If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say that they
were unwilling to enter a long distance relationship because of
financial constraints, I certainly wouldn’t need my own budget-saving
The simple fact of the matter is that
dating is expensive, whether you live a short distance or a long
distance from the person you are seeing. A leading online dating site
recently did a poll of major U.S. cities to find out the average cost
of a dinner and movie date. Not surprisingly, New York City came out on
top, with a whopping $135 average (and that didn’t even include popcorn
with the movie!). Yet other cities were not far behind, with New Jersey
at $117, Tucson at $98.80, Dallas at $86, and Portland closely trailing
Regardless of the geographic location, you better have
about $100 in your wallet if you want a nice casual evening out
together. Today’s trends are certainly a far cry from the .35 cents my
Grandpa spent at the movies (with popcorn included!) when he was my
But the problem at hand is: you and I are single and
eligible in the year 2007, not 1937, and that means dating can leave a
huge impact on our checkbooks. Add the long distance factor to a dating
relationship and there’s even more trouble: soaring gasoline prices,
pricey airplane tickets, and sometimes even hotel or car rental
bills… enough to put any single person over the edge and out of the
For some single people, their financial
situation truly is in a state that would not make them eligible for
marriage, and thus the decision to postpone dating until finances are
in order is a wise and prudent decision.
However, for a large
portion of the singles who feel dating (especially long distance) is
too expensive, the solution is not to give up dating altogether, or to
postpone asking a girl out until the economy gets better or you find
someone who lives in your own neighborhood. The real solution is that
you and I need to get creative. God gave each of us brains and common
sense for a reason. I’m sure each of you can think of at least ten ways
you could have fun with a special person in your life that did not
include expensive restaurants or a trip to the movie theater.
For some, frugal dating will mean a return to the days of Sunday
afternoon picnics, walks on the beach, and tossing a Frisbee in the
park. “But that’s lame – and besides, girls expect more than those
things these days” a young man protested. My response was, “So what? Be
the first to try something old fashioned again! And the girl might
actually be more interested in growing in friendship with YOU, than
sharing Sushi and Spiderman 3.”
Frugality in any and every
aspect of life is never a bad thing. In a dating relationship, it is
nothing less than valuable preparation for learning to live on a budget
when you enter married life. Following are some tips that I’ve found
helpful for making dates a little more frugal….and in fact, a whole
lot more fun, too.
1. Develop a Courtship Budget
There’s no way around the fact that dating depletes dollars from your
bank account. Individually and as a couple, come up with a plan for how
much of your monthly budget you can prudently devote to the
relationship, including food, recreation and activities, mileage and
travel expenses. Especially for long distance relationships, a
courtship budget will help you figure out how many and how often visits
2. Switch to the Same Cell Phone Carrier or Calling Plan
This idea might sound cheesy, but it can make a big difference.
Especially if you are in a relationship that stretches into different
time zones, having both parties on a cell phone calling plan that
allows you to talk with each other at any time of day and for however
long you desire will help immensely. Most phone carriers offer a
package that includes unlimited calling, and picture and text messaging
to others in the same network. This is a great way to keep in touch
without riding up exorbitant monthly bills for your time on the phone.
If either you or your significant other do not own a cell phone, a
calling card is another option that is usually much friendlier to your
budget that regular long distance rates.
3. Economy Cars and Cheap Tickets
This tip is particularly useful for those in long distance
relationships. Becoming an AAA or AARP member can provide extensive
savings on hotels and rental cars, if these items are a necessary part
of your travel arrangements.
For the relationships requiring
air travel, subscribe to as many cheap airfare notification websites as
you possibly can. Try to avoid traveling on holiday weekends to dodge
the skyrocketed rates. Look for last minute fares at discounted prices.
Ask your friends, roommates, and family members to keep their eyes out for travel discounts they may come across as well.
4. Go Coupon Crazy
I have recently discovered how helpful coupons are in a dating
relationship. “Buy one get one free ice cream cones” or “Buy two
entrées and get an appetizer and two drinks free” or “Two movie tickets
for the price of one” can help a lot in your dating activities.
The town I live in sells a yearly coupon book called “Enjoy the City.”
The coupon book costs $15, and it contains discounts, specials and “buy
one get one free” deals to dozens of local shops, restaurants, and
recreational facilities. You may want to see if your city offers
Almost every weekend the local Sunday
newspaper contains coupons for restaurant discounts, a free ice cream
cone at a local shop, or discounts to a local venue.
don’t forget to search the Internet for coupons to places or
restaurants you wish to visit. Many restaurants have websites, and
offer a “$2.00 off your meal” or “15% off the total bill” coupons
online. Take advantage of these coupons – every little bit helps!
