As an adult, perhaps the biggest curveballs that life throws your way are expenses – you’ve got bills, basic necessities and leisure budgets, and maybe loved ones to support. With all of this breaking the bank, how do you budget for dating? So many questions come with the cost of dating – is it a worthwhile investment? Can you even afford it? My experience in the dating industry has come with exposure to these financial burdens, so allow me to share some of the most common challenges and how you can maneuver them.

First Date, Second Date, Third Date…What Changes?

Dates financially evolve as you go on more of them with someone. Typically, the aspects that shift the most are who pays for what and the cost of the activity. It doesn’t matter if it’s dinner or a movie, or both – whoever initiated the first date should ALWAYS pay! Of course, there are daters out there who will have no issue going Dutch, but the initiator should always offer. This is a traditional concept that I firmly believe makes paying the bill less awkward. After the first date, the initiator of future dates should keep offering to pay until the other person speaks up. That said, there are no hard rules here. These are just guidelines until you and your partner feel comfortable enough discussing the approach that will work best in your relationship. As time goes on, however, dates might get more expensive, so the two of you should decide on a dating budget that you’re comfortable with, never suggesting an activity that may exceed that budget. This should be done as soon as the dates start getting a bit more expensive than just dinner or a movie! I’ve often seen newer couples get caught up in the excitement of early romance, causing them to crack the budget in pursuit of love. 

To another point, do both of yourselves a favor and confirm with yourself that there is real potential for something long-term with this person. If you’re just playing a game, you’re not only wasting their time, but you’re also wasting your money. 

So, Does a Relationship Eventually Need to be Financially Balanced?

This question is bound to come up once things get serious – nobody wants to feel like they’re indebted to somebody, even a partner. The answer? It depends on how the two of you feel about money. If neither of you are sensitive about it, then don’t sweat it! After awhile, financial balance won’t be top-of-mind if you truly enjoy spending time together because at a certain point, you aren’t investing money in the other person – you’re investing it in the relationship. Otherwise, if one or both of you are sensitive about money, then coming up with some sort of plan as to who should be paying for what might be productive for avoiding issues going forward. Generally speaking, it’s essential to just be honest about your budget and lifestyle in order to avoid economic confrontations in the future.

My Town Is Holding Me Back – What Should I Do?

Surprisingly, economic burdens in dating are common across both large cities and smaller towns. New York, Los Angeles, and all coastal regions are expensive places to be! This draws back to the idea of investing in your relationship. Looking at the big picture and deciding whether or not a date that financially makes its way up to a three-digit price tag will be worth it later on is key. That said, the upside is that a larger metropolitan city means having an income that might allow for a higher dating budget. On the other hand, in a smaller, more affordable suburban or rural town, you might run out of things to do and activities to spend money on. Eventually, your relationship could hit a rut. Get creative! There are plenty of free things you can do, and once the relationship progresses, you can maybe put the extra money toward a weekend trip!

At all stages, a relationship entails a series of trials and triumphs and my ultimate belief is that if you care enough to put in the effort to move things forward with someone you’re attracted to, money shouldn’t be the reason why a potential relationship fails. Finding lasting love is nothing to be hesitant about – it’s a universal need! For this reason, you can’t look at dating as another expense. Yes, it might cost money and it might not be a walk in the park, but nothing in life worth doing is cheap or easy. Think positively! If you’re only looking at dating with the glass half empty, then the glass is always going to be half empty. Remember that dating should be fun and well worth the spend, so choose activities that #sparkjoy!

Tell me, what have been your financial woes in dating and how have you compromised?