Can’t Buy Me Love: Why It’s Ok To Admit You’re Too “Broke” To Be Dating Right Now

At any given moment you can find a social media post that begs questions about the do’s and don’ts of dating, particularly around money.

How much should be spent on a first date? Which places are ideal to take your romantic prospect? What is the salary threshold for those who deserve to date?

A recent clip from an interview on the popular dating and relationships podcast Pour Minds sparked a debate because the guest stated that a man earning $50,000 or less shouldn’t focus on dating.

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“If you’re making $50,000, don’t date,” the guest said. “I’m just being for real. You’re not ready to date because courtship costs.” She’s not completely off base.

2022 Lendingtree survey found that 22% of millennials (ages 26 to 41) and 19% of Gen Zers (ages 18 to 25) have entered into debt from what they’ve spent on their romantic dates. On average, participants said they spend about $91 on a date, and women respondents men spend an average of $104.

“Everything is getting more expensive,” LendingTree Chief Credit Analyst Matt Schulz says in the report as reported by CNBC. “It’s not just the new clothes, roses, ride-share, fancy dinner, concerts or the after-show coffee — it’s all of it.”

Despite this, a large swath of people are still looking for love.

Per 2022 data from the Pew Research Center, single shared they view dating to be more difficult than before the COVID-19 pandemic, but interest in finding a committed partner remained the same. 2023 data from Pew Research Center finds that three in 10 Americans are single, and about half (51%) are open to either a committed relationship or casual dates. What’s more, Black people On all the major dating sites–OKCupid,, and eHarmony typically have the lowest response rate out of any group; they spend the most time reaching expressing interest to others.

So, clearly people want love, but essentially can’t afford it. How did we get here?

“I think it’s a lot of feeling like we have to keep up with the social norm of what dating should look like,” Domenique Harrison, a licensed marriage and family therapist tells ESSENCE. “I think specifically with Black women who are extremely independent are choosing mission-oriented work and finding fulfillment in that and then building their understanding of who they are, their identities, what they want in life—We’re making the decisions that we want. We’re caring for ourselves in a very distinct way. And some of that has led to us making decisions that might be seen as luxurious or self-oriented.”

She explains that that limited scope of understanding particularly affects Black men, who “are seeing and assuming that when it comes to how women present their lives, they have to aspire to that level of living.”

Harrison suggests that instead, men should get realistic about what is in alignment with their realm of possibility and get comfortable with that.

“It’s important that we operate in what actually makes sense for our lives, not what we see in others’.”

Conversely, Harrison says some Black women should take a closer look at how certain money stories they tell themselves are informing their dating expectations.

“Much of our current dating practices are very Americanized, limited, patriarchal misogynistic ways of thinking,” Harrison explains. “And also, there is us as Black women who are independent, who have been told all our lives to build ourselves, to become worthy. We found the things that feel good, and now we’re trying to come back to explore, and we already know what we want, and we already know what we’re good at. And so we’re looking to explore that, whereas I don’t think that that same narrative is held for Black men.”

Shan Boodram, a sexologist who holds an M.S. in psychology who works with Bumble as its resident sex expert, says the happy medium is admitting your reality.

“It’s never healthy to gauge your worthiness of love with your net worth, but I do think it’s important to assess your cost of living priorities and that could affect other areas of your life.”

She adds: “I never suggest that people focus heavily on their dating life when they’re in a stable financial situation.”

But she does acknowledge there are ways to date at any financial stage in your life through low-cost but thoughtful date ideas.

“I think bringing somebody to a really great museum, a really great exhibit is something beautiful and it would probably cost $12 per person. Secondly, having a game night at your home or someone else’s is also massively important to include in the list, especially when people are concerned about ghosting or transactional capitalistic ways of dating—the best way to get around that very quickly is to go wide with people. Touch different parts of their life, invite them to meet your friends, invite them to see where you go to the gym. Bring that person into your world so it’s not this separate, siloed thing. Also, in general it can be good to do group things in the beginning because they are very economical. Going to the bar with friends, doing things at home, cooking meals for someone you’re interested in are really beautiful ideas.”

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