One Man's Quest to Calculate His Lifetime Average Cost-Per-Date

man on a date doing calculations
VGstockstudio/Shutterstock (edited)

Dating is expensive. Even if you can get past all the social pressures and uncomfortable silences, dating is hard because it costs money to do it right. As with anything, it's cheaper to stay home and swipe couch-side.

I recently went on a string of expensive dates. Now, I don't consider myself cheap; but I do put a good deal of thought into most of my purchases. Yeah, that's probably what a cheap person says. For dates, I usually stick to the tried-and-true method of drinks potentially followed by drinks at a second location. Any deviation from this pattern gets costly. Fast. Case in point, my pricey dates of late: one involving a French restaurant and another involving a parking ticket and an arena concert.

While recounting these recent, expensive dates to friends, I explained that my sudden bout of romantic opulence was fair since I keep my overall cost-per-date so low. I was mostly joking when I said it -- but it got me thinking. What is my actual, lifetime, cost-per-date? In the two short years since my last serious relationship I've probably already spent a small fortune on this quest for love (or whatever you'd call what I'm doing).

I should probably have a better sense of the true financial impact of my fear of commitment.

restaurant bills

Sorting out your dating financials

So how much is my lifetime average cost-per-date? Well, let's set some parameters. What constitutes a date? My parents go on dates and they've been married for 30 years. I'm not counting this sort of outing. For the algorithm I'm seeking, I'm talking only about single-people dates. You know, the kind where you're trying to impress someone, and it's not appropriate to watch TV while looking at your phones next to each other just yet.

I've been single for about 30 months. It's reasonable to say, on average, I've gone on two or three dates a month. Because this is a math problem and not an actual date, we can say 2.5 dates a month. That puts me at 75 dates -- most of which, for the record, were repeat dates.

two cocktails at a bar

Number of dates, x the drinks...

Now, to figure out how much I spent on these dates without itemizing my credit card statements, I’m going to assume that my date and I both had between two and three drinks and I paid. Let's say five on average between me and my date. I usually stick to beer, which will run you $7 in New York; but I tend to date women who order something with ginger ale in it... let's call it $9 amongst friends.

I recently set my Tinder location parameters to a smaller area, which has led to more dates in my own neighborhood of Manhattan's Upper West Side. Bars here are aplenty -- and expensive. Five drinks will net out at around $38 at the glorified dive bars I frequent; but will cost me closer to $50 at a wine bar.

You see where I'm going here: that averages out to $44 for a fairly simple, two-to-three-drink date, in which we shake hands and part ways.

This is already getting depressing.

couple at a bar

But it doesn't stop at drinks!

If it did, I'd figure I've spent $3,300 on dates over two and a half years. But that's not honest math. Rarely do cocktail-hour drinks end with a handshake. From there, we might Uber to another part of town, or agree to get real food, and then fro-yo. Maybe we'll need to pay covers to get into your friend's event even though you told me we would get in for free.

Maybe we'll have to buy a three-pack of condoms for $8.99 because it's presumptuous for me to carry them on my person. That's $2.99 per sex act. So, sex is the cheapest date on Earth.

Maybe I'll accidentally knock a statue into your apartment wall, forming a hole that I will drunkenly vow to pay for. Maybe you'll Venmo me for the wall repair four months later. To factor these (and many, many other) variable costs into my lifetime average, let's add a $12 surcharge to each date. That should control for any and all plates of appetizers, concerts, and lottery tickets. That makes my average $56 per date.

The magic number: $56 per date

I don't think that $56 for a night out is that expensive, but it's not insignificant either. It's enough to make me stay away from dates I don't genuinely want to go on. That's important. Ultimately, an expensive date here or there won't ruin my average in the long run, but that's mostly because I've been on cheap ones in parks and coffee shops, too. If I've learned anything over the course of my 75 dates, it's that the cost has little bearing on the quality.

If a date is going well, you're going to end up spending more just because it's less likely to end soon. On the flip side, even a cheap, bad date costs your time. I've been on plenty of $35 dates for which I want a refund. They say you can't put a price on love, but in the meantime, you can at least figure out how much you've spent looking for it.

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Andy Verderosa is an advertising copywriter and writer in New York. Follow him on Twitter: @andyverderosa.