**I don’t deal with “free date” ideas–that stuff is fine when you already know someone or are in a relationship, but asking someone you just met over to your house for movie night or for walk on the beach at night is just creepy**
When you are single, it’s sometimes difficult to date.
Normal pressures of life take up enough time
- (Maybe) your religion
Repeating the first date scenario over and over also takes a toll on your finances.
You may be “ready to mingle” but often times it can cost a pretty penny to do so.
Many people like to throw out suggestions for free dates.
Many of those ideas are simply too intimate for an initial meeting between strangers.
That’s why the most common activity for such occasions is coffee or drinks.
Quick and easy, but eventually those dates start to add up.
The good thing is that there are ways to minimize the costs.
Tip: the best way is to choose right and get off the first date carousel!
Most people aren’t millionaires and don’t have the means to hire someone or do the things that you see on the Millionaire Matchmaker.
Flying someone around the city in a helicopter.
Closing a museum for a private exhibition.
Jetting of a different city for a 10-course dinner (which by the way is ridiculously stupid to do if you don’t know each other or even know if you can stand being alone with them for more than 10 minutes).
Those just aren’t thing most people can do.
Instead, the regular folks have to rely on friends, family, co-workers and (now) the internet to meet possible love interests.
But besides emails and phone calls, how do you get to know someone to see if there is any attraction and common interests?
You spend time with them.
Talking and learning about their interests, goals, dreams, etc.
Can you do that in a movie theater?
Or at a concert in the park?
How about in a club with hundreds of others around and music pumping through speakers bigger than your entire body?
Nope, that is why drinks and coffee tops the list for first meetings.
It can be brief in case there is no chemistry but it can go on for as long as possible should that chemistry be undeniable.
It also provides a great environment for the one thing that is essential for learning all about another person: communication.
But, what if you are saving for something and on a budget?
Or if you simply don’t have a lot of extra cash after paying all of your bills?
There are a few ways to do the traditional meal and drinks scenario without blowing your entire stack of cash just on dating:
Everyone knows that lunch is cheaper in almost every restaurant (I did say restaurant, not fast food chain) than dinner.
Right there you are going to be saving some money.
Additionally, since most people don’t drink during the day (unless you are on vacation), the bill will automatically be a little less since to attract people during those times.
This option also gives the non-monetary advantage of putting a time constrain on the meeting in case it just isn’t working!
Happy hour dates can be a great choice for several reasons.
For one, you are already going to be saving money as this is the time when almost every establishment offers it’s best deals.
Aside from that, there is a growing trend of independent establishments passing out free appetizers during their happy hour, which gives you the double benefit of free food and discounted drinks.
Monday through Thursday are typically the slower nights for many in the food and beverage industry, so it only makes sense to go out on those nights.
First, there are more deals offered just to attract people on these less-than active nights.
Second, since the weekends don’t need any additional promotion, these establishments often disallow any coupons so you get the added benefit of being able to use your coupons at these times.
Plus, with less people comes less nose which makes for easier conversations.
Using Social Media
With the spread of social media use among businesses come benefits to the patrons.
There is a trend now for many places in the dining & entertainment industry to promote specials via social media.
Some places offer a free drink at the bar when you check into their location on Facebook.
Others will give you a discount or a free appetizer when you tweet that you are there.
On Foursquare, too, some places will give you a free item with a check-in.
Credit Card Statement Bonuses
Many credit cards give you bonus rewards (point/miles/cash back) for dining out.
What you may not know is that some cards even give you a statement credit when you use your card at certain places at certain times.
I have American Express cards for both personal use and my business.
As part of those cards, there is something called “Amex Offers”.
This program has a bunch of offers that I can select to be added to my card and gives me much more benefit than regular transactions.
An example is below–$5 back on $20 and $10 back on $40–those are statement credits at 25%. Where else are you going to get that kind of return on spending that you will probably do anyway?
So if you happen to have a credit card which offers this kind of bonus reward program, then you can choose one of those places for a first date (assuming its appropriate) and not have to break the bank.
Plus, you still get your regular rewards, so it’s like a double win!
This is by no means a how-to article or anything along those lines.
This is simply a few practical ideas for single to use if they are interested in saving a little dough (pun definitely intended) while going through the motions, navigating the dating pool.
Are there other ways to save?
Are they all appropriate for the first time you meet someone?
There is a reason most first encounters turn out to be drinks or a meal, and it is a foregone conclusion that you will have to spend some money, so why not minimize the cost as best you can?
What are your best tips for trying to navigate the dating world when faced with a limited budget (time or money)? Do you even bother any more or are you still holding out hope that the next one may be your “last first” everything? Let’s compare notes below!