If you’ve grown tired of meeting people at bars and are ready to be proactive about meeting someone, you might be considering online dating. But surfing for love is more than time-consuming; with membership fees at hundreds of dollars per year, it can get expensive!
Here are six financial tricks for making the most of online dating sites:
Scrutinize the Rates as Much as You'll Scrutinize Your Dates
Many paid sites offer different subscription plans that vary based on the length of time you’re willing to commit. Though a rate may be advertised as, say, $20.99 for six months, it is often billed in one lump sum. Read the fine print to be careful that you're not signing yourself up for a plan that automatically renews itself. If you are, make sure to watch your renewal dates if you decide to cancel.
Free Your Love
Most online dating companies let you to browse the site—or parts of it—for a specified period for free. Yahoo! Personals, for example, offers seven free days on any plan; Lavalife says it’s free to join, search, reply, and “flirt.” Match.com has a widely-advertised six month guarantee. According to the plan, if you don’t find someone special in that time, you'll get another six months free. Doing so would bring the yearly cost of the $20.99 plan down from $251.88 to $125.94.
Size Up the Incidentals
Young, successful professionals may be tempted to tackle online dating with as much attention to detail as they've tackled their careers. Some splurge on professional photos and new confidence-building outfits for all the first dates, but we recommend you start with some quick math. If you earn $40,000 per year (before taxes), you’re bringing home about $20 an hour. While it’s hard to quantify how much your time is really worth outside the office, we can approximate that an hour a day on Match.com will cost you the time equivalent of $140 per week, or $560 a month. That's hard-earned money you could devote to other expenses, like, say a gym membership, where you could tone up and maybe even run into the person of your dreams.
Ask Yourself: Are the Extras Really Worth It?
Some sites like eHarmony offer so-called premium services for additional fees. This includes a “Profile Advisor” with a professional writer who will “work with you to help you express yourself in a fun and genuine way,” to the tune of $99.95; and Secure Call, which allows you to talk to your matches while maintaining your privacy for $5.95 a month (although eHarmony notes that your mobile or home phone service provider may charge usage or per-minute fees on top of that). Unless you’re really struggling with your profile and/or can only connect with people after hearing their voices, it may be best to skip these additional services.
Remember That You Get What You Pay For
If you’re really looking for a serious relationship, however, consider that those people who are paying for a service are perhaps more likely to be willing to establish a long-term monogamous relationship.
Don't Forget the Freebies
A quick Google search of “free online dating sites” pulled up millions of matches. Though some of our friends have had sketchier experiences on unpaid sites, we'd still recommend looking at free resources like OkCupid, which calls itself “the best dating site on Earth.”
We always thought that love had nothing to do with money, but, when it comes to online dating, that's not always the case. We've stacked up some of the major dating sites in terms of both price and perks:
* Payment plans for six-month packages, where available.
**eHarmony coupon code
If you don’t like the sound of free dating sites, you probably already have connections on social networks. Try to leverage the groups you already have. Who knows, a friend of a friend could be the person of your dreams…if so, you can use the money you saved on online dating subscriptions to impress your mate by springing for the check on the first date.
Just don't forget to invite us to the wedding!