5. Do Your Homework
Every town, no matter how large or small, offers local events,
festivals, or church functions that are a load of fun but don’t take a
load out of your wallet.
Research online and in local
newspapers and magazines to find area events with free admission, such
as art festivals, church bazaars, high school sporting events, and the
Most cities have local art, history or science museums
with either free admission or a very nominal fee. Local colleges and
universities often host plays, concerts, sporting events, or other
activities that are open to the public.
And don’t forget to
take advantage of God’s beautiful creation! Hike through a local state
park, take a walk on the beach, or rent a canoe and spend a Saturday
out on the lake. You will have far better conversations and
getting-to-know-you time exploring nature than sitting in front of a
silver screen. Guaranteed.
6. Eat In
cooking together is a lot more fun than being waited on at a
restaurant, and it’s usually a lot less expensive. Spend a Sunday
afternoon in the kitchen and invite friends or family to share the meal
with you. Experiment with new recipes and try old favorites. Share
family secret recipes or favorite ethnic foods with the other person,
and you’ll learn a lot about the other’s family traditions in the
A misconception that is common
amongst many single people is that picnics are old-fashioned and only
suitable for lovers in days long-gone by. Not true! Some of the most
memorable dinner dates some of my friends have had are the ones where
they spent an afternoon or evening in the park and shared a picnic.
[Hint for guys: a pizza and bottle of wine, a couple paper plates and
paper cups, and a blanket is all you need to create a date that she
will not soon forget.]
8. Work Together
year ago, author Michael S. Rose wrote a fantastic article for
CatholicMatch.com entitled “The Daring Date” – and I couldn’t agree
more with his ideas. In a nutshell, Mr. Rose suggests forgetting the
traditional “dinner and movie date” for once, and instead trying
something challenging and different together.
out-of-the-ordinary idea is to work together. Whether it’s weeding the
lawn, washing your vehicles, power-washing the driveway, or planting a
garden, it doesn’t matter. Breaking a sweat together will teach you
things about each other that will be hard to learn when you’re dressed
up and sitting pretty at Outback Steakhouse.
9. Play Together
Sporting and other recreational activities are fun yet inexpensive ways
to be together. If you and your date are both athletic, your dating
possibilities are endless. Play some tennis, challenge each other to a
racquetball tournament, take a jog in the park, shoot some hoops, or
toss a football or Frisbee. Invite your friends, siblings, or other
family members to get involved in sporting activities with you.
10. Serve Together
A wise priest recently told a friend of mine that in order to discern
our vocation, and especially in order to discern God’s will in a
relationship, we must give of ourselves in service to others. And
through our service and self-sacrifice, God will give us direction and
peace. I thought it was excellent advice.
greater acts of service and selflessness than anything else I know of.
Why not prepare now, during your courting years, to practice and live
out the kind of service towards others that will be key to your marital
Get involved in the pro-life movement. Volunteer
with St. Vincent de Paul, a crisis pregnancy center, a local food
pantry, or other ministries at your parish. These acts of service are
easy on your dating budget, but will reap valuable dividends for your
BONUS TIP: Splurge!
Here’s a final
bonus tip: Every once in a while, live it up! On a special occasion or
feast day, get all dressed up and treat yourselves to a nice dinner
out. Do something extra special or a little bit extravagant every once
in a while. If you take care to budget the places and events you take
in on more frequent dates, an occasional night out on the town will
seem all the more special.
Remember that although dating in
today’s world can take a lot of creativity and planning to fit a tight
budget, it is possible. And the reward of a partner for life who loves
the Lord, loves his or her faith, and loves you…is priceless.
NOTE: If you have a frugal dating tip that has been a blessing in your
own life, I’d love to hear about it! You can write to me with your
ideas at: Stephanie@catholicmatch.com
Stephanie is the coordinator of
™, a youth and young adult division of
Family Life Center International
She has been a frequent guest on several Catholic programs, including
EWTN Radio's Faith & Family, which she currently co-hosts with her
father, Steve Wood, and EWTN Television's Life on the Rock and The
Stephanie hosts the first worldwide radio show for Catholic youth,
, which airs weekly on the EWTN Radio Network.She also
writes a monthly
for teens and young adults. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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