Make Love, Not Debt: A Guide To Budget-Friendly Dating

After reading a recent report from the BBC stating that the current recession may have more negative than positive effects on our dating life, I started thinking about whether this was really true. Yes, money worries can be a huge obstacle to relationship building, but as the author of the report, relationship psychologist Susan Quillam, points out, surely animal attraction offers the most reliable and least expensive source of comfort when times get rough, right?Not necessarily. The problem with dating during a recession, of course, is the high cost of going out these days. We’ve been bombarded with advice on how to save money by staying in, eating at home, and checking out library books instead of catching the latest flick, without much concern for what effect these shifts in behavior will have on our social lives. How do you convince the cute guy from work that library books make a hot date?

Thinking back over my dating experiences and those of other women I know, however, I realize that some of the best dates I’ve had have also been the cheapest (money-wise, of course!). Although a three-course meal at the city’s finest restaurant followed by a night of dancing has its own merits, the best way to get to know someone is often to spend time in each other’s elements, participating in activities you both enjoy on a daily basis. After all, if you’re looking for a possible long-term relationship, it’s nice to know that you can enjoy each other’s company without all the trimmings we typically associate with dating. These ideas may help get you on your way.

Cheap Thrills

Fly kites
This how-to guide and video shows you how to make your own using newsprint and other craft items. You’ll both have a lot of fun working together and you’ll feel like kids again.

Plan a scavenger hunt with other couples
One couple can scope out a museum, park, or even a busy part of town and plan a list of items for the others to find. Competition is a great way for you and your date to bond. This could also make a great first date if you’re being set up by friends and are feeling awkward about too much solo time right away.

Get your festival on
Most cities (large and small) offer some kind of seasonal festival or street fair. They’re free, have lots of cheap, tasty food, and you can have fun enjoying live music, arts and crafts, and rides with your date. There’s no pressure, either, since you’re both out just enjoying the neighborhood together.

High Art, Low Cost

Gallery hop
If you’re both interested in art, check out a museum that doesn’t charge admission or offers free days. You can also attend a student art show; these are usually free and serve refreshments. Check out high school or college Web sites to find information about the student art league.

Book it
Find a local independent bookstore that encourages browsing and/or hosts readings. You can bond with your date over favorite books and enjoy the atmosphere. Most bookstores have a calendar of events available online.

Get friendly with science
If there’s a planetarium or science museum nearby, see if they have a music laser show. These are usually inexpensive and romantic (à la Ross and Rachel’s first date on Friends). Science museum exhibits also offer plenty of “hands-on” entertainment, if you get my drift.

Nature Lovers

Connect with the environment
If you’re both outdoorsy, grab a bird or botany book and take it along on a hike, looking for local species as you go.

Stargaze
Nature is its own theater. Get a star chart and see if you can spot constellations together, or find out the time for sunrise or sunset that day. Grab a blanket, hot chocolate, and some snacks and you’ve got all you need for one of the most romantic dates imaginable.

Of course, the price range of a date all depends on who will be paying, an issue that remains contentious, even in our post-women’s lib society. An msnbc.com survey of about 74,000 readers found that about two thirds of men, especially younger ones, want women to chip in after a few dates, but 44 percent of women are bothered if a man expects them to help pay. (The survey only polled heterosexual couples, admittedly a major oversight.) The other 57 percent of women, who were mostly younger, always offer to pay (even on the first date), but 34 percent of them are bothered if their date accepts. During a recession, when both parties suffer from competing demands on their wallets, this issue can become even more heated.

Ultimately, who pays and how much is an issue for you to decide with your date. However, regardless of who foots the bill, suggesting a budget-friendly activity like the ones above can help to ease the tension and get your date—or your relationship (who knows?)—off to a great start.

By Molly Mann. Want to read more articles like this one? Visit DivineCaroline.com, or check out these related links:

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