5 Ways To Date On A Budget

It’s the first date, and the pressure’s on! But there’s no need to overspend in order to impress. Sometimes the sweetest dates are the simplest ones.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

t’s an age-old conundrum: How much should you spend on a first date? Despite the sparks that have been flying via email, you don’t even know if this guy’s “the one.” Try my five tricks for dating on a budget:

1. Drink it in.
Going for coffee or tea is probably a little too cheap for a first date, but it’s a
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with splitting the tab.
great plan for your first meeting.

“When I decide I want to meet someone I’ve met online, I always suggest going out for coffee,” says Marcia, a Web designer in Atlanta. “It’s cheap and fast, so you invest only a little time and money. And it’s extremely low pressure on both parties.”

2. Go Dutch.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with splitting the tab as long as you make that clear to begin with.

“I usually offer to go Dutch on the first date, no matter who asks,” says Nathan, an actor in Hollywood. “It removes any sense of quid pro quo—not only keeping us on equal footing, but keeping the cost down.”

3. Cheap eats.
Breakfast is the cheapest meal—but the most important. So invite your date to breakfast, not brunch.

“I treated my last date to our cheap breakfast yesterday (the bill was $16) since she had driven over to my place,” says Mark, a corporate art director in
“One thing that makes the great outdoors great is the price of admission.”
Phoenix. “It made me appear generous, but it was a minimal investment.”

4. Take it outside.
Be smart and keep your outdoor date in a public place. Aside from that single caveat, have fun and enjoy the air on your face.

“One thing that makes the great outdoors great is the price of admission,” says Carla, a viola player for the Chicago Symphony. “In most cases, parks are free. I usually make first dates a walk in the park, a row on the lake or some other outdoor activity that allows us to chat while we commune with nature.”

5. Keep it simple.
Today’s singles often feel obligated to make a big production of their dates when the fact is that the best dates are always the simplest.

“Grab a pizza or some Chinese take-out and cop a squat in some moonlit public space so she won't be creeped out,” counsels Britt, an executive in Winston-Salem, N.C. “Then whip out some poetry or play Twister or whatever. You come out looking creative and romantic instead of cheap.”

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer in North Carolina. Her work also appears in Go magazine and the Los Angeles Business Journal.
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