Find Love For Less

By Marisa Meltzer

In Consumer Reports’ 2016 Online Dating Survey, of the 14,626 respondents who tried but stopped online dating, 15 percent quit because it was too expensive.

So how do you keep costs under control while you pursue love?

Meeting for coffee or a beer is a universally accepted first date for good reasons: It doesn’t take a big time commitment if sparks don’t fly, it gives you and your date an opportunity to get to know each other, and it’s inexpensive. But dates two, three, and beyond don’t have to involve multicourse meals or theater tickets, either.

Cheap date idea: Take advantage of what your city has to offer. “I’m a big fan of museums, street festivals, the zoo, etc.,” says Joseph Lynn, 50, an online dater from Chicago. “Living in a city, we have all sorts of public-space events going on all the time, so there are lots of options for fun things to do without spending a lot of money.”

The bonus is that you get to interact with your date more than you do when you just sit across from each other at dinner. This can pay off in ways other than just financial. A friend of Lynn’s was on a date with a guy one evening, and the two of them took a walk through Chicago’s Millennium Park. “She told me he practically got into a fistfight with a guy who was taking a selfie with his girlfriend and blocked their view of the city,” Lynn says. “That was the end of that date—and any future ones.”

Cheap date idea: Explore the great outdoors. Take a hike—or just go on a walk together. “I like playing pool. It’s active, so you don’t get that ‘job interview with appetizers’ vibe of most first dates,” Kate says. “Or I’d suggest going cycling or running together, or doing whatever sport you both enjoy.” If you belong to a gym, treat your date to a guest pass. Or try out a new yoga studio or boutique fitness class together, which often have deals for first-time clients. In addition to burning calories, sweating and trying a new activity together can be bonding.

Cheap date idea: Embrace technology. “Bantering over text has a purpose—it helps grow your relationship in between dates, so you know more about each other the next time you met up,” says Laurie Davis, a relationship coach in New York and Los Angeles. Use all the free technology at the disposal of any smartphone or laptop user. “A friend of mine Skypes or FaceTimes with people he meets online,” Lynn says. “You individually go out and buy your favorite wine or beer and have a conversation over Skype.” This is a particularly good option for people who have kids or who live far enough apart that a date involves a long drive. Just remember to meet up in person eventually!

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