Online Dating on the Cheap

Online dating doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, it can be quite economical, depending on your style. Before I met Mr. MMM, I went out on about 104 first dates. The joke is that he was #105. Now, that is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. I dated frequently over the course of 3 years to find the perfect match. Because I had made some not-so-great dating decisions in the past, I was determined to make a good decision this time…especially with a daughter in tow. For your reading pleasure, I have taken it upon myself to compile a list of frugal online dating suggestions as well as complete a quasi-review of some of the top dating sites out there. And yes, I’ve just about experienced them all.

It Works


Our ultra cool wedding rings 🙂

NOTE: I believe the average number of first dates before meeting someone special is around 7. I realize that 105 dates is excessive and that I could’ve found someone much sooner if I knew how to date or what was truly important to me. I also accept that I might not have been completely serious about finding a partner when I began my online journey. So, don’t let my inflated number of dates scare you 🙂

Let me start by saying that I feel that online dating is a perfectly respectable and efficient way to meet people. I know there are naysayers out there who would never want to do the online dating thing. Commonly, they say it just hasn’t worked for them and that they can’t imagine paying to find a date.

I understand, because at one point in my life, many moons ago, I felt the same way. I said the very same things. Until I was faced with the reality that I wasn’t going to meet anyone in college anymore – since I had graduated years ago and was well into my career. After watching several of my friends date online, find love, and actually get married, I decided to take the leap.

And, I’m here to tell you that It Works. It works as long as you have an open mind and are willing to put the time and effort necessary into finding the right partner. It’s also worth noting that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. That’s right! Contrary to popular naysayer belief, dating doesn’t have to expensive!

Related: All The Jobs And Mistakes – Before We Were Mr. and Mrs. Mad Money Monster

Boys vs. Girls

dining-outNow, I must admit to having a distinct advantage when saving money while dating. After all, there is some unwritten rule that says guys pay for the first date – I didn’t write it. I’m also not saying I agree with it, but it does exist, nonetheless. I would, however, offer to pay my share on every date. Out of 105 dates, I was only taken up on my offer 1 time. Ironically, it was on the very first date I ever attempted through online dating. There are evolutionary reasons for this. Without going into too much detail, I believe it has something to do with the man showing he has resources that he is willing to share with the woman – this lets the woman know he would stick around and care for her and their future children. Again, this is evolution talking. Not me.

Now, if you happen to be a boy entrenched in online dating, there are less costly avenues you can navigate to save a few bucks. First, make sure you do your homework when vetting a potential date. This is extremely important if you don’t want to waste time and money. The fewer first dates you can have, the fatter your wallet will remain. Do not take your date out for dinner. Mr. MMM foolishly did this during his online dating stint. Silly boy. Do drinks only. And put a time limit on it. No date should last longer than 2 hours or consume more than 2 drinks, whichever comes first. Suggest a daytime date – drinks at a coffee shop will inevitably be less expensive than drinks at the hot new restaurant in town.

Related: Eating Out – My Biggest Financial Downfall

Popular Sites

To pay or not to pay, THAT is the question. I started out paying a fee on the then very popular site, eHarmony. I then moved to Match. I was on Match for a very long time before I tried the newer free sites that started making their way onto the dating scene. I eventually cancelled my Match subscription and hopped over to Plenty of Fish (POF). I frequented Ok Cupid at the same time.

If you’d prefer to pay for it, eHarmony, Match, and other pay-for sites run free, limited time specials from time to time. You could hop on and compare your results to the free sites – you’ll likely not find much of a difference.

In my opinion, you do not have better luck when you’re paying for it. And since I do have over 100 dates across multiple sites under my belt, I think that’s a reasonable assessment. 😉 Unfortunately, my experience is several years old and I can’t speak to the goodness of other sites like Zoosk, Bumble, etc.

The Vetting Process

vettingIf you’re going to meet someone for a date, make sure you’re excited to get ready and go out. My experience has been, if I’m not excited to meet them, it usually doesn’t get any better when I reach my final destination.

This was the biggest mistake I made during the first half of my dating experience – Did I mention I have over 100 dates to my name? If someone was half attractive and we had a decent rapport over a few emails, I would go out on a date. More often than not, I left the date wishing I had stayed home to clean the toilets. No joke.

I was overlooking key ingredients that were important to me in my next partner – hopefully my life partner. The beauty of online dating (and regular dating) is that you don’t have to overlook things you want your date to possess. You don’t necessarily need to lay it all out for them in your profile, but you can kindly tell them you’re not interested in an email and keep searching. I found out the hard way that compromising on the big stuff wasn’t going to work for me. After that, I was able to go out only with people who I thought could be matches. This saved EVERYONE time and money – including my dates.


After completing a 3rd or 4th date with the same person, it’s pretty much established that you like each other. Once you’ve reached about date #10, exclusivity is likely on the minds of both parties. If a relationship ensues, it’s now time to start seriously thinking about scaling back the glamorous dates and start trying to conserve resources for a possible future together. For awesome free date ideas, check this out.

Related: Frugal Hacks To Live An Awesome Life 

Related: How To Have An Amazing Wedding On A Budget

What are your thoughts? Have you done the online dating thing? If so, would you recommend it to others? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


Mad Money Cat doesn’t date.

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  • Route To Retire Jan 30, 2017, 11:58 am

    I have a good friend of mine whose husband unexpectedly passed away a handful of years ago. He left behind a 2 year old son with her. I watch her struggling with online dating and meet all the new guys she starts dating – some good, some not so good. Hopefully, she’ll find the right guy soon, but at just under 40, I’m sure it can be more of a chore sometimes than a fun time.

    I’m definitely glad that I’m out of the dating scene (been married for 10 years). And I got lucky that we met while hanging out with friends, so I got to avoid a lot of the trials and tribulations as well. 🙂

    — Jim

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 30, 2017, 12:30 pm

      I was also in my 30s with a young child. It can definitely be a chore to get up and out there. I hope your friend finds someone special!

  • Smart Provisions Jan 30, 2017, 9:05 am

    I’ve had a bad impression of online dating and haven’t really tried it because of it.

    After reading your post, I feel like I should, because who knows? Maybe I’ll meet the one.

    Have to keep an open mind and give everything (as long as it’s reasonable) a try, am I right?

    • Mad Money Monster Jan 30, 2017, 12:28 pm

      Much of the stigma that was hanging around when I started using online dating sites has vanished. In fact, the majority of people now say it’s the best way to meet people. It really is efficient. Much better than trying to meet someone at the grocery store 😉 You should definitely give it a go.

      • FinancePatriot Mar 22, 2017, 10:03 am

        I am married for many years, but is it even possible to meet someone at the grocery store? I just imagine I would get an awkward reaction (get out of here creep). Perhaps I am just imagining this. When I used to belong to a gym, I would try to chat it up with girls and they were completely disinterested. Oh well.

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