Sarah’s Tinder profile looks like any other – but she’s got a secret.
Being a student is financially tough, and I’m the first to admit I don’t handle money as well as I probably should.
What I do to get by could be seen as ethically murky, but I’m confident I’m not doing anything illegal.
I’m studying science-law so my workload is pretty heavy, but I have also had a series of dodgy jobs to try to support myself. I still work casual shifts waiting tables in a seafood restaurant but honestly it’s barely enough to cover my living expenses. Most nights I eat rice with soy sauce.
If I want to leave my tiny flat and actually have some fun, that’s totally out of my pay range.
My solution to that problem started innocently enough
I was on Tinder and would occasionally go on a date or two, but I was super careful because I never wanted to be caught short on a date not being able to pay my way. Most guys I went out with suggested dinner in an exxy restaurant or cocktails in some bar.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t keen, I was just embarrassed at how poor I was.
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Add to that, if I was going to be spending the last of my grocery money on a night out, the guy had to be pretty spectacular to warrant me starving for the rest of the week. If you’ve been on Tinder, you’ll know most guys aren’t.
It was all leaving me overwhelmed and just about ready to give up on the whole thing.
That’s when I went on a date with Dan
Dan and I had been talking for a couple of weeks when he suggested we head out to a tapas bar in the city. He seemed great and I was keen, so I checked my bank account and headed out, determined to share a couple of plates and maybe have one glass of wine.
When I got there, Dan looked about 10 years older than his pictures. And he was shorter than he said he was – and shorter than me.
He was a nice enough guy but that kind of false advertising bums me out, so I ended up having five glasses of rosè and heaps of food. I even ordered dessert. When the bill came, Dan insisted on paying, and for the first time, I thought “fuck it, let him”.
I didn’t even feel the tiniest bit of guilt about letting Dan pay when I had no intention of seeing him again. He had a good job, he could afford it, and we had had a great chat and a few laughs.
It was then that the light bulb went on in my head
I could get used to hanging out with strangers for a decent feed. I’m hardly the first person to think of this – it even has its own dating term, ‘sneating’, which means sneakily chatting someone up solely for the purposes of a free meal – but I’m committed.
I started being more strategic about the guys that I matched with on Tinder. Guys who said they were old fashioned or knew how to treat a lady were in. They were the ones who were likely to pay on a first date. Guys who said they were modern or into equality were out – they were clearly Dutch daters all the way.
I started lining up one or two dates a week. Whenever the bill came, I did that lame thing where I offer to pay half but then don’t argue when he says he’ll take care of it.
It works most of the time, with only a couple of guys taking me up on my offer to pay.
It’s my goal to get to a point where I don’t even feel like I need to offer to pay at all
But my working class roots mean that’s something I need to work up to.
I’ve been dating like this for about six months now, and I’ve scored probably close to 40 free meals from nice restaurants. It’s not like I order the lobster or anything either, it’s fruit and veggies I miss the most in my student poverty, so I often order vegetarian. Anything with lots of greens in it.
And the bonus is that I’m casting my net more broadly than I otherwise would, so I’m meeting lots of interesting guys. Most of them I have no desire to see again, in which case I send them a text afterwards thanking them but telling them the spark wasn’t there for me. But I’m learning more about myself and what I do and don’t like in a romantic partner, and that should come in handy when I really start looking.
I really don’t think I’m ripping these guys off
I don’t date guys who I don’t think can afford to pay, and if my Prince Charming happens to appear as one of these Tinder matches, I am open to getting to know him more. As long as he’s paying.