Dating can be expensive. With many one-and-done dates, how do you know when it’s time to splurge, or should you splurge on the first few dates at all?
If you had asked me how I felt about a coffee date three years ago, I would have discouraged it. Instead, I would have suggested lunch, a casual dinner, or meeting up for a happy hour at a nice restaurant or hotel bar. Being invited for coffee felt lackluster, since there was a lack of investment in time and resources if you wanted to get to know someone. Twenty minutes and less than $10 to meet your dream date wasn’t worth driving up to one hour in traffic. It didn’t feel special at all.
These days, I’m in favor of a more casual and less expensive first date, and multiple dating app surveys back this up.
6 Reasons Why Singles are Dating on a Budget
Money Concerns and Inflation Are Real
You might feel the pain of sticker shock as the cost of groceries, gasoline, and dining out have noticeably inched up. The economic concerns of inflation are hitting daters’ wallets, so dining at a fancy restaurant is often replaced with home-cooked meals nearby while avoiding hefty corkage fees. Going on walks, hikes, and museum dates are more affordable dating options and create a shared experience.
A Plenty of Fish survey showed that 48% of single millennials and Gen-Z’rs prefer a budget-friendly date. POF calls it “infla-dating,” and it’s very real.
In fact, JP Morgan reports inflation in the U.S. peaked at 9.1% in 2022, marking a 40-year high, while In the U.K., inflation hit double digits for the first time in 40 years, and is expected to increase to approximately 15% in 2023.
You Don’t Want to Appear Fiscally Irresponsible
In The Wall Street Journal, I weighed in on daters’ concerns about desiring to meet a date or a potential partner with a high credit score. Hint: An excellent credit score ranks higher on the dating totem pole than looks. The feature story by Rachel Wolfe includes interviews with several singles who have cut back on the expense of dating.
Los Angeles-based dating coach Julie Spira says rom-coms taught people to shower a love interest with elaborate gifts, food and wine to signal their interest. Now, she says that kind of move is more likely to signal that you’re out of touch with today’s economic concerns.
“It’s overwhelming when somebody you barely know love-bombs you,” she says, referring to those kinds of grand gestures.
Her clients increasingly opt for more casual dates, to cut costs and to show their sense of fiscal responsibility to a potential partner, she says. “It used to be taboo to talk about money. Now, you need to have these conversations,” she says.
Read The Wall Street Journal Full Story Here: Being a Cheap Date is Suddenly a Major Plus
I no longer hear singles asking about a potential date’s income. Instead, they’re interested in meeting someone fiscally responsible, with shared values, and finding a meaningful relationship.
No one wants to date someone living beyond their means, so it’s time to say goodbye to fancy and elaborate first dates and hello to more casual dining and coffee dates.
Still, singles will continue to spend money in their quest to find love. The Match survey shows singles spend over $117 billion on dating yearly.
It’s Easier to Vet Your Date
During the pandemic, we learned creativity and flexibility of pre-dating rituals which sparked romance big time from Zoom and FaceTime virtual dates to in-app video and audio chats. By the time you met your date IRL, you might have gone on the equivalent of three dates and developed enough chemistry, resulting in your first date feeling like you knew this person for months or years.
Learning about your date’s favorite vacations, wineries, and hiking trails will give you a sense of how they spend or save money. If someone has a roommate or lives with their parents, you’ll know not to suggest a fancy restaurant or order an expensive bottle of wine at dinner.
I suggest checking out your date’s Instagram feed to see where their stomping grounds are. While you can’t be sure if the photos reflect a bucket list item or real life experience, know the casual dating profile photos (jeans and a sweater or tee shirt), are complimented or liked more than the ballroom gown and tuxedo look right now, which scream “high maintenance” and can be a turn-off.
On that note, perhaps it’s time to clean up your Instagram photos to reflect a natural and authentic you.
The Goal of a 1st Date is to Decide on Scheduling a 2nd One
Too many singles project to the future while swiping on a first dating app photo. Fantasizing about a date’s potential before you meet is unrealistic, and often leads to disappointment. The digital dating process should include matching, chatting, talking, and then meeting for a casual date.
If you’re lucky to sail smoothly through these pre-date internal checklists, then you’re on your way to a first casual date.
This is where you decide whether your online chemistry transfers offline when you meet in person. Take the pressure off by imagining your date as someone who will expand your social circle and become a new friend. If the date goes well, schedule a second date on the calendar before you leave to keep the flow and show your interest. Offering to get together again with no specific calendar date tends to backfire, as you wonder if someone is being polite, busy, or looking for other options.
It’s the quality of the time and conversations that matter, over the name of a loud and trendy restaurant.
It’s Time to Redefine the Coffee Date
You don’t need to drink anything caffeinated or judge your date for suggesting so. A coffee date doesn’t include a drink and dash in 20 minutes anymore. Some people prefer drinking tea instead of coffee, along with a light bite. You can order gourmet juice, sparkling soda, or tea as a beverage, along with an egg sandwich or a muffin on a date. The goal is to spend more time having a heartfelt conversation where the surroundings won’t matter if you connect.
According to a Match Singles in America Survey, 84% of singles prefer a casual first date, and 25% are more open to meeting a date for coffee or drinks.
Frugal Dating Trend Will Continue Into the Holidays
The pressure of holiday gift-giving can be eased by suggesting and adhering to a budget with your partner, or talking about gift-giving with someone new that you just started dating. When you arrive with a holiday card, it would be pretty awkward to receive an over-the-top present.
A Bumble survey showed that one of their seven trends moving into 2023 includes: “Money will be less taboo of a date topic,” with 28% surveyed reporting they’ll set financial boundaries.
This trend of frugal dating and putting finances front and center will move into holiday shopping. I suggest couples speak openly with their partner and set a reasonable budget for the season, and into Valentine’s Day.
With the right person, cuddling in their arms for a ‘Netflix and Chill’ night might be what the doctor ordered. Plus, a cooking date is high on the romance scale.
Ultimately, spending time together will become the most valuable currency as we move into the holidays and beyond.
Julie Spira is America's Top Online Dating Expert. She's an award-winning dating coach who's been helping singles find love online for 25+ years. Follow @JulieSpira on IG.