Looking good isn't cheap

You'll want great hair for that great shot. According to American Salon magazine's annual survey, a cut, style and blow-dry costs an average of about $56 for women and $42 for men. Plus tips, of course.

Your hair is just the beginning. Some other potential costs of outward beauty:

  • Gym membership. Factor in at least a few hundred dollars for good athletic shoes and nice-looking workout gear. Let's face it: Gyms are often just sweaty singles bars.
  • Spa stuff. A manicure-pedicure every two weeks, $40. Bimonthly facials, $43 to $75; waxing three body areas, $100 per month. Guys can shell out $25 to $60 for "manscaping" of unwanted body hair.
  • Makeup and fragrance.
  • Clothes. Single men can expect to spend, on average, nearly $900 a year and single women $1,000 a year. Your mileage may vary, especially if you frequent consignment shops or "flash sale" sites such as HauteLook and Gilt.
  • Dating self-help books -- yes, really. Date Maven Matthews advises her clients to read them, because self-confidence adds to attraction. That's an additional $120 a year unless you use the public library or book swap sites.
  • A hot car. Flashy wheels turn heads. A 2012 Lexus IS 250 convertible could set you back $32,145, or $611 a month at 5.3% interest. That's not counting your higher insurance payments. (Read "Which cars cost more to insure?")
  • Putting yourself out there. Join a wine-tasting class. Go to author readings or to coffeehouses outside your neighborhood. Leave your cozy book club or ditch your weekly poker game to attend events where the opposite sex will be (car shows and garden shows, for instance). Matthews calls it "the expense of having an interesting life." Some of it is free. Most isn't.

Potential annual costs: gym, $350 to $1,500 for a membership and $300 for workout duds and shoes; hairstyling, $252 to $356 (assuming a salon visit every other month); spa stuff, up to $2,690 (plus tips); makeup/fragrance, $500 to $1,000; clothes, $900 to $1,000; dating self-help books, $120; car, $7,332. Total: up to about $14,000.

Pairing up

Your eyes have met. You've exchanged phone numbers. Now what?

Money, honey. Maybe a lot of it.

"A nice meal with tip is $100. Two movie tickets plus Junior Mints, $25. Fuel and miscellaneous costs, $5. It may be $130 for you to date potential Mr. or Ms. Right," says certified financial planner Kimberly Foss of Empyrion Wealth Management in Sacramento, Calif.

But that's not necessarily so, if you live in an area where food is cheap and movie theaters and concert venues are scarce. Too, your idea of a swell time -- a picnic, a bike ride -- might be inexpensive by definition. Remember, however, that the phrase "cheap date" can be pejorative.

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Other potential costs of dating and courtship:

  • Cab fare if the date goes south and you decide to find your own way home.
  • Cab fare the next morning if the date goes well. Maybe brunch, too.
  • Parking ticket (see "if the date goes well," above).
  • Data-plan overage due to multiple "How's it going?" texts from buddies -- or because of your texts asking them for advice and/or a rescue phone call. ("Excuse me, I have to take this. 'What? You want me to come in to work now?' I'm sorry, that was the office, and it's an emergency.")
  • Cards, flowers and gifts. Anywhere from $20 to $35 a year for pictures of cats with ironic captions and as much as $200 for flowers. The cost of presents is limited only by your ability to ask "What am I doing?" before signing a credit card slip.

Potential annual costs: 48 dates a year, $2,400 to $4,800 (some overlap is likely with the above-mentioned restaurant and alcohol totals); cards and flowers, up to $235 a year; gifts, who knows? Total: up to $5,035, not including gifts, cab fare, parking tickets or data-plan overages.