The art of the cheap date

The art of the cheap date

Abundance Creativity Dating

How not to break your bank

In the previous post, Larry asked for my thoughts on dating while unemployed (HERE). While I find it’s important to focus on finding employment and not be distracted by “why can’t I find my perfect match” obsessions, I do know you can get out there and date for fun.  (Check out how to transform sucky or overwrought dating into fun dating – HERE.)

Whether we like it or not, money troubles can rock our foundations. Being unemployed or in financial trouble causes a great deal of stress, which affects our moods, our health, our outlook on life. I get this…I’ve gone through my own experiences with not having enough money coming in and trying to create a long-term relationship with someone.

If you’re not feeling great about yourself, if you feel desperate to have a relationship, if you feel that being in a relationship will rescue you from your current woes, you will more than likely get involved in a relationship that is unsustainable (from a healthy point of view). Most relationships – unless the couple proactively seeks support from a therapist or relationship coach – do not survive ongoing financial woes and the side-effects that come with it.

In a future post, we’ll take a look at socio-economic stressors on relationships, considering that, in the U.S., the middle class is under tremendous pressure and more and more people are falling under the poverty line. But for now, let’s focus on getting you a new job and let’s explore ways you can still enjoy going out.

Look on the bright side

I know you’re probably overwhelmed with feeling miserable about yourself and your situation. But there is an upside of dating while money is tight: you’ll be able to sort through the people who may be looking for a free ride or who demand to be treated lavishly or who want to be taken care of. If you’re ultimately looking for a healthy relationship, when your financial boat is up-righted, I don’t think these kinds of people are the ones for you.

Before planning a cheap date

First, think about the things you enjoy doing with someone else (i.e. a walk on the beach or in the park) and talk about these things with your potential date. He or she may enjoy the same type of activities. Many times the things that are most enjoyable to people do not include a big price tag.

And remember to think out of the box. Most people do not engage their creativity at all when planning the first few dates and think it’s all about going out to dinner. If you’re creative in this way, you’ll definitely make a better impression AND you’ll do a much better job at screening.

Also, be clear as to your current situation and how your primary focus is on your career right now. Tell the whole truth, without apology, early and often. You don’t necessarily have to blurt out your employment situation within the first point of contact, but it’s important to set up realistic expectations early on and not give people false hope. And who knows, maybe this person can actually help in some way.  Plus, do you really want to hang out with someone who doesn’t respect your need to be financially responsible?

Remember that regardless of your financial situation, the first few dates are better spent in face to face low-cost or no-cost activities anyway. You need the face time to screen for fit. Be authentic and generous with your attention. Focus all of it on your potential partner and they’ll feel the richness of your presence. This is a far greater gift than the presence of financial richness.

Finally, do consider seeking the assistance of a certified professional coach. A coach, if examined solely from a cost-benefit analysis, will help you get you where you want to be more quickly – from feeling better about yourself to mapping out a game plan to find a new job as well as find people with whom you want to spend time. As I always say, when you love your life, you’re in a much better position to find the love of your life – and working with a coach like me can help.

Meanwhile, check out these low or no-cost date options:

couple playing poolPlan a Low-key Cocktail Excursion

Skip the pricey wine bar and grab a drink at your local low-key bar. Make sure you pick a place with a pool table or dartboard set up. Some bars I’ve been to also have chess games and checkers. You can learn a lot about people when you play some sort of game with them.

Get an Adrenaline Rush

Go to a rollerskating or iceskating rink or indoor rock climbing gym. It’s a great way to have fun with each other. If being physically active or in good health is a top value for you, this is a good way of weeding out those who do not feel the same way

Couple riding bikesTake a Bike Ride

Dust off your bikes and head to the park to take a spin on the bike trails. Bike riding is fun, relaxing and great exercise. After the ride is over, park your bikes and enjoy the great outdoors. Then at the end, celebrate with a cup of hot cocoa or combine it with a picnic so you can have another great activity to look forward to.

Plan a Themed Picnic

Everyone loves a picnic, but a themed picnic is even better. How about a detective-themed picnic? All you have to do is pack up your picnic food, grab a blanket and some Post-it notes with clues written on them. Have your date find the clues in your picnic area. The answers to the clues can be anything you packed, anything either of you is wearing, or something in the environment.

Take a Trip to the Gardens

Most large cities have botanical gardens with low admission fees. In fact, many have special times of the month when entrance is free. Take advantage of the free admissions days and visit the gardens. Take a light lunch with you and sit on a bench in the gardens and enjoy one another’s company. After lunch, take a stroll through the gardens and enjoy a wonderful conversation while admiring the beautiful plants and flowers.

Go Apple Picking

Spend the day picking apples or other seasonal fruit at a local farm. Once you’ve picked all the fruit you can carry back to the car, you can always plan for the next date to get creative in the kitchen and think up some recipes with the fruit you picked. You can then judge each other’s creations, Top Chef style.

Take a Tour of Local Wineries, Breweries – or Chocolate Makers

The easiest way of enjoying cocktails on the cheap? Take a tour of a winery or brewery. Most local wineries charge an incredibly small fee for 10 tastings (which amounts to 2 standard sized glasses of wine). Plus, if it’s a small winery, chances are you’ll be able to talk with the owners themselves, who are always glad to share their passion for what they do.

Keep Up on Entertainment Specials

Dying to see a play but can’t afford the tickets? Call around to see if you can buy tickets to the dress rehearsal instead. You’ll pay a fraction of the cost for a “behind the scenes” experience. Keep your eyes on Living Social or GroupOn for special offers and deals to local restaurants.

open mic nightExplore Local Book Signings/Poetry Readings/Live Music/Comedy Club Amateur Nights

Wherever you live, chances are there are local bands dying for an audience. Check out local music venues in your area and go to a show. Of course, bear in mind that loud, live music is not overly conducive to getting to know someone. Perhaps an author or poet you enjoy or are curious about is doing a live reading. I also know there are usually some comedy improv groups who host amateur nights at local venues, too. Or maybe you’re brave and want to explore open mic nights.

Attend a Free Cultural Event

Many cities have free or low-cost museums. Museums are great places to talk and learn about each other as well as to enjoy art, history or whatever the theme of the museum. Items in museums can serve as great conversation pieces, which helps you avoid those awkward moments of silence.

Visit Your Local Coffee Shop

You can’t go wrong with a coffee shop — even if you don’t drink coffee. Coffee shops usually have live music, poetry readings, and other events on different nights. If there is no event going on, consider bringing a board game along to play while sipping on your favorite hot or cold drink.

Take Art Classes Together

Right now there is a current fad of painting classes for those who have no artistic talent whatsoever. So if you’re not a budding Picasso, you have nothing to worry about. Plus, stretching yourself in this way can be a great opportunity to show people just how gracefully or humorously you roll.

Attend a Local Minor League Baseball Game

Tickets can be as cheap as $10 and are a fun way of enjoying baseball.


Honestly, as I look over these ideas, I’m thinking – why the heck not enjoy them with your friends, too. These ideas are a lot of fun … and dating is not the only way to enjoy them. Plus when you hang out with your friends, you’re strengthening your support network … and I’d bet that you could really benefit from that right now.

Have fun!


Featured Image (c) Liz Morrow