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The cost of a first date

Survey finds almost a quarter of single Brits are planning to stop dating due to the cost of living crisis.
Smiling adult man and woman holding coffees and pretzel in an outdoor winter setting.
Published on January 26th, 2023
Last reviewed on September 25th, 2023
5 mins read

Budgeting your money

With rising costs at every turn, many of us have been forced to cut back - from how often we eat out, where we do our weekly food shop, to when we turn the heating on, almost every aspect of our lives has been affected by rising costs in some way. And we've found that dating is no exception. Our research revealed that nearly a quarter of single Brits (23%) are planning to stop going on dates to save money. How else can we expect the dating landscape to change as we prepare to tighten our budgets more and more?

To explore Brits' attitude towards the costs surrounding dating, we surveyed over 700 UK adults that are either single or actively dating. We asked them their opinion on topics such as who they believe should pay for a first date, how much they think is the 'right' amount to spend, and how they think their dating life will change over the coming months.

First date payments

Going on a first date can be an exciting prospect but worrying about your budget and the pressure of wanting to impress a new love interest can put a damper on the experience. So, to answer the age-old question of 'who should pay on the first date?', we asked dating Brits what they think.

We found that the most selected answer was 'I believe the cost of a first date should be split evenly' with 27% of all respondents selecting this. However, the most common answer with men was 'I pay/I would pay because I want to treat the person I'm dating' with 28% of men saying this is how the first-date costs should be approached. This was followed by 19% of men also selecting 'I believe the man should always pay on a first date'.

Bar graph:

I believe the cost of the first date should be split evenly 27%
I pay/I would pay the bill because I want to treat the person I am dating 18%
I believe the man should always pay on a first date 17%
I feel nervous/I would feel nervous about going on a first date due to not knowing how much I should 16%
I pay/I would pay the bill because I don't want to talk about money on a first date 16%

How much should a first date cost?

Another tricky question when dating is how much you should spend on a date. With opinions varying on what an 'ideal' first date looks like, it can be hard to come to a solid conclusion. We asked respondents how much they believe should be spent on a first date, and the most popular answer was between £20 and £30.

However, similarly to the question surrounding who should pay on the first date, opinions were split between men and women. While 26% of women agreed with the majority that a first date should on average cost between £20 and £30, men disagreed, and their most popular answer (15%) was that a first date should cost in the region of £50 to £60.

When asked if their view on how much they believe should be spent on a first date has changed since the cost of living crisis, the majority of people stuck with the answer £20 to £30, but the most popular answer for men (17%) dropped back in line with everyone else to sit between £20 and £30. We found that pre-cost of living, the average first date cost around £40.31, but has now dropped to £31.29 post-cost of living.

Cities making the most significant dating budget cuts

While it's certain that many Brits are cutting back on how much they're spending on dates, residents in some cities are making bigger cuts than others. Singles in Belfast are expected to make the biggest cuts, with their average spending dropping by almost £10, from £39.21 to £29.77. On the other end of the scale, Southampton residents intend to make the most minor cuts, reducing their spending from £30.81 to £25.81.

Cities experienceing the biggest first date cost cust:

1. Cardiff
2. Brighton
3. Nottingham
4. Norwich
5. Bristol
6. Glasgow
7. Liverpool
8. London
9. Belfast
10. Leeds

How the cost of living crisis is changing how we date

With inflation driving up the cost of living, many singletons are having to rethink the way they date. Our survey found that almost a quarter (23%) of Brits plan to stop dating altogether.

As many as 29% of women we surveyed told us that they won't be going on any dates, making it the most common way for women to respond to increasing costs. On the other hand, 18% of men are planning to swap a date outside the house for a home-cooked meal.

I won't be going on any dates 23%
I will be opting for coffee or lunch dates over dinner dates to save money 17%
I will ask to go for a walk instead of something that costs money 17%
I will be looking for free activities for first dates, such as museums or galleries 16%
I will be going on fewer dates 16%

Top tips for affordable dating

Just because dating is becoming more expensive for some of us, it doesn't mean we have to stop dating altogether. There are plenty of ways to have a romantic, low cost date with a potential new partner. Remember, first dates don't have to be expensive to be romantic, here are a few tips for dating on a budget.

Create a dating budget. Set and stick to a weekly or monthly budget for dating, this should include the cost of any dating app subscriptions you're paying for too. Remember, you don't have to spend it all every time, and any money that's left over can be rolled into the next week or month.

Have a movie night at home. The cost of tickets, drinks, and snacks at the cinema might push you outside your budget, so why not host your own movie night? With a few DVDs or a streaming subscription, you can recreate the magic of the cinema from the comfort of your own home.

Visit a free museum or gallery. Attending a free exhibition together is another great option as the only cost you need to cover is transport to and from the museum or gallery. The British Museum, The Tate Modern, and the National Gallery are a few London-based attractions offering free admission, but you'll be able to find something to do wherever you're based.

Find a local event to attend. There are plenty of free events like food markets and street fairs advertised in local papers and on social media. More often than not, they're free to attend and they provide a casual environment for you to get to know each other.

Go to an open mic night. Whether you watch a comedy, poetry, or music performance, open mic nights are always a good time. They're usually free to attend or very cheap, so you don't have to worry about blowing your budget all in one night.

Go for a walk. With colder days and the night closing in early, it can be easy to opt for indoor activities. However, there are plenty of ways to get outside and stay cosy - try bundling up and grabbing a coffee with your companion whilst enjoying a lovely woodland walk. Better yet, make your coffee at home 'to-go' for a real budget-friendly date.

Find more tips on how to budget effectively and other helpful money advice in the Aqua Credit Hub.


All data is based on a survey Aqua conducted of 739 consumers who are single or dating in September 2022.

Failure to make payments on time or to stay within your credit limit means that you will pay additional charges and may make obtaining credit in the future more expensive and difficult.

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