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Debunking the Free Lunch – The Real Cost of Online Dating

The Real Cost of Online Dating

The numbers are staggering. Over 40 million American Singles have searched for dates online in the last year. That’s 4 out of every 5 singles. And the average online dater now invests 12 hours per week in their online searches.  Five hours searching for matches, and seven hours attempting to connect and arrange a real date. This has propelled Online Dating into the #3 position in the ranking of heaviest uses of our beloved Internet. That surpasses the perennial leader – Porn, and places behind only music downloads and gaming. And the trends in Canada are similar.

Seeing these stats, I went online to learn more…and here is what I found. An online poll hosted by Plenty of Fish reported that it took the average online dater six hours of work to yield a first date – usually for coffee. And was it a match made in heaven? Unfortunately…no. In most cases the respondents were disappointed. Most often they found that the person who showed up for coffee did not closely resemble the visual image that they fell for. And the profile that they gushed over was somewhat overstated.

So while it is all the rage, online dating consumes a significant amount of time. And despite the diligence you might put into searching, responding and connecting…the end result is only as good as the accuracy and insight reflected in the profiles and pictures that you are searching through. Therein lies the challenge. It is a bit of a wild west…where the most appealing combination of picture and prose yields the responses. But once two people meet, the lack of accuracy often leads to disappointment. And overtime, disenchantment with the whole process of dating. Wasn’t dating supposed to be fun?

But let’s get back to the cost. Online dating services ranges from free to  $200-$300 per year in fees. But for anyone who values their time, there are significant additional opportunity costs. A US study in the San Francisco Bay area estimated the total costs. They looked at the number of hours invested on average to get a third date. Their research indicated that on average, it required 6 hours to get a first date. On average five 1st dates led to just one 2nd date. In turn, five 2nd dates led to one 3rd date. All tallied that is twenty-five 1st dates and five 2nd dates to get that elusive 3rd date. They used the average hourly salary in the Bay area ($28US) as a proxy for the Opportunity Cost. So each first date had an ‘opportunity cost’ of 6 hours @ $28 or $168, plus $7 for coffee and croissants. That’s $175 each. Across 25 first dates, that adds up to a whopping $4375. Then they calculated the time to reconnect and set up five 2nd dinner dates at 1 hour each, plus an average dinner cost of $50. That is $78 for each 2nd date, across five dates…or $390. So the ‘real investment’ was estimated to be $4,765… if you value your time at $28 per hour. Ouch!

But what if your time is really worth $100 per hour. Then the investment jumps astronomically to $16,000. Quadruple Ouch.

And by that point, I think you would be wise to find a more time and cost-effective way to meet your match. Consider outsourcing the task to a professional matchmaker with a large database, experience in matching people and personal insight into each person they introduce you to.

If you value your time…there is no such thing as a free lunch!

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