Millennials say dating has gotten ‘way too expensive,’ 30% can’t even afford love

Dating has changed

Experts say that millennials are holding off on dating because the concept of courtship has evolved over time. What was once a casual meet-and-greet for a first date has turned into a delayed and very deliberate event that happens much later in the relationship cycle, according to Dr. Helen Fisher, an American anthropologist and human behavior expert.

The study, which examines the dating habits of more than 5,000 U.S. adults, revealed that 21% of millennials believe they need to reach a certain income level to even pursue a relationship, verses 14% of singles overall.

“Millennials are very ambitious. They are terrified of catching feelings and getting into relationships that they can’t  (financially or mentally) manage,” said Fisher, who referred to courtship in the digital age as “slow-love.”

“Two-thirds of people in their 20s still live at home,” she said, “not because they are lazy but because they are saving their money and they really feel that they need to get their career and finances in order before they marry.” 

Match, formerly Match.com, also found that 22% of singles say a potential partner’s financial situation has held them back from pursuing a relationship with them, and nearly a third of singles say their own financial situation has held them back from pursuing love in the first place.

Fisher, who’s a baby boomer herself, said when she was growing up, the early courtship was much more casual and affordable than first dates today. “We went out and played miniature golf, ate fast food, or rode around in someone’s car. Or you met people in the park and talked and drank beer. Dating wasn’t expensive.”

The modern age has given birth to what Fisher called “a new pattern.”

“You’re just friends, then you move slowly into friends with benefits. Then you slowly come out of that and tell friends and family about the partnership, and then you have your first date, which is really quite expensive.”

But that concept may also be changing over time, thanks to Generation Z.

The future of young adult dating

Just like millennials, who were born between 1981 and 1996, Generation Z appears to be redefining the dating atmosphere for themselves, according to Dana Marineau, vice president and financial advocate at Credit Karma, a financial advice website.

“We’re seeing Gen Zers approaching dates equally, not based on traditional gender norms, by expecting to pay the bill down the middle, starting with the first date,” Marineau said.

“This may seem small, but it goes to show there’s a change in attitude toward certain dating customs that were forcing some people to overspend.”

Marineau offered the following tips so that your dating life won’t put you in the red financially. 

Tips on saving money while dating:

1. Budget: There’s no magic number for how much your dating budget should be each month. It’s a personal decision based on your income, any debts you have, and your personal preferences, Marineau said. 

“But be thoughtful about the amount you set for yourself and don’t let yourself spend beyond that.”

2. Be honest: Be as open with your potential partner about your financial situation as you’re comfortable being, Marineau said. “Go on dates to be with each other, not to impress each other.”

3. Research: Look for inexpensive activities to do in your area, like hiking or visiting local museums. “A date isn’t always great just because it was expensive,” the Credit Karma expert said.

4. Prioritize cash: Consider leaving your credit card at home because it can be easy to overspend with the intention of paying for a date to another day. It’s easier to remove the temptation by staying within your budget and paying with cash.

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