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Times are tough for many people. Inflation and the considerable cost of living — even in smaller cities — have a major impact on our wallets, our well-being, and even our relationships. Dating isn’t exactly free, considering the rising cost of dining out and other common date activities. Date expenses usually fall on the shoulders of men, but don’t be misled: Most women incur extra costs from dating as well, whether it’s buying date-worthy outfits, makeup, and other grooming essentials.
Our survey of singles found that money plays a big role in the dating scene. A solid 42% of respondents said financial health was something they prioritized when seeking a potential partner.
People who have high standards for their partner’s financial status may find it difficult to meet suitable candidates in their everyday life. Traditional dating methods don’t satisfy all singles, and our survey found that 18% have opted to join dating apps for high earners and sugar dating.
When most people think of the terms “sugar baby” or “sugar daddy,” several stereotypes usually come to mind. Sugar dating has a reputation for being transactional — an older wealthy person provides expensive gifts and romantic trips in exchange for beautiful arm candy and intimate relations. The reality, however, is that sugar dating can look incredibly different from couple to couple.
A 2020 study by sociologist Dr. Maren Scull even found that 40% of women who have sugared in the past didn’t have sex with their counterparts, and those who did usually formed meaningful relationships with their sugar dates. Generally it’s inaccurate to say that sugar dating is all about money or sex. In fact, many folks in the “sugar bowl” — the dating pool of sugar babies and daddies or mommies — even find lifelong connections.
Dating culture is constantly changing as new generations come onto the scene, but some deeply ingrained dating traditions have stood the test of time. For example, in heterosexual couples, the financial cost falls squarely on the man’s shoulders. The survey we conducted found that 53% of male respondents always pay for dating-related expenses, while only 7% of their female counterparts said that they always pay.
Whether it has roots in the patriarchal structure of Western society or is simply a preference for the majority of men, the practice of footing the bill for women on dates has been the norm for generations.
Sugar dating relationships follow a similar pattern and tend to involve a male benefactor and a female sugar baby.
Single people seeking a long-term partner seem to regard financial health as a high priority in their dating standards. According to our survey results, 42% consider financial health as the most important criteria for a long-term partner. Physical attraction ranked highly as well, with 63% of respondents saying they prioritized physical chemistry in their romantic relationships.
Money is an important factor in the dating scene, and dating costs can add up for singles going on first date after first date. Sugar daters may enjoy splurging on romantic date nights, but people in traditional relationships often have to budget carefully. About 37% of those who answered our survey shared that $50 to $100 is their target for spending on a first date. Another 35% of respondents said they only spend $25 to $50.
Only 10% of singles said they would spend over $100 on a first date. Fancy dinners are out, and coffee dates are in, at least for those singles outside the sugar bowl. Sugar relationships are in the minority when it comes to shelling out major coins for someone new.
Relationships, as the saying goes, are a two-way street. There’s a give and take involved in sharing a life with another person, and that often includes financial trade-offs. Most people in traditional partnerships split bills or date costs as necessary. The sugar dating dynamic is different in that it usually involves one person financially providing for a partner.
The benefactor in a sugar dating relationship — either the sugar daddy or sugar mommy — typically showers their sugar baby with expensive gifts, exciting trips together, shopping sprees, and some even pay for some or all of their sugar baby’s living expenses. These arrangements can vary depending on what both parties are comfortable with.
Oftentimes, people in the sugar bowl will consider their connection to be the “girlfriend/boyfriend experience,” meaning that regardless of whether they’re married or single, the sugar daddy or sugar mommy feels special and cared for by the attention and affection of their baby.
Sugar babies certainly benefit handsomely from this kind of connection, but it doesn’t always come for free. Many sugar daddies or mommies engage in these arrangements because they want companionship, romantic attention, or even sex.
Although not every sugar dating couple are sexually, exchanging sex and time together for financial benefit is common. For most, physical intimacy is not expected right away or on demand, and the giving of gifts and cash can often start slowly as well. Once trust and chemistry are established between the two, the possibilities are endless.
Having standards for a potential partner is always a good idea when you’re dating. Setting clear expectations can help you find a compatible match and ensure that your needs are met in a future relationship. Sugar daddies and mommies have this idea in mind when they’re searching for a sugar baby, and they don’t compromise once they know what they want.
Considering the nature of a sugar dating arrangement, most sugar daddies prefer a sugar baby who is attractive, exciting, and ambitious. Most commonly, they also want someone who is younger than them.
As one anonymous sugar daddy told Refinery29, “I just found that as women and men age, they get more tainted by their experiences. They create within themselves a negative bias as a standard operating procedure. I went on many dates with women in their 40s, and what I found consistent between all of them was they were immediately looking to find out how I was going to hurt them, even from date one.”
By creating a sugar arrangement with a significantly younger woman, men can enjoy not only their youthful spirit, looks, and energy, but they can also feel fulfilled in helping those younger women achieve their goals.
Because most sugar daddies admire sugar babies who have dreams and ambitions — rather than those who just want their bills paid for — many of them appreciate the opportunity to serve as a mentor figure in addition to a means for financial support.
Our survey results may not be surprising to anyone familiar with sugar baby dating because both financial success and physical attraction are of the utmost priority for people in the sugar bowl. It makes sense that financial health and physical attraction rank highly in the dating world, and sugar relationships capitalize on these priorities by allowing singles to clearly communicate what it is they really want — and what they have to offer in return.
Our survey respondents shared that, in addition to the mainstream dating apps of Tinder and Bumble, they often use niche dating sites that are specific to finding a successful, wealthy, and possibly even famous partner. Seeking is the top dating site for finding a sugar daddy, and 10% of our survey participants actively use the platform to meet people.
Additionally, 8% of those who responded said that they use Raya — an exclusive dating app that only allows a select number of members to join. Celebrities, influencers, and CEOs are commonly found on Raya, so it’s common for daters to use the app to find a sugar partner.
Despite the stigma associated with sugar dating, there is no denying that singles desire beauty and wealth in their partners. Under the right circumstances, a sugar relationship can be beneficial and satisfying for both people involved. The sugar lifestyle looks different for everyone. Some sugar dating couples end up falling in love and forming a lifelong friendship. No matter what dynamic you’re “Seeking” (get it?), sugar dating may result in the connection of your dreams.