Dating Was Always An Expense. Now It Feels Like A Total Luxury

"It was uncomfortable to admit I couldn’t just splurge £40 on a stranger – but that’s the truth.”
Rachata Teyparsit / EyeEm via Getty Images

Oh, the joys of dating. You know that feeling you get when you’ve finally matched with someone you actually fancy online and it’s time to meet IRL. You’re nervous, a bit giddy, but excited. Could this be the one that sticks?

But, as any single person will tell you, speculating on your romantic future doesn’t come cheap, and with the cost of bills rising, many young people are feeling increasingly priced out of the market.

A recent study found that nearly one in five single people (19%) say they’re going on fewer dates at the moment, because of inflation. Another 14% are trying to spend less on the dates they do go on.

Given that same study found that 22% of millennials (ages 26 to 41) and 19% of Gen Zers (ages 18 to 25) have gone into debt from all the cash they’ve splashed on dates, is it any wonder the economy is doing a number on our love lives.

A huge 83% of men believe dating would feel easier if they had more money when dating – and 73% of women agree.

Nathan*, 23, a consultant and business owner from Kent, has actually given up dating altogether because he says he can’t afford it.

“I’m a freelancer, so that means my temporary contracts are gone, companies are no longer contacting me so my income has been slashed in half so I’ve decided to take a break from dating,” Nathan says.

For Nathan, dating is an experience. He used to enjoy going to high-end restaurants and on activity dates and isn’t willing to settle for less.

“I’m not going to go on a walk for a date. I don’t judge other people who want to do that, but I have no interest in that,” he says.

“I was raised to pay for things for other people, not just romantically. If I can pay for someone else I can, so traditionally, I do pay for dates... I’m bisexual so this includes men and women. I don’t think anyone has ever paid for me on a date.”

Hannah*, a 31-year old freelance writer from London, has also stopped dating since the cost of living crisis kicked in.

“Unfortunately it feels like an additional expense which I can’t justify at the moment,” she tells HuffPost UK.

“I met a guy for a date in a pub and he wanted us to buy several rounds of drinks. I felt really boring and un-fun, and it was uncomfortable to admit that I couldn’t just splurge £40 on a stranger – but that’s the truth.”

Hannah says that while she earns an average income, with her rent increasing alongside energy bills and food prices, she’s trying to tackle her finances as best she can – and resents that her romantic life has to be put on hold.

“I’m already deep into my overdraft, and that hasn’t happened since I was a student. It’s especially difficult as I wasn’t able to date during the pandemic, so I feel like I lost two years and now am being restricted once again,” she says.

“Doing any kind of fun activity is out of the question. The only option would be to go for a walking date in the park, which I’ve done a couple of times, but I think it’s a bit limited and hard to get to know someone properly just in that one setting.”

Sandi Macdonald-Haig, 26, a barista from Glasgow, Scotland hasn’t given up dating just yet, but she feels acutely conscious of the cost of meeting up.

“I’m closely watching what I spend and will probably only get one or two drinks, and look for the cheapest option, as well as eating at home beforehand to avoid getting something whilst out,” Macdonald-Haig says.

She’ll try to keep things to a small independent bar or coffee shop, she says, partly to keep costs down, but also to support local businesses who need the custom more than ever.

“I think everyone is very aware and on edge about the cost of things right now, so when organising a date, people are more hesitant to suggest an option that might cost more, such as going for dinner, and then suggest a cheaper option such as coffee and a walk.”