Since “Netflix and chill” has come to carry such seedy connotations, dating can get expensive in a hurry. Concert tickets, movies, dinners, flowers: these things all add up quickly. When hitting the dating sites and going on a lot of first dates, I like to try and keep things on a budget, since there’s a whole lot of “you’re not right for me” out there. Here are some ideas to keep your romantic pursuits from breaking the bank.
COFFEE DATE: Coffee shops tend to be an excellent place for a first in-person meeting. They’re ubiquitous, and very well-suited to quiet conversation. Unlike a movie – or even dinner out – nobody is locked into a set amount of time, and either person can easily wrap things up if they’re not going well, or stay and chat (or move on to another venue). It’s a wonderful, low-pressure encounter that’s an easy way to get to know the other person.
PICNIC IN THE PARK: If you live in a metropolitan area, it’s no doubt dotted with beautiful neighborhood parks. If you live in a more rural area, there are likely some great recreational areas nearby. Either way, a picnic is a good way to have some romance on a budget; feel out some of her favorite foods and snacks beforehand, pick them up at the grocery store, toss them in a basket, put some wine in a thermos, and grab a blanket. You’ll earn bonus points for being willing to do some prep-work for the date, and if your phone has decent volume (or you have a portable Bluetooth speaker), you can put on some soft music while you enjoy. This is another great way to be able to converse and get to know one another. Some places feature canoe or paddle boat rental too, which can make for a romantic, if somewhat risky, endeavor. Hiking trails may also be an option with less chance of getting inadvertently dunked. The downside to this plan is that you’re a hostage to the weather – be sure to keep an eye on the weather report and have a contingency plan in case a surprise rain shower puts your plan on hold.
MUSEUMS: Not only are admissions typically low or offer discount admission days, this shows a cultural interest, and gives you an opportunity to find some common ground, discuss which works or pieces are your favorite, your own experiences in travel and history, and the like. If you’re not great at first-date conversation, this can be a good way to provide distraction and take some of the pressure off with built-in topics for discussion. If you live in a metropolitan area, there will also be a lot of galleries and shows in the art district in which you can wander around. Science centers can be a lot of fun, too, especially those home to an IMAX theater. Which leads me to…
DISCOUNT MOVIE DAYS: My neighborhood theater has discount Tuesdays in which admission for two, tub of popcorn, and large drink is less than $15. While movies aren’t conducive to conversation, this is another great outlet if you don’t do well at first date getting-to-know-you chatting. Afterwards, you can grab coffee or a drink and discuss the movie, which can easily lead to discussion about movies and actors, and segue into more comfortable conversation. Many areas also have smaller theaters that show classic, art, or foreign films, which can boost your cultural cred. During summer months, a lot of parks will offer free movies; just grab a blanket and some snacks and lie in the park together.
BREWERY OR WINE TOUR: If you’re a fan of adult beverages, these are typically free, and an interesting educational experience that generally culminates in sampling the product in the tasting room.
BOOK TOUR/READING: Bookstores, libraries, and art venues host periodic author and poet readings free of charge; this is another great cultural outlet that can involve a potential partner in one of your interests.
BOWLING: Even with shoe rental, beers, and greasy snack bar fare, this is a fun. It can get quite loud, so conversation may be difficult, but this can be a lot of fun (as well as getting a nice view of your date’s… assets).
COMEDY: Amateur or open mike nights have low-cost admission, and laughing together is a bonding activity. Smaller venues often feature some of the bigger-name comedians at lower rates; keep an eye on schedules and ticket prices online.
FLEA MARKET: There are so many interesting, unusual, conversation-provoking items you can find here. You can also get an idea of your date’s sense of decorating style, share stories about the past as you encounter items from your childhood, or just talk about the weird stuff that a person can buy at a flea market.
DIVE BARS: Grab a domestic on tap and play some pool or darts, perhaps some karaoke? Dingy little bars are fun, and conversation flows a bit more freely after a couple of drinks. The environment means you don’t have to try to act classy, you can just relax and have a good time with no pretense.
TRIVIA NIGHT: Want to see whose command of useless knowledge is better? A lot of bars host weeknight trivia nights offering cash prizes or bar credit for top scorers – you could even come out ahead on this one!
LOCAL EVENTS: Check your local paper and sites that amalgamate area events to see what’s going on in your area, there are a lot of unique and inexpensive opportunities to be had.
COOKING: While a stranger might be reluctant to come to your home, if it’s someone with whom you’re already somewhat acquainted, this can be an excellent way to save a few dollars while showing off your kitchen game. Don’t have kitchen game? You need kitchen game – take a community education cooking class. Serve something light and quick and easy to make: fish, a side salad, and some dinner rolls will do the trick, and if your date offers to bring something, a bottle of wine makes an excellent and easy suggestion. Light some candles, put on some soft music, and watch your date enjoy someone else doing the prep-work for a meal instead of having to do so herself.
For further ideas, contact the Mi Concierge. We’ll seek out local events that will provide great inexpensive, unique date ideas that you’ll be sure to enjoy.