go to the grocery store and pick out the ingredients. And then try to make it. Even if the meal doesn’t turn out like the pictures, you can still have a fun and inexpensive time making a meal together.
Dating has its financial costs. So find ways to be frugal without coming across as cheap. Make a shift. Move away from dates that are rich in costs and toward dates that are rich in creativity.
Art Rainer is the author of The Marriage Challenge, The Money Challenge and the forthcoming kids series The Secret Slide Money Club. He also hosts a growing podcast called The Money Challenge.