The price of love: Why finding a partner is such a costly affair

Valentine's Day Hearts decorate a storefront on Exchange Street, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Portland, Maine.
Valentine's Day Hearts decorate a storefront on Exchange Street, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Portland, Maine. Copyright Robert F. Bukaty/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Robert F. Bukaty/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Indrabati Lahiri
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The average young dater is getting into more than £2,000 (€2,338) of debt, according to financial services company Experian.


The pandemic and subsequent cost of living crisis has shed more light on spending areas for most people, making them take a good, long look at where their hard-earned money is going. For the younger generation in the UK, this can be particularly telling.

Did you know that the average 18-35 year old in the UK has a debt of about £2,250 (€2,630) due to dating and relationships, according to a survey by financial services and credit reference agency Experian?

The data also reveals that men have £250 (€292) more of this kind of debt than women, with 5% of the men surveyed saying that they had more than £10,000 (£8,554) of relationships and dating debt.

One of the main reasons for this is the immense pressure and expectations created by social media narratives, especially around traditionally romantic occasions such as Valentine's Day. This includes exotic getaways, luxurious experiences and pricey presents - all Instagram worthy - amongst other things.

According to the survey, 59% of respondents believe that social media has built up expectations of lavish overspending on dates and partners. Some 63% of respondents were also of the opinion that social media had pushed people to enter the dating scene for money.

Twenty-eight percent women revealed they'd taken a sneak peak at a possible date's social media to double check whether their lifestyles matched. The same trend, when it came to men, ballooned to about 36%.

About 16.6% or 10.1 million of 18-30 year olds are already either late repaying their debt, or have failed to clear it entirely. Younger men are particularly vulnerable to this, because of them making the most of whatever credit they have available.

On average, men between the ages of 18 and 21 men used approximately 33.4% of the credit available to them, with the number dropping to 25.7% for 26-30 year old men.

Content creator and financial educator Megan Mickewright, from The Savvy Investor, as reported in The Big Issue said: "These toxic norms we are seeing on social media can build that pressure to spend a lot of money on dating, especially for the younger generation.

"One of the big topics on social media at the minute is about dating and who is expected to pay for it, and that's the sort of thing that can make people feel like they've got to spend."

Dating is becoming steadily more expensive for UK singles

According to an April 2023 survey by Novuna Personal Finance, the average UK singleton spends an eye-watering £1,652 (€1,931) on dates before finding a partner. The number of dates people go on before finding someone special is about 15.

Most people spend about £60 (€70) per date, however, this sometimes goes up to more than £100 (€117) per first date, for 13% of respondents. Men tended to splash out a smidge more, at about £68 (€79) per date.

However, pre-date expenses for both men and women, such as new accessories, clothes and hair cuts can add another £40 (€47) to a date's bill.

About 24% of survey respondents admitted that they have had to go on fewer dates, due to these soaring costs, while 52% have had to put plans off or trim expenses elsewhere, in order to be able to save up for a date.

Almost 30% revealed that they prioritised their current dating life over paying bills on time, or spending on necessities.

However, 18% have decided to take a break from dating altogether, due to the increasingly unaffordable financial costs.

According to the Velloy Dating Index, 66% of Britons between 18-34 years old felt that dating had become too expensive, which dropped to 45% for people between 35 and 54 years old. This number further declined to 35% for people above 55.

The survey found 56% of Londoners went on fewer dates because of the cost of living crisis. Also, 48% of Britons did not celebrate Valentine's Day this year, although it is unclear how much this had to do with expenses.


So what can you do about it?

As reported by The Big Issue, relationship expert Sophie Cress said: "It might be helpful to approach Valentine's Day with a different mindset, one that views it as an occasion to celebrate love in all its forms.

"Rather than depending solely on costly presents or extravagant outings, give importance to building unforgettable experiences together which don't necessarily need to be expensive. Look into activities like going for a hike, attending nearby events or festivals, or preparing a special meal together.

"It's a good idea to consider alternative ways to express love and affection in a relationship. Acts of service, like helping with household chores or running errands for each other or providing emotional support during difficult times, can be great ways to show care and appreciation."

The Novuna Personal Finance survey also highlights other ways to trim the cost of dating involve getting discounts through apps, which about 18% of people do, with 17% even planning particular times and dates of outings in order to get discounts such as happy hours. Others - 9% - also opt to have the service charge from bills taken away, in order to save a little more.

Openly discussing finances and making sure that you're on the same page, regardless of the length of your relationship could be another way to make sure you're not spending more than you can afford.


James Jones, head of consumer affairs at Experian said: "Managing finances independently is one thing, but bringing a partner into the mix opens up a whole other world of considerations. It's been sobering to see just how many young people have ended up in financial difficulty due to their dating and relationship experiences, largely due to external pressures.

"Feeling comfortable enough to discuss financial topics should be a top priority in a relationship." 

Disclaimer: This information does not constitute financial advice, always do your own research on top to ensure it's right for your specific circumstances. Also remember, we are a journalistic website and aim to provide the best guides, tips and advice from experts. If you rely on the information on this page, then you do so entirely at your own risk.

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