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Can you afford to be in love? The finances of dating

Part 1 of 3

It's a scientific fact that heartbreak puts your health at risk, but did you know that aside from possibly suffering from Broken Heart Syndrome, your failed romance could also result in low performance at work?

At the Cost of Love forum organized by in Kamuning Bakery on February 10, financial coach Burn Gutierrez quoted a Wall Street Journal statistic: in the US $75 billion is lost due to unproductive workers, caught in a daze because love has flown out the window—and pooped on the porch, the car, and on you as it left.

So it may be more beneficial to help people find their true love. New research even says that marriage leads to better life satisfaction...but how much is the ticket to the land of infinite cuddling?

If businessman and Marie France president George Siy is to be believed, the price is about half of your assets. Siy quipped at the forum that a wife is the most expensive thing you can buy, and seemed to think that love is expensive because women are materialistic and we can be bought—but maybe that's the sort of mentality that leads to avoidable expenses.

By Gutierrez's calculations, a typical date (just the dinner) can cost anything between P1,000 to P5,000. That does not include all the things you have to buy and put on or apply on yourself beforehand to be presentable, or the transportation costs, or the money your parents spent on your education in order for you to have a career...or a job, at least.

The good news is, you can knock the price of a date down to P500. This is based on at least one person (me) who spent less than P500 on her first "date" and, some months later, is on the way to signing a marriage certificate. No weddings, because good lord, those things are expensive. There's only one reason why we'd want to spend one million in one day, and that's to pay a down payment for a house.

I'm a writer, so the easy answer to the question posed ("can you actually afford to be in love?") is: not really. Not if you want to be a better pet owner or if you want to help out more at home—the one with your parents, not the one you want to move into. It's a no if you want to be stylish or if you want to buy makeup (that's one expense I avoid).

At the Cost of Love forum, investment advocate Aya Laraya suggested no new gadgets, no trips, no new clothes, and staying at home a lot if millennials want to save up to afford relationships. It's not a pretty picture. 

Love—please brace yourself for the harsh truth—seems to be a luxury only the well-off could thoroughly enjoy. Everyone else is waiting for discount coupons and samples. Others, and here is where I put myself, get lucky in a raffle. But even if you end up being #blessed, you might go down the way of some Lotto winners: broke and possibly alone, because they squandered their good fortune.

In attempt to avoid that fate, here's what I've learned, from the experts and from personal experience: I'm not some grand prize in an arcade.

It makes sense to calculcate the cost of courtship, summing up the price of movies, flowers, and chocolates, but there are people (surprise, women are people) who might see these calculations as exchanging tokens or tickets for a stuffed teddy bear behind the counter. You're not a stuffed teddy.

In the real world, there's a good test for knowing if you and another person is compatible: Sit down, talk. How many minutes did you carry on talking? Hours? Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

Don't underestimate what good banter and great conversation can do to cut down your expenses on succeeding dates. An occasional "splurge" on dinners is expected, but if you're both looking forward to simply sitting down somewhere to talk, you can spend nothing else but time on some nights. I was unemployed when my boyfriend and I started dating. We survived by choosing just two things to spend on: transportation and food. He had more to spend, but I would usually suggest menu items that add up to less than P500. We walked when we could and if we had to take a cab, it ranged from P100 to P150.

Here are our cheapest dates:

Clearly, love does have a price tag, but it's not as though you spend zero when you're single. You still eat, at the very least.

Here's a good formula for knowing if you could actually afford to go out on a date: Think of what or where you love to eat. For me, that's lechon. A plate of lechon at Sabroso (1/4 kilo, good for 2 people) is P190. I'll add P150, for commute, and the total is P340. No drinks, I usually get water. Multiplied by two, that's P680. If go out on a date once a week, that's P2,720 a month. That's the minimum cost of being in love, if I want to do something special on a date. What about you? — BM, GMA News

Tomorrow: Part 2: The cost of being in a relationship