About · Press · Contact · Write For Us · Top Personal Finance Blogs
Featured In:

Online Dating Pros and Cons – 5 Best Sites & Tips

By David Bakke

online dating communityEight months after going through a divorce and becoming a single father, I recently decided to get back into the dating game. My free time, however, is at a premium, considering that I work a full-time day job and run two side businesses from home. I’ve never been one to hang out at bars, so I decided to give online dating a whirl. Let me tell you, it has been an interesting ride to say the least.

Online dating is no longer viewed as taboo. Consider these statistics: In 2010, 17% of people who got married met on an online dating site. One in five singles have dated someone who they met on a dating website. Moreover, many of these sites are completely free, and the ones that charge fees usually keep their rates at reasonable levels. In the end, if you’re looking for a good match, they’re usually worth the investment.

If you’re about to head into the world of online dating, you’ll want to know what you’re in for. I’ll start with a brief overview of how it works before I get into the pros and cons and then offer a few pointers.

How It Works

The process is fairly simple. If you’re using one of the popular free sites, you’ll start by entering some personal data, from height and maybe weight to race and religion. Plenty of fields will be optional, and all of the sites are a little different when it comes to what they ask, how they ask, and what you’re required to answer.

Next, you’ll create a “narrative” for your profile, in which you can explain a little more about your personality, as well as what you’re looking for, like whether you’re seeking a spouse, friend, or someone to date. Finally, you’ll upload a picture of yourself, and then you’ll be ready to go.

Benefits of Online Dating

In my first few weeks of trying out online dating, I discovered plenty of benefits of getting involved. Here are the four most important ones:

1. Convenience
As soon as you finish signing up on a site, if you’re ready to get active, you can literally view the profiles of hundreds of potential matches all in one evening. How long would it take you to meet that many people at a bar or party?

Perhaps more importantly, how much money would you spend on blind dates and bar tabs just trying to have one successful date? If you have a hectic personal schedule or you’re watching your budget, online dating is a great option.

2. Anonymity
When you’re browsing profiles, you’re in the privacy of your home, simply clicking through the site. This means that you can narrow the field of people you’d like to date without the pressure of meeting them in advance.

I am not that picky when it comes to women, but I do have certain pet peeves. With the anonymous web, you can gain some early confidence in the fact that you and your potential partner are at least relatively compatible.

3. Variety
With online dating, you can meet people from all walks of life. Instead of being limited by a particular city’s dating scene, you can meet people from other states or countries, and of any race or religion. You might also be able to get background information like their education history and even income level.

4. Less Embarrassment
To be perfectly honest with you, the biggest issue that I have when I’m thinking of asking someone out on a date is the fear of rejection. With online dating, you eliminate most of this concern.

Once you find someone you want to ask out, you reach out and then wait. If there’s mutual interest you’ll hear back, and if there’s not, you just move on. There’s still some sense of rejection but it’s not as tough to take as a verbal “no.”

online dating flowers

Cautions of Online Dating

If you’re new to online dating, I have two words of advice: Get ready. It is a whole new world out there. I have outlined some of the things you need to watch out for regarding online dating:

1. Cost
While there are some websites that are completely free, most come with some sort of sign-up fee. Otherwise, the no-fee introductory period might be very short, and the “review your matches for free” teaser usually doesn’t come with a free option for contacting those matches.

Think carefully about the expense before you dive in. Generally, the overall experience and quality of the site will be better with paid sites. Right now, however, I’m having some level of success with using a completely free site. In the end, if you find the person of your dreams, the fees will seem completely worth it. Moreover, the amount of money you can save by not having to go on endless dates will easily outweigh the money you spend on a dating website.

2. Lack of Transparency
This is my biggest concern regarding Internet dating. People can put whatever they want on their profile (including photos), so until you meet someone in person, you never really know who you’re about to meet. You have to keep your guard up and make people earn your trust. Don’t be naive or assume that all profiles have credible information. There are many lies in online dating that you need to watch out for .

I have had experiences with women posting pictures on their profile from many years ago when they were significantly younger or looked completely different. So don’t go falling in love with someone’s profile. You won’t get a good gauge on a prospective mate until you meet in person.

3. Frustration Level
It’s still the dating world, and the dating world is often very frustrating. Online dating websites can be more convenient, but they don’t eliminate the challenges of trying to find a mate. You will encounter people who seem genuinely interested in you, only to have them disappear for no apparent reason. You will probably talk to some potential dates on the phone and think things went fine, only to never hear from the person again. If you are jumping into online dating, it’s better to have a thick skin. You will definitely need it.

