Money Saving Strategies for Dating Singles - Dow Jones

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GETTING PERSONAL:Heartbroke Or Just Broke? A Dating Guide

By Colleen DeBaise

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--If there's one thing worse than dating, it's paying for all that wining and dining. Just ask a single guy.
"Dating? In New York City? Please - half your salary," says Peter Shankman, chief executive of a public relations agency and a 32-year-old bachelor, ticking off the list of expenses for an "impressive" date: nice restaurant, flowers, cabs, and possibly theater or concert tickets. "I honestly believe that half the reason AmEx gave me a black card is because of my dating life."
He's not exaggerating. A new survey of 11,000 singles by Yahoo Personals confirms that romance carries a hefty price tag. The poll shows that 12% of single men spend on average $100 or more on a date, up from 8% a year earlier.
Women spend considerably less (only 3% spend more than $100 on a date) but aren't completely off the hook: 12% spend between $50 and $100 on a typical outing with potential Mr. Right, according to the survey, by Yahoo Inc.'s (YHOO) online dating service.
And if there's any doubt left, put together a "Cost of Dating" index earlier this year that found fine dining, orchestra seats at the theater, and a dozen roses for a weekend date in New York City costs roughly $540. (The next most expensive city for dating is Dallas, where the same outing costs $364, according to the index.)
So how to search for a soulmate without losing out, fiscally?
- Include "dating" in your budget. "The challenge that we have found most people have is not planning ahead for dating expenses," says Steven B. Smith, author of "Money For Life." Don't let the expense sneak up on you and cause you to overspend your income for the month, he says.
- Allocate your assets. Apply basic financial management skills by setting up a mental or actual "envelope" in which you break out money into blocks based on need and percentage - for instance, you might set aside 10% for savings and 5% for dates, says Bruce Fenton, president of investment firm Atlantic Financial Inc. If you put money in an "envelope" each pay period and don't deviate, you'll come out ahead of the game.
- Know your spending rate. Figure out the total amount you earn each month and subtract all fixed costs - rent or mortgage, car payment, utility bills - to determine your discretionary income. From that, determine your short-term and long-term goals. "Certain people would rather at this point in their life spend more money on entertainment and sacrifice buying a house for five, 10 years," says Susan Hirshman, a managing director at J.P. Morgan Fleming Asset Management, who often advises singles on discretionary spending. Bottom line: Be aware of the trade-offs.
- Prioritize. If you're focused on finding that special someone, search for the place in your budget that money can come from, suggests Los Angeles accountant Harlan Levinson. Can you cut back on the daily cappuccino, or eat cheaper meals during the week? Consider getting fewer add-ons with your telephone or cable. Putting money aside for nice dates is like saving for any expenditure, he says.
- Don't be a serial online dater. Yahoo Personals charges $19.95 for a one-month subscription;, a unit of IAC/InterActiveCorp. (IACI), charges $24.95 a month. Instead of joining five or more sites - a common phenomenon for some singles - limit yourself to one or two, the experts say.
- Carry cash. Plastic might make it too easy to splurge on that $100 bottle of wine. "If you don't have discipline, cash is key, especially now in a rising interest-rate environment," says Hirshman.
- Go ahead, make a commitment. It's not easy to use that two-for-one coupon on the first date. The trick is to get past the expensive dinners to the more comfortable - and less expensive - stages of a relationship with movie rentals and pizza, says Michael Sullivan, director of education at Take Charge America, a debt-counseling firm in Phoenix. "The best way to save money while dating is to quickly enter into a committed relationship before the credit card is maxed out," he says.
(Colleen DeBaise is one of four Getting Personal columnists who write about personal-finance issues ranging from new tax proposals to education-funding strategies to estate planning.)
- Colleen DeBaise, Dow Jones Newswires,
772 words 23 September 2004 14:22
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