When we asked couples in their 20s and 30s in a recent survey what they're most likely to spend their money on, 49 percent said going out to dinner.
Date night at a restaurant even beat out a weekend getaway (16 percent), a week-long vacation (12 percent), and going to a bar, concert or sporting event.
When we're in love, we like to EAT, yo.
But dining a deux over candlelight and two (OK, three) glasses of heavily poured wine every week can really add up over time — both in calories and in dollars.
In fact, our same survey revealed that the number one money concern for coupled up peeps is "How much my SO and I save."
Now, I'm not here to tell you what to eat, so you're on your own with the calorie problem. But making sure that your precious, romantic dinner dates don't obliterate your bank accounts? That I can help with.
When You're Making Dinner Plans With Your SO...
"Men often think expensive is equivalent to romantic," says Janice Goldman, a money talk coach, speaker, and author of "Let's Talk About Money: The Girlfriends' Guide To Protecting Her ASSets."
"However, ask any woman, and she'll tell you that the most romantic meals are those in restaurants that have some meaningful memories attached to them. Maybe it's the hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant you took your partner to on your first date or the kebab food truck where you met."
Keep this in mind when planning where you and your SO are going to eat. Maybe an average Tuesday night doesn't call for a joint with white table clothes and an extensive wine list when the bar down the street will do just fine.
Then again, if fancy AF is what you're after, check the restaurant's website to see if they offer "Early bird" special pricing if you get there before the big dinner rush, suggests Goldman.
Or, check out which local restaurants are offering deals. "Don't be afraid to coupon. There are loads of deals out there for new … and sometimes established restaurants," says Goldman.
"Whether you opt for Groupon or Living Social, it's not hard to stay on budget if you grab one of their deals."
Right Before You Leave The House...
Yes, we're telling you to pregame your dinner date. "I think planning is the key to saving money when dining out," Goldman says.
You can do this in more ways than one: First, peep that menu online and plan your orders to make sure your total estimated bill will fit within your budget, Goldman suggests.
Next, while you're salivating over your impending meal, hit up your own at-home bar cart. "The budget breakers of any dining out experience are alcohol and dessert, so drink a glass of wine or have a cocktail before you head to the restaurant."
Hey, no arguing with that here.
At The Restaurant...
"Many restaurants allow couples to share an entrée, and let's face it, most meals are large enough for two people," says Goldman.
"So, order an appetizer or two and then split the main course."
Honestly, not only does this move save you cash and give you a wider array of food to nibble on (grilled octopus, house salad and creamy pasta — oh my!), but, ahem, it's also a seductive tactic plucked straight out of a Disney movie.
That's Grade-A level romance right there.
And if, during your main shared course, you're really itching for a second glass of wine — one of the most overpriced items on a menu, Goldman says — think of it this way: "That one glass of wine costs nearly as much as an entire bottle from your local wine shop."
And no one is saying you can't have a nightcap at home.
Same goes for booze's expensive cousin, dessert. "You don't need it anyway, so skip it!" Goldman says.
If you ace all of these steps, I guarantee you and your SO's eyes won't bulge out of your heads when the check is dropped tableside.
You budgeted, planned ahead, skimped and still had a crazy good, memorable, romantic dinner out, dammit.
Mmm, it feels so good to be a saver.