5 Best Online Dating Websites

To help you get started, here are five of my favorite online dating websites:

match logo 1. Match.com
This is by far the most comprehensive website when it comes to online dating. Match.com has plenty of members, a great experience, a variety of search options, and a complex database. All of that comes with a fee, rates are competitive. See our Match.com review for more information.

plenty of fish2. Plenty of Fish
This is definitely the #1 completely free option. The site is very user-friendly, and you don’t encounter many of the problems that plague most free dating websites, such as fake profiles.

eharmony loog3. eHarmony
If you really want to hone in on finding your “perfect” match, then eHarmony is definitely the way to go. They take a very scientific approach to finding you a mate, and they claim credit for 230 marriages per day. It’s hard to argue with a statistic like that, but you’ll have to pay the site’s fee.

okcupid logo4. OKCupid
I recently discovered this site, and it’s pretty good. Like Plenty of Fish, it is 100% free. Sign-up is a breeze, and you can answer as many – or as few – questions as you’d like when you complete your profile. The more questions you answer, the better chance you have of finding a compatible match. So far, however, I have received a limited number of responses on OKCupid.

zoosk logo5. Zoosk
This site has recently risen quite a bit in popularity. It is highly integrated into social networking sites, so its appeal among the younger crowd is rising. The site has free and paid options, and what sets Zoosk apart from the rest is that free members can respond to messages from paid members.

Final Word

Let me be perfectly clear, the world of online dating is a cold and hard one. It isn’t easy, but it certainly is possible to find a suitable mate through the Internet. I personally had two experiences of meeting women online which turned into dating relationships, and one of them was the woman that I married. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out in the end, but I can tell you that online dating is a great option for finding someone who is right for you.

What are your thoughts regarding online dating? Do you have a favorite online dating site?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

Related Articles

  • Lindsey Bandy

    I joined OKCupid and within 3 days found the profile of my now long-term boyfriend. We chatted for a couple of weeks and then met up in person. I really liked the experience.

    • Davidbakke

      Lindsey

      Congratulations! I have actually started to get a few more responses myself.

      Thanks for commenting

  • Iago-1931

    I use both free sites.the problem is that profiles that women write are very “syrupy”.more honesty
    and straight forwardness is needed. what are the “turnoffs” rather than “walk on the beach holding hands”; ad nauseum. i am not a demonstrably affectionate person in public;but you read
    “cuddly”;cuddly—-for the righrt person,but as a general rule–no, tell more of your turnoffs or deal breakers than “kind,honest,cuddly,good man etc.

  • lonelyhappyheartalberta

    I used a site but the transparency was not there. Guys hold back and think chatting is dating?? No profile pictures, and lack of writing ability to describe themselves seems to be the norm. Is there a death fear in chatting, how else are you to get to know someone. When you email back and forth and get single answers to questions this is not opening up and telling who you are. It is so easy to stay hidden. The time is so consuming. It has a mass flesh appeal that is a bit perplexing whether it is good or not: window shopping for thousands of guys, an internet red light district of shallow searching as there is nothing deep to it. Although in the end it replaces mail order brides and grooms a far better cry than that old standard. If you can get through the yucky search of endless dead beats and smoke screens of dishonesty. On a so called christian site I blocked several disgusting profiles (so obvious) probably ex rapists, serial killers yes they are there lurking about so beware! And christians maybe about 1% I guesstimate because you need to read between the lines and see the egomaniacs and vanity wow! So, I am tired and don’t have the time, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth and heart.
    The question really is does the internet serve as a social connector? The barriers are there as in facebook; my analysis-no it does not as just as any internet site it is so easy to hide behind the screen no pun intended. The computer has a no social risk built into it that is why facebook is so popular and gaming is too, take the risks away and think you are really chatting, playing, socializing- not really.
    Of course I am playing the devil’s advocate-being a christian that’s funny, I wanted to give some food for thought. Don’t harsh it is just an opinion if you find these sites valuable good for you, I found it a bit hard to navigate through and then it got strangely addicting. But the internet feeds that.
    So once again I find myself alone, but that’s ok right, apparently not as the social stigma I have receiving says otherwise. “You will find someone, when are you going to find someone, on and on” Why not say good for you to be alone, it wonderful, grow in yourself and independence. Especially when the divorce rate keeps rising.

    • Davidbakke

      Very insightful feedback! Our readers will appreciate it!

  • http://twitter.com/olgawestfall Olga Westfall

    Thank you for the great article David. Sorry pof site did not allow me to register.
    I joined okcupid some weeks ago but it seems they are a paid site, $9.95 a month.
    Now I am on opendatingservice. I’ve not met my man yet, but found some good friends.

    • Davidbakke

      Thanks Olga–i wish you luck!

The content on MoneyCrashers.com is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional financial advice. Should you need such advice, consult a licensed financial or tax advisor. References to products, offers, and rates from third party sites often change. While we do our best to keep these updated, numbers stated on this site may differ from actual numbers. We may have financial relationships with some of the companies mentioned on this website. Among other things, we may receive free products, services, and/or monetary compensation in exchange for featured placement of sponsored products or services. We strive to write accurate and genuine reviews and articles, and all views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors.

Advertiser Disclosure: The credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which MoneyCrashers.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site, including, for example, the order in which they appear on category pages. MoneyCrashers.com does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers, although best efforts are made to include a comprehensive list of offers regardless of compensation. Advertiser partners include American Express, U.S. Bank, and Barclaycard, among others.