A recent study conducted by eHarmony estimated that Brits will spend £2 billion (about $2.8 billion) and 96 million hours on bad dates in 2018, while a 2016 survey concluded that the average American spent $1,596 on dating that year alone. When did dating become so damn expensive?
Opportunity cost is real.
Let’s talk economics. If you’re not spending money on dating, you’re spending time searching for a partner: downloading dating apps and creating a profile, swiping left or right, and chatting up dudes online. While you may not be forking over cash to the Tinder and Bumble gods, investing time online means you’re forgoing other activities like strengthening live interpersonal relationships, honing a profitable skill, or even earning a few extra bucks with a side job.
Online dating sites charge membership fees.
While dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, and OkCupid are free, many dating websites aren’t. eHarmony, Match.com, and JDate cost roughly $40 a month. Then there are more specific dating sites like Muddy Matches, Dating for Parents, and Christian Connection that cater to singles looking for partners with similar backgrounds or interests. Though those $40 are no small sum, you get what you pay for with these online dating services.
Coffee dates add up…
Coffee dates are a great way to get to know someone in a casual setting. Much cheaper than a full meal and as long or short as you want them to be, a quiet hour or two at a cafe is the sensible choice—especially for couples who might have met at a party or other less intimate setting the night before. But those caffeine fixes add up. Even if you avoid Starbucks, all those $3- $4 lattes cost a pretty penny at the end of a year of dating.
… As do bar tabs.
Plenty of couples hit the bars with friends, but singles tend to spend more money on social events for a couple of reasons. First, single people in pursuit of a partner have more motivation to go out and socialize than people in stable and committed relationships. Secondly, singles tend to spend more money on alcohol at bars and clubs. After all, sometimes it takes a bit of liquid courage before striking up a conversation with an attractive stranger, am I right?
Pre-date primping ain’t free.
Mani-pedis, haircuts, eyebrow shaping, waxing, lingerie, or even a new blouse costs hopeful singles a significant amount of money—especially if you engage in such primping and pampering before every new date (and, hey, why the hell shouldn’t you?). Behind every first date, there’s a girl who’s decided that nothing in her closet is fit for the occasion. Trust me, I’ve met her. I am her. Just ask my absurd collection of push-up bras and my empty wallet.
Food costs add up too, especially if you hit up decent restaurants.
Let’s say you’ve gone on a coffee date or two and are ready to get a bit more serious over a bottle of wine and chicken parmesan—or even a pizza for that matter. Factor in the cost of appetizers, entrées, beverages, and the tip, and that’s a sizable chunk of change. No matter how you split the bill, at least one of you is paying (or staying late to do the dishes: another opportunity cost).
Even experiences are expensive.
A movie, concert, or round of miniature golf costs anywhere between $10 and $20 for just one person. While experiences often make for more memorable dates than dinners, they too can add up. Even if you’ve tried to go the economical route and plan a hike with your prospective partner, you’ll need to consider the price of gas to get to the destination—not to mention snacks and outdoor gear should you not already own any.
Thankfully, it’s not all news.
If you’re willing to spend the time, you may not have to spend as much money. If you’re with a good match, the two of you should be able to pass the hours talking without the need for any other entertainment. Of course, we tend to think of “dates” as conversations at restaurants, trips to the movies, or an afternoon of paintball, but they can literally be as simple as a walk in the park. Don’t overthink it—especially if you’re getting good vibes from the guy you’re with.
Bad dates aren’t a sunk cost.
Even a horrible one-hour date can give you stories to regale your friends with for years to come. Although you might feel like a bad date is a waste of time and money, you likely learned something about your date or yourself that will serve you well down the road. Take heart and don’t let yourself feel shoppers guilt over an imperfect Tinder match.
Remember to invest in yourself.
Sure, dating is expensive, but people invest so much time and money in it because they believe it’s worth it, and you have to admire that kind of optimism. Concerned about the cost of finding Mr. Right right now? Maybe focus on the quality of dates rather than the quantity. Or, take a few months to spend that time and money on yourself. The next date may not be worth it but you always are.
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