If you’re hoping to find love, then perhaps you’re among the 41 million Americans who have tried online dating, according to StatisticBrain.com. Aside from the big general interest dating sites, singles have plenty of niche options such as dating websites that cater to animal-lovers, Ivy League graduates, certain religions and even Ayn Rand enthusiasts.
But should you pony up for a paid membership when there are plenty of free dating websites? Emma Siemasko, founder of Frog2Prince, a Boston-based online dating consultancy for bachelors, says you should if you’re serious about finding love. “A lot of the people on the free sites don’t take it very seriously and aren’t really investing in finding a long-term partner,” she says. Siemasko suggests widening your search by creating a profile on one paid and one unpaid dating site. Join more than that, though, and it becomes hard to manage multiple profiles.
Orin Hahn, a relationship coach and an editor at The Good Men Project, disagrees with the need to pay for online dating. “There are so many places to find people that you don’t need to pay to get contact with people,” he says. “There are enough social groups, bulletin boards, and communal circles where you can just chat with people. You’d be better putting the money into developing your social skills.”
If you do decide to go the paid online dating route, you don’t necessarily have to pay full price. Some of the paid websites have free trials so you can test-drive them first. David Bakke, an editor at the personal finance blog MoneyCrashers.com, recommends “[looking] for a coupon code through a generic Internet search or by checking out coupon websites like RetailMeNot.” Sometimes you can also snag a deal on online dating through Groupons or similar websites. And if you haven’t found your mate by the end of your membership, some sites will give you another six months or a year membership for free.
Once you’ve found an eligible bachelor or bachelorette, Siemasko and Hahn have some suggestions for budget-friendly dates. Instead of meeting for alcoholic drinks or coffee, Hahn suggests sipping gourmet Italian chocolate. “It’s a more sensual experience to go to a fine Italian chocolate place,” he says. And it’s a lot cheaper than cocktails or dinner.
“Almost all cities have free concerts or free Shakespeare in the Park,” Siemasko adds. “I recommend going to coffee or getting ice cream. For a first date it’s OK to do something smaller. I always tell guys that women would rather go on a date that is fun and inexpensive than be wowed by a lavish dinner. And if she needs that lavish dinner to get to know you, that’s a red flag.”