Words by Ronnia Cherry. Photography by Charles Postiaux.
In a time of inflation and economic instability, there are benefits to exploring a more affordable and thoughtful approach to modern dating.
It seems like the concept of $200 dates puts the Twitter timeline into a chokehold every couple months. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, money spent steered evaluation of a date. Since the social impact of being isolation and the subsequent economic volatility since March 2020, those conversations unfold a little differently.
With the rise of inflation and uncertainty of today’s economy, singles and couples are exploring a more modest approach to dating. This is affectionately known as “Infla-Dating,” a term coined by the Plenty of Fish and among the dating app’s top trends of 2022. People are opting to go less expensive, more cost-friendly and occasionally, completely free dates.
Not only does this reduce the financial stress and social anxiety around planning dates, but it prioritizes connection and lessens the influence of dollars spent. No amount of money can fix a bad date, make up for unsavory company or replace a lack of chemistry. Some even think it’s better to feel out a person first through casual and low-cost dates before deciding to invest money into dating them.
At the end of the day most people are simply interested in feeling good, having a great time and getting to know someone they are attracted to. While a costly date may seem to enhance the overall experience, intimacy and romance can still be found in affordable ones.
“I think cheap dates are always good,” shares Houston-based rapper Stockz, host of REVOLT’s MetaMoney. “If someone actually likes you, it doesn’t matter how much the date costs. They should just want to spend time. Anything can be expensive [but] not everything is special.”
It’s been said for decades that money can’t buy you love, however, a Twitter user recently joked, “due to inflation, my love will not cost a thing,” a nod to J.Lo’s early 2000s hit. There is a time and place for more dropping a bag on a potential or existing bae.
“I spend more for special occasions or bigger investments [and] experiences,” Stockz explains. “It all boils down to dating within your league. If I’m able to spend [$300] on a date, I want my partner to have the same ability and willingness, even if I never ask her to.” While everyone may not feel the need for their partner to have expendable cash, there is definitely value in getting to know what each other’s desires and expectations are, especially in the early stages of dating.
In 2019, the New York Post reported that the average American spends $121,082.40 on dating over a lifetime, with an average $168 per month for singles and $185 per month for married couples. This number can rise significantly in cities such as New York City, where the average cost per date is around $155 according to The Black Tux. The average millennial is said to spend an average of $69 per date. The dollars add up quickly.
Inflation may be causing many to reconsider their own dating investments for similar reasons. For example, the pre-date phase may last a bit longer on dating apps these days. Singles may opt to take more time to get to know someone before asking them out on an initial date. According to Hinge, two out of three users say that cost is an important deciding factor when deciding what to do on a date. With everything from the gas and food prices rising, it makes sense that people may stretch out the time it takes to get to know someone or even second-guess asking someone out on that first date.
So, what is the solution in today’s world? For many, it’s infla-dating and being open to exploring the cheap thrills that life has to offer while getting to know someone new or spending time with that special someone already in your life.
“I believe people like myself are finding more creative ways to date,” reveals Stormi Banks, a Forbes-featured funding specialist and founder of Pink Print. “Falling in love with someone because of what they can offer you isn’t realistic because circumstances could change. The main objective should be noticing common interests and if you actually like one another. When I’m dating, I’m imagining what everyday life would look like with this person.” And everyday life, as we know it, is becoming more and more expensive so there is nothing wrong with setting a budget and minimizing the cost of dating.
While the traditional date night might consist of dinner and a movie or drinks and dancing, the pandemic offered the dating world a lot of practice for intimate indoor activities such as game nights or even virtual metaverse dates. You can pop out for the low at free or discounted museum days or free movie nights at your local park.
Banks is a huge fan of getting outdoors while still keeping things intimate, fun and romantic. “Let’s meet for a picnic or go to the beach to lay and chat, or play a conversational card game like ‘Hella Awkward’,” she recommends. “I just want to spend time and get to know you. I’m focusing on finding a friend that I can grow old with and share lots of laughs, memories and insights with.”
Infla-dating can also fit into personal goals you’ve sent for yourself. Want to become more active? Go on a hiking date and explore the local trails together. Rent bikes or visit the local city rec center together. Interested in becoming more creative? Buy some cheap art supplies and a bottle of wine and setup your own sip and paint. Into nature? Try the zoo or botanical gardens. New to the area? Explore local museums and art galleries together. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, for example, has a “pay-your-own-price” night and Eventbrite is full of free events and classes within your zip code.
Overall, no matter your approach to dating, finances don’t need to be a hindrance when it comes to getting to know someone and finding true love. Even existing relationships can gain a new spark by exploring the cheap thrills life has to offer. So next time you’re planning your next date: think outside the box and within your own personal budget. True love meets you wherever you are, when you’re willing to give it a chance.