How to Be a Cheap Date

How to Be a Cheap Date


Despite the economic crisis, don’t give up on dating. Good times can be a dime a dozen.

With the economy in the toilet, it’s no surprise that we’re looking for imaginative ways to maximize our dating dollars, to get the most, uh, bang for our buck. But can we truly trim the fat on infatuation? Put a spending cap on courtship? You bet your bottom dollar — provided you still have one. Herewith, a few tips on how to become a cheap date.

• Dropkick pricey dating sites.

Granted, paid membership dating sites such as and eHarmony and True have a lot of fancy bells and whistles — snazzy commercials, criminal screenings, insufferably long questionnaires, Dr. Phil — but with all of our money going toward gas and gold Krugerrands, who can afford fancy? Why pay anything at all when there are plenty of free personals out there, starting with everybody’s favorite freak fest, Craigslist.

Granted, the pickings can be slim — or perhaps I should say “voluptuous” or “exceedingly husky” — but if you don’t mind a preponderance of goofy photos (sunsets, high school graduation shots, genitalia), obnoxious expectations (“looking for beautiful deaf-mute with big ta-tas”) and the occasional pyramid scheme or prostitution sting, Craigslist can be a thrifty dater’s paradise.

Rather not find a soul mate in the same place where you picked up a worm bin and 50 pounds of free horse manure? No problem. Free personal sites are one of the hottest new trends in online dating, according to Mark Brooks, editor of Some of the top contenders, ranked by Hitwise, include Plentyoffish, DateHookup and OkCupid, but there are many more, including HOT or NOT, Webdate, Matchdoctor, Bookofmatches and Smooch.

Forced to give up your ISP and hock your computer to make rent? No worries. Try doing things old-school by actually leaving the house and meeting people face to face. If it feels too awkward, just hand them a printed copy of your online profile as an icebreaker.

• Become a budget beauty.

Like it or not, our standards of beauty have gone a little gaga over the past few years, to the point where everybody is paying through the (slightly bobbed) nose for glitzy, glamour-puss looks. Blond highlights, Botoxed brows, bleached teeth, pouty lips, long lashes, leather bags, fancy shoes and expensive accessories have become the norm — and that’s just for the guys.

Well, all that’s about to change. As much as singles like to put on the dog for a new date, they’ll soon have to say goodbye to high-end hair salons and trendy spas and say hello to home pedicures and Clairol color. But there’s no need to cry over spilled cleansing milk (you know what that does to your eyes). Sure, we’ve come to believe our desirability hinges on hundreds of dollars worth of makeup and manicures and anti-aging ginger-infused moisturizing body butter with revitalizing mango-tangerine fly larvae, but dates rarely notice that stuff. Unless they’re allergic to it.

Truly, it’s about confidence, not collagen or hair color or clothes.

So does that mean we all have to start dressing like sad-sack Texas polygamists? Hardly. Instead, go for poorhouse chic by combing the consignment shops, embracing Value Village vogue and holding clothing swaps with your BFFs. If there’s something particularly juicy (couture or otherwise) that you simply have to have, take a page from the book “The Necklace,” the story of 13 women who time-share an expensive piece of jewelry. Whether it’s a Fendi bag or a fabulous first-date dress, it’ll be much more appealing split five ways (and, no, I don’t mean literally). Let’s face it, poverty is the new black.

• Learn to embrace cheap thrills.

Granted, we’ve all grown accustomed to treating our dates to designer cocktails and dinners on the town. Unfortunately, those days are gone. Dating in the New Improved Depression (Now With More Poverty and Strife!) means learning to make do with the simple things in life, the things we’ve been blathering about for 30 years: long walks on the beach, snuggling in front of a fire and enjoying the Sunday New York Times.

Of course, you’ll be scavenging for loose change and other valuables on the beach and the fire you’re sitting in front of may very well be emanating from a barrel under some freeway overpass. But think how romantic it will be for the two of you to sit there huddling for warmth as that stack of newspapers you stole from the vendor merrily burns.

Too grim? Perhaps, but we are going to have to learn to dial it down, to conduct low-cost courtships, which shouldn’t really be a problem since dating has never been about spending money but spending time together — and maybe eventually having sex. Which I wouldn’t exactly characterize as a “cheap” thrill considering all the hidden costs (and I’m not just talking about lingerie).

Indulge if you must (safely and sanely), but also consider taking your date dancing, forget the clubs, just head to your local music store.

Or spend the evening playing cards. Take a bike ride. Go for a hike. Or hit a bookstore for a free author reading. Cruise the art galleries (complimentary wine and cheese!).

Play a few rounds of pub trivia (bring a flask). Go to dinner at your sister’s house. Rent a movie and make out on the couch.

Plant a garden and learn how to can. Go to the grocery store and snack on the samples. Clean out each other’s closets. Sort each other’s recycling. Watch the news and weep uncontrollably. And if all else fails, take your date into the bedroom and play Monopoly with all that worthless money stuffed under your mattress.

Copyright © Diane Mapes/2011 Singular Communications, LLC.

Diane MapesDiane Mapes has published more than 200 essays and reported pieces in both local and national venues and is the author/editor of two books: How to Date in a Post-Dating World and Single State of the Union: Single Women Speak Out on Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness. She’s a regular contributor to and, and has written about the single life for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer,, Bust, Health and Singular magazine. She can be reached via her website,
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One thought on “How to Be a Cheap Date

  1. I do agree with all the ideas you’ve offered to your post. They’re really convincing and can certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are very quick for novices. May you please lengthen them a little from next time? Thank you for the post.

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