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The Backyard Blog

Unique take on popular topics, useful resources and financial advice by renowned writers, specialized experts and experienced bloggers.


December 1st, 2015

101 Ways To Save On Dating

There’s no way around it: dating can be expensive. Dating websites charge a premium, clothes and grooming to enhance your physical attractiveness can add up, and then there’s the date itself. Restaurants, entertainment, tickets, and drinks: none of it comes cheap. Date a lot, and it can really break your budget if you’re not careful. Fortunately, there are lots of less expensive options and ways to show someone special a good time without spending a big chunk of your paycheck. And, you can do it without looking like a total cheapskate. Here are 101 ideas to get you started.

Finding a Date:

1. You don’t have to spend money to meet people. If you’re single, chances are good that you have friends and family who are always talking about introducing you to another friend, colleague, or acquaintance. Take them up on their offers.

2. If your friends aren’t asking if they can introduce you to someone, ask them if they have any single friends who might be compatible with you.

3. Dating websites can be pricey, but many have free introductory periods or even free trial weeks (often around Valentine’s Day). Find out when you can use these sites for free, and then use them.

4. Get out and meet people! Go to mixers, parties, or any place where you’re likely to meet other singles. Wear your best smile, and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to others.

Having Drinks:

5. If you’re looking for a good drink and don’t want to spend a lot, the two best words in the English language are “happy hour.” Almost every bar and restaurant has one every day, usually right as the work day ends, which is a great time to meet a date for a drink.

6. Bars and restaurants often mark up alcohol at least 100%. Save money on cocktails by inviting a date over for a drink.

7. If you’re out and you know that you and your date will drink several glasses of wine, it’s cheaper to order a whole bottle than to order one glass at a time.

8. Check out your preferred establishment’s drink specials of the day. These are often lower priced than their regular offerings.

9. Go to a cozy neighborhood pub rather than a flashy club or high priced restaurants. Drinks at a local bar are almost always lower priced than at more centrally located places.

10. Breweries and brew pubs have great beer and lots of it, often at fairly reasonable prices.

11. If you live near a wine producing area, check out a few wineries. Some may charge a small price to taste their wines, but many let you taste for free without any obligation to buy.

12. Limit your own alcohol consumption when you’re on a date. Often, your date will notice that you’re not knocking them back and will keep to your slow pace. As an added bonus, you won’t become drunk and sloppy.

13. Who says alcohol is necessary for a fun date? Coffee is the perfect alternative. Plus, many coffee houses have free entertainment, like live music, board games, and more.

14. Consider other drink possibilities. Milkshakes and smoothies are tasty, and fresh juice joints are trendy and offer a healthy product to boot.

Sharing a Meal or a Snack:

15. Expensive dinners at a fancy restaurant are perfect for a special occasion, but they’re also pricey. If you’re trying to save money, they’re not a good option for a first, second, or even third date.

16. Show off your culinary skills and cook for your date.

17. Or, cook with your date. Things like rolling your own sushi, making your own pasta, or any other hands-on dish is a good choice.

18. Pick up several different types of a single food at the market and have a tasting. Things like cheese, chocolate, tomatoes, or any other food that comes in many varieties will work.

19. Make some sandwiches, grab a bottle of wine (and a wine opener!), take a blanket, and have a low-key picnic

20. If you go out to eat at a restaurant, consider sharing a few appetizers rather than ordering two entrees.

21. Ethnic food is often very tasty and very inexpensive. Consider an authentic Chinese, Thai, Italian, Indian, or any other ethnic restaurant instead of a pricey high-end place.

22. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, eat on the street. Street food and food trucks often have unusual and delicious offerings for minimal prices.

23. Everyone loves pizza! Whether out at a red checked tablecloth pizzaria or bringing one in to eat while you watch the game, it’s hard to go wrong with this favorite.

24. Fondue restaurants may be cool, but they often have jacked-up prices. Skip them in favor of a regular restaurant.

25. Or, make your own fondue instead. It’s easy, it’s inexpensive, and it’s fun to eat with a special someone.

26. Instead of going out for dinner, try going out for lunch or even breakfast instead, when restaurant prices tend to be lower.

