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Dating on a tight budget

You've made a love connection, but now you're weary of the wooing process because you're on a tight budget. But don't worry, because dating without much cash is possible and it can allow you to be creative while showing your date a good time. If you think that showing your true frugal colors may be a turn-off, then no need to tell your honey how much money you're saving.

Shel Horowitz, author of The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty on a Peasant's Pocketbook, is a frugal guru with more than 25 years of experience in saving money, time and lowering your cost of living.

"Always investigate if there is a cheaper way or a cheaper option," Horowitz said. He gave the example of going to see a show at a community theater where the seats are often right at the stage, instead of buying the "cheaper" tickets to a Broadway show in the nosebleed section. Horowitz said he has seen the advantages of finding cheaper or free alternatives; they far outweigh the benefits, and are more rewarding.

When you are dating on a budget, Horowitz advises you to be a little adventurous.

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As a frugal-minded fun seeker, Horowitz admitted that he was beyond broke when he graduated college, but did things like volunteering in a coffeehouse to hear entertainment for free. Horowitz's Web site,, provides information and tips on saving money and enjoying life. The Web site also offers free monthly Frugal Fun tips, which you can receive through e-mail.

In "17 Great Romantic Dates for Penny Pinchers" Horowitz makes these suggestions:

  • Test drive a sports car together.

  • Browse a ritzy museum gift shop or art gallery.

  • Find a dark, romantic bistro with great coffees and desserts, or an independent bookstore that encourages browsing.

  • Spend the whole evening dressed and acting as characters from a play, movie or book that you both enjoyed.

More tips:

  • Do some star gazing at a local college observatory. It's open to the public during the school year and free.

  • Have a picnic and explore a state or national park. You'd be surprised what you learn when you're closer to nature. Admission to these parks is usually under $10 or free.

  • See a music laser show at a planetarium for around $6. Watch the colors fly through the air to some popular music.

  • Check out a poetry reading or other events at a bookstore. Sometimes snacks or beverages are provided. Some bookstores have a calendar listing for all of their events.

  • Create a food theme night (like Mexican, Mediterranean or Italian), and cook each other a dinner and appetizer at home.

  • Rent a canoe or kayak and go out on a river or lake for an afternoon -- under $40.

  • See a radio station music festival. It often features a day of bands, and tickets usually cost under $20. Or, check out a concert at a college; tickets may also be cheap.

  • Look into local arts festivals, craft fairs, flea markets or antiques fairs. Admission is under $15, the browsing is free, but you may want to watch the cost of the food.

  • See an IMAX movie for under $10. These films use a large film frame, a six-story movie screen and digital surround sound. These are cool because you feel like you're in the movie.

Cyndi Haynes and Dale Edwards, authors of 2002 Things to Do On a Date, and Lynn Gordon, author of 52 Great Cheap Dates, offer even more creative and inexpensive date ideas.

  • Attend a wine or beer tasting. At less than $10 each, you get more bang for the buzz.

  • Volunteer together. You'll be able to spend quality time together for a quality cause for free.

  • Swing is back. Take a dance lesson and tear up the dance floor with the hottest moves. Sometimes the first lesson is free.

  • Attend a student art show. Often the shows are free and refreshments are served.

  • Rent your favorite movies that your date hasn't seen and watch them together. Keep your date in suspense, and don't leak out the good parts or the ending.

-- Updated: Feb. 29, 2008

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See Also
In a recession, reprioritize your friends
Vacation adventures that won't scare your budget
Date expectations for gifts
Financial advice glossary
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