For Nate King, a digital content associate at a museum in Chicago, the surging inflation over the past year has impacted more than his cost of living—it has also changed his dating life. King was always able to make ends meet on his nonprofit salary and could even afford to live alone. But this summer, as prices began to rise, he started to feel a pinch. When he met a woman he liked at a concert, he was between paychecks and decided to wait to ask her on a date. But the spark fizzled, and they never got together.
“As things got more expensive, there was less and less money for stuff that wasn’t just bills,” he says. “You ask yourself: do I go out on a date or get groceries next week? It’s definitely been a bummer because, for me at least, it gets a little harder each time to work up the nerve to ask someone out.”
King’s situation is one that many singles across the U.S. can relate to. This year, inflation hit a 40-year high, a reality that singles, who don’t get the tax breaks available to married people or the benefits of a two-income home, are feeling. According to the 2022 Match Singles in America report, released this week, the top three stressors for singles right now are all related to finances: the impact of inflation, the state of the economy, and their long-term financial futures. (This was true for all generations except Gen Z, which reported being primarily stressed by mental health.)
Read more: Why Experts Say High Inflation Isn’t Going Away Anytime Soon, Even if the Worst Is Behind Us
In Match’s 12th annual report, researchers surveyed 5,000 single people between the ages of 18 and 98 across the U.S., and found that they are spending $117.4 billion on dating every year. That breaks down to about $130 each month or $1,560 each year per person—which is 40% more than what singles spent on their dating lives a decade ago.
It comes as no surprise that the financial pressures of recent years have impacted what people are looking for in a partner: a whopping 96% of singles think it’s important to share similar attitudes about debt and spending with a partner, and 23% of singles say they are now more appreciative of frugal people. Likewise, economic circumstances have made stability sexy: 30% of singles surveyed said that because of inflation, they are more eager to find a financially stable partner.
Haley Sacks, the founder of financial literacy company Finance Is Cool and Instagram meme influencer @MrsDowJones, believes that the current financial climate, challenging though it may be, is forcing positive and necessary conversations about financial compatibility. “Relationships are based on three levels of compatibility: emotional, sexual, and financial,” she says. “It’s as important to talk about finances as it is talking about your family or your childhood. It’s a core element of who you are.”
Read more: How People Change Their Love Lives According to Money
Maria Avgitidis, the CEO of Agape Match in New York City and the host of the podcast Ask a Matchmaker, agrees. She argues that the current financial challenges faced by singles can create opportunities for them to figure out their compatibility with potential partners when it comes to financial attitudes and lifestyles.
“How do you spend your money? What do you splurge on? Where do you want to live? These are questions that people are asking more and more,” she says. “You want to be aligned because financial stress is the number one reason why people divorce.”
Avgitidis also makes the case that finding love in the time of inflation is more than possible, noting that she began her matchmaking business in the wake of the 2008 recession and has borne witness to many rounds of dating through financial crises.
“It’s easy to blame inflation, but inflation is a global phenomenon. Love is recession-proof—people will find a way to go on dates,” she says. “Now there’s so many more affordable things to do than ever before.”
Avgitidis’ advice seems to align with what many singles are doing to pursue love despite feeling the pressures of inflation. According to the Match study, 84% of singles prefer a casual first date over a formal one; 30% are now more open to doing free activities on a date; and 25% are more open to simply meeting for coffee or drinks.
Read more: 9 Ways Being Single Can Improve Your Life
For King, taking a walk in the park has become a good, budget-friendly option. “It’s definitely different than just going to a bar, but I like it,” he says. “I’ve found it to be more intimate. Sometimes at a bar, with alcohol, there’s this fake confidence and it’s easier not to show my full self.”
Nearly half of the singles surveyed in the Match report said they are looking for a committed partnership. But Sacks warns against seeking a partner for financial reasons. While being single and shouldering the costs of living solo can be difficult, she says, it would be more costly to pursue an unhealthy or unsatisfying relationship purely to relieve financial pressure.
“Being part of a two-income household is amazing—you can split the rent, you can split the food, there’s a lot of benefits to it,” she says. “But a wrong relationship, even if you’re going to share the bills, is ultimately really expensive for you and your mental health. It’s important to prioritize your own financial goals.”