Singles spend an average of about $60 a month, or $720 a year per person, on dating-related activities to find a special someone, according to a survey out today that asked about sex, relationships, dating behavior and what's OK in a relationship.
The spending includes money either spent on dates or to find dates — with cash toward food, drinks, event tickets, admission fees, clubs, hobbies and religious activities. Some singles also spend money on more focused efforts to meet someone, such as online dating sites, matchmakers and dating coaches, says a nationally representative survey of more than 5,000 singles ages 18 and older, for the Dallas-based dating website Match.com.
"I go out in a dating way four nights a week, minimum," says Peter Doggett, 29, a regional director for an academic company in New York City. He was not part of the survey.
He says he spends "at least $500, if not $1,000 a month" to socialize — but doesn't pay for online dating sites, matchmaking or similar services — he says he just uses free dating apps.
This fourth annual survey, provided exclusively to USA TODAY, asked 137 questions about dating, relationships and sex, including "How much money do you spend on your dating life (seeking dates and on dates) per month?"
Like Doggett, many singles aren't spending a lot on dating-related services — the average in the survey was just $5.69 a month, compared with $55.84 spent on going out and socializing. Of those surveyed, 88% spent nothing on more focused dating efforts and 38% spent nothing on dating-related activities.
Still, the survey estimates that with more than 100 million single adults in the USA (according to 2013 Census data) singles' dating-related spending totals more than $80 billion a year.
Still, the monthly amount most singles spend is low, says anthropologist Helen Fisher of Rutgers University, who helped Match.com develop the survey.
"A lot of singles are not dating at all," she says. "I suspect that all of these singles who are not dating are radically reducing the average dollars spent on dating" that the survey found.
Among other survey findings:
• 20% of singles say having sex on a first date is either "somewhat appropriate" or "very appropriate" but 80% disagreed. Of that 80%, 54% said sex on a first date is "not at all appropriate."
• 54% of singles think a good first date should last from two to four hours; 43% say one to two hours; just 3% say five or more hours.
• 40% of women and 48% of men say they have sent a sexually explicit text message; 36% of women and 35% of men have sent a sexy photo of themselves in a text message.
• 31% of singles say they have had a one-night stand turn into a committed relationship; 28% of singles have had a "friends with benefits" relationship turn into commitment.
• 15% of men and 12% of women say they'd ideally want to have sex every day; all ages agree that two to three times a week is ideal.
The comprehensive survey, conducted by Research Now, a market research company based in Dallas, offers a broad look at the minds of today's singles and shows they are an accepting bunch — up to a point.
A majority say some relationships that once were considered taboo are "fine" — including interracial marriage (86%), interfaith marriage (80%) and same-sex marriage (65%). A majority also say other relationship choices once deemed unacceptable are "fine," such as long-term partners living together without marriage (76%) and having children outside wedlock (53%).
But some things are "not fine" — such as sexually open marriages (in which partners agree that each may have extramarital sexual relationships); married couples sleeping in different bedrooms; married couples living in different homes and long-distance marriages in general.
"Everything that is 'not fine' has one element in common: a disruption of that profound connection," Fisher says.
Los Angeles single Gabrielle Schacher, 31, an actor, says the responses make sense to her.
"In a marriage, it's inevitable you're going to grow — either together or apart," says Schacher, who did not participate in the survey. "If you're trying to make a marriage work, you're more likely to grow apart if you're living in a separate place."
Clinical psychologist Wendy Walsh of Los Angeles, who also wasn't involved with the survey, says findings seem to "correlate with all the research that shows people want bonded relationships that are based on love and healthy attachment."
"While they may be shirking cultural convention, they still want love," she says. "They still want a secure attachment and they have a healthy notion of what attachment should be."