How to be a cheap date (but not a cheapskate)

I was recently asked to write an article for CBS’s ManCaveDaily about how to impress a girl without having to spend a lot of money or look cheap. It got me thinking about how tough it is for guys out there who are on a budget to date, especially in places like NYC where an inexpensive date night is harder to find than Britney Spears’ underwear. My advice to men was to not a let a girl pay for at least the first few dates, but after that ladies, you really should be offering to pick up a check here and there if you like the guy and want him to stick around.

So how do you plan an inexpensive but cute date without you yourself looking cheap?

1. Check social coupons

I recommended that guys never use coupons from sites like Groupon and Living Social for a dinner when you’re courting a woman. Why? Well since you have to make your server aware that you will be using a coupon, you run the risk of looking like a cheap-o. Same goes for ladies – save the coupons for dinner when you’re comfortable enough to wear no makeup around the guy. Instead, check these sites for deals on things like rounds at a shooting range or go-karting. Guys love that stuff, and they will never know that you got if for half price.

2. Check for free events

* Eventbrite pulls up events in your area that fit into your budget (even if you want something free).

* lists things like free museums, zoos and festivals going on in your hood.

* Community websites like in NYC will give you listings of fun free happenings in your area. Things like flea markets and outdoor concerts are always good date ideas.

* Volunteer together at a charity event in your area. Check community websites to do good together for something you both believe in. Aww.

It may be more difficult to find free things going on in smaller towns, but most cities will have listings online of things going on if you just google it.

3. Do lunch or brunch

lavo brunch party

These meals are generally much more inexpensive since you’re not having several courses and you probably aren’t drinking much (redflag if he’s wasted on mimosas at noon). These are the meals where neither one of you will feel bad about you picking up the check – and if you had fun, it could always lead up to a full day of activities. (Warning: If you live in NYC and he suggests going to LAVO brunch you should probably erase his number).

4. Cook for him (if you know how to)

This would only work for me if the guy didn’t mind breakfast for dinner since that’s all I can cook, but most guys would prefer to have a girl cook for him as opposed to going out. You should probably save this gesture for the third or fourth date to be sure he’s not psycho before you end up alone in one of your apartments. Cooking something like spaghetti and meatballs is super inexpensive, and if you’re a good cook he just might overlook all of your other emotional issues.

5. Be active

* Do something like ice skating or renting bikes that will allow you to save money on a fancy dinner but also give you insight to the level of athleticism in your potential future mate.

* Activities like bowling or the driving range are also cheap but fun dates to see if he’s a sore loser.

* Taking a drive to a place you can hike is always a great date as well. Just be sure to pack a lunch so you don’t get hangry and yell at him for having terrible navigational skills.

* If one of you belongs to a gym with great classes – take one together. Or sign both of you up for a class at a yoga or spin studio. Guys love seeing a girl all fit and sweaty.

I still believe that guys should be the ones to plan the first couple of dates (and pick up the check), but once you know he’s a keeper – putting some effort into planning fun dates and insisting on taking care of it  will do wonders to show him that YOU’RE a keeper too.




  1. Cooking a meal yourself is a great option. You can buy all the best ingredients, wine etc. for a fraction of the price of a meal out. Also it can really impress a girl if you know your food and wine, and know how to cook.

  2. An inexpensive date for foodie types is a wine tasting. Lots of wine shops offer them and the shops that host regular events tend to be fairly inexpensive. In my area they are $15 to $20 per person and often include fun extras like a great cheese plate. Also, if you live in an area with a decent selection of ethnic food a fun date could be going to check out the place that is supposed to have the best pho or pizza or Indian or whatnot. This is also a great way to gauge how adventurous your date is, if that matters to you. One last thought: lots of upscale places offer happy hours and have good deals on appetizers and drinks. It’s a great way to have a reasonably priced date in an upscale environment.

  3. Doing things that are free is a great idea. Going for a walk in a park or cooking dinner can be a great way to really get to know a person. If all someone wants is lavish gifts or expensive meals then at least you know they’re probably not for you.

    • Or they’re a hooker. Just kidding. I agree – a guy who puts effort is always more appreciated than someone trying to impress you with expensive dates.

  4. Many guys like women who cook, I know I do. 😉

    If you guys both like history, it’s often great to go to historical sites if you have some locally around. Those are usually free and it’s always great to learn about the early Americans.

  5. I expect the man to pay on a first date but will always offer to share the bill. If he does pay, I will invite him on the next one and keep things relatively even during dating. You have nice activities on your post, I enjoy the active ones the most, at least if the date goes bad you get to exercise and it is a great conversation starter.

  6. If a guy goes dutch, it is a deal breaker for me. A guy should always, always pay. It’s just common chivalry.

    • I think at first a guy should definitely pay. As the relationship gets more comfortable, I think it’s fair to pay every now and then – but I agree, once you start splitting everything the chivalry is pretty much dead.

  7. I agree that the guy should offer to pay, but I can’t let him go through with it, not until we’ve been out enough times. Totally backwards, I know. I just never want to feel like I owe a guy something because he paid for my dinner.

    • I know – a lot of people share that opinion that you don’t want to feel indebted if you’re not sure how you feel about a guy, although hopefully a guy would never make you feel that way!

  8. TFM, Like your ideas for fun and inexpensive date ideas. I also agree the guy should always pay for the 1st couple of dates. Like you said if the relationship starts getting more serious then you can dutch – especially when many gals are earning more than the guys. My daughter did a fun video on inexpensive dates you might like.
    Keep up the great work and I don’t know how you do it in New York.. Expensive..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *