Dating on a Budget

Day 122 | $57,116 paid | $33,601 till freedom

A long-time reader requested a post dedicated to my dating life and how it fits (or doesn’t) with NMHD. The timing of this request was perfect, as I’ve been meaning to devote some time for reflection on this matter and put pen to paper for the sake of my own mental clarity, but I just haven’t been able to get around to it yet. Her prompt was just the sort of encouragement I needed to finally git ‘er done.

Before NMHD, I was averaging about one or two dinner dates and one or two drink dates a week for a spend of about $150+/week or $600+/month. Throw in a bar night or two or three with friends each week and an occasional trip, and it’s easy to see how I was spending $1,000 to $1,400 a month on entertainment.

I haven’t been on a single dinner date or drink date since starting NMHD. Instead, I’ve occasionally bought drinks for girls I meet at bars when I’m out with friends, and I’ve been on coffee dates, hike dates, and chill-at-home-and-drink-wine/beer-and-watch-a-movie dates.

I would say I’m dating roughly as much during NMHD as I did before, but at a much, much cheaper level.

I can’t say that I miss the dinner and drink dates, but they were definitely a little easier to set up since they’re more of a social norm.

“Hey, it was great to meet you. Do you want to go out some time?”
“Um, yeah, for sure.”
“Ok. We should go check out <X>. I hear they have excellent <Y> and <Z>.”
“Oh, yeah! I’ve heard great things about that place. We should totally go check it out.”
“Great! It’s a date. What’s your number?”
“Okay, it’s 867-5309.”
“Thanks, Jenny. I’ll call you soon.”

Done. Easy.

“Hey, it was great to meet you. Do you want to go out some time?”
“Um, yeah, for sure.”
“Ok. Do you like to hike? Or we can get coffee. Do you drink coffee? Or you can come over to my place and watch a movie. Do you like romantic comedies?”
“Whoa, weird and creepy. Umm, haha, just kidding…I’m actually not interested. Bye.”
“Wait! Here, can you take my flask for a second? I’ve gotta get my phone out of my pocket so I can get your number.”
“Eww, loser! Go away!”

Not as easy.

Obviously that’s an exaggeration, and I find that explaining my situation usually goes a long way in setting the record straight. However, it has become apparent to me that there’s a certain type of woman who wants money to be spent on her. This is the kind of woman who is okay with and actually encourages the social concept of legalized prostitution.

Then there is the kind of woman who gets it, and doesn’t feel like her self-worth is validated by how much her man spends on her. At the beginning of NMHD, I actually gave a damn about what the women in the former group thought about me. These days? I’m getting more ok with not being “in their league,” and while that does admittedly weigh on my mind, I I’ve consciously added “frugality” to my mostly subconscious list of traits I want in a girl I’m dating.

Before NMHD, I was okay with dating high-maintenance materialistic women. I didn’t seek them out, but if I ended up dating one, then I ended up dating one, and I could generally afford it. These days, I simply can’t, so I don’t. And in the long run, I’m probably much, much better off because of it. Unfortunately, it appears that the former group is much larger than the latter, so I while I’m dating about as much as I did pre-NMHD, I don’t know if that’s actually sustainable. Maybe instead of casually dating like I am now, I should date to marry so I don’t run out of frugal girls!

(To qualify the statement about dating casually, I plan on dating more seriously once the debt is paid off. 50% of all marriages these days end in divorce, and mostly for financial reasons. I’ll be doing future relationships a huge solid by not bringing my burdensome loans into them.)

While there is a significant difference in the girls I date, there’s also been a difference in the guy I am when I date. To get really candid here for a minute, I feel that prior to NMHD I wasn’t as concerned with having a great personality and being a super nice guy. Don’t get me wrong–it’s not like I was a huge jerk–but there was definitely an air of “My house…my toys…great dinner…$130 tab we just drank…aren’t you having so much fun?”

But when I stopped throwing money around and stripped away all of those meaningless distractions and it became just two people walking together in the forest or sitting on a couch in Starbucks sipping on coffee, then stuff started to get real. Personality became key, and I realized I had to be fun by just being me, and I couldn’t use money as a crutch. Throughout the past four months, I’ve become a better listener, and I’ve also become more sincere, genuine, open, and humble. I think it has all made for a better connection.

To sum up how dating has changed with NMHD, I’d say I’m doing as much of it, I’m not spending nearly as much on it, the women I date these days are less shallow, and so am I.

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31 Comments

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31 responses to “Dating on a Budget

  1. Nancy

    Well done! The only edit I’d make is that the materialistic girls aren’t in your league- not the other way around. If you do want to marry, wouldn’t it be better to be with someone who was into you when you didn’t have much (by pre-NMHD standards, not global!)? I can’t think of a worse life than working all day in a soul-sucking job to make absurd amounts of money so your wife can spend it all, and then getting home and sitting across from her at the table and realizing that you have nothing to say to each other. You deserve a smart girl! Also, you’re hilarious.

