The Financial Risks of Online Dating

How to avoid wasting money while finding romance through matchmaking websites.

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A reader recently reminded me why dating websites are not always worth their monthly fees. She writes that since she signed up for one over a month ago, she still has not found a suitable match. Yet, as a senior, she says she would like online dating to work out since it is easier than trying to meet people in person. (And you don't have to be a senior for that to be true—few people enjoy trying to find dates in dark, loud bars.)

Online dating sites can work, but you have to be smart about it. The Better Business Bureau reported a sharp increase in complaints about dating websites earlier this year, and recommends being wary of advertisements that claim "exclusive" communities or other potential exaggerations.

I'm also going to share another tip, courtesy of a friend who found her own serious boyfriend online after trying out two different dating websites. For a first meet-up, stick with short coffee dates, she says. You'll often know within the first 10 minutes whether you click with someone, and if you don't, there's no point in wasting time and money to find out just how badly you are matched.

Readers, please share any other online dating tips below—learning the hard way is too expensive.