How to Have a Great Date on a Budget

Inexpensive Date Ideas

A date doesn't need to be an elaborate affair. You can find romance with a walk in the park or even a night of board games. But we'll get to those later. This section is all about dates with class: Shirt and tie, dresses, dinner, and maybe a round of dancing. It sounds pricey, but if you do your homework, you'll be able to paint the town red for next to nothing. These are some cheap dates with elegance.

Showing up at her door with a bouquet of flowers may seem old-fashioned, but it's always a good bet. A dozen roses is pricey -- and frankly, it's a little intimidating. Slash your floral costs by opting instead for one big flower, like a lily or a sunflower. Or better yet, grow your own flowers: If you can show up on the threshold with something that's fresh from your garden, your date conversation just got a huge kick start.

And instead of whisking her off to a high-end (and high-priced) night spot, take her somewhere with a little more character: an out-of-the-way Mexican place, a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant or a gourmet pizza joint. To zero in on what she enjoys best, try doing a little research: Quiz her friends and skim her Facebook page. If she recently posted a message about her undying love of obscure tapas bars, your evening is already half-planned.

Do you have a waiter friend? A bartender sibling? Is your cousin a cook? Keep on good terms with these people at all costs, because they can pay huge dividends come date night. They can get you a good table, sneak in a free dessert and maybe even ring in the bill at a staff discount. The date will be fun and personalized, and you'll look connected and mysterious. Of course, this only works once. The magic will quickly dissipate if you keep taking her to the same place.

Nothing beats the glitz and glamor of taking in a theater show -- red curtains, glossy playbills, tuxedoed ushers. But unless you can pick up free tickets on a radio contest, you could end up shelling out as much as $50 a ticket for a professional stage performance. Opt for a local, amateur show instead. It'll be a fraction of the price, and it might even be good. If not, you can just spend the rest of the night making fun of the awkward actor who flubbed his soliloquy. When the temperature gets hot, keep your eyes peeled for free outdoor performances: For less than the cost of theater parking, you can spend your summer showing your date everything from fire jugglers to folk musicians to Shakespeare.

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