Dating on a Budget – Part 3

In Parts 1 and 2 of Dating on a Budget, Ian and I shared our perspectives on frugal dating. In this third and final follow-up, we discuss how our relationship has changed over time.

Take a peek into our life! When we started dating years ago, we were fresh out of college with little to no practical knowledge of money management. Cash Fasting definitely didn’t exist then, nor was it on the forefront of my mind. Things have changed significantly in the time since. I think for the better.

What does a frugal date look like?

Ian: A hike, picnic, or walk in the park! Basically, anything that gets us outdoors for the most healthy, frugal, and scenic date activities possible. This hasn’t really changed for me—I used to drag Jane out for walks in the hills around Charlottesville when we were in grad school, and now it’s just a new location. Sometimes we’ll cook together and have a really nice meal and evening at home. The dishes don’t have to include fancy ingredients and we don’t need props to prop up the evening. It’s all about being together and focusing on the shared moment. For me the cost doesn’t even come into play, but it’s certainly a cheaper option than a night on the town.

Jane: I have a confession to make: I dislike outdoor activities. My skin is a magnet for mosquitos, and I’m out of shape. Picnics are fun, especially when booze is involved (and we’ve been doing a fair amount of that recently). Moving to NYC has made me far more amenable to walks than I was in the past; pretty sure the city has increased my general stamina. The only way to trick me into physical activity is to take me dancing, but if it’s not salsa dancing, I turn into a wallflower. Date nights at home are my favorite. I love rejecting social plans with the excuse “Sorry, I’m already busy that night,” knowing that it’s going to be the two of us, a $10 bottle of wine, and good food (which will be healthier than eating out).

If we go outside, then we have to deal with the potential of bad weather. Ick.

Do you find that being in a relationship is more or less expensive than when you were single?

Jane: Honestly, my monthly expenses have increased since moving. Cost-wise, I count our long distance period as being single. I’d drive two hours every other weekend to see Ian, but that wasn’t a huge cost. Plus, I haven’t been single since college, and those costs aren’t comparable 😝. It’s not just living in NYC, either. My rent is less than what I was paying in Northern Virginia, and my salary is much higher. By all reasoning, I should be spending much less than I used to. I can’t really pinpoint any one thing. I do most of the grocery shopping, so I know those costs are a little higher than what I would pay for just myself, but we do share all those bills, so who knows. Perhaps it’s going out? Movies and eating at restaurants. We don’t do it a whole lot, but definitely more than when we were long-distance.

Ian: I spend way less on bars and way more on dining out. Holiday spending has taken a lateral move, too. Instead of treating myself, I treat Jane. One major benefit of living together is that we split the cost of rent, so I’ve seen savings there. On the other hand, Jane’s doing a great job encouraging me to pursue my passions and do what I love. Aw-worthy as that may be, passions take payment, and now I’m spending a pretty penny on an upcoming section hike along the PCT. My heart is far more full than my bank account right now. 😅

But if you’ll remember, I’m all about long term value and getting max bang for my buck. As Keep Thrifty puts it:

I’m a firm believer that fulfillment comes from aligning how well you spend your time and money in alignment with your values and dreams.

Warning, sap ahead… I value my time with Jane. We rarely aren’t having fun and enjoying ourselves. A remarkable constant for a relationship going on three years, I think, and one that hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. Sure, there are times where the worries and woes of life weigh upon us, but I don’t can’t remember the last time we went a full 24 hours without laughing together. To get back to the point: Spending money on, or rather with, Jane is worthwhile for me because of the significant value I derive from our relationship. She not only serves steadily as my better half, but encourages and helps me to be a better person. #winning

Objectively I’m pretty sure I spend more money in general now than I did three years ago. But I’m getting much better value for each dollar spent, and finding fulfillment in ways I simply couldn’t have before our relationship.

Jane: I’m utterly swooning right now. Ian’s giving me a lot of credit here, but he deserves plenty, as well.

How have your spending habits changed from when we first started dating, to today?

