US woman says she went on six dates a week to save money on groceries in viral TikTok

Vivian Tu
Photo credit: @yourrichbff / TikTok / Instagram

Amid the ongoing cost of living crisis, many of us will have been feverishly brainstorming ways to pinch pennies - but one woman has taken getting more bang for her buck to the extreme. 

Popular content creator Vivian Tu, who boasts more than 2.3 million followers on TikTok, went viral on the video-sharing platform in 2021 for sharing her unconventional budgeting hack - going on multiple dates a week to avoid paying for groceries. 

"When they say women are bad with money, but you used to go on six dates a week to avoid paying for groceries," the now-28-year-old captioned the clip.

"Between 2016-2018 I didn't buy groceries once. Probably saved about $150 a week." 

In a new interview with Elite Daily, Tu - a former Wall Street trader who was ranked in Forbes 30 Under 30 - admitted the viral video had been made in jest, clarifying she wasn't dating "just for food". However, she noted a full calendar at the time did ease her weekly expenditure, despite earning US$95,000 (NZ$146,000) a year.  

Tu told Elite Daily that she started using dating apps after relocating to New York City in an attempt to find a connection - but quickly realised the more dates she booked in, the more she was able to eat "for free". 

"[I realised] oh, I can go to a fun tapas restaurant for (probably) free, or I can spend my own money on food at the grocery store that I still need to cook. And it's probably not going to taste as good," she told the outlet. "There's obviously subconscious thinking that goes into it.

"In my opinion, deliberately going on dates for a free meal isn't a great idea. I am very much in the camp that you're dating to find love," she added. 

Despite her healthy salary, Tu admitted she struggled with "very high" living expenses as she rented in the Hell's Kitchen neighbourhood of Midtown Manhattan. 

"The market closest to my apartment was incredibly expensive, so I never felt comfortable shopping there. Instead, I would haul my butt on the subway 15 blocks to [grocery store] Trader Joe's and grab all that I could carry," Tu said.

"It wasn't easy, and I really had to think strategically about what I was buying - usually their turkey corn dogs and frozen pizza."

She admitted that by arranging dinner dates with prospective beaus, she was able to save around US$50 to US$100 per week, which she either put into savings or spent on investing. 

"And a black Prada bag to replace my tattered Longchamp tote," she added. 

However, Tu's calculated courting wasn't well-received by everyone. While some applauded her strategic approach and praised her as a "girlboss", others panned it as "borderline unethical". 

"Genius," one commented at the time, to which Tu replied: "I thought so too. Making up for the glass ceiling by eating my body weight in pasta."

"Smarter not harder," a second agreed, with a third adding: "Power moves, girl power."

Others called out the content creator for her "toxic femininity" or questioned her credibility at giving financial advice, with one pointing out: "But if you were good with money you wouldn't need those dates?"

Despite courting controversy with her candidness, Tu says she doesn't regret making the video - or agreeing to dinner dates as a budgeting hack. 

"Even if you do put your card down, it's still a win: You get to say you went somewhere new, ate great food and made a new connection - or, at least, practised your small talk."