Monday, November 5, 2007

I am a cheap date--and I'm proud of it!

When does a frugal date become a cheap date?

CNN.com had an article about this last week, mostly in terms of finding cheap date options when you can't help but be one. Most of their interviewees are college students, justifiably strapped for cash. I think it's a mistake to leave cheap dates in the realm of academia, however--who says you have to spend money on a date just because you can?

CNN.com says: Work with what you have. (take advantage of your location)
Little Miss Moneybags says: This is my favorite tip. When my boyfriend and I were first dating, we had both recently moved to New York City and were working at Starbucks. Needless to say...we did not have much extra cash. But we are both big nerds, especially about the city, so we started exploring the city together. (Our very first date, actually, was a ride on the free Staten Island Ferry, followed by walking up Broadway for hours). We saw new neighborhoods, explored the history of different areas, compared architecture and landscaping, studied the effects of gentrification, and found some of our very favorite restaurants, parks, views, and places to take visiting friends and family. The only cost was that of transportation (subway, on our monthly unlimited passes) and food/bottled water/snacks (we usually hit very low cost restaurants and packed granola bars). We later purchased several guide books and walking tours as Christmas gifts for each other. We now look back on those times as some of our favorite moments we've shared together. We don't go exploring new neighborhoods as much anymore, but we'll still walk for miles together in my neighborhood just talking and wandering.

CNN.com says: Play off your shared interests. (self-explanatory)
Little Miss Moneybags says: Clearly, it's best if you and your beloved (or beloved-to-be) have something in common, but in my own life I've found that that's not as common as you might think. My ex was a sports fanatic; I much prefer theater. My current honey works in theater, so he's not as interested in spending his free time going to shows; I'm more interested in reading and dancing now. Fortunately, we do both love science fiction books and nerdy shows on TV (Discovery Channel, Sci Fi, History Channel...oh, where are you, a la carte cable?!). We can watch these shows for free (or sunk costs, really, since I pay the cable bill anyway), we can explore or go walking, or we can just be together--he can play video games while I read a book, but we talk to each other occassionally and feel comfortable in each other's presence. At the beginning of a relationship when you are still getting to know someone, it's probably more important to find things that interest both parties which you can do together.

CNN.com says: Learn something together. (Take a class, go to a wine-tasting)
Little Miss Moneybags says: Ha! This is one that has really never worked for me, at least in a structured way. I cannot imagine any guy I've dated ever coming to the dance studio with me, nor do I want to take, oh, guitar lessons. Also, most guys I've dated seem a little resistant to organized learning aside from school anyway--if they want to learn something new, they'll do it on their own, thankyouverymuch. However, the television shows and exploring that my boyfriend and I experience together are educational in several ways: literally, as when watching How It's Made or a PBS special about NYC, or organically, as when reading plaques on the sides of buildings downtown and realizing that this is where George Washington was inaugurated or that City Hall was initially built with an unfinished back entrance, as who would ever go north of it?*, or conversationally, by learning about each other while discussing something we've seen or heard or seeing how we react when tired, cranky, and cold.

CNN.com says: A little effort goes a long way. (Picnics, homemade dinners)
Little Miss Moneybags says: Unfortunately, a homecooked meal does not count as a cheap date after three years--that's just dinner! I prefer to cook at home when I can, so it would be hard to justify that as something special considering I do it every weekend. However, a handwritten love letter scrawled on a post-it might mean as much or more than a $3.49 Hallmark card and any gift that signifies true thought and caring behind it is worth a lot no matter what the cost. If you're often spending more in dollars than in effort, I think you need to reevaluate the relationship anyway--are you sure it's worth it?



*For those unaware, City Hall is located somewhere in the southernmost tip of Manhattan....a good sixth of the way down the island.

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