The Broke Person’s Guide to Dating

There are a lot of problems with dating that we can’t help you with. But when it comes to dating on the cheap, we totally got you.

Dating would be hard, even if it was free. While apps have made it easier than ever to flip through a series of pictures of people who might want to date you, there’s little guarantee that they will, or that you’ll want to date them either. Plus, they might not even be the person that their profile suggests!

But one thing dating definitely isn’t: free. Unless you’re planning a romantic evening of sitting in your own respective homes and not leaving, you’re going to have to spend some money. So how can you date if you’re broke?

Well, we spoke to the experts and got the answers to that very question. Read on, you rent-conscious romantic.

Cheaper chow.

Whether it’s dinner, lunch, coffee, drinks, or the popcorn at the movies, most dates will probably have some kind of eating or drinking involved. And that can get pricey pretty quickly, as anyone who regularly eats out will attest.

So if you can cut down on food costs you’ll be on your way to a more affordable dating life. But cheaper food doesn’t have to mean worse dates!

“Go for a stroll at a picturesque trail and stop at a spot for a picnic,” suggested Holly Wolf, Director of Customer Engagement for SOLO Laboratories (@SOLO_labs). “This works in ANY  season. Winter—a nice thermos of hot soup and hot coffee/tea along with the sandwiches or salads. It shows you put some thought into the idea and walking and talking feels so natural.”

She also suggested scheduling the date earlier in the day: “Take him/her to breakfast or lunch instead of dinner. Breakfast is ideal since you can spend an hour or more and then have the rest of the day free. Or, if it’s going well, you can linger.”

And Wolf wasn’t the only one to suggest going the picnic route.

“Getting creative with food is always key,” recommended Amy Hartle, one of half of the travel blog Two Drifters (@twodriftersxo). “Dining out or drinking out is probably the leading way that money gets spent when dating. These activities are expensive.

“Fortunately, you can put together an amazing meal at home or an elegant picnic that seems ultra-luxurious but costs less than $30. Cheese, fruit, a baguette, and a mid-tier bottle of prosecco? Pick a beautiful spot and you’ve got an affordable date that will knock the socks off your date. Bonus: a picnic gives you more privacy than a crowded restaurant, so you can spend more time chatting and getting to know one another.”

It’s also vital to learn to cook if you don’t already know how.

“Learn to cook for your dates at your place,” advised speaker and relationship expert Spike Spencer (@spikespencer). “You can do amazing things and have all the benefits of a dinner date x 10! Check out Don’t Kill Your Date (and Other Cooking Tips) for ideas.”

Local gems.

Okay, so you’ve eaten, but now you want some other activities to do. If you keep an eye out, you can probably find things nearby that are affordable and will provide you the opportunity for nice moments—whether you’re meeting someone for the first time or have already started to build a connection.

“Visit your local visitor and convention bureau sites,” Wolf told us. “Find those historical sites you haven’t visited since you were a kid or perhaps never visited. Mini golf is also a fun and casual way to do something while you’re getting to know the person, although the season is ending in the North.”

“There are hundreds of free things going on around your neighborhood,” explained Spencer. “You just have to find them—free museum nights, free movie screenings, interesting free talks/seminars. Take your date there. Use your surroundings. Live in an apartment in the city? Got a rooftop view? Have some wine up there. Live near the woods? Take a walk. Use what you have to the fullest.”

He also advised the discreet use of deal sites: “Utilize social deal sites, Groupon style. You don’t have to advertise that you got a deal on the cheap.”

It’s the thought.

It sounds cliche, but it really is the thought that counts. Whether it’s showing someone that you can do something creative and meaningful early on, or finding ways to show you really know the person once you’ve grown closer, money doesn’t have to be the main factor in making a good date.

Here’s what Tina B. Tessina (@tinatessina), PhD, psychotherapist and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working It Out Together, told us: “Contrary to what the commercials and media stories would like you to believe, romance doesn’t depend on spending money.

“Instead, get more creative and thoughtful about what really brings you closer together. You can have a great, warm, intimate conversation on your porch over a sandwich and beer. You can walk arm in arm through the park or you can sit on your sofa and gaze into each other’s eyes.

“What’s important is listening to each other. A shared joke is more important than a fancy restaurant. A sympathetic hug is very bonding. A picnic, homemade dessert after a little theater production, a college ball game, or a free gallery opening can all be lovely, cheap dates. For an extra touch of intimacy, make your romantic moments and gestures private ones.”

Don’t let your wallet keep you from finding the person of your dreams. Or even just someone you enjoy spending time with. To learn more about saving money while living your best life, check out these related posts from OppLoans:

What are your best tips for money-savvy romance? We want to hear from you! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Amy Hartle is a freelance writer and blogger living in Vermont. Alongside her husband Nathan, she is the co-founder of a couples travel and lifestyle blog, Two Drifters (@twodriftersxo), where she writes about relationships, travel destinations, and inspiration for couples’ adventures.
Spike Spencer (@spikespencer) is an internationally recognized authority on Relationship Sales Dynamics™, bridging the gap between business and dating relationships. He is a public speaker, author, executive consultant, certified near-linguistic programming (NLP) coach, and a certified and licensed B.A.N.K.™ trainer for business and relationships. His fun dating/relationships website,, is a site helping guys become better MEN, constantly improving themselves, and their communications with women; utilizing cooking, food, travel, humor and adventure as the medium. Spike has been featured in Men’s Health, USA Today, Paste, Your Tango, and more, and has written for Neil Strauss, Singles Warehouse (as an Expert), Carlos Xuma, and more.
Tina B. Tessina (@tinatessina), PhD, (aka “Dr. Romance”) is a psychotherapist and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working It Out Together.
Holly Wolf is an executive with over 30 years experience in banking and healthcare.

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