The gas pump and grocery store aren’t the only places where people have felt the effects of inflation recently. The dating scene is no exception, as dating has become increasingly expensive in recent years. In fact, a 2022 Match.com survey of 5,000 singles found the cost of dating has risen 40% in the last decade, with singles now spending $130 per month on dating. That adds up to over $1,500 per year!
Keeping this in mind, SmartAsset set out to identify the cities where dating is most affordable this Valentine’s Day. We analyzed data for 93 of the largest cities in the country and compared them across several metrics to determine how much a night out for two people costs in each place. For details on our data sources and how we ranked areas, read our Data and Methodology section below.
- Dating is most affordable in the heartland. None of the cities in our top 10 are located on the East or West coasts. Instead, all 10 of the cities where dating is most affordable are located in interior states. Augusta, Georgia is the highest-ranking city (No. 14) located on either of the two coasts.
- Date night costs nearly twice as much in New York City as it does in Oklahoma City. The Big Apple ranks at the bottom out of all 93 cities in our study. Dinner and a movie for two in New York costs under $97, which is almost twice as much as top-ranking Oklahoma City ($50.90). Budget dating is also tough in other expensive real estate markets. Dinner and a movie for two in Seattle and San Francisco costs $87.25 and $87.13, respectively.
- The cheapest movie tickets are found in this Texas city. Corpus Christi has the cheapest average movie tickets in our study. Two adults can see a movie on a Saturday night for just $17.70, which is nearly half the price of two tickets in New York ($34.25).
1. Oklahoma City, OK
The Sooner State capital also happens to be the nation’s most affordable city for dating. Dinner for two people at an inexpensive restaurant in Oklahoma City only costs $24, while the average bottle of white table wine is $8.40. For a date with a movie, two tickets cost $18.50, the second-lowest for this metric in our study. And the price of a dinner and movie for two in Oklahoma’s largest city is $50.90.
2. Mesa, AZ
Dinner and a movie for two people costs $53.38 in Mesa, making it the second-best city for budget dating. A meal for two people at an inexpensive restaurant averages $26, while the price of a bottle of white table wine is $6.32. Two tickets to a movie will only set you back $21.06. But, if you prefer a coffee date instead, two cappuccinos in this Phoenix suburb add up to $10.86, which makes Mesa the most expensive city in our top 10 for coffee dates.
3. Mobile, AL
The surrounding Gulf Coast area may be known for its seafood and beaches, but Mobile should also be known for its affordable dining. A meal for two at an inexpensive restaurant in this port city averages just $20, the lowest across our entire study. Meanwhile, a bottle of white table wine will cost you $7.57. For a movie date, two tickets are under $27. And dinner and a movie for two will add up to $54.53.
4. Tulsa, OK
Two people can go see a movie in Tulsa for less than $20 ($19.88), the fifth-cheapest in our study. The average cost for dinner and wine at an inexpensive restaurant adds up to $34.99. In total, a couple can expect to spend $54.87 for dinner and a movie.
5. Wichita, KS
Dinner and a movie for two people adds up to $55.07 in Wichita, making it the fifth-most budget-friendly city for dating. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs only $24 and a bottle of white table wine averages $10.29. The price of movie tickets for two adults is just $20.78. And a coffee date with two cappuccinos can cost as little as $8.
6. Corpus Christi, TX
Corpus Christi has the lowest average movie ticket price in our study ($17.70 for two). A bottle of white table wine is also quite affordable at $7.48. But while the average price of a meal for two at an inexpensive restaurant costs more in Corpus Christi ($30) than in the top five cities, a night out adds up to only $55.18.
7. Knoxville, TN
The total cost of dinner and a movie for two in Knoxville is $56.05, making it the seventh-best city for budget dating. That’s welcome news to the thousands of students who attend the University of Tennessee there. Movie tickets cost an average of $22.48 for two people, while dinner for a couple at an inexpensive restaurant is $26. A bottle of white table wine averages $7.57 and two cappuccinos on a coffee date costs $8.06.
8. Springfield, MO
A couple looking to have a night out for dinner and a movie will pay an average of $56.54. An average-priced meal for two at an inexpensive restaurant costs $22 and a bottle of white table wine averages $10.50. Meanwhile, two tickets to a movie add up to just over $24, making Springfield the eighth-best city for budget dating. Springfield is also among the most affordable cities in our study for coffee dates: two cappuccinos will cost you $7.92.
9. Chandler, AZ
A meal for two people at an inexpensive restaurant in Chandler costs an average of $30, while a bottle of white table wine is $6.32. For a movie date, two tickets run over $21. And if you add both dinner and a movie, it will cost $57.38. A coffee date, on the other hand, is $9.76.
10. El Paso, TX
El Paso rounds out our top 10 with dinner and a movie for two costing $57.52. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs an average of $24, but a bottle of white table wine adds another $10.90. On average, admission for two adults to a movie costs $22.62.
Data and Methodology
To identify the best cities for budget dating, we examined data for 93 of the largest cities in the country. We then compared them across these metrics:
- Meal for two at an inexpensive restaurant. Data comes from Numbeo. To determine the price range of an inexpensive meal in each city, Numbeo evaluated cost of living data. You can see how Numbeo defined an inexpensive restaurant in each city here.
- Bottle of wine. This is the average price of a 1.5-liter bottle of white table wine. Data comes from the Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index from the third quarter of 2022.
- Two movie tickets. This is the average adult admission for showings of first-run films between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Saturday at indoor movie theaters. Data comes from the Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index from the third quarter of 2022.
We added these three metrics together to determine how much a dinner, wine and movie for two people would be in each city. We based our final rankings on the resulting totals.
Tips for Better Budgeting
- Consider the “Golden Ratio” budget. This strategy involves breaking down your gross monthly income into three categories: your past (things you’ve already bought or done); your present (paying for your current lifestyle); and your future (saving for retirement or future goals). Morningstar recommends you aim to save 20% for the future and keep your debt payments to 30% or less of your gross income.
- Try our budgeting tool. SmartAsset’s budget calculator can help you keep track of your spending habits and get a fuller picture of how much you’re spending on the different areas of your life, like child care, transportation and food.
- Speak to an expert. A financial advisor can help you create a comprehensive financial plan for achieving your money goals. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
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