The Economics of Dating

Dating now is a lot like going shopping when you don’t have any money. Even if you find the right thing, you can’t do anything about it. –Joshua Harris

Recently, I’ve been listening to the frustrations of dating and in particular…Who should pay? Should women ever offer to pay? Should men accept the offer? How long should a man and woman date before a woman ever offers to pay? So, I headed to cyberspace to do my research and came across this article on the Huffington Post, written by Catherine Pearson, “Men Still Paying for Dates…And Women are Partly Responsible”. Interesting title right? In short, a study was done and found the following information helpful:

  • 84 percent of men and 58 percent of women say men pay for most entertainment expenses — even after they have been dating for some time
  • 57 percent of women say they offer to help pay
  • 39 percent admitted that they hoped men would reject their offers to pay
  • 44 percent were bothered when men expected them to chip in
  • Nearly two-thirds of men believe women should contribute to dating expenses

The author didn’t offer an opinion on whether or not she thought this was an accurate statement as to how dating should be done. She just interpreted data. That being said, I wanted to know if anyone offered an opinion on this data and found an article for Women’s Health written by Clint Carter “Should Men Still Pay for Dates” and he offered an opinion. Now, before we start to believe that it will be bad, I will say that I agreed with some of his thoughts, but not all of the article. Why? Because of this statement:

“What these women are saying is that, despite egalitarianism, feminism, and all the high-minded isms we now stand for, there’s still something sacred about courtship. And although it’s true that you’re perfectly entitled to ask for equality in the workplace without practicing equality in your dating life, it does create some tension.”

Now, you see why I was like “Woosah”. I was sitting there thinking how odd that you think a man shouldn’t pay for dinner because I want equality in the workplace? Wow! I guess I should stay barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen or be a part of the secretary pool because that will allow men to pay for me right? I had to breathe and realize this is in part the fundamental argument that feminists face…you want equality in the workforce, but not in the courtship.

Sidebar:  Let’s try to breakdown some realities. I am a feminist. Feminism is defined as “the doctrine advocating social, political and all other rights of women equal to those of men”. That’s it folks! Plain and simple. I don’t want to be told that I can’t work somewhere because I’m a woman. I don’t want to be told that if all things are equal and I do the same job as a man that I will be paid less. I don’t want to be told that if I have a baby that I can’t take leave to care for my own self and newborn.

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t hate men. I love men. I have a son who I adore and motherhood is the singular most important thing I’ve ever done. I just want him to understand that although you may fight for racial equality remember that gender equality is also something you should advocate for because women deserve it. Simple. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get back to the economics of dating.

BUT, when I re-read Mr. Carter’s statement (truthfully like 6 times) what he’s really saying is that you deserve equality but understand that it is going to create tension in your dating relationships. Ain’t that the truth? You don’t believe it? Get up and ask three women between the ages of 28-48 how they feel about dating and whether or not they’ve paid for a date or been asked too? Ask them how it made them feel.

I realized that he’s actually right on point with this. In talking to a number of friends, associates and women and men in general they actually feel that women should be chipping in or paying for some dates. But, what if a woman doesn’t want too? Is it her prerogative? Yes, absolutely. Will she find a lot of men willing to commit for her “to figure out” whether or not they are compatible? Probably not. In reality, dating should be a slow process whereby two people get to know each other and determine whether there are sparks. How much should this cost?  How long can two people who are getting to know each other decide if they like each other enough to be exclusive? Why do women include their costs of make-up, getting an outfit, nails and hair done equate into what “we’re paying” for the date? Is that fair?

Since, I’m slow and tend to think of things in terms of economics, let’s break down some numbers so that we can see how much dating can in fact cost a potential suitor. Here goes:

Now, let’s say he’s a 40 year old male (divorced) with a 6 year old child who is in school full-time.

Expense Monthly Cost                      Notes
Rent  $      1,200.00 Two bedroom apartment in a not so good area in the Washington, DC Area
Car Note  $         300.00
Car Insurance  $         120.00
After Care  $         300.00
Food  $         250.00
Utilities  $         300.00 Includes Gas, Electric, Cable and Cell Phone
Gas for the Car  $         300.00
Credit Card Bills  $         400.00 Expenses with car maintenance and dating
Student Loan Payments  $         200.00
Child Support  $         600.00
FSA  $         100.00 Required as part of his divorce decree to assist in the payment of his child’s medical expenses
Health Insurance  $         220.00 Based it off a monthly two person rate of $1100 with him paying 20%
Total a Month  $      4,290.00
70,000/12 (months)  $      5,833.33 Monthly (Gross)
5833.33*25% (taxes)  $      4,375.00 Net
4375 (Take Home Pay) – 4290 (Monthly Expenses)  $           85.00

Sobering reality huh?  Looking at the chart above, this man is already broke before taking you out to dinner. I’m not judging, just acknowledging that his financial picture is a little sketch. Living off credit cards and a monthly take home of $85 after expenses. How can he afford to court and woo you on this amount? Is it fair for him to take you out weekly at an average spend of $80.00? Does his financial status make him ineligible to be considered a life partner? Truth: It costs to be the boss. Many men and women want to be the boss and have a fairy tale dating life when the economics of dating don’t support it. Life happens and some (not all) men can’t afford to take care of their responsibilities and wine and dine you without some reciprocation. The man above by all accounts seems like a decent man, but let’s face it…some women won’t even give him the time of day if they knew his monthly financial situation.

Finally, I know many people (women) will find fault in my argument, but I want to go back and say that I guess I did agree with Mr. Carter’s response to the data and I want to implore more women to be open about the economics of dating. Realize that sometimes, you have to pay if you want to get past the initial stages of dating. Be open to picking up the tab for breakfast, lunch or quick dinner at a diner. How can a man know you’re a contender if you spend your money getting ready for the date and deduct it as dating expenses? How can you show a man that you genuinely care about him if you find it deplorable to reach into your purse and at least offer to leave a tip? It doesn’t set the gender back. It doesn’t mean that he won’t court you or invest in you. It means that you understand simply…the economics of dating.

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