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The Journal Gazette

  • Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette Instead of going out for a traditional, costly date, Kaylie Wills and Trent Bill hang out at Wills’ house after school.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015 8:23 pm

Economics of teen dating

Steve Warden The Journal Gazette

The line moves fairly quickly, and now you and your date are standing at the window to buy movie tickets.

"Two," you say.

From behind the glass, the woman slides two tickets in your direction and says, "$19.50," leaving you two quarters from the $20 bill to put in your front jeans pocket.

Welcome to the world of dating.

What has always been a teenage rite of passage has become an economic difficulty.

A movie for two is $20. Dinner for both at a moderately priced restaurant is $25 to $30. Gas for the car isn’t cheap; then again, neither is the car if you can afford one.

One night out? "It’s probably 50, 60 bucks," says Trent Bill, a junior at New Haven High School. "It’s tough."

Bill, who plays baseball, doesn’t have a part-time job. Neither does his girlfriend, Kaylie Wills, a senior cheerleader at New Haven. That makes the economics of dating quite limited.

High school dating has changed from the drive-in movie days of your grandparents. Because it’s too expensive to see a newly released movie on a regular basis, and a trip to the concession stand can be $10 to $15 more, teens are seeking alternative methods of getting together for an evening.

"It’s not really like going out to dinner anymore," Wills says. "It’s more like hanging out at their house and watching movies at their house. On special occasions we’ll go out to dinner, but it’s not like an all-the-time thing."

According to figures released by Child Trends Data Bank, "The share of 12th grade students who report dating frequently has declined steadily since 2001, reaching a new low of 18 percent in 2011, while the the proportion who report not dating at all increased to 34 percent."

The report also said that between 1991 and 2011, the percentage of high school seniors who dated more than once a week declined from 34 percent to 18 percent. In the same time period, sophomores who frequently dated dropped from 17 percent to 10 percent.

When there is a "date," it’s often a night in with mom and dad and siblings; of ordering pizza or getting away briefly just for some fast food.

"Netflix is huge," says New Haven senior Payton Carey, who is not in a current dating relationship but hangs out with friends on weekends.

"I’m not exactly the typical case because I don’t like money being spent on me," Carey says. "I’d rather rent movies or just watch movies and stay in all night."

A Match.com survey reveals that women don’t get caught up in the cost of a date.

"When it comes to dating, men are three times more likely to think there are high expectations on how much money they need to spend," according to relationship expert Whitney Casey in a Match.com article. "But that isn’t the case. Women said it doesn’t matter to them how much men spend on a date. In fact, most women don’t want expensive dates; they’d prefer something more casual."

Jason Foor, a home-schooled 17-year-old, has a part-time job at a fast food restaurant. Because he is saving as much money as possible for college, he doesn’t date.

"It’s just too expensive (to date)," he says. "By the time I pay all my other stuff and try to put money aside for school, there’s no money left to date. And I’m OK with that."

Just as it’s OK with Wills to keep spending at a minimum when she’s with Bill.

"They’re not made of money, so you can’t go out and spend money every weekend," she says. "So for teenagers, we just go and hang out at each other’s houses."

Bill, however, says he does what he can to take out Wills and earns money by doing household chores.

"We try to mix it up," he says. "Getting the money sometimes is harder than other times. It just depends on what I do and if I can earn the money from my mom."

Carey, also a cheerleader at New Haven, admits that it’s the boys who are more worried about money and what activity there is on a date than the girls.

"I feel like guys try their hardest to impress the girls, so no matter how much money they can actually afford to spend, they’ll spend it anyway to try to make it look like they’re there to support them," Carey says. "If a girlfriend, or a girl they want to go on a date with, wants to go to the movies, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, sure; let’s go.’ They won’t hesitate because they don’t want to come off as cheap, even if they actually are."

stwarden@jg.net