27. Instead of a meal, go out for ice cream.

28. Not really ice cream weather? Go out for just dessert.

29. Many cities have a restaurant week, where the area’s best eateries offer their best food at fixed, reasonable prices. It’s a great week to go out on a date.

30. If you’re comfortable using a Groupon deal on a date, look for a good one and take advantage of it.

Going Out and Having Fun:

31. Movies are a popular date activity, but to save a few bucks, hit a matinee instead of an evening screening.

32. Snag free sneak preview tickets and see the latest flick at no cost. Check your local newspaper for free ticket opportunities, or sign up to receive notification about free sneak previews in your area at

33. Try not to overdo it with snacks at the movies. You can easily drop $20 on little more than popcorn and sugar water.

34. When the weather’s nice, lots of cities and parks offer free outdoor movies at sundown. Check to see if this is a possibility in your area.

35. Visit the drive in for inexpensive, nostalgic movie fun. Plus, many offer double features, meaning you get two movies for the price of one.

36. Love the theatre? Check out smaller theatre companies rather than big name productions. The tickets are usually much cheaper, but the performances can be just as electric.

37. Or, check out a local high school performance, where the talent is unknown but production values can be very high. Many schools perform fall dramas and spring musicals, and tickets are often under $10.

38. Wait until the day of your date and see if you can score rush tickets to a bigger show.

39. Find a local production of Shakespeare in the Park; these are often free and open to the public. Be sure to get there early for a good view of the stage.

40. You can also find free concerts at parks in good weather, with all kinds of music from classical to jazz to country to rock.

41. If you and your date love music, check out a local band. You can usually get into the performance venue for just a small cover charge.

42. Big museums often charge big admission fees, but smaller, out of the way museums are often just a few bucks or free. They’re often less crowded too, giving you and your date a bit more freedom to chat as you peruse.

43. Or, find out when the big museums near you offer free admission days or evenings, and plan your dates around their schedules.

44. Laugh with your date at an amateur stand up comedy show. If it’s funny, you’ll smile a lot. If it’s not, you can laugh at how bad it was.

45. Along the same lines, improve troupes can also inject a good dose of laughter into any date night.

46. Excite the kid in you and your date with a round or two of mini golf.

47. Or, swing for the fences at the batting cages. A few stacks of quarters will get you lots of pitches — and maybe giggles.

48. Visit an old school arcade and go head to head in a few games of Donkey Kong or Pac Man.

49. Love animals? Visit a local zoo, where you can see wildlife and have access to acres of great walking areas for a small admission charge.

50. Go bowling for a relaxed, low key, and inexpensive evening. As an added bonus, most bowling alleys have cheap beer and snacks.

51. Lace up your skates and go ice skating. Outdoor rinks are ideal in the winter, but indoor rinks are usually open year round. If your date is having a hard time balancing, you can always hold hands.

52. Another fun winter date idea to bring out the kid in you: sledding. Buy an inexpensive sled at your local big box retailer, bundle up, and hit the hills.

53. Ice not your thing? Try roller skating for a good dose of romantic 1980s nostalgia.

54. Shoot pool at a local bar or billiards hall.

55. Not good at pool? Try your aim and throw some darts.

56. Find a local bingo hall, buy a few cards, and try to win the jackpot. Not only is this an inexpensive date option, but if you’re lucky, you’ll walk out with more money in your pocket than you walked in with.

57. Show off your smarts at a local pub’s trivia night.

58. Dancing is often a great date activity, but flashy clubs can charge a hefty cover. Find a bar or club that charges a lot less (or one that has free admission) and get your groove on.

59. Love watching sports? Instead of the big leagues, check out a minor league game. You get the same excitement as the professional teams, but with much cheaper tickets and considerably lower prices on concessions.

60. If you’re near a lake or river, rent a kayak or canoe and paddle as you and your date chat.

61. Think seasonally. Activities like apple picking and hay rides through a pumpkin patch are perfect, inexpensive daytime date ideas.