  2. I think it’s great that you’ve found your dating stride while paying off your debt. And although it might seem like right now there are more materialistic women than frugal ones, I suspect the line that you’re drawing (at the moment) is pretty far over to the frugal end.

    After NMHD is over, I’m assuming that you’ll go back to eating at restaurants and paying for drinks at bars. There are a lot of girls who will fall into the middle ground, and are happy to go to dinners at moderately priced places with the occasional splurge thrown in for fun. Especially when you are ready to date seriously, a lot of women will appreciate that you don’t waste a ton of money, regardless of how much you earn/have.

  3. Sarah L

    ^I agree with what Nancy said about the girls not being in your league instead of the other way around. You have simply matured into a better man that is deserving of a better woman.

    I love reading your insights and self-reflections. Glad that NMHD has helped you realize these things.

  4. Aww, I love your last line, so honest and refreshing. I also graduated with like 95k in debt from getting a JD at a top 10 law school, with a current salary that’s less than what I made as a paralegal. Eeek! Though as a girl, I probably don’t have the same dating budget problem. If you’re ever in NYC, I’d treat you to a coffee date. :)

  5. brian

    This post makes me think of Eddie Murphy in Coming to America. Dating without the distractions of money and impressing a girl with glitz and glamour and your monetary acomplishments, and really getting to know someone for who you truely are. Sounds great.

    I use to be one of those guys that dismissed personality as well, my line was if I want someone intresting to talk to I’ll talk to my buddies. Would take a less intellegent, gold digger that scored higher in the looks department over someone more interesting. Sadly, I’m some what that same guy ;-)

  6. I love how you slipped in a reference to 867-5309. Sweet. MMM carried a flask (and a few beer in his inside jean jacket pocket) when I first met him. We went camping many times together at the beginning. You know what really got me? His personality! :)

    Seriously though, this is a great method of finding a mature, low maintenance, easy-going woman for you. Maybe this is even the secret to dating cool chicks!

    Coffee is actually my perfect idea of a date. If you do coffee and dessert, then that might be even better. Late night, low lights, chocolate, coffee… what could be better? It might sound better too. Contrast with hiking on date 2 and that would be perfection. I’d save dinner at home for date 3 to eliminate the weirdness of a woman feeling safe in a man’s home on the first date. Have fun!

    P.S. I’m impressed with your active dating life… wow.

  7. Sarah

    Lol at the Jenny reference. Such a great post, thanks for posting. I know that you aren’t thinking about marriage now but I think the fact that you are trying really hard to pay off your debt asap shows that you’ll be a good provider someday for your family.

    P.S. Excited to hear about how your New Years went.

    • Thanks, Sarah. In my mind, I almost think that getting rid of these loans is sort of like a prerequisite to dating seriously…

      New Years was fun, thanks for asking–I partied it up with my friends at a ballroom ina hotel in south Austin…spent about $65 total, so not great, but not terrible, either. I hope yours was fun, too :)

      • Sarah

        I don’t agree that getting rid of the loans is a prerequisite to dating seriously. There are definitely frugal girls out there who will understand and support what you are doing (and be turned on that you are financially responsible) and be cool with doing something chill rather than hitting up 6th. I went to UT and went down there way too much so I’d totally be fine with a movie night or hike. As you said somewhere else on this blog (can’t find where) you are looking for someone who loves you for you, not what you can buy them so isn’t now the time to find that person while you still have the loans?

        • I don’t know if now is the time to find that person, but I’ve decided that “frugalness” is going on the ol’ dating checklist. And it’s actually quite liberating. Never will I have to slave away so my wife can have the finer things in life because she she’ll know that they’re completely overrated and she won’t care about them.

  8. I loved this post and how candid you were in writing it. I think you’re right, once you strip away the outer layers provided by the big-spending dates, you can learn more about each other and really see how compatible you are. Also, I’m completely biased because I love anything outdoors, but I’d take a hiking date over a fancy dinner any day of the week! Hopefully some cool girls in Austin feel the same way.

    Glad to hear New Year’s was good to you!

  9. JaneMD

    I think you may be shopping in the wrong place for women. If you are meeting girls in bars, you are going to get what you paid for – superficial encounters. You sound pretty athletic – why don’t you try a softball league, soccer club, or something else. I met my spouse at martial arts class. We’ve been married 4 years and I can’t recall a time where he spent $150 ever on an evening. Much of our dating involved hanging out after our weekly class and meeting before work for ‘breakfast.’

    Here is my other recommendation, you need to find a place where single, educated, motivated, but relatively poor women hang out in groups. Best group I can imagine is pediatric/OBGYN/family medicine resident doctors. Low expectation of time as they work 60-80 hrs/week, good understanding of crushing debt, low competition because many guys find that intimidating. You have a Harvard MBA, you can handle it. (Most single female medical students/residents hate going to bars because ‘I’m a doctor’ tends to make very short conversations.)

