A few years ago, a typical date for David Yarranton often involved dinner and cocktails at a trendy restaurant.
But with the cost of living rising, the 27-year-old is getting creative. He still enjoys an evening out, but is just as happy to prepare a meal at home or head out for an afternoon of ice skating and hot chocolate.
“I find it’s just as effective for meeting someone without necessarily breaking the bank,” said Yarranton, who lives in Calgary.
Balancing—between impressing a potential crush and staying on budget (without looking cheap)—has always been a part of dating. But with rising inflation, the strike is becoming more difficult.
According to Statistics Canada’s October numbers, taking a new love out to dinner costs about eight per cent more than last year. Extending an evening of drinks at the bar means coughing up about four percent more than in 2021 — on top of the already higher day-to-day costs of rent and grocery shopping.
Some of it is left putting off according to recent user surveys from dating platforms Dating.com, Plenty of Fish, and Bumble plan dates entirely, while others simplify their dates by suggesting casual activities rather than elaborate ones.
Informal meetings are gaining popularity
The trend away from “decorative” meetings and towards more informal ones was also reflected in Bree Woolard’s life this year.
The 24-year-old, who recently moved from Toronto to Calgary, has about 30 dates in the “50 First Dates” challenge: her own TikTok experiment to help her meet new people after a breakup.
Whether it’s due to rising inflation or a change of location (or a bit of both), she’s noticed that the types of dates she’s been invited to have shifted in recent months, with fewer dinner parties and far more outings.
There were also some awkward money moments along the way, like the time a date took Woolard to a fancy restaurant where she unexpectedly paid the bill.
“We still had a great time,” Woolard said.
“But going forward, I think it’s important — today more than ever — to have that conversation up front and say, ‘Hey, I’m just on a tight budget,’ or, ‘Hey, I’m trying to cut costs. this month… can we do something different?”
Before they even set foot on a date, some budget-conscious singles are also saving money by scaling back what they spend on dating apps and websites.
Plenty of Fish’s revenue, for example, has been affected by “deteriorating economic conditions,” according to a recent earnings letter from Match Group, which also owns Tinder, Hinge and a number of other dating apps and sites. Other “established” brands, such as Match and OkCupid, also saw declines in the quarter, the paper said.
Inflation has also affected some of these platforms’ “à la carte” offerings, the company’s chief financial officer said at a recent Nasdaq investor conference. In dating app jargon, this could mean, for example, being able to pay money to boost your dating profile and get it in front of more people.
“People, they’re reading in the press about layoffs, they’re reading about the recession, they’re getting more nervous, so we’re seeing some pullback,” said Gary Swidler, who is Match Group’s COO and CFO. he said it’s more common among certain demographics, such as younger users. “We are somewhat of a barometer for consumers.”
Bumble Inc. she told investors she sees an opportunity in the current economic environment: to position the app as a way to find potential matches more cheaply than hitting the bar and hoping for the best.
“Our weekly discounted subscription costs less than a beer at a New York bar, and the cost of multiple meetings per week adds up really quickly,” CEO Whitney Wolfe told Herd in a recent third-quarter earnings call.
“We’re leaning on that from both a product and a marketing standpoint.”
Talk about money, soon
One potential downside of dating on a budget is that it can create tension for couples if they’re not on the same page about it, says Adam Galovan, who studies couple relationships at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
“It can be challenging when you have certain expectations and when you have these costs and periods of inflation where you may not be going to places that are quite nice,” said Galovan, an associate professor of family sciences at the university. Department of Human Ecology.
And while finances are a common area of tension in any relationship, Galovan noted that navigating the early stages can be especially tricky.
“I’m a big believer in communication and speaking through things,” Galovan said.
“But in the dating scene, sometimes you’re trying to impress or put your best foot forward, so it can be a little difficult to have those kinds of conversations at first.”
Despite the difficult conversations, anthropologist Helen Fisher believes the openness to cheap getaways is to some extent a reflection of more maturity on the dating side and part of what she describes as a trend towards “smart dating”.
Still courting but trimming back
Fisher, who is also Match’s chief scientific advisor, is part of an annual research project commissioned by the dating platform that surveys singles across the US.
This year, she found that a larger proportion of respondents prefer casual dating, and the vast majority cite similar attitudes about debt and spending as important qualities in a partner.
A growing number said they are also more open to doing free activities on dates or going somewhere close to home to save money on gas. Compared to previous years, a larger number said they also video-chat with potential suitors before spending the money and energy to meet in person, Fisher said.
“People are still courting, but they’re cutting back to save money, there’s no question about that,” said Fisher, who believes the trends in her study also apply to Canada and other urbanized countries.
“They care less about how you look and more about whether you’re financially stable.”
As for Bree Woolard, she still has almost 20 dates left – but she’s taking a break to give her brain, her heart and her wallet a little rest.
“Christmas … costs a lot of money, so I focus on where do I want to spend it? It’s mainly with friends and family,” she said.
“I think you have to be in the right mindset to go on a date, so [I’m] I’m waiting to feel it again.”
Yarranton, for his part, started seeing someone more regularly. And while part of an early relationship involves planning special trips and outings together, he said these days he makes a point of planning and budgeting ahead of time.
“I don’t think so [inflation] should stop you from living your life,” he said.
“You just have to be a little more intentional about where you put your money.
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