How we spend our money says as much about our priorities as the people we choose to share a bed with, and often, those two decisions are hopelessly intertwined. Sex, dating and relationships are expensive: flowers, hairdos, clothes, contraceptives, lube, cabs, texts, dinners, (breakfasts?) — how much does it actually come to? Is being single really more expensive than being in a relationship? Are people who make $20,000 spending as much as those who make over a hundred grand?
We asked nine people to spend one month diligently tracking every dollar spent in pursuit of sexual gratification — everything from trolling the bars to getting off solo to full-blown romantic intercourse. Some of the results were surprising, but numbers don’t lie, baby.
Indie Scenester Husband-to-Be and Indie Scenester Wife-to-Be started dating a few years ago after a "friends with benefits" epoch. They live together and are getting married next year. Indie Scenester Husband-to-Be is a twenty-eight-year-old software architect. Indie Scenester Wife-to-Be is twenty-seven-year-old web designer/programmer. Their combined annual income is $120,000.
Granola Sunshine is a bisexual twenty-nine-year-old freelance writer who makes around $50,000 a year. She is single and dating, and favors a distinctly outdoorsy romantic life.
Twenty-nine-year-old TV editor Coffee Yupster is a straight male who recently got out of a long-term relationship. He earns $55,000 a year.
Biology Babe, twenty-nine, is a science research assistant earning $38,000 a year. She’s straight, single and doggedly proactive, her objective being more about finding a man for the long haul than random one-nighters.
I Love the Nightlife is a gay male administrative assistant in two open relationships. He’s twenty-four and earns $28,000 a year.
The Long-Distance Cougar is a thirty-year-old female freelance writer who earns about $25,000 a year. She’s dating a twenty-two-year-old guy.
A twenty-two-year-old journalist (not, however, the Cougar’s boyfriend), The Dude is single, straight and earns $20,000 a year. He has cerebral palsy and a serious porn habit.
Mom of Two is thirty-four, has been with her husband for a decade and was so busy working (as an editor, earning $50,000 a year) and chasing after her kids that she barely had time to turn in her diaries.
Indie Scenester Husband- and Wife-To-Be report zero dollars spent on sex in the first week of tracking. As Indie Scenester Wife-to-Be says, "[Indie Scenester Husband-to-Be] and I were, and continue to be, fiercely independent humans — I think we both innately understand that maintenance of our relationship is tied to maintenance of that standard. I don’t dress for him. As for dates and dinners, those are far more about our emotional and intellectual boners for one another than any precursor to sexy times. Sex is a fun part our relationship, but (and we have certainly discussed this in the context of our impending lifelong commitment) it’s not the pervasive foundational element."
Week One Total: $0.00
Granola Sunshine has a busy first week. "I live in Vancouver, but I’ve crossed the Georgia Straight into Victoria to relax and kill brain cells with my friend, Craig. This has included an outing to the best strip bar I’ve ever visited: Monty’s. With old-timey wood paneling, it’s like the interior of Cheers, except with naked girls and an on-stage shower. Does ogling strippers count as a sex-related expenditure? Yes. I haven’t had any action for a while." Cover, $5. Drinks, $13. Ferry, $24. Later that week: "Dinner with an exceptionally cute, sexy guy. I would like to sleep with him pronto, but as it is we’re just hanging out and getting to know each other. I think he’s boyfriend material, so I don’t want to muck things up by banging. Tonight we rode our bikes, then ate finger foods from the grocery store and drank a bottle of wine on Sunset Beach. Cheap, but best date ever. I’m totally smitten." Granola‘s half of dinner was $15, wine was $25. A few days later: "Lunch with the same exceptionally cute guy." $14. "I also think I should count at least a little bit of my Internet bill toward porn this month. I’ve been watching it — that, and streaming reruns of The L Word." 20% of $80 internet bill: $16.
Week One Total: $112.00
Coffee Yupster‘s weakness is cute baristas and waitresses, which means a lot of sex spending in their natural habitats. "$25 on beer and food at the pub across from work. Gorgeous, friendly staff," he reports. Two days later, Coffee Yupster buys "a $4 coffee at a hipster hot spot. Great place to people-spot on the weekends. Very cute girls. Didn’t talk to any this time. I did, however, fantasize about one of them." That night, he spent $16 at a club. "Dancing with pretty, drunk women is fun." Another night: $60 on booze. "Scored a makeout and a number. Have spoken three times since, but our schedules clash." The next day, Coffee again spent $4 on coffee ("cute girls") and $15 on drinks at a pub near the beach. That same day, he dropped $60 on a Lavalife membership: "Buckled and decided to try out online dating for a bit." The next day, $10 on drinks at a local restaurant, because "the serving staff are off-the-chain hot!" Another $4 coffee the next day. Says Coffee: "I have a crush on a barista by my work. She seems to embody everything, physically speaking, that I’m looking for right now. We chat, but I don’t want to be a loser and break the barrier. Because there’s not really that many places to get good coffee by work." Coffee ends the week with $15 on a kegger fundraising event: "Going for hot chicks."
