Millennials Spend an Average of $69 on First Dates

Wealthier daters were more likely to say the cost of dates should be split

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Photo: Peter Muller / Getty Images

Millennials spend an average of $69 on first dates, and the majority of both millennial and Gen Z daters believe in splitting the costs of dating, according to a new survey from The Balance. But even though young daters say they’re in favor of dividing the check, a fifth of those surveyed said whether or not their date pays can affect their decision to go on a second date.

Key Takeaways

  • Most people ages 40 or younger who are dating say couples should split the costs of a date
  • A quarter of daters spend $100 or more on first dates
  • A third of daters say how much or whether their date paid affects their decision to accept an invite for a second date
  • Income is the least important factor in choosing a person to date

The Balance surveyed 1,000 Americans ages 18-40 who are currently dating/seeking partners. The results yielded interesting insights in how young Americans approach dating during the pandemic.

While most daters said they spend less than $100 on a first date, 26% of those surveyed said they spend more than that. Among millennials (ages 25-40), 28% are willing to spend at least $100 on a first date, and a third of them spend $250 or more per month on dating.

Residents of Southern and Midwestern states expect to pay less on a date than their Western and Northeastern counterparts. A third of daters in the West and Northeast plan to spend at least $100 on a first date, compared with only a fifth of daters in the South and Midwest. Southern and Midwestern states, however, usually have the lowest costs of living.

Younger American Daters Prefer Going Dutch

Over half of respondents say they split the check at least sometimes (62%), while just over a third say they rarely or never do. But daters think it should happen even more often: Three quarters of Gen Zers and millennials say the cost of a date should be split, at least sometimes. Thirty-eight percent of Gen Zers say the check should often or always be split, compared with 28% of millennials.

Wealth also comes into play when people consider who should pay for a date. Wealthier respondents in the survey were more likely to say people should split a date compared to daters who earn $50,000 or less. 

More than 25% of those earning over $75,000 annually say that who they believe should pay depends on who is wealthier, compared to just 15% of Americans earning less than $50,000.

Men and women are about equally willing to split a date, according to the survey, and they also share beliefs on how often dates should be split.

The Second Date Will Cost You

There are a lot of factors that go into winning someone over for a second date. But spending money could boost your chances: 1 in 3 say that chances of accepting a second date increase if their date pays for the first one. 

And roughly a fifth say that how much their date spends impacts the likelihood of going out with them again. 

This is especially true for daters that are wealthier: They are twice as likely (29%) to be swayed by how much a date pays as those making less than $50,000 (12%).

On the date itself, nearly three quarters of daters use debit cards most often, while almost half will use cash. Millennials tend to be more wary of credit than the generations before them, likely because they came into adulthood in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008. It also became harder for young people to get credit cards after 2010. The effects of these events hold true more than a decade later: Credit cards are less popular than debit and cash, with less than 40% of millennials and Gen Zers looking to credit to fund their dates. 

Wealthier daters are more than twice as likely to reach for a credit card than those who earn less, but for respondents who use credit while dating, worryingly, nearly half say they carry a balance each month. A third will take up to three months to pay off the debt, and another 17% need at least four months to pay off their bill. Carrying credit card balances is expensive and can be detrimental to your credit score.   

Daters Don’t Require a Vaccine Mandate

The ongoing pandemic isn’t slowing down daters, who are shrugging off concerns about the coronavirus. Only 15% said they wouldn’t date someone who hadn’t received a COVID-19 vaccine, but over a third of respondents said vaccination status is an important or very important factor in their dating decisions.

Daters of all ages living in all regions felt this way, but patterns emerge when you look at respondents by wealth and education levels. More than half of wealthier respondents (those making more than $75,000 a year) said that vaccine status was important to them when choosing who to date, compared to just a third of those making less than $50,000 annually. Similarly, over half of daters with a college or postgraduate degree stated it was important for their potential mate to have been vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to just a quarter of those with only a high school education. 

COVID Has Changed the Cost of Dating

Over half of those surveyed said the pandemic has changed how much they spend while dating, with a quarter saying they now spend more and a quarter saying they spend less. Those who spend more largely attributed it to rising costs and dating more frequently, while those who have cut back on spending while dating said it’s due to dating less or their financial situation getting worse. 

With the cost of just about everything getting more expensive, it’s smart that daters are factoring the cost of going out into their monthly expenses. Three quarters include dating into their budget at least sometimes, and 35% include it consistently.

Picking a Partner

When it comes to finding a partner, 74% said personality is the most important factor in choosing a partner. Respondents prioritized income and wealth the least when considering other factors like looks, but a third do say that wealth and income are an important factor in choosing a partner. 

Millennial daters care more about looks than their younger counterparts, and they’re also more likely to say that a job is important.

Wealthier daters are more likely to factor in income and wealth when choosing a partner—nearly half cited it as an important factor in who they date—while women are less interested in looks compared to men (47% vs. 70%). More than half of women say a job is important in choosing a mate, compared to less than half of men. 

And more than any other region, Northeasterners are more likely to say that education is an important factor in finding a partner.

Daters surveyed are willing to pay to help them date. More than 74% use online dating apps—half use them at least weekly—and a third pay for at least one dating app. A quarter shell out at least $15 a month on dating apps, while half spend $20 or more each month.

Holiday Dating

Not only do the winter months bring on cuffing season, they also contain the extra expense of holiday dates. American daters plan to celebrate the upcoming holidays with someone and plan to spend more than they typically would on a date—more than half plan to spend more than $100 on gifts. When it comes to going out on New Year’s Eve, 45% of millennial and Gen Z daters will spend over $100 on a date.

Methodology

The Balance surveyed 1,000 Americans ages 18-40 who are currently dating/seeking partners. The survey was conducted online from Oct. 28 to Nov. 8, 2021. Quotas were used to ensure representation to match U.S. Census estimates for gender, race/ethnicity, and region, as well as Gallup estimates for LGBQ+ respondents among those 18-40.

Correction - Dec. 17, 2021: This article has been updated to correct and clarify several data points on the relationships between dating and spending among adults ages 18-40.

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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. “Cost of Living Calculator.” Accessed Dec. 17, 2021.

  2. Congress.gov. “Text - HR627 - 111th Congress (2009-2010): Credit CARD Act of 2009.” Accessed Dec. 17, 2021.

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