Erika Ettin: How Much Should Dating Cost Me?

By Erika Ettin
Tribune News Service

As a former economist and business owner, I often have a lot of numbers running through my head: revenue and expenses, response rates, conversion rates, and the list goes on.

In fact, that’s how I got into becoming an online dating coach in the first place! I kept a spreadsheet of my own online dating endeavors.

It first started as a way for me not to inadvertently write to the same person twice, but then I was able to calculate my response rate (if I wrote to someone, what was the percent chance that he’d write back?) and my conversion rate (if he did, in fact, reply, did we go out?). Once a numbers person, always a numbers person, I suppose.

Given this analytical nature of mine, as much as I’d like for it to be, much of the dating process simply cannot be measured.

For example, “a connection” or “chemistry” is the wild card, or the intangible. No amount of calculations (I’m looking at you, eHarmony) can predict whether two people will have chemistry or not.

There is one thing that can absolutely be measured, though, and this is how much money gets spent while playing the dating game, both finding the dates and going on the dates.

I used to have this friend who we’ll call Molly, and she had paid for a six-month subscription to JDate, a Jewish online dating site.

Within her first two months on the site, she met someone special. Yahoo! This special someone is now her husband and father of their two children. That sounds like a dream scenario, right? I remember this same friend, Molly, complaining to me about the fact that she had paid for an online dating site for six months when she needed only two.

Are you kidding me?! She got a lifetime of happiness out of it. Isn’t that priceless? (On a bit of a tangent, clients ask me similar questions all the time: “If I sign up to work with you for three months, and I meet someone in the first month, do I get a refund for the rest?” Umm … not so much. It’s a job well done!) Back to the topic at hand …

How much are people actually spending on dating anyway? Let’s take a look…

There is certainly no question that it can add up, and quickly. Especially for men, who I still, and will likely always, advise to pay on the first date (insert the flak I’ll get here).

A lot of singles wonder if it’s worth it to pay the $20 or $30 a month for an online dating site like Match.com or eHarmony when they could instead be meeting someone at the gym, at a sporting event, or through friends … or spending it on pizza delivery for themselves.

A lot of people express that the process of meeting someone should be free. Those people’s rationale is that paying for a site like Match.com or eHarmony is crazy in a world where you can just walk outside to meet someone or, much more likely given that technology runs rampant, log into a dating app like Tinder or Bumble for free.

On the paid sites (and even OkCupid, which is free), though, you get a lot more information about someone, age, height, religion, education level, relationship status (as in, were you married before?), political views (which is important these days). That’s not something you get from someone at a bar or on Tinder, for that matter! $20 or $30 doesn’t seem so expensive now in order to filter through and find people who are actually compatible on something more than looks.

A study in 2014 by ConvergEx Group, a New York-based global brokerage company, found that searching for love online can actually save you money in the dating phase of the relationship. On average, offline couples spend 42 months, or over three years, dating before walking down the aisle, whereas those who met online spend 18.5 months, or a year and a half, before the wedding day.

If the average price of an online dating site is about $20 per month (when buying multi-month memberships), then that’s a mere $240 per year in pursuit of love.

The study explains that the online dating membership clearly pays itself off by saving a lot of money in the dating phase of the relationship, since it’s shorter on average, presumably because many of the values are stated front and center.

To add to that, I contend that most important things in life cost money, perhaps hiring a headhunter when searching for a new job or locking down a mover when you change locations. Finding “your person,” perhaps the most important thing in life to many people, shouldn’t have to come for free.

Without online dating, you may be shelling out hundreds of dollars for that softball team, that art class, or that running group. Mark my words, you should still be doing these things to be social and to get some enjoyment out of it but not with the sole purpose of meeting a potential love interest.

As I tell my clients, there are three primary ways to meet people:

1. The random
Don’t trust this method. It’s your flight home for Christmas, Whole Foods, Target. While everyone remembers the one story of the friend who met her love gazing over the frozen broccoli, for most people, it doesn’t happen this way. Those couples are just more vocal about it.

2. The group or activity
Like those I mentioned above, these are great ways to meet people. But, make sure you’re doing it because you want to be doing it. For example, if you go to a running group just to meet men and then you don’t, you’ll be miserable. If you go because you actually like to, then you already come out a winner, and in great shape.

3. The place where singles are
Online dating, speed-dating, a singles mixer. You know people are looking for what you are. This is the best way to ensure you’re putting yourself in front of eligible people.
So what are you waiting for? Save some money and get online.
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<em>(Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating)</em>

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