Election mode

The SMH has invited me to blog on the State Election, so for the next four weeks you’ll find me over here. Do drop by and revel in the mediocrity that is Iemma v Debnam. Cheers Dom

The problem with prostitution, as far as Seinfeld’s George Costanza is concerned, is not so much the morality as the expense: “Why pay for it when you can apply yourself and then maybe you can get it for free?”
If only it were. Radar is certainly not recommending prostitution, but dating can become expensive. For a start, just trying to meet someone can cost – especially if you’re not one of those romantics who believes in serendipity. (And if you were, you probably wouldn’t be reading a story on how much love costs.)
At online dating site RSVP (which is owned by Fairfax, publisher of the Herald), for example, the price of love starts at $34.95. That will buy you three “stamps”, although RSVP’s marketing director Lija Jarvis believes it takes a $54.95 book of six to make it “very likely” for you to get a date. One stamp allows you to send an email to one profile, after which email contact with that person becomes free for 30 days.
“You’re fishing where the fish are, so you’re not wasting time talking to people who aren’t single or who aren’t looking for a date,” says Jarvis, who claims online dating is more cost-efficient than going to a bar. She also says it’s usually much cheaper for women than men to date online.
“A female might not spend anything and get a date because it’s very similar to an offline situation,” she says. “Men tend to spend more … if you go to a bar, guys usually buy the first round of drinks. It’s the same on the site. Guys tend to buy the stamps.”
Those short on time could also go to a speed-dating event, where you can meet up to 12 people in one night.
“Most people get two to three matches – that’s the average – and you contact those people and arrange for a follow-up date,” says Anna Saunders, the general manager of speed dating agency Fast Impressions.
A match is when two people decide they like each other. Saunders says there is a 90 per cent match rate, which means on average nine out of 10 people will get at least one match. If those odds are correct, it will cost you $79 (the usual price of a Fast Impressions event) to get one date.
Then again, you may be better off leaving your wallet in your pocket, with statistics from the Harlequin Romance Report 2006 (based on surveys conducted in North America) showing 33.6 per cent of couples met through friends, 18.7 per cent at work, 17.2 per cent by chance, 15.1 per cent at a party, bar or club, and only 2.7 per cent met online – although the number for cyber couples is higher (4.8 per cent) for those aged between 18 and 34.
However, for the sake of argument, let’s believe the dating agencies and say that, on average, it costs $67 – midway between the price of using RSVP and a Fast Impressions event – to get the first date. Yes, these figures are rubbery but, hey, this is a feature on the price of love. What did you expect?
Now we come to phase two: the first date. This humble writer believes having a few drinks is preferable to dinner on a first date. After all, if you don’t like the person it’s easier to leave if you’re just having drinks. However, a Virgin credit-card study conducted last year shows men typically spend $147 on dinner and drinks on a first date plus $55 for entertainment such as a concert or a movie. Taxi fares add $28 to the night’s tab. Men also spend an average $78 on new clothes and accessories and another $32 on grooming – a total of $340. The total for women, on the other hand, amounts to $292, as they usually spend less on dinner and drinks but will spend on average $10 more on grooming. So, to average out the sexes, let’s say that a first date will cost $316.
Incidentally, it’s worth noting that a survey conducted by RSVP on its members last year says 65 per cent of women expect a 50-50 split when paying for the first date. On behalf of men’s wallets everywhere, Radar salutes them.
Now, a survey conducted by US dating agency It’s Just Lunch claims there’s only a one-in-eight chance a first date will call you for a second date after 24 hours. That seems a bit harsh to this journo, but if your first date was based on only five minutes of face time at a speed-dating venue or the sight of an online profile then perhaps that makes sense.
In that case, you’ll be spending, very roughly speaking, $2528 (and going on eight dates) to ensure you hit the second-date phase. However, since you probably won’t have to get a new haircut, clothes and grooming “essentials” every time you have a first date, let’s lower the overall cost to $2048. (This depends on how frequent your first dates are. For example, RSVP found that 26 per cent of the women surveyed dated two to three people at the one time.)
So, provided the relationship has now hit a new level and won’t fall apart after the second date, how much will dating continue to cost? Well, common sense dictates not all dates are going to be as expensive as the first, flash one, so let’s say you’ll be spending $100 for a restaurant dinner and wine for two. Also, many dates are likely to be even more casual: a pizza, DVD and some beer, for example, would cost roughly $40 for two.
Assuming there’s a ratio of two formal dates for every three casual ones, based on this journo’s casual survey of colleagues, you’re looking at $320. Add a few cab fares and we can conservatively round the figure up to $400. In the valiant hope that women will be more likely to split the bill after the first date, that means (rubbery-figure time again) on average, people spend $200 a month on dating.
Furthermore, the RSVP figures show that one third of respondents would spend more than $200 on a partner’s birthday present. Let’s cut that figure in half and say you’re looking at spending $100 for a birthday gift, an extra $100 for a Christmas gift, not to mention $100 for Valentine’s Day … meaning you’re looking at an extra $300 all up.
Actually, that seems a bit stingy. We’re hoping our readers can afford to splurge once in a while – how about we make that yearly gift figure $400, especially if you’re romantic enough to spring for an extra present once in a while?
So, after the first month of meeting and having the first date, and then enough dates to secure a second date with someone, and then 11 months of regular dating, plus the final $400 on gifts, you’re looking at $4715 for the first year of dating someone. Minimum. And this is assuming the second and all subsequent dates were successful and that you didn’t have to start all over again, which would double the figure, minus some grooming costs.
And not wanting to put anyone off the sacred act of marriage, we’re also assuming no one has proposed yet, meaning we didn’t look into how much an engagement will cost, not to mention a wedding …
Poor George Costanza. As our calculations indicate, money might not buy you love but it can certainly facilitate it.