Ahh, Valentine's Day. While some love it and some hate it, there is no question that there seems to be pressure to do something extra special for your significant other - and if you're a student, the price can seem steep.
To be honest, when I was a student I never really had to deal with the added pressure of Valentine's...because I never had a date. You would imagine this would be a relief to my budget. Instead, I chose to "treat" myself to indulgent spa retreats and girls weekends away and inevitably blew the bank every year. Let's face it. It's not just dating that's expensive. Most social plans involve spending money - at any age! But as a student, you're balancing the high costs of going out with existing school costs, little to no income, and other priorities, too. Tickets to a show or movie (plus popcorn of course), and other dating experiences can really add up. Most students find they have to be more creative in their dating pursuits.
Can you fit the high cost of dating into your student budget?
Entertainment is an important part of your student spending and this is the area where most dating expenses fall. It's hard to know just how much you need to budget. When we surveyed post-secondary students, nearly one in five told us that dating was one expense that had cost them more than they anticipated. I know it's difficult, but the best thing you can do is set the limit (which I know from personal experience is easier said than done). Give yourself a maximum amount you can spend to survive the dating scene without much impact to the rest of your budget.
Some common financial pitfalls for students when it comes to dating
• Should you split the bill? When it comes to splitting the bill, it's definitely a personal choice and there are no rules. I think the dating etiquette gurus say if you are the "asker," your date may assume you are footing the bill - so plan for it just in case. On the other hand, if you get asked out it's probably a nice gesture to offer to split the bill since they are likely in a similar situation as you. And maybe you don't split every bill - but if your date picks up the first, hopefully there is an opportunity for you to pick up the next.
• Is it appropriate to talk about money on a date? Finances are personal, and how you manage your money is entirely up to you. And while I firmly believe everyone should be open and honest about their finances with their partner, it might not be first date material. That said, down the road when your relationship starts to get a little more serious, having a real conversation about your philosophy towards money is a good idea.
• Is Valentine's Day a good excuse for going over budget? I know it can feel impossible to find a bit of extra money each month, but cutting back on things like eating out, taking cabs or shopping online are easy ways to save. If you're thinking about going all out for a fun Valentine's Day gift or experience, cut back on entertainment for the rest of the month. Or, you could pick up an extra shift or two at your part time job to bump up your income. Don't forget to check into your loyalty program points; maybe you have enough for a gift card that will help pay for stuff. Also, be savvy with your spending. There's no need to splash out on a dozen roses; opt for three in a small mixed bouquet that's just as beautiful, but not as expensive.
If you're looking for some fun Ideas for dating on the cheap, why not:
1. Grab a coffee and go for a walk
2. Attend a school sporting event together
3. Go grocery shopping together and prepare a gourmet meal at home
4. Get outside! Rent some skates and go ice skating or find a good hill for tubing
5. Plan a themed Netflix binge: if you're watching Game of Thrones why not prepare some medieval inspired snacks
6. Google local event listings; there's usually always something going on that's free or reduced-rate admission, whether an art walk or farmer's market or live band
7. Check out meetup.com for a range of activities - many are free or as little as $5
Dating should be fun, and shouldn't cause you stress. Planning your finances ahead of time can help you have worry-free dating experiences throughout your post-secondary years and beyond.
Follow Laura Plant on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RBC_Canada