Week One Total: $213.00
Biology Babe picks up her monthly birth-control pills ($20), then heads to an out-of-town wedding where she spends $0.19 on texts to her Latin Lover, who happens to live in that area. "Exchanged four dirty texts while at the wedding, revving each other up for the following day’s tryst." Getting to his place costs Biology Babe $3 in gas. "Send two texts in a moment of delayed post-coital bliss and in anticipation of next encounter," she reports, costing $0.09. "Went to the gym to get further toned for next encounter": $9. The following days see one "random, naughty text" ($0.05) and one "random, idiotic text" ($0.05).
Week One Total: $32.38
I Love the Nightlife reports $30 for "a lunch date with a guy I’ve been seeing for a few months," plus $15 on drinks and $20 for "a cab ride home with a guy I picked up from the bar." The next day involves a $10 cab ride home from said guy’s house, and later, $20 on "a shirt I bought because I thought the guy at the store was flirting with me (he ended up having a boyfriend)." The next day, Nightlife spends $20 on a month-long porn website membership. $20 goes towards drinks at a queer dance night, and on the last night of the week, $25 for "a bottle of vodka for a going-away party for a guy I’ve been sleeping with."
Week One Total: $160.00
Long-Distance Cougar reports zero dollars the first week, saying her boyfriend bought all sex-related items.
Week One Total: $0.00
The Dude starts with a $9.99 TV-on-demand purchase of "Doctor Adventures (‘Female doctors who satisfy every need’)" and a $8.99 bottle of Wet Light lube.
Week One Total: $18.98
Mom of Two says, "I don’t have much to tell you, sadly. I got a $25 bikini wax, and I think I got to use it all of once." A few days later, she bought $240 worth of new clothes "in order to keep my husband interested and attracted." Later that week, she got a free pedicure at a promotional event: "I chose a saucy red called ‘Kiss the Cook,’ to which my husband responded, ‘I prefer it when you paint your toes pink or nude.’"
Week One Total: $265.00
©2008 Kate Carraway and Nerve.com
Indie Scenester Husband-to-Be reports $200 for a hotel room, and $10 for antibacterial sex-toy cleaner. Indie Scenester Wife-to-Be reports $98.53 for steak and wine at The Keg and $73.43 for "a longer whip and nipple clamps."
Week Two Total: $381.96
Granola Sunshine says, "I’ve been in the bush, so this week is pretty lame. $30 for face products from The Body Shop, cooling avocado washes and toners; trying to look good and keep my skin young. $30 for ingredients for lunch I made for a date. $40 for an airport cab because I was so busy being schmoopy with my lunch date that I missed the bus."
Week Two Total: $100.00. (She adds: "How about money I didn’t spend? I didn’t spend $10 on glow-in-the-dark reflectors for my bike because a guy I’m interested in thought they were lame.")
For a friend’s birthday party with flirting potential, Coffee Yupster reports $12 for cover charge and $50 on booze. However: "Overall, this night was a mistake. I was still devastatingly hungover from the kegger the night before." This week is quieter than last. $4 on coffee, because "I wanted to see the barista near my work." The next day, Coffee spends $60 on dinner and drinks at "a sexy bar with a Lavalife date. Good time. Have a second date planned." Later in the week, $20 for sushi: "Dinner with an old fuck buddy, hoping to rekindle. She’s seeing someone." The next day, $20 spent on drinks with the intention of "getting a look at some waitstaff."
Week Two Total: $166.00
Biology Babe reports a gym visit "just for him" at a cost of $9. Two days later: "Discovered that my face looked horrible. Bought acne cream and special lotion": $18. Later, Biology reports, "Went to the gym. Yes, for him." $9. The next day: "Sent him one text. $0.05." And, "Gym. Him." Another $9.
Week Two Total: $45.05
I Love the Nightlife spends $5 on cover charge for a gay night at his local bar, and $10 on cover at another bar for himself and "some guy." $20 bought drinks at the first bar, while "that guy" paid for the drinks at the second spot. Late in the week, Nightlife spent $50 on a t-shirt at a store owned by a man he likes. In preparation for a (sleepy?) date, he spent $15 on a bottle of wine and $20 on Valium. The day after, $10 for a cab ride to a friend’s house, explicitly for sex: "It was his birthday. That was his present." Two days later, $20 for drinks at queer dance night, and the next day, $20 on his gay.com membership renewal.
