When I started my first full-time job, I kept a strict budget to make sure I could pay my bills, student loans, rent and transportation costs. What many people didn’t know was that I also had a separate budget for dating.
Going on dates has costs that many people don’t budget for. For example, you might need a new outfit or a new cellphone plan to use Tinder where Wi-Fi isn’t available, and you might want to pay for an Uber ride after a night out drinking. Single parents will need to hire a baby-sitter or plan outings for more than two.
My dating budget wasn’t huge as I had the luxury of living in Austin, Texas, a city that provides plenty of cheap or free date options. From enjoying the beauty of Zilker Botanical Garden to taking a romantic walk by Lady Bird Lake, there was no reason to save tons of money.
But just like a regular budget, a dating budget kept me prepared for any expenses or financial mishaps while dining out on the town or taking in a movie at Alamo Drafthouse.
My dating budget covered food and drinks, entertainment, such as a show or attraction, and Uber. I was always prepared in case a date forgot his wallet, Uber was charging surge prices or I needed to pay an unexpected cover fee at a bar.
What also helped was that I knew what I wanted in a potential boyfriend.
“If you’re not smart about what you want, what you offer someone, and what your deal breakers are, you’ll spend a lot more of your dating budget money on bad dates or failed relationships than if you use that money for dating wisely,” April Masini, a New York-based relationship and etiquette expert, said in an email.
Masini added that you need to take care of yourself before you can be in a healthy relationship. If you can’t pay your rent, dating shouldn’t be your No. 1 priority.
Here are three things to think about when creating a dating budget:
1. Casual or serious?
Dating budgets will vary depending on what you want. If you are looking for a serious relationship, you must prepare to have a bigger budget than someone who wants to casually date. If you will date only people you see a future with, going out together might mean something more extravagant or romantic. That will cost more money.
Casual daters, on the other hand, want to have fun and enjoy themselves. If you don’t want any commitment just yet, you likely won’t want to spend a lot of money for someone who might not be in your life next week. If you’re casually dating someone, most of the dates might involve cheap happy hours, free events or enjoying nature.
2. Free or paid dating service?
From Tinder and OKCupid to interest-themed sites such as ChristianMingle and PetPeopleMeet.com, you have plenty of places to find dates online.
While many of these dating services are free, others offer the option to upgrade services for a fee or require a paid subscription. Consider what you want to pay to find your potential match and which service seems the best match for your needs. Are you OK with occasionally receiving creepy messages from strangers on free services? Or would you rather receive messages only from people you are matched with on a paid service?
Use a free trial to figure out if paying for a dating service might help you to find your soulmate. If you can’t afford a paid dating service or don’t like the would-be suitors who are offered as matches, try free sites. For example, Tinder allows people to message each other only if they are matched. And don’t be embarrassed to have an account on multiple sites.
3. Dating emergencies.
While it may sound silly, another thing you may want to have extra cash for is dating emergencies. Things do go wrong. A date might forget his wallet, or dinner might be more expensive than initially thought. A dating budget emergency fund will give you a little financial breathing room.
Creating a dating budget might seem excessive, but it allow you to set limits on your social spending. It also gives you access to designated funds you need when the going gets good.