Free dating apps and websites are everywhere. Which is great for our money-saving sensibilities. Why “pay for” true love when you find it for free, right? No sense using a paid dating service when you can find true love (or casual love) on a free one.
But just like there’s no such thing as a “free lunch”, I was pretty sure that there’s no such thing as a “free date”.
And it turns out that’s true. Everything costs. I did some online sleuthing (dating site blogs, Pew Research polls, surveys) and found the true cost of finding “free true love” with a free dating app.
1. Grooming and Beauty Rituals that Rival Harvard Tuition Costs — $313 a month
When you want to put yourself out there, you want to look your best. Especially when most romantic encounters start with a photo swipe.
The average woman (age 18-78) spends $313 month on maintaining her appearance: haircuts and colors, waxes, makeup, manicures, pedicures, clothing, facials, monthly beauty boxes, and more. And this is for all women; single women looking for love are shelling out even more. At $313 a month throughout most of your adult life, that adds up to $225,360, rivaling the price tag of 4-year college tuition at Harvard.
Men spend $244 month on average, indulging in pedicures, manicures, manscaping, facials, and more.
Looking good has never looked so expensive.
2. Hitting the Town with Friends to “Put Yourself Out There” — $150 a month
If you’re looking for love, you need to put yourself out there. This means actually accepting some of your friends’ invitations for a night out vs staying in to binge-watch BoJack Horseman with your cat.
Going out 3-4 a month, including food, drinks, entertainment, parking, and transportation, gets spendy, averaging around $100-$200 a month.
3. One Cheap First Date per Week — $45 a month
Most of us can find cheap first dates (coffee, splitting an appetizer) where we end up shelling out around $10 or less per outing. But if you go on just one date per week, that can add up to nearly $45 a month.
Even a “free” date to the museum has hidden costs lurking around every corner. Parking. Small donation so you don’t look cheap. A cup of coffee or tea.
4. Giving In To Your Urge to Cyber Stalk — $50 a month
While there are plenty of “free” dating apps, there are always hidden triggers to get you to spend more. For example, if you want proof positive, timestamp and all, that Jane has definitely read or not read your message… Well, you’ll have to shell out and upgrade to a premium level of membership.
Similarly, you may invest a significant amount of time “researching” your date before you meet them. If every month at work, you spend a couple hours scouring your date’s social profile pages and pinging links to coworkers, that’s roughly $50 (2 hours) of lost productivity every month. Imagine 23.8 million dating app singletons doing similar “research” each month at the office, and that’s nearly $1.2 billion in lost productivity every month.
5. Kissing “Frogs” in Search of Your Prince(ss) — $15 a month
Most dating app users don’t strike it lucky on their first outing. According to elitedaily.com, dating as few as only six people before finding your partner is rare. Most of us date dozens and dozens of people before finding that long-term click.
Not completely surprising, given some of the frivolous reasons given for wanting to be in a relationship. For example, 20% of millennials say that they start relationships for tactical, rather than romantic reasons, like looking good on Instagram or being included in couples-only fun.
Assuming you date 6 other people until you find your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/partner/significant other, that’s a lot of heartbreak you’ve got to fund. Breakups, like “free” dating apps, should be free. But savethestudent.org did a study on how much money we spend to get over breakups.
For older adults, those expenses multiply when you factor in moving out, finding a new place to live, dividing possessions, legal fees, and more.
Assuming $10,000 in total breakup “costs” amortized over 60 years of adult life, that’s roughly $15 a month. (Hah! Build that figure into your monthly budget and bring it to your financial planner.)
It All Adds Up
Add up all these monthly expenses in the pursuit of “free true love” and they reach a staggering $573 a month. Yow!
And once you do find true love, it doesn’t get any cheaper. According to a recent study, 89% of people spend more money when they’re in a relationship vs when they’re single.
Take heart though. Spending decreases with age. 84% of people 18-34 spend more when they’re in a relationship. By age 65, that figure drops to only 53%. With age, we become wiser, and cheaper, at navigating true love.