I do not plan to raise a family on my own. Hell No! There are so many tasks and things to be done, honestly I don’t know how single parents do it! They are the super-heroes of our society. I know because I was raised by a single Mum, and the sacrifices she made were incredible. So as long as I can help it, I want to make sure I am in a stable, committed relationship before I start thinking of making babies with someone. Especially because I want a big family.
So where does that leave me – Someone who earlier this year, was heart-broken when a promising two year relationship went down the gurgler?
The Cost of finding a partner
For me, there is no having children without a partner. At this stage, I want to meet my future wife and have a natural family. Most relationships start with an introduction or chance meeting, and progress naturally through dating, exclusivity, a relationship and finally into a marriage or civil union prior to having children. Although seemingly more often than not, ‘life’ happens and it doesn’t necessarily go in this order!
The Cost of dating
Dating can be really fun. It can feel a bit overwhelming at times, especially when it doesn’t work out, and it can sometimes can be risky – but as we all know, high risk = high reward.
I am a bit of a risk taker, so tend to roll the dice with blind dates and meeting new girls. Oh how horrendously this has worked out for me in the past. I can’t even begin to describe some of the awkwardness I have countered in my dating life – both from them and from me.
I have also met a heap of amazing girls though, some of whom I will be friends with for the rest of my life. Actually, some of my best ‘girl-mates’ came from friendships that naturally evolved from dating. Talk about the friend-zone haha!
Budgeting for dates
It might sound a bit tight, but I usually try to budget no more than $100 for a date, and I think its a bit callous to go on more than one per week (with a different girl, that is). $100 gets you a pretty awesome date though, and the following ideas are a list of things I keep in the back of my head for dates, in a bit of a natural progression
- Catch up at a local cafe for a coffee and a chat, or a take-away coffee and a stroll through a park or a bush-walk: $10
- Take-away Yum-cha or dumplings in the park or at the beach: $30
- Take them out for a ride on my motorcycle… IF I HAD ONE! Unfortunately I sold my bike because it didn’t align with my spending and lifestyle goals on the path to Financial Independence.
- Catch up for Gelati and a stroll through the nightlife: $20
- Picnic in the park: I go all out and would choose an assortment of fruits, snacks, cheese and wines: $30
- Take-off for a quick fly in a light aircraft – a couple laps of the field (called ‘circuits’) or to check out some local scenery: $100+
- Head out for a nice meal for dinner, Italian is one of my favorites. If your being very cost conscious just order the entree: $75-100
It is my belief that the guy should always pay for the first date. The woman is obliged to ‘pretend’ to pay and a little ‘back and forth’ should ensue where both parties offer to pay, culminating in the guy paying and getting to feel ‘like a man’.
What happens after the first date?
If the first date was a roaring success, then another should come a suitable time interval later. I would say at least 3 days later, but maybe the following week with an appropriate level of flirty texting and maybe a phone call or two in between. The second and third dates I think should be more equal, with the woman offering to pay, or at least contribute half.
How many dates should you go on before becoming exclusive? Well don’t hate me, but I think you get ‘three for free!’
That means you should be able to see and date whom ever you want, whenever you want, until the third date. After the third date, its pretty clear that you are both interested in pursuing each other, otherwise why would you have bothered with the second or the third? I think that’s a logical amount of time and level commitment to make it worth the effort of going exclusive.
Before three dates you don’t really know each other anyway, and its probably around this time that you are getting physical. You have all heard the old adage “Don’t …. on the first date” right, and I think its best to get to know each other and build up trust before you take a relationship to the next level.
Just watch the nomenclature here, especially if your not savvy in the dating game. Just because your exclusive doesn’t mean your in a ‘committed relationship’ – it just means you are exclusively dating each other, and not banging anyone else. Even if you don’t ‘like putting labels on a relationship’ it is likely the other person will, and subconsciously you both need to provide small levels of commitment to each other for the relationship to grow.
Total: $100 per week or about ~$5K a year.
Something that will help you immensely during the ‘dating game’ is understanding your love languages. Put quickly, your love languages are how you express your feelings. The most common description of the love languages are the following five (ranked in the order of mine!)
- Physical touch – love and affection through touching, cuddling, sex.
- Quality time – spending time together with no set purpose.
- Acts of Service – doing nice things for each other, i.e. cooking.
- Words of Affirmation – saying reassuring things eg “I love you”.
- Gifts – sacrificing money to buy thoughtful presents.
The Cost of Relationships
Once you transition from dating into a relationship, things all tend to settle down a bit. Lust stabilizes into the more meaningful Love connection, and everything tends to calm down. Sometimes this is being called ‘transitioning out of the honeymoon period’.
This is when you really start to get to know someone, learn all about them and fall more and more in Love with them. Belts get tighter, Nights get quieter and suddenly it is more acceptable to spend a night snuggling on the couch with a movie rather than heading out to a nightclub! (Personally I would take this trade any day of the week!)
Your costs go down
I think that relationships cost less than dating, as its more about living your life together and doing things you both enjoy, rather than spending money on activities to try and impress one another. Actually, as you settle into a long term relationship, you will likely find that instead of costing you money, it actually makes you money.
