Six Tips for Dating in a Down Economy

No more Cristal, but dark economic clouds may have silver lining for romance.

May 6, 2009, 10:22 AM

May 6, 2009 -- It's no secret that love hurts. But these days, with the economy crumpling like a disappointed Cyrano, the pain has a ripe target other than the heart: the wallet.

Wining, dining, diamonds and champagne are sure to make an impression on any woman's heart. The trouble is, all that bling leaves an equally impressive imprint on the bank account.

Fortunately, extravagance in romance is shaping up to be so last year, with the Cristal and caviar giving way to a hot dog and a walk in the park. In this recession, when it comes to dating, it's no longer about swagger; it's about your soul.

Such new priorities are the ones that count when looking for a match, according to Rachel Greenwald, dating coach, matchmaker and author of "Why He Didn't Call You Back."

She should know: Greenwald surveyed 1,000 men to find out what works and what doesn't in this brave new dating world.

"People are not looking for style and flash and hookups as much as they were," Greenwald said. "Now they're looking for substance and someone who can be with them in good times and, more often, bad times."

So what is her advice for those looking for love on a budget? ABC News went to the hot Manhattan date spot Casa La Femme to test out Greenwald's tips.

"This is a woman who has a negative or complaining attitude," Greenwald said. "The woman who's successful in dating is going to see the glass half-full instead of half-empty."

Sekou Writes, a writer and single man, said, with the economy headed south, "It's important to go out with men and women that have a sunny disposition, that have a silver-lining kind of attitude."

"Fancy designer labels are now seen as crass," Greenwald said.

Instead of wearing your best diamonds when you go on a date, tone it down. Instead of grilling your date about what car he drives or his summer house in the Hamptons, ask him about his summer reading list.

You don't have to go on the most extravagant dates, according to Greenwald. Laura Chasen is a single woman who couldn't agree more. "Instead of trying to take her out to the fanciest possible restaurant and impress her with the nicest bottle of champagne," she said, "go to a local bar and have one or two drinks, or go to a coffee shop and see if you actually connect."

Perfect the 'Fake Purse Grab'

Greenwald explained that it's the gesture that counts when it comes to paying. "Eighty-four percent of men actually expect to pay for the first date dinner, even in today's economy," she said. "But more than ever, they want the woman to show appreciation. So she should do the fake purse grab instead of turn the blind eye when the check comes."

Writes agreed. "I still expect to pay for the first date and probably the first couple, but I do appreciate the aforementioned slow-motion reach, and I also appreciate kind of leapfrogging," he said. "If I pay for dinner, maybe you throw in for the tip."

Maybe it used to be OK to say, in an online dating profile, "I'm looking for someone who makes over $150,000 a year." Times have changed, Greenwald said: "Now, it's more important to say, 'I'm looking for someone with a kind heart,' or 'I'm looking for someone who is steady and optimistic.' Those are the things that reflect substance in today's dating economy, instead of flash or style, she said.

Overlooking someone who is unemployed in this market can seriously narrow your options. A year ago, someone without a job might have come across as a loser, but today about one in 11 people is unemployed. "You have to consider unemployed guys as potential dates," Greenwald said.

What dating seems to be about now, more than anything else, is finding a connection.

"I think in some ways this recession provides, from an idealist's perspective, a really great opportunity to eliminate frivolity from dating a little bit," Chasen said, "and just connect with people, and see if you actually connect with a girl, instead of trying to take her out to the fanciest possible restaurant and impress her with the nicest bottle of champagne."

In other words, there doesn't have to be a monetary value associated with the perfect date; it's all about the company. "People are doing different things, and now they value partners who can bring more depth to the relationship instead of just a hot babe," Greenwald said.

And that, she said, can lead to a relationship that will last through all of the market's ups and downs.

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