Week Two Total: $170.00
Long-Distance Cougar again spent nothing while her younger boyfriend bought groceries, booze, condoms and "other sex-related hygiene products [like] razors and dental floss."
Week Two Total: $0.00
The Dude drops $9.99 on Straight Outta High School. $47.99 goes to a Fan Expo Deluxe Pass, because The Dude says this convention has "an abundance of costumed, scantily-clad female rebels. If sci-fi fans can’t find an alternative girl here, they’re just not trying." A yearlong SuicideGirls.com membership costs him $30. "I also write for them, so I get the best of both worlds by interviewing celebrities while looking at naked girls with piercings and tattoos." The Dude goes on to say, "Speaking of that, I’m writing an article on ‘devotees’ (people who are sexually attracted to disability). I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t prospecting for my own cerebral palsy devotee, so all reporting expenses, especially coffee or food expenses ($5.99 and $37.99, respectively) are a subtle effort to score."
Week Two Total: $131.96
Mom of Two reports nothing for this week. She reflects on her situation, saying, "It was easier to coordinate date nights and sex spending before we had the second child. Two kids is an insane amount of work, as we are now on the losing end of the parent-to-child ratio. We are so exhausted between working and child-minding that we just fall into bed at the end of the day, knowing that some part of us is missing, but too exhausted to really work ourselves into a panic over it. Between daycare costs and home renos, there just isn’t a lot of extra money right now to put into new clothes and beauty treatments that would make us feel that little oomph it takes to get things buzzing. Interestingly, my husband was just prescribed (by our doctor) one hour of alone time with me a week. Let’s see if that improves things. We’ve sadly become the cliche, no matter how hard we try to fight it. We are still attracted to one another, but the resentment that builds up over who didn’t do which task, etc., tends to be a real mood killer. Spending money on going out helps us to make time to sit across from one another and really look at each other — something you forget to do after a decade together. A meal, for example, takes time, so you are forced to talk about more than just who’s picking the kids up from school."
Week Two Total: $0.00
©2008 Kate Carraway and Nerve.com
Indie Scenester Husband- and Wife-to-Be get sick. Zero dollars.
Week Three Total: $0.00
Granola Sunshine spends her third week in a sexually challenging situation: on a bike. "I went on a bicycle touring trip with that cute boy I’ve been mentioning, from Vancouver to Vancouver Island and over to the Sunshine Coast, then back to the North Shore. It took four days with a few long stopovers, and was about 300 kilometers of cycling. Hypo-allergenic non-latex condoms: $15. One trip to the rec-center sauna to clean up: $10. Baby wipes: $5."
Week Three Total: $30.00
Coffee Yupster reports $30 on drinks at a friend’s going-away party. Result: "Took someone home." The next day, zero dollars reported for a beach trip, ostensibly to scope babes. Says Coffee, "I love that the beach is free!" In the following days there are two more coffees ($4 and $4), and $20 for beers ("Went to a house party. All married or taken.") Coffee says, "I’m regretting the Lavalife thing. I shouldn’t have paid for three months in advance. It’s been fun but the novelty is wearing off with little real success."
Week Three Total: $58.00
Back at the gym, Biology Babe spends another $9 on a workout. "Wanted to cancel laser-hair removal appointment, but needed timely removal of hair." The procedure cost $239. Biology says, "Bought a top in anticipation for get-together for following week." $45. "Left him two messages and called back for a ten-minute conversation." $0.42. Back for another workout, Biology drops $9 on an "emergency session at the gym as the weekend draws closer." An "at-home facial to continue good work on giant pores" costs $10 for ingredients.
Week Three Total: $312.42
I Love the Nightlife says, "I haven’t been doing anything other than working for the last week and a half! Last weekend I spent $15 on a tab of ecstasy (lame, I know. It was a high school throw-back party), $20 on drinks and $8 on a cab home (the next morning, wink). And during the week I bought a bottle of lube for $9.99."
Week Three Total: $52.99
Long-Distance Cougar reports $115 on a hotel room. Her man bought the condoms. Still, she notes, "I am now noticing that the contraception [planning] — and even the whole logistics of copulation — is often relegated to my realm of responsibility. I am not sure if it’s an age issue, as my guy is a good eight years younger, but he seems turned off by the details. Ironic, because on more than one occasion this has meant losing out on some much needed S-E-X."
