Be a Cheap Date

As a recently single millennial, I’m learning that dating can be awesome. While I’m usually happy sleeping my weekends away, dating has given me an excuse to get out of my routine. I’m starting to meet new people, and I’m steering clear of my usual haunts and asking for their favorites. In the past few weeks, I’ve tried Korean street tacos, heard poetry live, gone to museums, gone swing dancing, and even met real-life sugar gliders(!).


You can’t not be excited about meeting these guys.

Dating has been great. But, since I always split the bill, damn, that shit gets expensive. Luckily, I’ve developed a few sneaky tactics to keep my newfound social life in-budget.

1. Go Early

Ok, this one wasn’t originally intended to keep costs down, but it’s definitely had an impact. I wasn’t kidding when I said I like my sleep. In fact, I’m usually in bed by 10pm. Because I’m awesome.


How I feel around other 20-somethings past 8pm.

That said, by pushing a dinner date up an hour or two, I’ve been able to score Happy Hour pricing on most of my dates, which wouldn’t be possible by the time most normal people start becoming social.

And for those nights when a date wants to grab drinks or go dancing, I’ll ask to meet at 9pm or earlier. We get to avoid the lines and cover charges, and still get the Happy Hour prices if we’re early enough. Plus, because it’ll take a few minutes to pick up, I can actually get to know my date a bit better than if we got there during peak hours.

2. Be Less Committal

Going out can be a whole thing. Dinner and drinks and a show? That’s $30+ (and what, 3 hours?) to meet someone I honestly might not even like at the end of the day. Instead, I’ll agree to a show or dinner and drinks. We can always walk around and talk after the main event instead, assuming all goes well.

This also means I can avoid that cliche of having a friend call with an “emergency” halfway through the night. I’m only agreeing to an hour or so – I can stick it out, assuming the guy’s not a total monster. No plans need to be broken, and nobody’s feelings need to be hurt in the process.

3. Get Creative

The best date I’ve ever been on was an open lightsaber training class a few years ago. The second best date I’ve ever gone on was a surprise nerf-gun battle, in which my date told me where to meet, left a note and extra ammo by a tree, and waited for me to find him. The third best date was just a walk around quiet neighborhoods in Culver City, at night, in the rain.


None of these (as far as I know) cost a lot of money, but each was incredibly memorable. While I may not be as creative as these very thoughtful gentlemen were, I have found a few cheats. I follow sites like EventBrite and Goldstar for free or inexpensive events, as well as my local subreddit. Back when I was in a serious relationship, it was all too easy to stay in and miss street festivals or free standup shows, but these are perfect for dates!

4. Play Host

After a few meetups, if I determine my date not to be a serial killer (and give the whole “nothing serious, nothing physical” chat), the best places to hang out can be either of our places. I like hosting – my drinks are cheaper than they would be at bars, and their cooking is way more memorable than going to a restaurant. A few good games (1, 2, and 3), some Girl Scout cookies, maybe a movie. Boom. Date accomplished.

Pro-tip: if a vetted non-serial killer wants to go out dancing, we’ll meet at my place for a few drinks and snacks, then split the Lyft or carpool to the venue and back. Double-win.


Now I’m getting less than 12 hours of sleep each night, but it turns out I love exploring Los Angeles. I want to try all the food, see every show, and do all the cool-kid things I never did while in my last relationship. But I also want to pay rent and eventually buy my next home. So far, these tricks are helping me get the best of both worlds.

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