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Money Stories

How to Date on a Budget

Team Daylight

Can you put a price on love? Technically, yes. According to a 2020 survey by LendingTree, the average first date costs $77, and the average American spends $697 on dating annually. If you consider that a steep price, you’re not alone — one in three Americans have declined a date because of money.

LGBTQ people face unique financial concerns that can affect our dating lives. We’re more likely to live in communities where the cost of living is higher, and LGBTQ people earn less money across the board than straight, cisgender workers.

Fortunately, if you’re a queer or trans person who’s living paycheck-to-paycheck or if you’re trying to build up your savings, you don’t have to sacrifice your love life. Whether you’re dating someone new or you’re with a long-term partner, here’s how to date on a budget.

Determine your dating budget.

Before you swipe right and get swept off your feet, set a weekly or monthly dating budget and stick to it. If you don’t have previous budgeting experience, start by calculating your after-tax income. Then subtract your monthly “needs” (rent, mortgage payments, groceries, utilities, car payments, student loan payments, healthcare, etc.). If there’s money left over, you can save it, invest it, or spend it on “wants” like entertainment, travel, or dating. Once you’ve determined how much you’re comfortable spending on dating, decide how you want to allocate those funds. Would you prefer to spend most of your dating money on intimate dinner dates, or would investing in a Grindr Xtra subscription better suit your dating style?

Be honest about your budgeting needs.

While straight culture insists that the guy should pay for dates, what happens when two people of the same gender go out? In a 2016 Match survey, 62% of LGBTQ respondents said that the person who initiated the date should pay, while 44% said they prefer to split the bill. If you want to adhere to these norms, suggest dates that suit your budgeting needs.

When a date asks you to do something that falls outside of your budget, it’s okay to be upfront about your financial needs. The conversation doesn’t have to be awkward, especially if you offer an alternative. Something like, “I don’t have room in my budget to buy concert tickets right now, but I’d love to have you over for tea or drinks next week” gets the message across while affirming that you’d still love to spend time with your crush.

If you need help sticking to you dating budget, try these low-cost or no-cost date ideas:

Opt for a breakfast or dessert date.

Breakfast and dessert are typically less expensive than dinner. Take your date out to breakfast or brunch, grab some ice cream and go for a stroll, or order desserts to share.

Host a movie night.

The average movie theater ticket is $12, and when you add on the cost of the snacks and soda you know you’ll want, it’s easy to overspend. Hosting a movie night in your own home can help you save. Rent a movie for just a few dollars or select a movie from a streaming service you already pay for. And don’t forget to snag some popcorn and candy at the grocery store.

Check out free entertainment at your local LGBTQ center.

If your city has an LGBTQ center or organizations that serve your local LGBTQ community, you probably have access to free or sliding-scale LGBTQ events like movie nights, drag shows, or even speed dating. Bring a date to one of these events or show up solo to meet single people near you.

Take a hike.

Make your own trail mix, fill up some water bottles, and drive or take public transit to your nearest trail, where you can work up a sweat with your sweetheart.

Watch the sun set.

The sun sets every evening, and marveling at the sky is free! Invite your date for an evening walk. Then find a rooftop, a park bench, or a beach and watch the sun sink below the horizon. If you’re an astronomy nerd, impress them with your knowledge of constellations once the stars come out.


Volunteering can be a great way to grow closer to a long-term partner or get to know someone new. Join a local park clean-up or make some food to bring to a shelter. If you don’t click with your new crush, at least you spent some time giving back to your community.

Attempt karaoke or an open mic night.

If you and your date are feeling adventurous, sing each other love songs at your local karaoke bar or try telling jokes at an open mic night. Even if you’re not made for the stage, they’ll be impressed by your fearlessness.

Get coffee.

Beverages can get expensive, especially when you’re buying alcohol. A daytime coffee or tea date can be less than half the price of a cocktail. Plus, you’ll be able to drive home safely afterwards.

Visit a museum.

Are you and your date into dinosaurs or art history? Learn something new together. Some museums offer free or discounted entry on certain days, and some local libraries have free museum passes available to check out.

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