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40-Something Frugalista: How dating killed my budget

T.L.
by T.L., Dimespring 30 (@beachbudget)

Recently I ended an almost three-week "relationship." Well … we sort of mutually ended it. He said he didn't want a relationship right now, and I said I didn't want to be with someone who felt mediocre about me. Go figure!

It's all good though … we're still friends.

What I found with dating, and spending time with someone I really liked, was that it created a weakness in my resolve to be frugal and stay in budget.

I mean let’s start with how we actually started dating: we took an overnight trip (as friends at first) to San Francisco. He was going there for work, and we had a free place to stay.

INFOGRAPHIC: The cost of a date across the U.S. 

Since I hadn't traveled anywhere for quite some time, I thought it could be a fairly frugal getaway.

Well the weekend kind of turned into the beginning of our dating, and that's where my budget went to hell.

First you want to get to know the person, so there was a lot of walking and talking (frugal), but you get to a point where you want to get things cooking, so usually a drink is in order. Wine: the good ol' social lubricant.

And, not sure how you feel about the guy paying, and where that starts and stops, but we were kind of going Dutch on a lot of things from the get go. I'm not exactly fond of that idea, especially when you first start dating someone (call me old fashioned), but I kind of rolled with things.

Over the course of a couple of weeks I noticed some things about myself that had changed when I started dating someone I liked. Call me crazy, but I wanted to look good. You see I work from home, and spend the other half of my time working out, or doing low-key activities like going to movies. Stuff where jeans, hoodies, and yoga pants are perfectly acceptable.

READ: I like piña coladas, getting caught in the rain, and good credit scores

But I was going on dates now, and I sorely lacked cute clothes, and don't even get me started about the state my feet were in, so I went shopping and got a pedicure.

My grocery budget was also a bust. I suddenly felt the need to nurture or make someone happy, and what better way than through food and cooking for someone.

Most of the meals I cook for myself are cheap and bland, and carry me through a good part of the week. No one would brag to their friends about the stellar minestrone soup I made for them, so I started to get a little more creative, which cost me more. And then of course there was wine with each meal. C’mon it’s romantic.

I have to admit, when we ended things I felt somewhat relieved. Not only was I getting back some more time to do the things I needed to do (yes, I need better time-management skills), but I also started to feel in control of my budget again. Perhaps I’m just not prepared to date right now?

On a side note, he was aware of my money "challenges" and the fact that I have a personal finance blog. When I started to express my concern about going out to eat and how I was sometimes paying half, he did suggest lower-cost options for our dates, like hiking.

READ: I want to live and work abroad. Where do I start? 

So that's my takeaway from this whole experience: Communicate.

I should have been more upfront with my concerns about some of the things we were doing that were budget busters for me. Don’t complain about lack of money of course, but be honest with who you are, and the goals that are most important to you. If a guy (or girl) doesn't understand that then they may not be the right person for you.

My other takeaway is that I need to slowly start purchasing some things (like new clothes) now that make me feel good about myself so that I'm not going on a shopping spree once I start dating again. Besides, feeling good about the way I look puts out good energy into the world and who knows, maybe I’ll attract potential dates that way.

And come up with a list now of low-cost date options. I mean yes, you can sit on the couch and watch Netflix, but that's going to get old and boring.

Have any of you experience similar budget busters while dating? How do you manage to date and stay frugal or in budget?
 

T.L. is a freelance video editor and blogger living in Los Angeles. She enjoys movies, running and playing beach volleyball. You can follow her personal finance journey on her blog at Budget & the Beach, and follow her on twitter at @beachbudgetT.L. is a member of the Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and attitudes on personal finance.