Wining and dining at the latest hipster fusion restaurant downtown. Uber rides for a quick “meet up for drinks” date. Dumping money into looking your hottest. Serial daters are well aware of the costs involved in the quest to find “the one.” Besides taking up hours of time, premium dating apps can burn a hole in your pocketbook. A $42-a-month subscription to Match.com or $60 monthly subscription to eHarmony can add up quickly.
Such was the case for Morgan Quisenberry. The Los Angeles advertising professional estimates she spent more than $1,000 on premium dating sites in the six years she’s been single.
If you want to check out premium dating sites but don’t want them to destroy your budget, here’s what you can do instead:
1. Prep during the free version
Curious about scouring dating profiles in private mode on OkCupid or the perks that come with Tinder Boost? Prep as much as you can on the free platform before paying for a premium subscription, said Graham, a 28-year-old who works in local government in LA.
Creating a compelling profile to attract mates is an art. Take time to refine your profile. Go through selfies and vacation photos on your phone and curate a well-thought-out selection. Ask close friends to assess your profile. My friends and I have hosted “Tinder profile parties,” where we shoot photos and critique each other’s profiles. Do this on the free platform so you don’t waste time if you opt for the paid version.
2. Subscribe for just a month
Don’t want to end up spending hundreds a year on the paid versions of dating apps?
Consider signing up for just one month, then canceling, said Graham, who has tried paid versions of Tinder, Bumble and OkCupid.
“Get the extra features such as the infinite likes, read receipts or message priority, and go to town,” said Graham. “Then cancel your subscription as soon as you start it. The worst that can happen is you have to start it up again.”
With these extra tools, ideally you’ll start netting matches. And once you're talking to an actual person, the platform and its extra bells and whistles don't really matter, said Graham. The trick? Connect with your best matches, then take the conversation off the platform.
3. Sign up for paid levels of older accounts
Some sites such as OkCupid offer you a discount if your account hits a certain age. Graham, who had been on and off OkCupid for about 10 years, became eligible for a half-off discount for the A-list plan, which usually starts at $9.99 a month.
4. Use promo codes
There are promo codes a-plenty for dating sites. Scour daily deal sites, online coupon platforms or simply Google promo codes. During the major holidays — Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day — when single folks might feel extra lonely, paid dating sites often have deals. That’s a prime time to try it for a weekend, said Quisenberry.
5. Go for package deals
If you predict you may be in the dating game for more than a month, consider discounted package deals. OkCupid’s A-list subscription prices vary, but generally cost less per month if you buy 3- or 6-month packages. For Match.com, it’s $35.99 for a one-month subscription, $19.99 a month for three months or $17.99 a month if you opt for the six-month package deal. You’ll want to look at the fine print and check the cancellation policy. Depending on the platform, once you sign up for a package deal, you won’t get your money back if you cancel before your subscription ends.
6. Carefully weigh the features of each premium subscription
Not all features of a paid subscription are created alike. For the sites that offer a premium-tier subscription, find out what exactly you’re buying and decide whether it’s worthwhile for your particular situation.
For instance, Match.com’s matchPhone is a premium add-on feature that you to anonymously talk or text on your phone with any of your matchPhone connections. While it could help protect your privacy, it can also feel creepy, said Quisenberry, who blogs at Diary of an Online Serial Dater.
“Someone once tried to do that on me,” she said. “I thought it was a spam text and deleted it immediately.”
As you can see, the value of a particular feature is in the eye of the subscriber.