Week Three Total: $115.00
The Dude has a "slow week" and reports zero dollars.
Week Three Total: $0.00
Mom of Two says, "Our eight-year wedding anniversary was [this week], but we had a funeral to go to that day, so we ended up eating $50 of sushi takeout and calling it a night." Later that week, Mom of Two spent $85 "getting my hair did. It’s pretty short so reactions were mixed."
Week Three Total: $135.00
©2008 Kate Carraway and Nerve.com
Indie Scenester Husband- and Wife-To-Be are still sick. Zero dollars.
Week Four Total: $0.00
Granola Sunshine counts $30 on a prescription to treat a bladder infection "because I’ve been having so much whoopie." An additional $10 is spent on organic cranberry juice to treat above. $16 on more hypo-allergenic condoms. "Unfortunately, that’s it. My new man-friend was out of town, so I was more focused on recovery!" Granola adds a $65 haircut because "I wanted to look nice."
Week Four Total: $121.00
Week Four takes a turn for the busy for Coffee Yupster. "Buddy came into town to stay with me. Dating takes a back seat this weekend." After two days of zero dollars, $1.50 is spent at a cute-girl coffeehouse, but the "evening is booked with a buddy. No sex spending tonight." The following night, though, includes $25 on "dinner with the girl I took home two weekends ago. Not into it. She thinks I’m boyfriend material and I think she’s a cool playmate." The next day he spends $90 on "goodbye drinks with a friend," or more specifically, "rounds for an old fuck buddy. Got guest list to the club and still ended up paying another $40 on booze." The next day Coffee spends $20 on beers after work. That weekend, he drops $80 on cover and drinks at an underground club. "Drank doubles all night and tried to make out with a friend of mine. Didn’t go as well as I’d hoped." The next night, $30 on dinner and coffee. "Good girlfriend came in [to town] and brought her friend out. I discreetly asked out the waitress but she has a boyfriend. I then turned my attention to the friend. Things might hit off. She’s sexy." Coffee reflects on his spending as such: "Most of my money spent in pursuit of sex is on booze. Maybe one day I’ll cross the line and ask out the barista by work."
Week Four Total: $286.50
Visiting her hometown, where her parents and clandestine lover live, Biology Babe "bought water-proof mascara in anticipation of having a shower with Latin Lover. $8.50." Biology "called a friend to ensure her as alibi so I could spend the night with Lover. Got my sister to take me to a spa for a full-body massage so I could be relaxed for the evening. $200. Sent him one text. $0.05. Drove to his place. $1.50 in gas. Took a taxi to the club. $15. Paid for bottle service at the club. $220." The next day, Biology reports: "Drove home from his place. $1.50. Took the train back home to avoid a [parent-sanctioned] potential date with someone else (and to relive the night before in my head)." The train ticket away from the other suitor cost $92. The next day, Biology says, "Called him and spoke about the future of our relationship and the date for our next encounter. $1.40."
Week Four Total: $539.95
I Love the Nightlife reports an efficient night of $5 cover at a bar, $20 on drinks and $8 for a cab. The next night involves a $20 bottle of wine — and $30 in lost bets — at a game of poker that soon becomes strip poker. During the week, $30 is spent on a dinner date, $10 for beers after dinner, $0 for comped tickets to a movie and a $15 cab ride home. Later in the week, Nightlife drops $20 on a bottle of wine for dinner at his date’s house, and $25 on a monthly charge for a gay "networking" site.
Week Four Total: 183.00
The Dude buys British Beauties 8 for $9.99. "The British accent continues to allure, thanks to an early introduction to the concept of ‘accent = sexy’ by a friend when I was single-digit aged." Two film festival tickets, one for $39.95 and one for $20. "At the moment I’m feeling out if I can convert a long-time friendship into a possible love connection. However, I have reservations about whether I want to take on a relationship with someone with a disability, or even if my reservations have anything to do with the disability. This is despite the fact that I have a disability of my own (hypocritical, eh?) So, the $20 is to increase the time I spend with her and see if I have the balls to go there with her." The Dude continues, saying, "The gala ticket and my solo outing is in here because I’m always open to meeting new people in line or in the seat next to me. I have no problem starting conversations with film snobs or strangers and just going with the flow. Every time I leave the house there’s potential for sex later that night or at a later date. Usually I at least get a number. [The film festival] is full of beautiful, artsy, free-spirited and already loosened-up people."
Week Four Total: 69.94
Mom of Two reports, "We finally had a date night again. We spent $100 on dinner and wine, then another $100 on drinks at a hotel bar. And we totally had sex afterwards."
Week Four Total: $200.00