Is Dating Cost-Effective?

Self-portrait of the author on a date

On the occasion, I get a reader email or tweet asking why I don’t share a little more about my personal life, particularly my romantic entanglements (or lack thereof.)  There are many, many good reasons as to why I don’t blog about dating or love or sex, including but not limited to the following:

  • There are already so many great dating blogs (in particular, the Date Report and Shmitten Kitten), I have nothing new to add
  • The actual concept of dating tends to give me hives if I think about it too hard
  • You’ve seen Liz Lemon on 30 Rock, so you already have a pretty good idea
  • If there was anything actually interesting going on, I would shout it from the highest rooftops and mountains, organize a massive parade, complete with a me-as-Bueller rendition of a classic Beatles song, and would probably start a blog called “HOLY SHIT GUYS I ACTUALLY GOT LAID”

With that said, a very perceptive reader sent me a link to a Forbes blog post from a few weeks ago that examines the fact that, for most post-collegiates, dating is quite the economic endeavor.  The author brings up several good points, including the need for a neutral meeting ground early in the relationship (bars, restaurants, movies), the money expectations placed, and the increased costs of long distance love.  It’s no wonder that, according to OK Cupid, both men and women inflate their incomes by 20% on profiles to draw more messages.

Having had a relatively stable source of income for the last year (a legitimate life first…sad but true), I was able to budget a decent amount of fun money for frivolous activities, most of which revolved around booze and food (hey, a girl’s gotta eat…and she needs to drink.)  The difference between bro-ing out with friends and dating is that the financial expectations are so different.  My friends won’t blink if I suggest a bar with 2-for-1 drink specials or drop a Scoutmob coupon on brunch or suggest splitting a Groupon that we can use during dollar draft day.  I’m all about a bargain so that I can stretch my money like a slutty yoga teacher.

But when you’re dating?  Cheap isn’t always hot.  That bar we love for the rock bottom price on PBR pounders is not the ideal place to take a lady on a first date.  And as I tend to hold to the belief that (s)he who does the asking has the obligation to pay (even amongst friends, this is a nice rule), dating can mean doubling your expenses on any given night.  This doesn’t even begin to consider ancillary dating costs – new clothes, more frequent/sophisticated hair cuts, manicures, pedicures, waxes, car detailing, Metro expenses (whither the relationship with someone on another line from you…), and whatever else you need to show off the best version of you.

For all the hard-earned money you’re putting out, what exactly are you getting in return?  If the date turns out to be a dud, it’s not only your time and energy you’ve wasted but also dough that could have been spent on 1.5 liter bottles of wine and sushi for a classy dinner home alone.  Maybe the date is alright and you’re in bliss for a few months – until you’re left with a broken heart and a maxed-out credit card from that “romantic, spur-of-the-moment romantic trip to Vegas” that ended with him dumping you at the airport on the way home.

It seems that if you’re in your 20s and already struggling paycheck-to-paycheck (or even sticking to your finely-tuned budget and savings plan), dating is definitely an exercise in post-post-modern social studies.  No one is truly capable of shouldering the financial burden (let alone the maturity necessary for actual commitment), so most people remain in that blissful/awful state of non-dating dating, leading to the hook-up culture that many a trend piece has been written about.

What do you think, friends?  Am I being smart or surly?  Do the costs outweight the benefits?  Is this just the price of companionship?  Should love be untainted by the unsavory influence of money?  Will I end this blog post with a series of ridiculous questions?  Who can tell?


2 thoughts on “Is Dating Cost-Effective?

  1. Hook up culture is certainly cheeper but maybe the concept of the date needs to be shaken up. There has to be something in between pounding PBRs and 200+ bills in Bistros.
    First dates revolving around dinners always make me jittery.
    Will I spillt things on myself, how hard should I push to pay for the check, will he feel entitled to an after party if he pays–all these things don’t matter if we go to a museum, for instance. Packing a picnic is always an easy option too–that way I get to show him how good I am at cooking and organizing. Plus, reading in the park? The best!

    • I definitely agree! There are plenty of fun, interesting date ideas that don’t cost an arm and a leg but don’t make you feel like a complete bum. I’m a big fan of the museum date, since museum education is my background, plus most museums have great little cafes for a reasonably-priced treat in a cool locale. And I love the idea of a picnic – I’m a huge fan of food but first (or even second or third) date dinners can be SO uncomfortable.

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