Looking for love? The first place to go probably isn’t a bar but rather, the Internet. It’s the reality of the 21st century; whether you’re just looking for fun or a long-term commitment, there are now hundreds of sites dedicated to helping you meet others seeking the same. From pricier options such as Match to swipe-happy mobile apps like Tinder, you can spend hours online – and possibly thousands of dollars – in your search to find a friend, lover or soulmate. A March 2016 report by research firm IBIS World finds that revenue from dating services in Canada sits at about $164-million – up from $153-million in 2014 – and it predicts that consumers will continue to flock to online services due to convenience and decreased leisure time.
As someone who spent seven years on expensive matchmaking sites (but ironically met her husband on a free spin-off of Plenty of Fish), I’ll admit that I didn’t always make the best decisions when it came to my personal finances. With so much out there and your heart on the line, it’s important to really think about what you want before signing up for just any online service.
Here are some things to consider:
Who are you looking for?
There is a huge variety of dating sites these days that can help you find the right person, from “Sugar Daddies” to Christians looking to meet someone within their community. No matter what you’re into, it’s wise to do some research beforehand and see what options are available. Even ask your friends what they’re using to meet others and if they’re happy with it.
How much SHOULD you be paying?
As I mentioned, it cost me absolutely nothing to meet my husband after dropping thousands of dollars on sites and services that didn’t yield any long-term results. I can’t recommend an amount that you should be putting down each month when it comes to your dating life. Instead, it’s best to look at your budget, see how much money you’re willing to spend and then examine your options. If your goal is to find someone to enjoy a few dinner or coffee dates with, it’s probably best to stick to free sites. But if you’re on a quest to find your soulmate, sites that are more aimed at matchmaking may offer discounts for long-term memberships.
Take eHarmony as an example: one month costs about $65, but if you feel you won’t connect with the right people in just a month’s time then the six-month plan at about $45 per month or the 12-month plan at $20 per month might be a better investment.
My advice: if you’re struggling to make ends meet each month but still hope to meet “The One”, stick to free sites or those with free options. Remember that you’re still going to have to pay for food, drinks and entertainment once you’re on the date. And once you start seeing someone regularly, it’s a good idea to split the bills so you both can stick to a budget and have a better idea of what you’re spending.
How long should you continue your search?
Online dating can be both emotionally and financially draining at times. You may have heard the old expression, “it will happen when you least expect it.” And while I don’t believe this to be completely true, it’s wise to take breaks every so often to refresh your spirit… and your wallet. If you feel that you’ve been in the online dating scene for a long time, it may be worthwhile to lay low for a month or two, take up an inexpensive hobby and enjoy more time with yourself. It will pay off in the end, metaphorically and literally speaking.
Play it safe
Even if you’re a newbie to finding love online, you’re likely aware of the dangers. From harassment to romance scams, just about anything can happen on the Internet. But outside of protecting yourself against fraudsters on the other end of your chat, you also want to make sure the site you’ve signed up for is reliable. Always check Better Business Bureau to confirm if the site is legitimate before paying for any service. If your chosen site has an A+ or an A grade, you’re most definitely getting what you pay for. Be cautious if it’s graded B or lower, and I personally wouldn’t sign up for a business that isn’t rated. No site will be perfect, but just like when choosing a mortgage or credit card or booking a vacation, you want to make sure that positive ratings and reviews balance out any drawbacks or criticism.
Going on a lot of dates? Get some help from your credit card!
Whether you run into a lot of “one-date-wonders” or find a serious relationship, you’re probably going to spend a lot of money on dating. Our 2016 Cost of Love study found that one year of dating puts you back a whopping $10,683.84 – and that total is rising every year. Since staying in, watching TV and playing board games isn’t for everyone all the time, you will want to look for other ways to go out and have a great time on a reasonable budget.
An easy way to get more for less is through your credit card. The Scotiabank SCENE® Visa card offers one SCENE point for every dollar you spend, and five points per dollar at Cineplex Theatres. There is also a selection of other entertainment rewards available. If you want to impress a potential mate with your cooking skills, the President’s Choice Financial MasterCard can help you earn points toward free groceries. And if a short weekend getaway is in your plans, signing up for a travel rewards card such as the TD Platinum Travel Visa or the BMO Rewards MasterCard can allow you to jet-set comfortably for less.
Related read: Top 4 credit cards for dating
Don’t give up!
Online dating has its ups and downs, but there are so many successful stories out there that I believe it’s worth the investment. It’s not only an opportunity to meet others, but also a way to learn more about yourself as well throughout the experience. If you stick to a budget, take breaks from time to time and keep an open mind, chances are you will find the person you’re looking for – and never look back.
Already found your life-long partner? Struggling to find money for date night? Check out our tips for affording romance!