Emily Power is the author of ‘How to Buy a Home’. In this extract, she details how, when she was getting her debt under control and her savings back on track, dating derailed her savings plans.
Dating costs a fortune: drinks on a Friday night, dinner on Saturday and, if that last date went well, brunch on Sunday.
What’s more, as I discovered, revealing that your parents are the gatekeepers of your finances in your 30s is as awkward as the first kiss.
I didn’t tell the man I dated shortly after I enacted the plan about my restricted cash flow. Looming over the thrill of flirty texts and making plans was the savings spectre. I was ashamed to admit to him I had such weak financial self-control that I was yet to trust myself with access to all of my salary.
My secret niggled at me, and there were nights out in his company when I worried whether I had enough in my account to pay for another round of drinks. The nerves of wondering ‘Does he like me?’ had nothing on the heart-racing moments of tapping my debit card at the bar, in front of him, and sweating to see if it would beep and read, ‘Declined’.
I frequently excused myself on our rendezvous to go to the bathroom, not to touch up my lipstick and ruffle my hair, but to fossick privately in my purse to count the slim wad of notes and stray coins, calculating the likely duration of the date versus my remaining dollars. He must have thought me vain instead of mingy. Was it too soon to suggest leaving the bar and retiring to my apartment for a coffee or a glass of Aldi wine?
In dating land, the invitation to your place means something else entirely, though going home is a lot cheaper than staying out. Were we ready to sleep over, if that’s how he interpreted the invitation? Not yet, but I was running out of money, and it was either ‘Back to mine?’ or calling it a night, and sending a signal that I was just not that interested. The internal war of a singleton saver.
I searched online for budget dating ideas. A women’s magazine suggested a tandem bike ride, applying face masks together at home, riding a ferry and going antiquing. I do not own a bike, I don’t want to date a man who is more into beauty products than I am, the nearest ferry I could find was the Spirit of Tasmania, and a spot of Antiques Roadshowing was more likely to kickstart my parents’ hormones than his and mine.
Instead I reverted to lying to my dates. On one occasion, I shamefully fibbed to this first fella that, when I didn’t have enough money for a night out, I had lost my wallet, and asked to reschedule. I should have suggested a frozen pizza on the couch at home, but can anybody like – or love – a cheapskate?
The IMF: Intimacy Monetary Fund
A little extra cash each week is sometimes necessary for getting acquainted with a sexy suitor because, during those giddy early days, it is hard to avoid socialising more. For me, that meant upping the budget by $50 to make it $250 a week, which wouldn’t derail my goal. That extra cash comfortably allowed for a few extra wines.
I needn’t have worried. For most singles, unanswered texts and ghosting – when dates vanish without explanation – are cause for angst. But when it happened with him during my early days of extreme saving, I was comforted by the slow slide into silence that defines the end of many modern relationships. I was free again to be frugal, and lopped my budget back to $200 a week.
The next man I went out with received full disclosure but – mea culpa – not until a few weeks in. At the point he entered my life – we locked eyes at an auction I was reporting on and soon after re-matched on Tinder, thanks to low-range GPS, and recognised each other following an earlier encounter on the app – I had written the Pocket Money Savings Plan column that appears in this book’s introduction.