Inflation is killing the first dinner date

New York

Singles ditch expensive white tablecloths for romance in the park or for a walk.

The high cost of dining out and changes to dating habits during the pandemic have prompted singles to seek more affordable and casual first dates.

Singles are spending $130 a month on dates, up 40% from a decade ago, according to an annual survey of 5,000 singles funded by Match (MTCH), owner of Tinder, Hinge and Plenty of Fish.

Eighty-four percent of singles said they now prefer a relaxed first date, according to the survey. Thirty percent say they are now more open to independent activities, while 29% want to go on dates closer to home to save on gas. Home-cooked food, coffee or drinks and other low-cost dates also become more attractive.

“Singles, more than ever, are open to free dates,” said Rachel DeAlto, Match’s chief dating expert, in an interview. “They care about the time, energy and money they spend on that initial meeting.”

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Nearly half of Millennials and Gen Z singles have suggested going on a cheaper, more budget-friendly date, according to a Plenty of Fish survey of more than 8,000 users. The app calls this trend “dating infla” – cheaper dates due to higher prices.

Covid-19 restrictions are also changing dating habits.

People learn to accept free dates and outdoor encounters like walks or picnics in 2020.

“Parks are hot date spots,” DeAlto says. “This is a great way to meet people without extra money and time.”

First date videos also became more popular during the pandemic, a trend that remains. People still use video calls to vet potential candidates to make sure they’re worth the time and money in person.

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Before the pandemic, about 8% of people were open to video dates before meeting in person, according to Match. That number has jumped to 37%.

Match, Bumble and other dating companies have seen users make changes to their apps as inflation and the uncertain state of the US economy take a toll on their finances.

People are still signing up for paid subscriptions, but they’re not buying as many in-app profile boosters and repeat purchases to try to get more “likes,” companies and analysts say.

“Our young consumers are more vulnerable. If you have your first job out of school and you read a lot about layoffs, you tend to be more nervous,” said Match chief operating officer Gary Swidler at a conference earlier this month. “People who are less rich are more careful.”

People still want to date, he says, but they’re making adjustments.

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“I don’t think we’re going to see people completely withdraw from dating, but they might have a little nudge here and there.”

Kristin Moss, 28, who works at online charity connector DealAid, said inflation had “made me pickier in terms of where and who I go on dates with.”

She always checks menu prices before going on a date now and doesn’t frequent bars because “$15 to $20 per drink can add up quickly.”

When gas prices shot up this summer, she didn’t want to drive more than 20 minutes from her house on a first date.

“The location and cost of the first date is more important now than in recent years,” he said. “Why should I spend extra time and money just to go on a date that might end badly?”


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