Dating is a tricky business and even trickier during COVID. “Who pays the bill on the first date?” has become “if they offer to order you dinner, do you give out your address?” How dressed up should you get now that the first date is on video chat? A friend recently went on a FaceTime date, and the dude sent her a Venmo payment for the wine. While the finances of dating have changed somewhat, sometimes money isn’t a worry at all. Here’s how you can navigate the new dating landscape:
I Got This One
If you went on a virtual first date like my friend, it’s up to your preferences on who pays. I prefer not to pay on a first date, listen to my reasoning on this episode of my podcast, Hush Money. As we’re starting to reopen and go on mask-wearing walks or have a six-feet-apart beer in the park, that might not always be the case. You’re likely bringing your own can or bottle on the outing, so assume you’re going to pay for whatever you’re drinking and work that into your budget. If the other person is generous, they’ll offer to reimburse you for the wine or beer, but don’t assume it’ll happen. It’s up to you whether you want to take them up or offer to pay for their drink the next time.
Say No to the Dress
We usually dress according to where we have a date. If you have a date at a sports bar, you probably don’t want to show up in a ballgown. Now that we’re dating from home, “dressing” looks different (more sweatshirts involved). There’s no longer a need to spend money on a new skirt or heels for the night—your date won’t be seeing them. If the top is the focus, you don’t have to go overboard. You can look lovely for a video-date at home with a black long-sleeved shirt. Plus, there’s no need to spend money on new outfits for future dates! What you wore for date number one will be perfectly acceptable for date number five.
Dinner and a Movie?
Without being able to go out for dinner and a movie, lots of people have been cooking meals and eating them together virtually. Again, you’ll probably be the one paying for your share since this involves buying ingredients and, you know, actually cooking. If your date suggests making an elaborate meal that will cost you $50 and that price tag is outside your budget, come back with an alternative. Find a romantic recipe that’s affordable; pasta is always a great option! If you know how much you’re willing to spend, talk to your date beforehand to come up with options.
One good thing about dating during COVID is that conversations get deeper more quickly with our shared experiences at this time. People are having more complicated, emotional, uncomfortable conversations; sooner. Fights about money are the second leading cause of divorce and occur more frequently the larger the couple’s debt. Now that we’re opening up to one another earlier in relationships, it’s a good idea to bring up money sooner rather than later. And just not salary and spending habits, but goals and preferences. Do you eventually want to move to the suburbs? Do you want a house with a wraparound porch? A pool? Having these conversations will manage expectations and help you find someone on the same page as you.
Free for All
It is the time of the phone! I’m not talking about phone sex (but, sure, phone sex if you want); I’m talking about actually talking on the phone. If you date this way, you don’t have to spend a cent. Even before, if your date paid for the drinks, dinner, or movie tickets, you still spent some money that night—on transportation, clothing, nails, hair, makeup. By talking on the phone, you’re dating for free! Well, other than your phone bill. So much phone time is normal these days, so hop on the bandwagon. You’ll likely get to know your date on a more intimate level, too!
There are fewer financials to worry about with dating these days, which means that you can shift your focus to building relationships without having anxiety over whether you should have offered to pay for your drink or if you were overdressed. Dating during COVID has taken away some of the sticky “money + dating” situations, so hopefully, you can invest more in what matters.
Plus, if you’re not feeling your date, you can always close the computer, which is the easiest escape plan yet…and that’s priceless.
A version of this article was originally published on Forbes.