I write to you today to ask for advice on dating women without much in the way of money. Before I come across as some kind of tightass I’ll explain my situation.
I have been unemployed, with the odd stretch of a temporary position here and there lasting no more than two months, for two and a half years and going (my position was made redundant by my company in a response to the GFC). I unfortunately have to rely on welfare to survive, and after I pay rent and bills my budget is razor thin. I usually don’t have enough money for a full tank of fuel in the car, and many days I’ll be eating ramen for at least one meal. In extreme cases I have lived off Christmas cake for a few days, but things aren’t so bad right now. However, I am keeping calm and carrying on as best as I am able and still working toward employment. So onto the problem that I’m bothering you with.
At the start of this stretch of unemployment I had decided to get employment before finding female companionship, but as time goes by I find myself see-sawing between loneliness and missing the spark a relationship gives. And so I am considering rejoining the dating pool. Problem being that I literally have no money. Common sense is screaming to me that I should secure employment before seeking any kind of relationship or risk nothing more than curt rejection, but between not knowing when that could be and finding myself thinking about being in a relationship more and more, I am wondering if dating women on an extreme budget is possible. For the record, I am expecting a flat ‘no’ here. But if it is possible, albeit improbable, I want to give it a go.
To start with, how blatantly should I be advertising that I’m broke? I don’t have an OKCupid account (or equivalent), but am looking at making one soon. Do I need to post the fact that I don’t have much on there? If I don’t, will women see that as some form of ‘false advertising’, or is this something to bring up on the first date and see how the cards fall? How do you even tell her?
Secondly, I usually don’t have the money per fortnight for much more than one meal out at a date-worthy establishment. By which I mean anything more expensive than fast food, which I’m not about to subject a woman to on a date. When I’m by myself I can keep entertained by replaying old video games, reading classical literature from the library (The Divine Comedy feels sadly familiar), or rewatching Initial D, but I don’t really have ideas for cheap/free dates that won’t get me laughed at or fled from. Any that come to mind, or methods to find specifically local cheap date ideas would really help out.
I’m sick of the ‘wake up -> look for work -> stave boredom -> sleep alone’ cycle I’m stuck in over and over. I’m doing all I can to find work in the meantime, but until then am I doomed to repeat this scenario over and over alone?
Any advice is appreciated. Thanks for your time.
Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaire
I’m not terribly surprised that you’re worried about things. As much as we all like to say that “all you need is love”, one of the most common causes for relationship strife comes from money issues. NPR just ran a story yesterday about how people are finding that their relationships are being sabotaged by people’s worries about the respective level of student debt that their partners are carrying. Fact of the matter is, the economy sucks and everybody’s having trouble money wise.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t date, or date on the cheap.
The issues that should concern you about dating are less about money and more about responsibility. From the sounds of it, you’re doing things right: you’re living within your means and trying to find work as best as one can when there are more than seven people for every one job. This is a mark in your favor – you’re showing that you know how to budget, handle money and don’t waste your money on non-necessities. Now, if your being unemployed is going to affect your self-esteem or confidence - which is fair, all things considered – it’s going to affect your dating life.
On the whole, I don’t think being broke or unemployed means that you can’t date; we all have needs for companionship and love, after all. I would recommend you make finding a relationship a secondary or tertiary issue at best – you would probably feel better if you didn’t have the “Unemployed” label hanging over your head like the Sword of Damocles, and being saving up your money should be a much higher priority – but I don’t see a problem with it per se, especially if you’re just looking to date casually.
Now, in absolute fairness, it will be tough. There will be people who won’t want to date you because you’re unemployed and/or broke. Some of them will be materialistic. Some of them will worry that you’re just going to sponge off them like a bad cliche deadbeat boyfriend. Some will think less of you because we live in a society based in part on Calvinist ideals and believes that the poor are only poor because they are lazy. And yes, some will wonder if every date is going to involve going to McDonalds and that Chili’s is going to be fancy dinin’. Don’t let anyone who rejects you on those levels get you down; be thankful that they’re going to filter themselves out early so that you don’t have to deal with them instead.
Is it possible to date on a tight budget? Yes, it is. It can be difficult, but not impossible. There are plenty of dates you can go on that require little outlay of cash – art shows and gallery openings, walking in the park, lectures, even trips to the dollar theater or matinee showings of movies. Some museums operate on the “pay what you can” principle. A lot of bars will have live music without a cover charge – although they will be expecting you to buy a drink or two. If you live in a college town, or a city with a large student population, there will be any number of events, festivals and rallies that you can go to for cheap-to-free.
In your dating profile, I wouldn’t make a big fuss about being unemployed, but it’s something I’d bring up well before you go on your first date. In the profile itself, might want to frame your situation as temping while looking for long-term job prospects – which is true. When you’re talking to people past the initial introductory e-mail, I would bring up the fact that you live on an extremely tight budget and you can talk about employment woes – getting laid off, having to do the temp job circuit, learning how to get incredibly creative with Ramen, etc. The key is to remember that this isn’t something to be ashamed of: you’re not confessing to a deep and embarrassing secret, it’s just a set of unfortunate circumstances that you’re working hard to get out of.
You’re hardly the first or the only person to be in dire straights economically, and I imagine you’ll encounter plenty of others in the dating pool who have either been in your shoes or are in a similar position.
Plus: don’t underestimate the value of networking. Just because a date might not work out doesn’t mean that you couldn’t meet someone who could point you towards a job.
Have you been in Temp’s position? Do you have any advice for dating on an extreme budget? Know of some excellent free date ideas? Share your story in the comments!