Dating on a budget

Covered mag, presented by
  • | by Rachel England

Back in the glorious days of studentdom, going on a ‘date’ amounted to little more than shuffling into the student union and grappling around for enough change to purchase two pints of snakebite. Maybe, if one was feeling flush a game of pool would be on the cards.

If the night, er, went well, it was possible to wake up to a plate of beans on toast. Now though, things are bit trickier. Dating is stressful: Should fellas open doors for their companion? What about equality? Are you laughing too much? Not enough? Do you have food in your teeth? Is that a yawn they're suppressing? Are you being boring? And so on. And then there’s the added headache of expense – dating isn’t cheap (and word on the street is that the price of a snakebite in my old SU has sky-rocketed). In fact, research suggests that women spend around £85 a date, and are likely to go on between 41 and 60 dates before finding ‘Mr Right’. Perhaps you’ve got a cool £5,000 in the bank specially earmarked for dates - in which case, why are you reading this? - but if not, heed these words of wisdom.

Look lush for less

While men can get away with emptying a can of deodorant spray onto a passably-clean shirt, women are likely to take a lot longer with their pre-date preening: new accessories, clothes and a trip to the hairdressers adds up to an average of around £50 a date. Instead, head down to a beauty counter in your nearest shopping centre and get your make up done professionally and for free (although you may have to feign interest in their sales spiel) and book an appointment with a trainee hairdresser for a complimentary blow dry (ask your local salon for info). And if you really want to impress, check out, where you can rent designer jewellery and handbags for a fraction of their usual cost. How about a Prada clutch for a bargain £20?

Beware the voucher deal

The Internet is awash with voucher sites offering great deals on eating out, and while a recent study has shown that three quarters of women interviewed said they’d be fine with their bloke using a voucher on a date, proceed with caution if you’re thinking of going down this route. “There was a guy who presented a voucher for a meal on our first date,” says one horrified voucher victim. “Needless to say he didn’t get a second.” Sure, 25 per cent of women say they’re attracted to a man who’s careful with money, but there’s a line between being ‘careful’ and seeming cheap. “I have no problem with how much people earn,” says our girl. “But a voucher – especially on a first date – screams ‘tight’.” Instead, do a bit of homework. Find places that offer decent prix fixe menus, so you’ll know ahead of time how much to budget for dinner. If you really must use a voucher, though, at least try and do it when your companion is looking the other way.

Cheese vs charm

Type ‘cheap date ideas’ into Google and you’ll get hundreds of suggestions ranging from the standard ‘visit an art gallery’ to the slightly unnerving ‘dance together in the rain’ (yes, us too). Finding an inexpensive or free date activity isn’t difficult, but finding the right one for your potential love interest, though, can. One person’s cheese is another’s charm, after all. So in the least creepy way possible, do a bit of research on your date partner. It’s what the Internet was made for, right? A picnic will go down a treat if they’re the Earth-loving sort (not so much if they’re the high maintenance type). If they’re into their ‘bling’, take a sports car for a test drive together: just pretend you’re considering buying it.

And a few quick tips....

- ‘Saying it with flowers’ remains a popular gesture even in this most cynical of times, but there’s never ever an excuse for sad, black tub garage offerings. Catch a flower stall as they’re packing away and haggle a good deal on a fresh bouquet. - It’s definitely cheaper to order a bottle of wine with dinner than it is to keep buying single glasses (and some places do good ‘buy two glasses, get the bottle free’ offers), but don’t be the guy (or girl) that orders ‘the house red’. Have a look at the wine list and by all means, go for the cheapest, but at least order it by name. Your date might not even notice the price and just think you’re cultured and knowledgeable (maybe). - Excitement and nerves often result in one-too-many at the bar, and we’re not going to judge you for that. But this does mean that you’re likely to wake up with a wallet or purse full of receipts for drinks bought on card that you can barely remember. Take as much cash as you think you’ll need, and when it’s gone it’s probably time to call it a night…at the bar, at least.