Cheap Date Ideas for Faux High-Rollers

Attractive couple drinking red wine in restaurant or bar

So you were internet dating (again) and you came across another promising match who wanted to go on a date, only now, you’re worried about how you’ll afford a night out on the town (again). The last thing you want to do is let her (or him) know you’re concerned with spending money. You want them to think you’re calm, cool, collected, and not at all a cheapskate. You also don’t want to quickly blow $50-$100 on dinner and a movie with someone you have zero chemistry with.

As horrible as some internet dates can be, there’s usually an unspoken agreement to go into it with a positive attitude, and hope you can at least have a fun night with a new friend – or someone you’ll never have to see again. Still, there’s always a bit of pressure to impress your date, and ol’ Lamps is here to help. Here are some ideas that will ensure you have a unique experience, will make a classy impression, and won’t leave you annoyed for spending too much cash on someone you might not end up liking.

Sub Shrimp Cocktail for Lobster Dinner
You can’t believe everything you read on Yelp, but one can hope that searching “shrimp cocktail happy hour” in your location of choice will bring up some honest results. Happy Hour is best because it allows the date to have an easy finishing point – dinnertime. Every good Happy Hour has discounted food and drink specials, and you might even find a place that offers complimentary snacks. Happy Hour also comes BEFORE dinner, so you won’t be obligated to order a lot of food. Two drinks and a shrimp cocktail is plenty for two people who just met each other. You can also spice it up and show your passion for international flavor by searching for the best Mexican food in your area. Order the ceviche, drink some half-priced Margs, and chow down on all the free chips and salsa you can handle. Maybe you’ll even have enough cash left to splurge on some Gauc.

Gourmet Doughnuts & French Press Coffee
The “let’s get coffee” date seems perfectly casual and harmless, but can sometimes be met with a groan. It can come off as cheap, cowardly, or thoughtless, and if it ends up going well? No one wants to admit their first date was at a Starbucks, except maybe these two. A great way to skirt around the typical coffee date is to put the focus on the latest sweet trend – gourmet doughnuts. Trendy doughnut shops are popping up in major cities and small towns everywhere, boasting unique flavor and texture combos. Suggest the two of you go on a mission to seek out only the finest in fried dough confections, and you never know – you could totally have a love connection over a Bacon-Maple-Michael-McDoughnut, or whatever.

Drink Wine Like a Snob
Many wine shops offer tastings on certain nights of the week. A quick and mindless google search of “wine shop tastings” brought up 16 results within my surrounding area. You may even be surprised to find a winery near you, with it’s own tasting room or patio. Check your neighborhood wine shop and look at their calendar or events page. My local shop offers two affordable events each week with flights of three different wines and complimentary snacks for $12. These days, that’s about the price of one glass of wine in a high-end restaurant anyway, and this date won’t leave you sweating over a hefty dinner bill. Not 100% sold? Pretend you’re really interested in buying one of the wines you tasted, and ask to “revisit” it. Added bonus? You’ll get another pour of wine and may even find yourself learning a thing or two. If all else fails, the people-watching at any given wine event never disappoints.

“Champagne” & Strawberries
At some point between my years of waitressing and wine-tasting, I learned that Champagne can only truly be called “Champagne” if it is from the Champagne region of France, and the average Joe (or Josie) will throw that name around with virtually any wine that sparkles. Like right now, I can hear at least three different brunch customers exclaim in their raspiest hangover voices: “Ooh, I’ll just take the Champaaaagne!” while their counterparts order bottomless mimosas. That being said, you can easily “WOW” your date just by showing up with a reasonably priced bottle of bubbles (Trader Joe’s is great for that), a set of dollar store stemware, and some organic strawberries. Bring an Uno set, a blanket, maybe a boombox and SHAZAM. You’ve got an instant date that will show her (or him) that you are sweet and thoughtful, smart and cultured. Tip: Reserve this one as the Ace in your pocket for a second, third, or fourth date. Just showing up with booze and a blanket might be creepy to someone you’ve never met before.

Try these next time when you need a cheap but classy night on the town, and if you’re lucky? You’ll be begging ol’ Lamps to write “Thrifty Weddings for Lovers in Love.”

Erin Lampart is a comedian and story-teller living in Los Angeles with her cool dog, Jan. Part-time waitress and full-time dork, you can follow her on Twitter @ThatsSoLampy


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