Sure, there are some small costs involved, especially when you want to spoil or buy gifts for your significant other, but the cost savings you can benefit from potentially living together and benefiting from the economy of scale and working together far outweigh any of these factors!
The cost of a relationship is stress if you aren’t on the same page financially
By far the biggest determining factor of how much a relationship is going to cost you, is whether you are both on the same page financially. Sometimes a relationship can be classified as having a ‘spender’ and a ‘saver’, and it can be frustrating if you find yourself in the latter category. If this happens, just have an honest conversation and be upfront with your partner.
After all, money isn’t everything, but if you can agree on some common goals its going to make your lives much easier and less stressful. Some ways I have seen to help combining finances is to both keep a separate account each for spending money which can be used, no questions asked. Some good friends of mine use this system, and for anything over $500 they just ask each other to see if its worth while and aligns with their spending goals.
However, there is no rule saying you need to combine your finances at all, and I know heaps of people who have families and still keep separate accounts. Often, they share a joint account and choose to contribute their share each which covers joint expenses.
Other costs of relationships – complacency
I have found though that one of the biggest costs of a relationship is not money, but actually your level of effort and enthusiasm for life. As everything tends to calm down, I certainly find this happens to me. I put in less effort at work, in the gym, and with my studies. This is a natural effect of the drop in the level of testosterone in that happens when men enter stable, committed relationships.
The cost of break-ups
A bit of an unexpected cost of a relationship are when it goes south. Unfortunately I have had two pretty shitty break ups during my adult life, and both were not fun to go through. Once in 2013, and the other at the start of 2020. Both of these took a heavy toll on my mental health, as heart break always does.
As is tradition, I spent a lot of money, ate a lot of junk food and balled my eyes out after both. I also then rushed out into ‘rebound’ relationships and got physical far too quickly, seeking comfort and attention. As you can predict, these collapsed quickly and hurt everyone involved.
I bet you would have never thought I would make the connection between the cost of heart break and the cost of raising children hey? I think its a valid point, and its all part of the journey to becoming an awesome Dad!
A more serious note to consider though is if you are living together, considered defacto or have already had children, then you are a combined house-hold. This means if you do choose to separate, that the combined household net work gets chopped in half, and you both walk away with half. This can be an extremely tough time for both parties, and forced sales of assets always results in lower prices and more stress. This can be very financially destructive.
The Cost of Marriage
I will start this with, I believe Marriage is a pretty antiquated notion. Marriage equality is a pretty important topic for a lot of people out there, including myself, but personally I don’t see any rush to get ‘married’ at all. At least, not in the public spectacle fashion that society has conditioned us all to want and waste on.
At its core, to me, Marriage is about making a life-long commitment to your partner, nothing more – nothing less. Its a wonder then, why the average Australian spends over $60,000 on funding their wedding. Traditionally, this is covered by the father of the Bride – but I can tell you this much – when I have a daughter, I’m bloody well not dropping $60K on fancy Hors d’oeuvre and napkins for one day!
Consider this – instead of spending $60K, if the average newlyweds went on down to their local council / courthouse to get their marriage certificate, then spent an excessive $4,000 on hosting a massive, extravagant celebration at home, and then even went on an amazing $5,000 month-long honeymoon, then they still would have saved themselves over $50,000!
Invested into ultra low cost total stock market index ETFs, this $50K would reliably provide them with $2,000 per year of passive income, according to the 4% rule. This would never run out, and would fund an awesome 14 day holiday to Bali every year for their anniversary! Which one would you prefer? Some nice memories and photographs, or a lifetime of ‘free’ annual holidays to celebrate and relax together? $50K could also be a nice deposit on an investment property or family home!
Again, its not totally going to be my decision. Although I am happy with a civil union at the local court house, perhaps my future spouse will not be. Either way, I am setting aside $10,000 for a ripper party and holiday, and my future father in law can cough up if he wants anything fancier than that!
Total: My budget is $10,000.
Summary the cost of dating
I came out with a sum of $135/wk using my ‘frugal’ FIRE figures. Who knows how long you’re going to be doing that for, but I do know that even once you start a stable relationship, the costs don’t stop – they just turn into bigger (joint) expenses like moving costs, vacation costs, little gifts just because and then of course… potentially the cost of your very own home and setting up a nursery 😉
Ultimately, don’t get too strung out about the costs though. It can be a real ‘turn-off’ if your a bit savage about it all, or constantly calculating things. One of my ex’s complained that she hated my continual re-calculating of the cars gas mileage during road trips (something that was just fun for me to work out) so its worth noting that what might be normal behaviour to you could be considered obsessive to another.
I will tell you though, from a blokes perspective, girls are attracted to a man that is financially secure. It’s not about money or gold digging or any of that, its about maturity; someone who is sorted financially ticks a massive box in terms of being able to securely provide for a family. Ultimately that is the biological drive behind dating isn’t it – the ‘raw primal instinct’ is just about survival and replication? Attachment theory is a really interesting aspect of psychology you can delve into to understand why we seek security and stability in our relationships. I wouldn’t go bragging about your ETF portfolio though to try and score a date, just be quietly confident and keep it to yourself.