The cost of living crisis is impacting all aspects of our lives, from renting and dating troubles to soaring energy bills and food prices. Over the next two weeks and beyond, gal-dem is publishing stories exploring our communities’ experiences during this tumultuous time – and what we can do to collectively work towards a fairer future.
As a South Asian woman in my late twenties, there is an expectation in my culture that if I were to move out of my parents’ house it would be under the premise of getting married and living with my husband. Although I’m single, I’ve made the decision that I want to move out to find independence on my own terms. Yet London’s soaring rent prices have meant that it’s been near impossible for me to find my own place to grow. While I haven’t moved out yet, I’m aware of my friends’ struggles to find reasonably priced and habitable places to live. I constantly hear horror stories of mould and damp, nightmare housemates and landlords increasing rent unexpectedly.
And it’s not just finding a stable, safe home that’s become a crisis for my generation. The rise in the cost of living means that I’ve become increasingly frugal by making alterations in all areas of my life. I no longer make the thrilling make-up purchases that I used to, I’ve cut out unnecessary monthly subscriptions and started selling unworn clothes. Before things got so exorbitantly expensive, I would have eaten out multiple times a week with friends, but now I’ve limited dining out to once a week. I’ve had to be ruthless in how and where I spend my money. As I count down every penny I spend, my life has become less spontaneous and care-free. Sadly this is the way things look to continue as the cost of living crisis continues to worsen into the winter.
My cost-cutting measures have also extended to my dating life. While I’ve not abandoned dates entirely, I’ve had to be more selective – drinks, dinners and tickets all add up after all. I am now more intentional about what I’m looking for and where I’d like relationships to go. Dating should be fun, easy and relaxed, and it always used to be for me, but being so selective and calculating exactly how many dates I can afford each month has certainly made it lose its thrill.
“The cost of living crisis means that dating has started to feel like an expensive hobby”
Gone are the days when I’d revel in going on a date every other week and it’d be an exciting gamble whether it went well or not. If the date went badly, I’d have a funny story to tell my friends. And if it went well, then great! But during a cost of living crisis, the thought of wasting a travel fare and £5 for a glass of Coke Zero on a disappointing date is hardly ideal. Even if the other person pays, it still makes me feel guilty.
A few months ago, I started chatting online with a perfectly nice guy, Tom. Our conversations flowed, and things looked promising. He was respectful and sweet and was willing to make a lengthy commute into London to meet. I was touched when he asked about my favourite cuisine and booked a restaurant for us to go to. His choice of restaurant certainly exceeded my expectations. As I looked online at the menu, I was alarmed at how expensive it was. Although it was his idea, the thought of him spending so much made me feel awkward.
“I probably missed out on a great guy because of my stress around money”
Dating always comes with the risk of it being one big anti-climax. The intense rush of excitement when exchanging messages online doesn’t always translate into real-life chemistry. We had only been speaking for a few days and I knew I would feel terrible if it didn’t go well. I wasn’t prepared to let someone take a lengthy commute and fork out on a five-course meal during a cost of living crisis. I ended up cancelling and feebly mentioning that we could rearrange for another time. The texting momentum between us fizzled out and we never ended up meeting. I probably missed out on a great guy because of my stress around money.
But for all the lovely Toms out there, there are also guys like Mr McDonald’s 99p Flake. I knew the date wasn’t going well when he started trying to convince me that a Tory government was the best thing to happen for the British economy – those same Tories who have recently tanked the pound to an all-time low. I barely got a word in while he bragged about having paid off his student loan and buying his first flat, before mansplaining US politics. After dinner, I was happy to go halves on our meal but I would have appreciated him at least offering to pay – if just for me not immediately running for the door when he began discussing the benefits of Brexit.
After dinner, he asked me where the nearest McDonald’s was, suggesting we get a 99p flake to eat in the park. I remember standing awkwardly in the queue wondering why I’d even given him false hope of continuing the date. To make matters worse, when we got to the till, I ended up paying for his ice-cream. Needless to say, I didn’t see him again.
There are only so many bad dates you can go on until you’ve had enough. And the cost of living crisis means that dating has started to feel like an expensive hobby. You certainly can’t put a price on love, but just like other areas of life, you have to put the work in. They say you need to kiss many frogs to find a prince, and sadly finding these frogs has simply become a cost I can’t afford.
“I don’t have the wallet – or patience – for ambiguous dating situations anymore”
I worry that I am putting too much pressure on myself to find the right person, and that my strict approach is making me forget that dating in your twenties is supposed to be fun. When I was younger, I didn’t feel the need to rush things into a relationship. I was happy with things evolving naturally and seeing in what directions they went. But I don’t have the wallet – or patience – for ambiguous dating situations anymore.
My most recent date was a coffee and a walk in the park, which is now my ideal first date. It was low-cost and low-pressure, and there was something so refreshing about how relaxed it was. While my date and I didn’t click as we did online, it was a relief to end the walk without any awkwardness around paying a bill and just say our goodbyes.
I’ll surely miss the buzz and thrill of dating, but as the crisis worsens it’s just another area of my life I’ll have to limit. Money is the biggest elephant in the room right now and moving forwards it’s something I’m learning to address directly with my dates. But for now, I’ll continue swiping, while I eagerly await my rom-com moment.
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