Looking for love is never easy, but dating doesn't need to break the bank, especially as potential partners are increasingly likely to value substance over style during a recession.
Consider these tips to help you whittle the costs of wooing and give the phrase "cheap date" new meaning.
1. Do Your Homework: Does your date dig dive bars? Or a neighborhood taqueria? Sometimes finding a hole-in-the-wall place -- instead of relying on the trendiest spot -- will save you money and could earn you brownie points. Just be careful: Suggesting drinks someplace that only serves Natural Light isn't going to be a home run with everyone.
2. Get Cultural: Museums, aquariums, zoos and planetariums are guaranteed to provide entertainment, education and -- best of all -- conversation starters so they're usually worth the low price of admission. If that's still too much, go on their free or reduced-price days.
3. Check the Calendar: With summer comes an abundance of free -- or cheap -- outdoor activities. Check with your community's parks department for festivals, free concerts, theater in the park, outdoor movie nights, even dance lessons. Your local library or university event calendar will offer lectures, book readings and film screenings. And few events offer more free cachet than an opening at an offbeat art gallery.
4. Make it Yourself: Pack a picnic -- roasting a chicken just ahead of time provides an easy treat -- and head to a local botanical garden, nature preserve, beach or park. Make sure you bring a blanket and some hot chocolate if it's chilly and you're thinking of hanging out under the stars. Or follow up with a bike ride, hike or easy stroll to burn off the calories.
5. Brown Bag It: Check ahead whether your dining spot will let you bring along your favorite wine or a six-pack. Even with a corkage fee, bringing your own drinks will cost less than ordering from the menu at most restaurants, where a glass of wine typically costs as much as you would pay for the whole bottle at a store.
Do you have other suggestions? Leave them in the comments.