Ian: As I mentioned above, a lot of my spending has shifted categories. Bars to dinners, rent to trips, and gifts for Jane rather than myself, etc. My social life has changed significantly, too. A lot of money goes into big dinners with or visits from friends. But part of that is probably just growing up.

In grad school, before Jane and I started dating, friends would come over and we’d get pizza or wings (or both when bold) and that would be dinner. Entertainment was hanging out and playing video games or recording some music. Now dinner with friends has to be a special and unique experience since there’s an unspoken need to impress others with how sophisticated we are, and entertainment means day trips into NYC that invariably wind up costing a lot of money. We may be frugal(ish), but we haven’t yet found our way off the complementary hedonistic treadmill everyone gets when moving to New York.

Jane: I think we spend less on each other than we used to. In fact, I spent $0 on Ian’s birthday present last year (a round-trip flight to anywhere in the world; thank you credit card points). As of late, we’ve been opting for cheaper social activities that usually involve buying groceries, so that’s where our spending has shifted. Going to the beach or a free concert in the park… These are summer-focused freebies, but we stay frugal throughout the year. In the winter, our favorite frugal pastime is holing up at home. Who’s got time to be social when it’s below freezing outside? Now that Ian and I live together, we’ve stopped getting presents to impress each other, as well (Ian may disagree with this). Gift-giving has become more functional.

Hmmm… Should we get a dog? We both want one, but it’s a big financial commitment.

How has the quality of our dates changed?

Jane: I’d say we’re far more relaxed than we used to be. Remember when we said we’d do date night once a week? That didn’t last very long. We Netflix and Chill pretty often, but does that actually count as a date? (I don’t think so.) Dates used to be a way for us to show off for one another and get to know each other better; now they’re a way for us to experience new things together. You know which recent date of ours I really liked? When we when went to P.F. Chang’s to use an (expired) coupon and spent the entire meal talking about where we’d live abroad. I liked that night a lot. ☺️

Ian: The reason we don’t have a date night every week is that our social commitments have crept up in frequency. If there’s such a thing as the social treadmill, we’re also on that. Whether it’s events related to our interests (Meetups, double dates, concerts, etc.), visits from friends we haven’t seen in a while, or trips to visit family, there seems to be two or three every week. For me, this means our “dates” are more shared events now, and this is a mixed bag. It’s great to spend time with others, and rare is the moment I’d consider dull, but it can definitely be overwhelming at times. The “pure” dates with just me and Jane are a really nice treat in that sense, and I value them more now for how special it is to share time just between us.


This wraps up our Dating on a Budget series! Let us know what other Ian/Jane takes you’d love to read.



    You said it perfectly! For me, alignment is priority #1 in my pursuit to FI. Form my spending habits, to the activities I partake in, to the people I surround myself with. They must be in alignment or I feel off-kilter of sorts.

    1. Author

      Credit goes to Keep Thrifty for that, but yes! It resonates with me and Ian as well.

  2. My wife and I have been married for decades. Our best dates were 20 mile training runs when I was prepping her for a marathon or wilderness bush whacking looking for hidden waterfalls in our scenic state or sometimes just hitting tennis balls together to get her ready for her next team match or tournament. Those are all nearly free to do. Cooking a meal together is a lot of fun as well. We also love fishing together and off roading but those are sometimes more pricey when you count in the cost of the boat or buggy required to do those.

    1. Author

      Wow, 20 mile training runs?? That’s amazing. There’s something magical about finding hidden waterfalls, but for me it’s not worth the bug bites and physical exhaustion. Either way, it’s great that you’ve found a low cost way to enjoy time with your wife outside of day-to-day activities.

  3. I love love that you acknowledged on how your spending has increased by being in a relationship. I’m constantly see blog posts about how shacking up with an SO decreases expenses, but I’ve found the opposite to be true!

    1. Author

      Agreed. To be fair, some expenses have decreased, like rent and per meal cooking costs, but overall, costs are definitely up. When you’re with someone, there’s just this tendency to want more, and meeting the wants of two is more expensive than meeting the wants of one.

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