Average Cost of a Significant Other

Cost of a Significant Other

Dating entails plenty of anxiety-producing uncertainties – from outfit selection to choosing a location, judgment calls abound. But for modern seekers of love, the most challenging question may arrive at the end of the meal: Who’s picking up the check?

According to recent research, most people still feel men should cover the cost, at least in a relationship’s early stages. Some suggest this obligation is justified by the gender pay gap – until persistent inequality ends, they say, women shouldn’t need to halve the bill. Others insist the male-centric payment tradition sustains harmful stereotypes and even creates uncomfortable sexual pressure for women. Whether you’re married or just met an hour ago, this subject can sure inspire controversy between any two people.

How are men and women at various stages of relationship commitment handling the complicated subject of splitting dating costs? We surveyed more than 1,000 people to find out, gauging their costs for typical dates and special occasions and studying their spending habits by demographic. To see how the dating costs of men and women truly compare, keep reading.

Spending by Relationship Status

Those married spend the most per date but the least on dating overall per month.

Before we juxtapose the spending of men and women, it’s helpful to establish a baseline for dating expenses by relationships status. Frequency is the obvious explanation for this apparent contradiction: People in relationships probably go on more dates but spend slightly less on each outing. Single individuals, by contrast, spend the most per month but the least per date. Perhaps that’s because people often think of dating as a numbers game, but don’t want to break the bank with a large ticket per date.

Among married couples, however, consistency may actually be hindering romantic spending. Experts say long-term couples often ignore the need to plan romantic outings, settling for familiar routines rather than pursuing excitement. Our findings do indicate married folks spend less on dating each month, but when they do go out, they spend substantially more than single people or those in relationships. Perhaps professional or child care demands make dating more difficult, so married couples make the most of their outing opportunities.

Big Spenders by Gender

Across both genders, relationships lasting more than three years had the lowest monthly spending.

Although our data confirm men typically spend more on dating than their female counterparts, that dynamic shifts in interesting ways over the course of a relationship. While women spend much less on monthly dating expenses than men, their habits do not vary quite as much as the spending habits of men. According to our study, the longer couples are together, couples will continuously spend less money than in the first years of the relationship.

The starkest difference came between men in the first six months of a relationship versus those in a relationship of six months to one year, where the spending was 80 percent higher. Our findings indicate, that in the beginning of relationships men are much more likely to pick up the bill.

Expenses by Sexual Orientation

Gay people spend more on dating than their straight counterparts.

Often, conversations about dating costs unintentionally exclude same-sex couples; in dissecting heterosexual relationship norms, we tend to overlook those partners in which certain traditions do not apply. In this particular study, we provide a more in depth look into the dating expenditures of same sex couples. Not only, do gay people spend more per date, gay couples also exceed straight couples monthly expenditures.

That difference could reflect the greater means of gay couples. Recent studies have concluded gay people earn more than their straight peers. However, there is a catch. Experts note that most gay couples aren’t currently raising children, freeing up disposable income. Perhaps they’re using that extra cash to enjoy a nice night out or a weekend getaway with their significant other.

Shelling Out on Special Occasions

Whatever our spending proclivities on typical dates, special occasions warrant parting with extra cash. Although men typically outspend women on these special days, marriage seems to encourage slightly more parity. Women in relationships, for example, typically spend $55 less than their male counterparts on their significant others’ birthdays. But married women spend only about $27 less than married men on their loved ones’ birthdays, cutting the gender gap in nearly half.

Married individuals spend more than those in relationships – with one interesting exception. Valentine’s Day actually inspired greater expenditures by men in relationships than those who were married.Although the holiday accounted for roughly $20 billion in spending in 2018, perhaps that economic activity is driven largely by ongoing courtship rather than mutual appreciation between married partners.

Money and Marriage Material

Would your special occasion spending be swayed by your long-term intentions with your partner?Our data suggest people spend more willingly on those they are likely to marry, although this dynamic is more evident on some occasions than others. On anniversaries, for instance, people who felt their partners were marriage material spent $94 more than those who did not. This gap was apparent for birthday and holiday expenditures as well, although to a lesser extent.

For Valentine’s Day, however, the gap was only $21. So although some will say expensive gifts are a sign your partner is serious, perhaps Valentine’s Day spending isn’t the most useful way to gauge a significant other’s willingness to commit. Of course, there’s one way to leave no doubt about your intentions, but there’s serious debate about whether a Valentine’s Day proposal is touching or tacky.

Satisfaction and Dating Spending

As relationship satisfaction goes up, so do monthly dating expenses.

Money may not buy happiness, but it seems to correlate quite strongly with relationship satisfaction. Of course, it’s possible this apparent connection is due to indirectly related factors.Individuals under financial strain, for example, might experience tension with their partners related to money – and spend less on dates as well.

Plus, there was one big exception to this correlation between satisfaction and spending: Those who were “very dissatisfied” spent more than those who identified as “dissatisfied” or “neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.” Apparently, spending substantially on outings is no panacea for deeper relationship issues.


We surveyed 1,002 people using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Of those respondents, 531 were male, and 471 were female. Our respondents were between the ages of 18 and 73, with an average age of 32. Self-reporting has its limitations, and these data have not been tested for statistical significance. As such, these findings are purely exploratory.

Fair Use Statement

You may not prefer to share the costs of dating with your partner, but we hope you’ll share our work with your own audience. Feel free to use our images and information for noncommercial purposes, but please be sure to link back to this page to credit us for our work.