High maintenance, materialistic-these are words Singaporean men often use to describe their female counterparts, before they sigh with relief and think about all the money they've saved because they've been single for the last ten years. Those who do have girlfriends or wives then fret about how expensive it is to be part of a couple.
If dating is making you broke, so long as your partner isn't a gold digger, you're probably just not doing this right. If each time you and your partner have "date night" you go to expensive restaurants and are always picking him/her up in a taxi, there's your problem right there.
Not spending a lot of money doesn't mean your dates have to consist of hiding in your bedroom as your parents walk around outside, or meeting only once every two weeks. Here are some ways that will help you score points even without spending any extra money.
Be 100 per cent present when you're together
There will always be more work. If you let work rule your life, you should be prepared to accept that some parts of your life will suffer. 50 per cent of Singaporeans aged 18 and above think works gets in the way of dating, so you're not the only one.
We're not saying you should quit your job if you're generally satisfied with the work-life balance it offers. But do make a deliberate effort to carve out some time with your partner each week during which you are 100 per cent present.
If Thursdays are date night for you, do your best to be mentally present when they roll around and not preoccupied with other things. That means not staring at your smartphone when you're at dinner, making the effort to really converse instead of just complaining about work, and actively thinking of things to do instead of replying with your usual "up to you".
It costs nothing but really makes a difference to your relationship satisfaction. If you're always replying to work emails during dinner or in a "sian" mood each time you meet, you can go to as many atas restaurants and expensive bars as you like, but unless your partner is with you only for these perks, neither of you is going to be happy and you're better off just saving your money and going to McDonald's.
Portray everything you do together as special, no matter how simple
If you feel like you and your partner are always meeting but "never do anything", that's not a sign that you need to fork out out a few hundred dollars for a staycation at the Fullerton or scour the Internet for new restaurants.
It may sound like a platitude, but a date is really what you make of it, and how appreciative and enthusiastic you and your partner are about getting to spend time together
Let's say you guys walk down to the 7-11 at the foot of your block to get an ice cream at midnight. You can either choose to be excited about getting going on a late night walk and getting to see the colours change on a Paddle Pop, or you can think of it as just another mundane Friday night.
So how meaningful the time you spend together is really depends on how you approach the things you do together. One way to frame your activities together in a more positive light is to set a date to do things, even if they're simple and, cough cough, cheap.
For example, let's say you downloaded…. uh, bought the DVD of the new Disney movie Zootopia, and you and your partner are huge Disney fans. On Wednesday you tell your partner, guess what, I have a surprise for you, we're watching Zootopia this weekend! Unless your partner has a heart of stone, he or she is going to be looking forward to spending the weekend together, and you score brownie points.
On the other hand, if you just wait till you're bumming around at home on Saturday and then you say "Nothing to do now, wanna watch movie or not?" the effect just isn't the same.
If you know how to hype up even the simplest of activities, you no longer have to spend tons of money on things that are more expensive on paper in order to keep your partner satisfied.
Always know what free stuff there is to do outside of the home
In the early days of dating, a guy's worst nightmare is the girl turning him and saying, "What do we do now, ah?" when he has no friggin' clue. Soon he finds himself sipping on a $35 cocktail at a bar she read about on the internet.
When you're part of a couple, a good amount of time is going to be spent alone, just the two of you. You will no longer be able to rely on that friend who seems to know all the cool hangout spots, or the girl who seems to get free entry at every club.
Instead of wandering around town aimlessly or having every weekend devolve into a shopping trip where one ends up buying stuff and the other ends up carrying the shopping bags, it helps to always know what there is to do around town-preferably free or cheap stuff so you don't have to spend so much money.
It is totally possible to spend an entire day out and hardly spend a cent-even if you're in the expensive city area. Go take a walk at Gardens by the Bay, hit up the crazy intricate exhibits at the charming Peranakan Museum, sunbathe at Marina Barrage, check out the art on display at Opera Gallery at ION Orchard, or chill out at the roof top garden at Orchard Central.
Singapore might be expensive, but the cost of your leisure time is largely self-determined. If going out with your partner is burning a hole in your pocket, take that as a sign you need to start thinking of cheaper things to do.
This article first appeared on MoneySmart.
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