7 Affordable First-Dates That Won’t Make You Look Cheap

A couple on a cheap date

A couple on a cheap date | Source: iStock

Finding true love has never been more expensive. Treating someone to dinner, drinks, a movie, and coffee costs between $88.62 and $178.88 in major U.S. cities. Go out once a week and you could easily end up spending several hundred dollars per month in your attempt to find your soul mate. And that doesn’t even account for the other costs that can come with dating, like cab fare, flowers (if you’re the romantic type), a dress-to-impress wardrobe, and monthly membership fees for dating sites.

With the pressure on to wow a would-be significant other, dropping a lot of cash on a first date may seem like a necessary evil to some men. But wining and dining in the most expensive restaurants isn’t the only way to a person’s heart, say experts.

“Paying for the date is not about the money; it’s about the willingness to show your date you are willing to put in effort and contribute,” relationship blogger and speaker James Michael Sama told Fox News.

In other words, when it comes to dating, sometimes it really is the thought that counts. You definitely want to make a great impression when you take someone out for the first time, but that doesn’t have to mean maxing out your credit card. Of course, you don’t want to look like skinflint either. To help you out, we’ve put together this list of seven first-date ideas that are budget-friendly without seeming cheap.

1. Farmer’s market

Fresh Vegetables, Farmer's Market

Source: iStock

Foodies can’t go wrong with an afternoon spent wandering the stalls at the local farmer’s market. Pick up some fresh flowers, chat with the sellers, taste a few samples, and (if things are going well), grab the ingredients for a simple picnic (cheese, fresh fruit, bread). Then, head to a local park and watch the sun set.

To find a farmer’s market in your area, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s farmer’s market directory.

2. Volunteer together

Do you both have a passion for the environment? Are you each crazy about dogs? If you share a commitment to a common cause, a volunteering date can be a great way to get to know someone. And rather than spending a lot of money, you’re giving back to the community.

For this to work well, the volunteer activity should be something that allows you to work together. Also, be sure to suggest volunteering for an organization that you are really passionate about, not just something that you think will make you look good.

3. Movies in the park

Many cities host free outdoor screening of movies in local parks during the summer months. Pack a blanket, dinner, and a bottle of wine, and enjoy a film under the stars. If music is more your thing, check out the schedule of free outdoor concerts in your area.

4. Miniature golf

mini golf

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Mini golf is perfect for a casual daytime date. You’ll be busy doing an activity, which keeps things moving and gives you something to talk about. Even if neither of you is a good putter, most people can have fun and laugh at themselves while trying to hit a ball through the windmill.

A round of mini golf is usually pretty inexpensive. If you’re having fun, follow up things up with dinner or drinks, and if things aren’t going well, you can just call it a day – no need to suffer through a long meal in silence.

5. Trivia night

Quick, what’s the capital of Latvia? (Answer: Riga) If you’re a trivia buff, spend your first date at a local bar’s quiz night. Participating in a trivia challenge keeps the conversation flowing and lets you get to know each other without having to fall back on boring questions. (This writer for The Frisky insists a quiz night is actually the perfect first date, since it reveals so much about someone’s personality.) All it costs is a round or two of beers, and if you win, you may get a gift certificate or prize money that you can use for your second date.

“Most quiz nights cover a range of topics, so this will give you a sense of your date’s interests and humor. It might also tell you if they are a graceful winner or loser,” Vinita Mehta, Ph.D., told Psychology Today.

6. Gallery crawl

asian couple in art gallery

Source: iStock

If your city has an arts district, find out on which nights the galleries open their doors for an art walk or gallery crawl. These events, which are typically free, are a way to find out more about the local art scene. Cap the evening off with a drink at a local bar or coffee shop.

7. Hiking

Sporty types shouldn’t overlook outdoor activities like hiking for a first date. While you’ll have to be willing to get a little sweaty, exploring the local trails is not only fun, but it’s also free or very cheap – at most you’ll have to pay a parking or entrance fee at a local park. Plus, you may both feel more at ease.

“[B]ecause you’re outside, everything feels less claustrophobic,” Joy Browne, author of Dating for Dummies, told Kiplinger. “It’s easy and relaxed.”

If hiking is on your first-date agenda, consider a popular trail where lots of people will be around, especially if you don’t know your date well.

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS

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