The Cost of Dating Someone Whose Financial Values Match Yours

by Ruzielle Ganuelas

For the first time in years I found myself back in the dating pool, purely from my own actions and tremors from my ongoing Saturn Retrograde. As we all know, dating and coupling can be an expensive enterprise, even for the most budget-conscious of us. I can’t even imagine what serial daters spend in their lifetime, or people who go on frequent Tinder dates. I’m currently in the process of figuring out how much money is okay to spend on dating and how much of it will figure into my overhead costs.

Luckily, the man I’m currently seeing is fiscally responsible. Even more luckily, I didn’t have to go through the merry-go-round of dating. For a year, we circled each other like wary cats while I dated Mr. Moneybags. When it finally felt right, I emailed him my phone number and we went out the next day. It was exactly like a rom-com where the girl is crying over a man while the guy who can make her happy is literally in front of her, making her happy.

My last relationship was draining, financially and otherwise; this time around, I’m determined to keep costs reasonable. If things don’t work between him and me, neither of us won’t be cleaned out financially.

On our first date, I asked to go to the farmer’s market. My hometown’s farmer’s market is generally lackluster but it has an ice cream kiosk called Half Pint Ice Cream that is owned by a former co-worker. At less than $5 a pop, it’s as non-committal of a date as we can get. I tend to be on the pessimistic end of things, so I figured if he turned out to be incredibly dull, I won’t feel bad because he only spent less than $5 on a not-fun date with me. As it turned out, he was incredibly charming and all sorts of fun.

He turned out to be so much fun that we walked a few blocks downtown to get coffee at my favorite café. Nobody gets to go to that café unless he is coupling material. We ordered some iced drinks and, as I reached for my wallet, he paid and tipped the barista. Bonus points for tipping the barista; as a lifelong service worker, tips were my lifeline for years and I was always grateful for tipping customers. I was so happy in that moment I don’t remember how much the coffees cost. $6? $7? All I remember is that we liked each other’s company so much that we walked a few more blocks for Vietnamese food.

I’m proud to say that I’m a cheap date. I’m not one for expensive dates, and even when I am in one, I get this acidic reaction in my stomach which prevents me from enjoying the date I’m in. Expensive meals to me are for celebrations and the occasional indulgence, certainly not a weekly occurrence. When I was with my ex, we had expensive dinners every night as he was unable to just enjoy a cheap meal at home, however lovingly prepared.

In return for my new date’s awesomeness, I stocked up my fridge with all sorts of fruit juices before inviting him to my place. I generally view fruit juices as wasteful and since I’m almost always on a diet, I think of them as belly fat. I went to the Asian grocery and picked up coconut, Asian iced tea, calamansi, mango, and passion fruit juices. Everything was on sale, so I only spent $7.38. Afterwards, I went to the newly-opened Piroshky Piroshky kiosk and bought him a ham, cheese, and spinach piroshky for $4.93.

Later, after a visit to his lovely house, I wanted to settle my pounding sugar headache and drove to a nearby Asian grocery. As I walked in, I saw large tubs of Ellenos yogurt for sale. At the co-op, a single serving of Ellenos yogurt is pushing $4, and these tubs were a little over $5. In my experience, bachelors tend to eat a lot of frozen dinners, as I’ve seen him do multiple times. So I also bought him beef chow fun at the deli for $5, because it’s a damn shame to eat frozen dinners more than once a week.

In terms of eating out: so far, we’ve been to Potbelly, because I’ve never been and I was getting hangry. I need to visit that place again soon, since it was pretty good and — more importantly — cheap. Once we had brunch ($15.31) at a gyros restaurant (gyro for him, falafel for me) instead of the usual overpriced brunch-ian places which would have doubled the cost of our outing.

We’ve also had tacos at my favorite place ($11), and I decided my tacos are better. To prove it, I made him spicy pork tacos and breakfast tacos ($1.97 tortillas, $4.46 pork, $1.99 salsa, and $3 eggs). I have to say that I’m a better-than-average home cook. I have an intuition about what kind of food people like to eat. I compare myself to Tita in Like Water for Chocolate: when I’m happy, my meals are expansive and generous; when I’m sad, I rely on too much take-out and the soulless drive thru, and I can definitely taste all of the feelings on my food.

I haven’t figured the costs of keeping up appearances, so to speak, but I got a haircut a few hours before our first date. I’m female, so my haircuts are too expensive. I spent $54 at a salon that was conveniently close to our planned rendezvous. My regular hairstylist charges $100 a haircut and gives the best haircut in the universe, but I was running late, so I cheated on her with the cheaper hairstylist and had her remove 7 inches of hair off my head.

Last week, we went to a nail salon to get pedicures. If you want to know if you really like someone, take him to a nail salon and see if you melt or get repulsed by the sight of him laughing like a little boy when dead skin is getting sloughed off his feet. Bonus points for charming the nail salon ladies and offering to pay the $60 tab.

Today, we went to Target to return too-large jeans I bought online. He offered to buy me a pair of jeans, because he wanted to be nice and get me something cute to wear. I picked the last pair in my size and as I left the fitting room, an employee handed me a coupon for $10 off the $30 jeans. I also got a big jar of coffee for $5.

Earlier in the day, he gave me flowers and a card. I’m one of those women who gets flowers all the time and it hasn’t stopped for 24 years. I’ve gotten flowers in different price points, but this is the first time it really meant something to me. It was pink and purple and it was exactly what my heart didn’t know it wanted (price unknown).

Total dating expenses in three weeks: $265.49

Average expenses per date: $12.62

If there’s anything I learned from dating in my Saturn Retrograde, it’s that when you give up hard-won financial independence for a man, he’s not the right man for you. Dating shouldn’t cause financial distress, and if you can find someone who shares your financial values, life can be so wonderful.

Ruzielle Ganuelas eats, blogs, and works in Washington State. Her dream is to finally make it to Paris.