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The Cost of Dating in 2024

Let’s be honest - finding love in the 2020s is hard work. Those in previous generations might have spontaneously found love at a bar or through friends, but today’s landscape is different. According to a Stanford University study, in 2017 around 40% of heterosexual and 60% of same-sex couples meet online — up from 22% in 2009 and 2% in 1995. [1] FastCompany, Almost 40% of hetero and 60% of same-sex couples now meet online for the first time’ https://www.fastcompany.com/90305884/almost-40-of-hetero-and-60-of-same-sex-couples-now-meet-online-for-the-first-time

But online dating comes with its own challenges. The paradox of choice paralyzes opinion, with every new match decreasing the odds of keeping a potential partner’s attention as documented in a 2019 study. [2] Social Psychological and Personality Science, ‘A Rejection Mind-Set: Choice Overload in Online Dating’ https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1948550619866189 Then there are the ghosters, the catfishers, the fake accounts and spam profiles. Just to complicate things.

Once you finally meet someone, the stress doesn’t end there. For many Americans, the cost of dating can be anxiety-inducing, and often a source of conflict in a relationship. To find out more, a survey on behalf of Self Financial asked more than 1,000 U.S. adults about the cost of dating and falling in love.

Key findings

How much do Americans spend on dating?

There is no right or wrong when it comes to dating. Everyone has different preferences, priorities, and conventions they accept to find a potential partner.

However, almost half (44.9%) of the 1,000 or so Americans surveyed said they are searching for a long-term relationship, while 36% are searching for something more casual. More than half of people surveyed (52.9%) say they typically go on one or two dates per month, with 41.9% meeting up with a match three or more times.

Each date comes at a cost, and almost two-thirds of people (64.6%) surveyed believe that spending more increases the chance of the date being a success. Looking deeper into this, the data revealed that the average date in 2024 will cost $58.84 per person, with men expecting to spend more by around a fifth.

How much men and women spend on dating

Dinner dates are still the most preferred choice

The data suggests that Americans still prefer the tried and trusted restaurant date, with 47.8% of respondents choosing it as their preferred way to get to know someone. While less pricey, a coffee shop date (44.8%) is also favored by more than a third of people.

When it comes to costs the average person spends $50.14 per person on food and drink during the date. For those who date once a week, they will pay slightly less than the $218.42 per month on eating out which is the average for all Americans, according to U.S. Census Bureau data [3] U.S. Census Bureau, ‘Household Pulse Survey: Measuring Emergent Social and Economic Matters Facing U.S. Households’, Table 6. Household Food Spending, by Select Characteristics (November 08, 2023 release) https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2023/demo/hhp/hhp63.html. But it starts to add up if you’re dating three or more times per month. Those who dated 1-2 times a month spent an average of $57.21 while those dating 3-4 times spent higher at $69.68.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s also the cost of looking good for the date. According to the research, singles spend an average of $50.29 on clothes, make-up, accessories and personal grooming to show off their best selves before a date. This is unlikely to reflect the cost of a weekly date, but for someone looking to look extra handsome or glamorous for a new partner or getting back into dating, they may spend this as an average.

How much do you have to spend to be in a relationship?

On average, people agreed it takes around seven dates before couples would class themselves as ‘in a relationship’. A fifth (21.3%) were happy to use the label after just two dates, while 35% said they would need four dates before feeling that way.

Taking seven dates as an overall average, the data found that the typical couple would spend $701.96 together before classing themselves as being in a relationship. That assumed all seven dates require payment, however, some may opt for free things to do such as a walk in the park.

The stress of dating in 2024

In today’s economic climate, the cost of a date only adds to the pressure already on singles to meet the right person and make a good impression. Separate from this survey, a previous study from Match.com found that Singles in America spend $117.4 billion on dating every year, 40% higher than a decade ago. [4] TIME, ‘It’s Now 40% More Expensive to Be Single and Dating Than It Was a Decade Ago’ https://time.com/6234459/dating-is-expensive-inflation-match-singles-in-america/

3 in 4 say dating is too expensive

In this survey on behalf of Self Financial, the data showed that almost three-quarters of people (73.9%) believe that dating generally is getting too costly. More than two-thirds (67.9%) of respondents also said that they felt stressed about finances when organizing a date.

All of this, according to the survey on behalf of Self Financial, appears to translate into additional tension on dates. 68.6% of people admitted to feeling uncomfortable while on a date with someone because of how much it will cost, and six in 10 singles (60.2%) have argued over who pays the bill.

Dating apps and first dates

If the cost of dating is playing on singles’ minds during dates, does this affect how they search for potential matches online? While not everyone places a priority on their partner’s net worth, it seems that some singles give wealthy profiles a second glance.

More than seven in ten (71.8%) said they were more likely to match with someone who has signs of wealth on their dating profile. One in five (20.1%) said it would be a turnoff, while 8% said it wouldn’t sway them either way.

So what stands out on profiles? Respondents said that matches who show themselves visiting lavish international destinations, such as Paris or Dubai, were most likely to catch the eye (37.7%), as well as those who appear to dine at expensive restaurants (36.3%) and wear luxury fashion brands (35%).

Most attractive symbols of wealth

A staggering 82.3% of U.S. adults in this survey admitted to judging potential partners by their salaries. While this figure may seem surprising, a 2022 study which analyzed 1.8 million online dating profiles in 24 countries supports this behavior. It found that men were 2.5 times more likely to receive profile attention than women if they had high earning potential. [5] Human Nature: ‘Being More Educated and Earning More Increases Romantic Interest: Data from 1.8 M Online Daters from 24 Nations’ https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12110-022-09422-2

Who should pay for the first date?

To round out the research, participants were asked the age-old question - who should pay for the first date? The study did not focus on gender roles, as often dating experts and polls consistently suggest that men in heterosexual relationships should pay for the first date. [6] CNBC: ‘Who should pay on the first date?’ https://www.cnbc.com/select/who-pays-on-the-first-date/ This survey instead focused on finances.

More than two in five (44.1%) believe that whoever earns more should pay for the date, while over a third (35.6%) preferred to split equally. The remaining fifth (20.6%) felt that payment was down to whoever organized and suggested the date in the first place.

Men were slightly more in favor of whoever earns more (47.1% vs 42.4%) while women opted for an equal split slightly more (36.4% vs 34.3%).

Methodology

The survey conducted on behalf of Self Financial asked a total of 1,070 U.S. adults about how much they spend on first dates and dating in general. Respondents had to have dated in the last 12 months to participate. Participants were asked a range of questions about the stress of finances around dating, as well as the impact of wealth on dating profiles. 54.6% of respondents were women, 44.9% men, 0.4% identified as non binary, 0.2% declined to say.

The data was collected from 18th - 21st December 2023.

Sources

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