Dating: when to save and when to splurge


Boy, talk about pressure! Some of the toughest dating dilemmas, especially early on in a relationship, have to do with how much money you should spend on a date. What’s the lower limit I can spend without looking like a cheapskate? When should I splurge a little? When is it expected that I go all out? How far into a relationship is a cheap date OK?

First off, relax, because …

You don’t have to go crazy
There’s really never a time you have to spend more than you’re able to. So let’s start there. Take a deep breath and relax. You may choose to go all out—which will often impress a date and give you the chance to create a unique experience—but you shouldn’t ever feel as if it’s absolutely expected that you spend a lot of money. Sure, there are certain outings that simply cost more than others. But if you feel pressure to throw down some serious cash, and worry that if you don’t you may not get another date with this person, then maybe that’s not the kind of person you want to be spending your time (or money) on anyway.

That being said …

…A good date does demonstrate that you’re investing in the relationship
By “relationship” we don’t mean that you’re necessarily headed toward marriage; it might even be a first date we’re talking about. And we’re not necessarily talking about a financial investment either. But whether it’s early or late in a relationship, it’s important that from time to time you show the other person that you’re making a real effort to plan a date that’s fun and meaningful. Any effort and thoughtfulness will go a long way toward creating a real connection.

But don’t put constant pressure on yourself to come up with perfect date after perfect date, because …

…Good dates can also be about relaxing and just being together
Especially once you’ve gotten into a rhythm in your relationship, you may just want to hang out and watch TV—if that’s what you both enjoy doing. But even when you’re just getting to know each other, you don’t have to spend hours planning a perfect date that requires loads of creativity and expense. Instead, just make sure to provide the time and opportunity to be together and talk about who you are. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing fish and chips at the beach, or taking in game of football, or going out with friends. The point is that dating is about getting to know each other better and deepening your relationship. So make an effort to provide the environment and opportunity for that to happen.

Still, don’t use that as an excuse to get into a rut, because …

…You don’t want to be cheap and/or lazy
As we said, it’s not necessary that you rent a white horse and medieval knight costume every time you plan something to do together. And again, your date needs to understand that going out frequently—even just for dinner and a movie—can get expensive. There are plenty of dates you can plan that don’t cost a lot of money but show that you’ve put at least some thought into how you are going to spend your time together. Think about hiking, going to a museum, attending a free concert in the park. Still, keep in mind that there are times when there’s just no way around shelling out some dough. For example, you may need to pay for parking instead of saving a couple of bucks by making your date walk six blocks in stilettos. (And if she’s wearing stilettos, it’s probably worth the extra money.)

On the other hand, don’t expect money to replace thoughtfulness, because…

…Creativity and thoughtfulness can save you money, but the opposite isn’t always true
In other words, spending a good bit of money isn’t always going to do the trick when it comes to planning a good date. As we said, money can (obviously) present all kinds of opportunities for fun and interesting dates. But a thoughtful, well-planned evening that costs $25 can make a much better impression than an expensive evening that shows no forethought or creativity.

So, if we boil these principles down, the big question when it comes to how much to spend on a date, is actually less about money and more about effort. If you don’t have a lot of cash to spend, then make sure you offer what you do have: your creativity, your thoughtfulness, your time. Anyone with substance is going to be grateful for this. And if you do have plenty of money and don’t mind spending it on dates, just make sure you don’t rely on money alone to create a memorable evening. Add in the personal touches that make your time together unique. Remember, whether it’s your first date or your hundredth, whether you’re a struggling artist or a professional with money to burn—what matters most is that you let your date know you care enough to plan an evening out where you’ll both have fun and the chance to enjoy each other’s company.

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