Have the rising temperatures given you spring fever? If you're looking for that special someone (or just anyone), you can quickly run out of options while "playing the field." Online dating is one solution that's becoming increasingly popular. In many circles, the stigma that once surrounded these services is now gone. The Pew Research Center found last year that more than 1 in 10 Americans has tried online dating or used a dating app, and nearly 40 percent of single Americans who are actively dating have tried doing so online. It seems to work, too: Nearly 25 percent of online daters have either gotten married or ended up in a long-term relationship.
One potential barrier to online dating is the cost. Many sites charge monthly membership fees that may have you second-guessing your decision when you find yourself on a bad date. Luckily that's not always the case. There are inexpensive options for those who want to test the waters. Some sites use a freemium model, meaning users get the basic service for free but can upgrade to a paid version for additional features. Other sites are completely free (for now). Cheapism.com evaluated users' experiences with the largest online dating services and found three options to recommend to frugal daters.
A quick warning: Online dating poses some risks, and you should be aware that scammers have taken to this corner of the web. OnGuardOnline, a government site, warns against sending money to or making a purchase on behalf of someone you've just recently "met" online. It also may be smart to set first dates in busy locations or, if you're a little uneasy, suggest a double date and bring friends along.
OK Cupid tries to match users with appropriate partners based on answers to thousands of questions. Users don't need to answer all the questions, but how they answer and, perhaps more importantly, how they rate the importance of the answers helps improve their pairings. OK Cupid is free to use and offers a free mobile app. A $9.95-per-month option gives "A-List" members the ability to filter matches, browse anonymously, see when a message they sent has been opened, and more.
Plenty of Fish lives up to its name, with more than 70 million registered users worldwide. Plenty of Fish matches users based on their personality, as determined by a test. Although the site isn't very pretty, reviewers don't seem to mind -- especially given that it's free to join. Members who want extra features, which include notifications that messages have been viewed and a prime spot in search results, can purchase an upgraded membership for $6.78 per month.
Tinder is available only as a mobile app. It forgoes the extensive personality tests and focuses instead on quickly pairing people up with someone nearby for a casual encounter. Users go through profiles of potential partners, view photos and short bios, and swipe left or right to show their interest. If both parties "swipe right," they're able to message each other and arrange a meeting. If only one person likes what they see, they have to move on. The app is quick, simple, and reportedly addictive -- but not for everyone.