Dating. There really isn’t much that we sink as much time, effort, and cash into like dating. It is not uncommon for a doe-eyed rube to chance upon a prospective paramour with the best intentions in his or her heart only to find that, hey, this shit’s expensive. So, how does one deftly circumvent one of the biggest pitfalls in the wild world of competitive companionship, you ask?
Well, we have some tips that just might keep the cash in your wallet and your head in the game:
Let’s start with the basics, and it doesn’t get any more basic than Dinner. Dinner has been the cornerstone of the dating world since Adam and Eve mingled over an apple (Eve actually wanted to take Adam to this new rib joint, but he was understandably cautious), and it’s been Sushi bars and boutique cafés for humanity ever since.
The truth of the matter is that, yeah, food’s a big deal. It’s typically one of the first times that your date will see you engaged in a typical daily behavioral setting. Restaurant selection can make or break your night before it even starts. And one thing about restaurants? They love money. Can’t get enough of it. Given the opportunity a courteous sommelier would mug you at gun point. For some of us the answer is simple, elegant, and more endearing that a baby koala donating it’s hair to Locks of Love: cooking.
I know what some of you are thinking: “But I can’t cook! I have more packets of dehydrated ramen noodles than a Hong Kong bomb shelter.” Well, that might be the case. But it never hurts to try. If you can find just one dish you can prepare at even a satisfactory level chances are you’re golden. Find something that suits your capacity, and try it out a few times for yourself beforehand.
I recommend Alton Brown’s television Good Eats for the more tech-minded of you. He is to food what Bill Nye the Science Guy is to test-tubes of brightly colored liquids, and has no problem walking you through all of it. A selection of episodes can be found on Hulu. On top of that there are some great recipe search engines such as Allrecipes.com, VegWeb, and the now defunct recipezaar (We’ll miss you!). And don’t forget to spruce it up a bit. At least hide that pile of laundry in your closet until she leaves, fellas.
So, dinner went well. Congratulations. But now your date wants to doooooooo things (the gall). The movies sound nice, but shelling out 35 dollars for an hour and half of disengaged entertainment for the two of you seems a little unattractive. Plus you we’re going to download the movie illegally later, anyway. Go carts and mini-golf just don’t have the same punch they did in the 9th grade, and they’re not exactly cheap, either. The key here is to get creative.
I bet you there is a calendar of local events somewhere on the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the internet. Each one chalk full of mostly awful event that in no way appeal to you. Chances are, however, there is at least one shining gem in there, if not many. There is probably some free concert going on in your town this weekend. Outdoor markets and vendor fairs are a great way to kill a few hours and see if you and your mate share the same sensibilities. He or she laughed at the same poorly made crap you laughed at? Match made in heaven. Vineyards love to throw events such as wine and cheese pairing, jazz concerts, or even open mic sessions. Nothing says class like discussing international politics while sipping on the latest vintage Merlot while a drunken 40 year old man trying to conceal an erection butchers Tom Petty on an out of tune acoustic guitar. But mostly it’s a pleasant experience and shows how worldly and sophisticated you are.
So, you ran out of things to cook and your town isn’t throwing together any hootenannies. You want to do something adventurous and spontaneous. Something that says “Yeah, I’m that person who’ll call in sick to work and go an adventure with you.” But how does one find adventure in this day and age, trapped in endless suburban sprawl and mini-vans? Just because you’re not a pirate doesn’t mean you and your date can’t go in a little treasure hunt.
Letterboxing, and its modern incarnation of “Geocaching,” have been a healthy dating activity for over 150 years. The idea is pretty straight forward: Some questionable person hid a box somewhere, probably in some woods, go find it. It boils down to a hiking community with a twist and some very ingenious hobbyists who wish nothing more than to share some of their favorite local spots with you. In letterboxing you’re left with a series of hilariously poorly crafted clues that does invoke the spirit of a true pirate treasure hunt (I, myself, have been asked to walk X paces from a tree at least half a dozen times). Geocaching cuts out possibility of human error and simply leaves you a set of GPS co-ordinates to get to. This is the type of activity that really lets you see the team-work quality of your relationship. You’ll know pretty quickly if you guys work well together when the possibility of being lost in the woods rears its head. Plus, you know, good, clean, cheap fun.
So, you’ve had some good dates and that pesky cartoon moth stopped flying out of your wallet. What now? At this point you should be able to suss out enough about your potential partner to know where to take it from there. Video games are often a fantastic way to spent whole weekends emerged in a team activity both cooperatively and competitively, if that’s your thing. Over time the things that work between the two of you will emerge naturally, and you’ll figure out your own ways of having fun on the cheap that doesn’t just involve couch-locked netflix marathons.
One final tip: keep a copy of Mad Libs in your car. Nothing unleashes the innermost immaturity of your partner than a game of Mad Libs, and sets what might otherwise be a long daunting drive into some really touching quality time for a meager few dollars. It really is a fart way to butt .