The Cost of Finding Love: What’s It Worth to You?


cost of loveThose of you still in the dating pool know: It’s a jungle out there.

Look no further than the latest rom-com from Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, “Blended,” for example: The film begins with the two going on a disastrous setup, after which they vow to never see each other again. Of course, Hollywood has them falling in love after they end up at the same African resort.

After you’ve burned an hour on a please-make-it-stop blind date, your reality was probably a little less happily-ever-after. Not only was it a waste of time, you might also be out a painful $100.

Finding love can come at a cost: The average online dater, for instance, spends $239 a year on different sites’ membership fees. Then tack on what you spend on dinner, drinks or getting well-groomed—not to mention go-the-extra-mile services like dating consultants—and you’ve likely dipped deeply into your budget.

“It’s important to keep in mind that dating expenses are discretionary line items in your budget, as opposed to necessary costs such as food, rent or paying down debt,” says Jennifer Faherty, a money coach and CFP®. “Even if finding your soul mate ranks high on your list of priorities, be mindful to still cover your essential expenses.”

RELATED: 8 Financial Red Flags in a Relationship

But once those are covered, “how you choose to allocate the money within that category is really up to you,” she says. “As long as it fits into your larger budget, there are no strict rules.”

Knowing that every dating budget might look different, we asked three active daters, and one who’s now in a relationship, to give us a snapshot of what they’re willing to spend—or not—in the pursuit of finding The One. Then we asked Faherty to weigh in on what their spending might reveal about how they view both love and money.

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  • Christie Williamson

    I can completely relate! Having used online dating and matchmaking services in the past (which were, shall we say, less than useful to put it kindly), I’ve been in those shoes. I met my boyfriend of 8 months through a really fun program, Events & Adventures, which is a singles activities club…it’s not a dating service, but you do have to be single to participate. It definitely takes the pressure off!

    • Dylan

      Hey Christine – I always hear ads for Events and Adventures, and have considered it (I’m a transplant to my city and I work a lot, so the idea of meeting new people is nice), but from what I’ve heard is that it is outrageously expensive. I’m ok with spending a bit more on a good value, but they are so secretive with their prices I’m reluctant to even give them my number because I hate hard sells. Would you be willing to tell me a bit more about their prices and how it works, and why you think it was worth it? Some of the online reviews seem like they were written by people who work for them!

      • Christie Williamson

        Hi Dylan – it was a bit pricey but they do offer discounts for certain packages, holiday pricing, payment plans, etc. It was fun, but of course now that I am happily with someone I no longer use the service. I guess I might be a little biased because I ended up with a great ending, but if I was still single I would definitely utilize the service! They host a ton of events of all different “speeds” (game nights, movies, clubs, outdoor sports, etc…) every month…I was in Philly and we always had at least 40 events every month. Looking back I wish I had just used E&A and not spent the money on online dating and matchmaking services because the environment was much more relaxed, you get to meet new friends and not just potential partners. Though I will say I have some pretty epic horrible date stories from using those other services :p Hope that helps you in your decision making!

        • Dylan

          Thanks for the response, Christie! I am in Philly as well, so that’s reassuring! I’m pretty busy between work and school, which on one hand makes me think I might not get enough out of it, but on the other hand, my busy schedule is exactly why I might need it! I’ll give it some thought – I look at the Meet Up events sometimes, but they never seem to work with my schedule either :/ I would actually like to make some girl friends in the area as well, so it’s appealing.

          I know exactly what you mean – I was a big advocate of eHarmony when I did it years ago – met some really nice guys, and had a long-term relationship. Their approach really impressed me. When I joined again about a year ago, I was bombarded with about 8 new matches a day, and I didn’t feel like any of them were personalized for me at all, except for location. Plus it was a little insulting to think that eHarmony managed to find about 200 “perfect matches” for me each month, when I had a hard time meeting any ;)

      • Evy

        I would highly recommend that you check out some local Meetup groups in your area! I didn’t actually find my current boyfriend through Meetup (we met through OKCupid), but Meetup has vastly expanded my social circle, and I’ve met a lot of “friends of friends” who, in my previously single circumstances, I may have considered asking out on a date.

        Best of all, most Meetups that aren’t aimed at “singles” in the area will usually be co-ed (unless they are gender-specific). As you go to more events from one group, you start to see the same people who are interested in the things that you are interested in – and I think the atmosphere is wonderful for making friends, as well as potentially connecting with romantic interests.

        • Dylan

          Thanks! I really need to spend some more time looking at the Meet Up groups and just attending something. I get a little overwhelmed each time I look at it – there seems to be so many options!

          It’s hard to balance being a younger professional in a city you didn’t grow up in or go to college in. My professional and financial life are on track now, which doesn’t seem to leave enough time for socializing. But financial stability isn’t worth much if you aren’t going out and enjoying life!

  • Natalia

    I paid for eHarmony and found my boyfriend on pof for free – go figure. It’s different for big cities compare to small ones. Or may be it’s me (my gym membership is only $25 and paid partially by Blue cross Blue shield).

  • Shannon Lee Gilstad

    It seems impossible to find a date in NYC. Anybody have any tips?

  • sharon

    This was eye opening. I NEVER EVER allow a guy to pay on a date. It totally squicks me out because I feel like I’d rather get to know someone on totally equal footing, without any sense of entitlement on his part or obligation on my part. I always wondered why I never get 2nd dates. Any guys on here willing to weigh in?