DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I just wanted to start off by saying that I love your site and articles, keep up the great work.
My question is part personal finance and dating. I’ve been single for the past 2 years now and it’s been great. I’ve been able to travel, pursue my hobbies, and simply have fun on my own terms. However, now I’m approaching 30 years old and starting to think about dating and finding someone special in my life. The thing is over the past 4 years I racked up a considerable amount of consumer debt. A few embarrassing financial mishaps happened and I decided to set myself straight. I spent the past 6 months learning everything I could about personal finance and getting them in order. I have a stable government job that I enjoy. I adhere to a strict budget, adjusted my lifestyle, got rid of my car, moved back into my parents, and reduced a lot of frivolous expenses. If I can maintain my stick to my new financial plan I expect to be debt free in February. I’ve done several “bootcamps” and a lot of reading and listening to material such as your blog, so I have a good understanding of how to meet girls. My question is should I spend more money on going out partying, and trying more activities to meet someone by pushing back my debt free day?
From my male biased perspective it seems that not having a car and living at home with my parents is not very attractive, even though I know a lot of my peers live at home due to the current economic state. So should I wait until I am debt free move out and then start dating? I’m also thinking that if I do that I am giving up almost two years of searching time and that I may miss “the one” during that period. Right now my entertainment budget is minimal and I am almost sure I would go over if I started dating again. Dating requires money going out for dinner, parking, drinking, concert tickets, out door activities, lunches all that great stuff costs something and it can add up quickly especially if I’m seeing more than one girl at a time. I don’t want you to get the impression that I buy everything for girls and want to be their sugar daddy. I am cognizant of not falling into that trap and not to attract those type of girls. I imagine there are only a limited amount of cheap things to do like picnics, free galleries, and bike rides. What are your thoughts?
– Credit Card Slave
DEAR CREDIT CARD SLAVE: First of all, congratulations on getting your life in order! Financial debt is out of control in this country and absolutely ruining people’s lives. Getting everything paid off and keeping your head above water is no small accomplishment, especially with the economy the way that it is right now.
Now as to your question.
Dating, like life, does take a certain level of spending – food ain’t free, after all – but if it means going into debt to do so… well, you’re doing it wrong.
Part of what you need to do is think about the types of women you’re interested in. If you’re looking for a woman who wants to go out on the town every weekend, likes to go dancing at clubs, wants see the latest movies in the theater and eats out on the regular… well, you’re probably going to be better off giving yourself time to build your finances up more. If you’re looking for someone who can appreciate creative dates, Netflix, picnics, museums, hikes and home-cooked romantic meals, then you’re in luck.
Dating can be done – and done well – on the cheap, even if you’re seeing more than one person; it just takes careful thought, creativity and planning. There are more cheap and free date activities out there than you’d think; you have to be willing to do your research in advance. To start with, start scanning the local alt-weekly or local subreddit; these will have all sorts of listings for cool events that are free to attend, from speaking engagements, gallery openings, local theater performances, classes, Farmer’s Markets, craft faires and film festivals. You should also find Facebook groups that talk about current events in your area and check NextDoor and other local sites for various goings-on. The more you know about what’s happening in your city, the more cheap date opportunities you’ll find.
Also: just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s a lousy date. Museums, for example, make excellent dates. They’re classy, they offer plenty of topics for conversation and most of them ask for voluntary donations rather than a set price. Picnics, hikes and bike trips can all be insanely romantic with just the two of you taking in the beauty of nature. You may not be able to go out to dinner on dates but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t date at all; I’m a huge fan of the “romantic homemade pizza” date – you collaborate on ingredients and make a pizza from scratch at your place or hers and then enjoy it with candle light and a nice bottle of wine. Pizza is awesome because the ingredients are cheap, it’s easy to make and it looks really impressive… and everyone loves pizza.
The great thing about dating on the cheap is that by having restrictions, it forces you to get creative and that is going to make you more appealing to women. Sure, anyone can do the traditional “dinner and a movie”… but how many women have gone tubing down a river for their first date? Or went to a kite festival or a flower show at the botanical gardens? These are going to make you stand out in a good way amongst all the other guys out there.
The biggest problem you’re honestly going to have is logistics. Living at home and dealing with public transport can be a problem – not because it’s bad but because it’s going to be considerably less convenient than if you have your own place and your own car. Everybody’s been f
ked over by the economy; nobody’s going to blink twice about the fact that you’re taking the bus or the subway or that you’re living with your folks to get out from under your debts and save up your cash because everybody’s had to tighten their belts. If the women you’re dealing with are going to look down on you for getting your finances under control… well, frankly, you’re better off not dating them in the first place.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com)