If you want to find love, then you have to invest in the process, says Lindsey Metselaar, a millennial dating expert and host of the dating podcast "We Met at Acme."
But those first few dates shouldn't leave you broke—or ghosted: "There are so many ways to date on a budget," Metselaar says. She shared a few do's and don'ts with Grow that can help you navigate tricky money questions that come up when you're looking for love.
If you're serious about coupling up, "you should definitely pay for a dating app," says Metselaar. In order to connect with more potential partners, signing up for an app account that doesn't limit your daily interactions is worth the money, she explains.
"It's a numbers game when you're dating, and you want to date as many people as you can," says Metselaar.
In her social circle, Metselaar has seen the most success with apps like Hinge that match users with others indirectly in their social network, mainly through common Facebook friends. If you don't have a Facebook account, these apps filter matches through questions. The cost: Apps like Hinge will generally set you back less than $10 a month.
In the early stages of dating, you don't want money to distract from the connection you're trying to make. So, on a first date, don't scrimp, says Metselaar: You may want to save that Groupon or a LivingSocial for another time.
"It's a little awkward in the beginning stages of dating…unless it's to do something fun and have an activity together. But if it's just to get 25% off when taking them to drink? " Nah, she says. "Do something else that doesn't cost anything."
However, Metselaar says, there's no need to splurge on taking a cab instead of using public transportation: "I'm so fine with going on the subway for dates. Why not, you know? It's nice to sit and talk, and share that experience. You don't have service…you have to be close to each other, you can play a game on your phone together."
A setting that allows you to be physically close and removed from your cellphone can even be romantic, she says.
"The person who should pay on the first date is the person who asked for the date," Metselaar says. And the person invited on the date should always offer to pay, too. It's simple politeness.
If it's not clear who asked who, she says, the person who is more financially established should grab the check.
That said, if your date agrees to let you put down your card on date one, it's probably not a good sign: "He invited me on this date and is expecting me to pay half? That's not really being taken out, that's just going out as friends."
And if you make it to a second date, or a third? Keep offering to pay, says Metselaar: "It's a game, it's a back and forth."
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