62. Show off your literary side by taking your date to a poetry reading.

63. Belt out classic tunes (or try to) with your date at a karaoke night.

64. Gas up your car and go for a scenic drive. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find great roads for cruising all year long, though autumn is always a prime time for fall color drives.

More Ideas That Are Practically Free:

65. Build a fire, either outdoors in a fire pit or indoors in the fireplace. Roast marshmallows, make s’mores, and have an amazing conversation.

66. Watch the sunset in a scenic spot. Or, if you and your date are super early risers, watch the sun rise.

67. Go for a walk on a beach, along a river, or near any large body of water.

68. Check out a local playground in the evening when most of the kids are gone. Go down the slides, have fun on the swings, and reminisce about your younger days with your date.

69. Be awed by the magnitude of the universe! Find a secluded spot, lie on a blanket, and stargaze.

70. Pack a backpack full of tasty provisions, strap on your boots, and go for a hike.

71. Or, if you and your date are urban dwellers, go for a walk downtown or in an interesting neighborhood.

72. Visit an art opening. It’s a free yet high class thing to do, it’s often free, and there’s usually free food and (sometimes) wine.

73. Play cards. To keep things interesting, make the game strip poker.

74. Give each other a back rub.

75. Get sporty! Shoot some hoops together, play tennis, or even throw a baseball around.

76. Have a game night at home. You can learn a lot about your date’s morals and personal philosophies by observing how they play chess, checkers, Scrabble, Monopoly, and more.

77. Or, plug in and play some video games.

78. Get artsy with your date. Paint together, take photos together, or draw together.

79. Bake cookies. Fun, inexpensive, hands-on, and fresh warm cookies when you’re done. Don’t forget the milk.

80. In the summer time, walk around a local farmer’s market. Many even have vendors selling ready to eat food for breakfast or lunch. Whatever money you do spend will support local growers and help the local economy.

81. Stroll through an outdoor art fair.

82. In the early spring, get out in the wind and fly a kite.

83. Or, go for a bike ride and watch the flowers come up. You can laugh at how silly you look in your helmets.

84. If it’s the first snowfall, get your woolies on and build a snowman.

85. If it’s the holiday season, walk around and check out the lights.

86. Ski resorts can be expensive, but if you and your date have cross country skis, you can ski any open terrain for free.

Other Tips:

87. When dating, pay with cash to keep track of what you spend.

88. Don’t spend money you don’t have to impress a date, especially one you’re not sure you like.

89. Clothes may make the man, but keep your wardrobe reasonable, and make sure it’s a good reflection of what you normally wear.

90. Shop for “date clothes” on sale, at outlet stores, or at discount stores, where you can usually get great-looking stuff for a fraction of the retail price.

91. You can buy flowers for your date, or you can pick wildflowers for your date instead. Both are appreciated, but the latter is free.

92. You can’t control what your date orders, but you can control what you order. Avoid ordering the most expensive drinks or entree. If your date follows suit, great. If not, at least you saved a little bit.

93. Dating someone who lives far away is always more expensive than dating someone in town, since your transportation costs to see the person are always higher. Date local as much as you can.

94. Show off your skills. If you are a musician, teach your date to play an instrument. If you are a pilot, take your date flying.

95. In general, more intimate dates involve talking and sharing stories more than spending money. Keep that in mind.

96. Don’t go out with people you don’t really like just for the sake of going out.

97. This may sound cruel, but if you are trying to save money on dating, try to avoid dating anyone who is unemployed. You’ll always have to pay.

98. Don’t agree to or pursue a second date with someone who subtly (or not so subtly) spends a lot of your money on the first date.

99. If your date conveniently forgets his or her wallet when you go out, that’s also a deal breaker.

100. Keep searching for new ideas for dates on a shoestring. Keep a Pinterest board if that’s your thing.

101. If all else fails, suggest “going Dutch.” That often means you have little chance at a second date, but at least you’ll be responsible only for yourself.



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