  10. You have a University of Texas Southwestern Medical School branch in Austin. Most medical schools have open to the public educational events there and bars . . . assuming it isn’t the ghetto. The closer the bar/restaurant is to the hospital, the more likely residents are to frequent there. Most shift changes are in the 6-7pm ranges so 7:30-9pm would be your best bet.

    • Haha, this is awesome!! When I can afford to leave the flask at home, I’ll think about checking it out… :)

      • They don’t care about you buying them drinks. They have to get up at 5am the next day to begin their 80 hour work week before 7am. It’s a golden opportunity to chat them up over the ice tea and say ‘well, I know you work really hard, here is my number if you get any free time’ and make an exit.

  11. YJ

    Came for the frugal advice. Stayed for the advice on picking up doctors.

  12. Who Cares

    Consider. You don’t have to get married. Saves on paying for a divorce lawyer. Consider: If you bought a car and it only had a one in two chance of working, would you buy it. No? Then why would you get into an arrangement (marriage) that has the same odds of working? Stay unmarried and if you feel the need to have sex, get a hooker in Nevada (they get checked for STDs regularly) or have a regular booty call chick on the side. Quid pro quo. Oh, what’s that ? You want kids that look like you? Pay for a surrogate. Adopt if you don’t need a kid that looks like you.

    The moral of the story? Always consider the financial downside of any activity and work-arounds available and never be sucked into what society wants you to think is the best or only way of doing something. BTW, expensive Harvard MBA? No thanks. OpenCourseWare and Open Source software plus the Internet is the way to riches.

  13. Paula

    The ice is broken. You can never go back to what your pre- NMHD life was because you will always think in the back of your mind about all the growth possibilities you might have. You have a precedent to follow. God job! You set a great example.
    In regards to your remark “In my mind, I almost think that getting rid of these loans is sort of like a prerequisite to dating seriously…” I absolutely agree.
    Debt is baggage that follows you into a lifelong partnership. The other person might not even have any debt so after all the bills are paid you don’t want a huge chunk of money to go out the door for a purpose Other than for your family’s interest. Besides it is really not fare to your partner. I am very proud to have graduated with a BS and be debt free, own a comfortable apt by myself, mortgage free. And I don’t date only men with my financial status and up, but let me tell you that I do expect a debt free relationship. If I am taking out a loan, it better be for a family house or any purchase made over 6 digits with my future husband.
    As first dates go with the NMHD way of thinking, you have to impress a girl, so if you don’t want to do it with your wallet you have to with your personality. I’ve dated on both ends of the spectrum and personality goes a long way and stays.
    The mistake is when you go to the extremes. You don’t want to come off as cheap, but don’t overspend. We girls like to be courted, and maybe spilling out your NMHD plan straight out on a 1st date is a little scary for someone that doesn’t know who you are first.
    Something like: “I am on a saving spree; don’t go out, no dinners, no drinks, no weekends away, and no gifts, need only basis, but I am achieving my own personal goals. Want to come along?” doesn’t sound too romantic no? And why is it their problem? And why are you making it Their problem? I think the smart approach would have been to do what you did anyway but without mentioning any of it. Like the frog that turns into the prince 7 months later. But emotionally I think you were too challenged to be able to commit to anyone anyway. Dating was a sport, so you can keep some sort of parallel to the pre NMHD life.
    Enough analyzing. Great work, you should try it again with a different goal, and then write a book! Your experience is by far more profitable than extreme couponing, and they got a show. Why not you?

  14. So, I’m like six months behind the eight ball and am just catching up on your story about knocking out debt, saving money, and the PITA it is to date on a budget- oh how I know this having dated & married a medical student six years ago. Congrats on paying off your debt and the life lessons learned therein. Good luck out there on the dating field. It can be a jungle- but it is one hell of a ride.

  15. Hey
    There are girls out there who do not need to be wined and dined and not only admire what you are doing but have already been there and done that.
    I left school with almost $20,000 in loans and with a much much lower salary than yours and living in a much more expensive city, I have managed to cut my loans in half in a year. All by making a plan and sticking to it.
    I recently tried to forgo more student loan payments and buy a condo, but still can’t bring myself to spend the money.
    Congrats on your financial freedom. I hope to be there someday soon

    PS. Last I checked a real lady does not want to wined and dined, she wants to be swept off her feet, which only takes a strong back ;-)

  16. Gary Talcott

    Amazing…you’re hired!

  17. BJ

    Am I reading this right, 2-4 dates per week?? Where the heck are you finding all these girls. Also, if you say you are still dating the same amount now then it sounds like you are finding plenty of thrifty girls.

  18. Julie

    I just found your blog and I’m loving it! My kids are in college in MI and we’ve always had a live w/in your means philosophy. My son graduated this past spring and will work till he has bank for grad school. He figures 2 years of savings will get him there. This post about dating is soooo true. Without the aid of alcohol or concerts/entertainment, a lot a talking and sharing happens. A lot gets revealed faster. BTW, this is exactly the kind of man I’m counseling my daughter to look for.

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  21. Monica

    I’ve just now found your blog. Reading it cover to cover. Phenomenal insight and perspective. Loved this post especially!

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