TORONTO — Like everything else these days,dating is getting more expensive. And while 30-year-old Kasi Johnston hasn’t ghosted anyone over a pricey menu item, finding a partner is definitely taking a bigger-than-usual bite out of her finances.
“I’ve scaled back on dating a lot, especially in the past couple of months,” says Johnston. “It really does add up.”
With the inflation rate at a nearly four-decade high of 8.1 per cent, the rising cost of living is putting pressure on people simply trying to engage in everyday activities, including dating.
And Statistics Canada has the data to prove it.
Drinks at a bar? That’s up 5.5 per cent from last year.
Dinner at a restaurant? That’s now 7.1 per cent costlier.
Want a blowout and a manicure ahead of time? Personal care services are up 3.5 per cent.
New outfit? You’ll be paying two per cent more for it.
Weekend getaway? Accommodations are nearly 50 per cent higher than they were last year.
When you put it all together, you could be dropping some serious coin for someone you might not even click with.
Johnston has never spent much on clothes, hair, makeup or nails for dates specifically, and often walks if the date is close enough. But she never sacrifices fun.
“I don’t want to not get the cocktail I want just because it’s expensive,” she says. “I’d sometimes spend $18 on a cocktail, plus tip, and sometimes you have two or three. And if things are going well, then you get some food.”
She’ll often spend a minimum of $50 and as much as $300.
Last year, Johnston wanted to put herself out there again after the COVID-19 lockdowns started loosening and hopped on a few dating apps to get the ball rolling.
“I was kind of in the mindset of playing that numbers game — trying to go on as many dates as possible,” she says. “But while you play the numbers game, the ratio of good versus bad dates changes. And when things don’t work out, it’s not only defeating in the context of not having that connection with someone, but also you’re out $100 or something.”
Dating coach Shannon Tebb suggests getting in nature for a first date, whether it’s a bike ride, going for a hike, kayaking, going to the beach, walking along the waterfront or renting a standup paddleboard.
“A lot of people aren’t really doing the restaurant thing,” she says. “I find that when people commit to the dinner experience and it’s not going so well, they do feel like it’s a time commitment, and you could end up having a $200 to $300 dinner and not see each other again.”
Coffee dates can be a good way to get to know someone and shouldn’t be ruled out as a first date, she believes. Even turning to some of the ideas many people relied on during the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic could be an effective approach in the initial dating stages, such as a picnic in the park.
“If someone says, ‘Let’s meet for a coffee and walk,’ don’t take that as the person not putting in effort. Just think about where we are and how our finances are at the moment,” she says.
If you’ve met a few times and things are going well, staying in and cooking together, setting up a game night or holding a movie night in the backyard (if you have a backyard) are cost-effective ways to keep the fun going, while building a connection.
Tebb is not suggesting people stay away from bars and restaurants altogether.
“I’m not telling everyone to go back to a boring walking date,” she says. “I do want to encourage singles to go to cool places and have that vibe and experience. But I don’t want people to break the bank just to go meet a stranger.”
Johnston explains that she has been much more intentional and selective when it comes to who she’s dating and what she’s doing on those dates, since she has pulled back so much.
To help with this, she has left dating apps behind and is now meeting people through friends.
As a single professional in Toronto, she also points out that it will likely take her twice as long to achieve some of the long-term goals a couple might be able to achieve much faster considering how expensive the city is, like a down payment on a house, so while “money is not a deal breaker,” Johnston is looking for someone who is in a similar or better financial situation than she is in.
“With the dating apps, you end up going on dates just because or you have that sure-why-not attitude. But with how expensive everything is it’s probably not as worth it anymore,” she says.
While some people are choosing to slow down on dating until they’re more financially stable or the economic climate improves, Tebb says, “human connection will never go away — people are still looking for a partner” at the end of the day.
Adena Ali, The Canadian Press