Apps Can Make Dating Less Expensive, but Cheapen the Experience

People dish about how dating and hook-up apps like Tinder, Bumble and Grindr, have affected their spending habits.

by Anne Gaviola
Feb 14 2019, 6:00pm

Millennials spend about 10 hours a week on dating apps and online services. That’s a lot of time on Tinder, Grindr, Bumble, eHarmony, Plenty of Fish––more than a typical work day.

This 24/7 access at your fingertips has increased the size of a person’s potential dating pool and because people are going on more dates, this new world of choice has seen a proliferation of ultra-cheap, get-to-know you drink rendez-vous and casual Netflix-and-chill type hook-ups. While this laid-back approach has created a new kind of dating that’s arguably easier on your bank account (if you’re the one footing the bill), according to VICE’s sample audience, it can create its own set of problems and doesn’t necessarily mean more successful pairings. In fact, many think it does the opposite and leads to frustration and dissatisfaction.

Turns out, you get what you pay for, in life, and especially when it comes to dating. Here’s what people told us:

Marco tells VICE apps have cheapened the dating experience for him

Marco is a 35-year-old e-commerce specialist who lives in Calgary.

I spend about $140-210 a month on dating. I’m thinking about $70 a date, so roughly two or three per month. Lots of coffees and drinks.

I used to do fancier dating than now. I recall $70 for the wine alone and lots of appys back in the day and covering the whole bill. A couple of dates stand out: $120 for a meat coma in a Brazilian restaurant and $180 for wine and duck that I coughed into my napkin. Nowadays, splitting the bill happens, but cheaper and at more casual spots. Apps cheapened dating, while increasing frequency.

I use Tinder, Bumble. I just downloaded Hinge about 10 days ago but I haven’t really used it yet. But I find that I don’t get as many meaningful connections in the apps as I do in my regular day-to-day of meeting people, running into people. Most of the time, it’s just chatter that goes nowhere.

You used to have to have more of a formal plan for a date like you’d go do something, then go drink something then there would be some sort of event. Apps have enabled things to just be on the fly, like “What are you doing in an hour, let’s grab a coffee.” Coffee is a lot simpler than going for dinner or going to see a show or something like that but they’re not really that great. They either lead to some action or you just go out for coffee in the middle of the afternoon when you don’t really need coffee. [ laughs] Not to be punny, but they’re hot and cold.

Like I said, the app world cheapened dating. They're mostly meaningless chats and ghosting. Sometimes in the app world, I might be a little quicker to the win, be more forward that I otherwise would be in the traditional dating sense. I find that there’s something a little more sexual. Instead of dinner and drinks, which can be more expensive, you’re meeting up with someone on a Sunday afternoon and it’s either going to be good… or boring.

Gregg tells VICE he typically splits the bill on dates

Gregg is a 33-year-old fitness professional in Ottawa.

It’s rare that I would go on more than a couple dates a month. Usually it’s dinner, or dinner and a movie. I would say per date, maybe around the $60 range, so about $120 in a month. I’m not the type to splurge on a new outfit before a date, but I do get haircuts, so add $40. I’m gay and date men and usually, when I go on a date, we just split it, even if it’s a first date.

When you’re going on a first date, you don’t really want to have that much financial investment in it if you met them in the virtual world. I will usually suggest the standard coffee or a drink, but I’m never opposed to doing dinner or a movie or doing both if you’re going to a VIP cinema. Those dates do tend to be a lot pricier.

I use three gay-specific apps: Grindr, SCRUFF and another one called Hornet. I’ve also been on Tinder as well. The ones I keep going back to are Grindr and SCRUFF. I find them easier to navigate and I don’t need a bunch of features on them, I just need to start a conversation.

If I can be honest with you, I feel like I may be hooking up more often because of apps, but that’s also just the landscape of what I perceive to be the gay community as well. In my circle of friends, the term “dating app” never comes up, it’s always like a “hook-up app” but I do use them to to find people to go on dates with and stuff like that. There’s a difference between dating and having a casual interaction.

Lauren tells VICE apps have increased the frequency of her dates

Lauren turned 29 this month and is a social media manager and co-host of the Somebody Date Us podcast. She lives in Toronto.

I literally had no idea how much I spend on dating so I looked back on my bank statements to figure it out. I would say, on average, $60-$70 a month. It depends though. If I go on a second, third, or fourth date with someone it’s more likely that we’ll take turns picking up the bill.

If it’s the first date, a lot of men like to pay the bill. Nine times out of ten, guys pick up the bill on the first date. I’ve offered to split it but very few people are like “sure, we can split it.” I don’t suggest we do extravagant things on a first date anyway. Usually it’s like, “Let’s grab a coffee, let’s get a drink and see if we like each other at all.”

Apps have for sure increased the frequency. I could go weeks or months without going on a date prior to dating apps. This has somewhat increased my overall spending but not what I spend per date.

I’m not one of those girls that put a lot of money into myself before a date at all. If I did, I would probably be poor. In Toronto, being a millennial, it’s like I hardly make ends meet to begin with, so I’m not going out and getting my hair and my nails done or anything for a date.

Ebony tells VICE her dating style is very casual

Ebony is a 23-year-old freelance writer and VICE contributor who lives in Toronto.

Cost of dating: Right now, I’m just seeing one person very casually. We don’t really go out on that many dates, we kind of just hang out. With this person that I’m seeing, we’ll go out like a couple times a month, like out-out, and the rest of the time we just hang out at each others’ places. This one’s fairly new but I find that as a woman, I don’t have to pay most of the time. I’m not the kind of person who goes on dates just to get free stuff, but half the time the guy will just insist that he pays. So, with this situation I haven’t really had to pay much.

If I get my nails done it’s never for a date or if I buy a specific outfit it’s never really for a date. Maybe that’s indicative of how I treat dating. [ laughs] When I go out on dates it’s kind of like seeing friends but it’s fun because it’s a dude. I feel like I date really casually. I spend more money seeing friends or for work events. I feel like I spend more money to look nice when I’m out with friends than I do when I go out with guys.

Natasha tells VICE Ubers are her biggest dating expense

Natasha works in the healthcare industry. The 38-year-old lives and dates in Ottawa.

I often take breaks from dating. I find it really emotionally exhausting. So sometimes there will be months where I won’t date at all and I won’t be spending anything but when I get back into the swing of things, I would say I go on one date per week. That’s all I can kind of handle. I’m not a multi-dater, I can’t date more than one person at the same time.

To get ready, I don’t really go all-out with my hair professionally styled or anything, because I do want my date to see me and get to know me and who I am, not the glammed-up version of me. So I do try to keep it kind of simple. The only thing I spend on is Ubers, probably no more than $20 a week. On the actual date itself, I always offer to split the bills but the men almost always pay.

I do like that. I like the idea, the notion that chivalry isn’t dead, even in this materialistic world we live in. I think that’s nice. For the first and second date I find that we always end up going out for drinks. Nothing expensive. I find that men don’t really want to suggest dinner right off the bat because they’re fearing it won’t work out and they’ll waste more money. So for me, apps have not increased how much I would spend on dating. It’s a different story for men, I’m sure!

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