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How can you date on a budget?

If you're low on cash, how can you still have fun on a date?
If you're low on cash, how can you still have fun on a date?
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Dating is stressful enough without having to worry about money. You'll be dealing with a mix of nerves, uncertainty, pressure and hopefully some excitement. You'll worry about many things: Where should we go? What should we talk about? Should I tell any jokes? How should I act? But the toughest question for those on a budget is: How much should I spend?

Men are traditionally responsible for paying for dates. However, now that women make their own money, some believe this will change the dating convention. And this convention actually hasn't been around all too long. Author Beth Bailey writes in her book, "From Front Porch to Back Seat," about the transition of courtship in the early 20th century. Before it was common for suitors to "ask a girl out," men actually expressed their interest by calling on the girl at her family's home. Talk about a cheap date -- though it did, of course, come with watchful chaperoning. At the very least, etiquette now dictates that whoever asks for the date is responsible for paying.

The problem is that many guys feel pressured to drop a lot of dough on the first couple dates in order to impress a girl. But there are plenty of ways to impress girls without maxing out your credit card. And a grand romantic gesture need not involve purchasing fireworks and hiring a mariachi band. It will take some creativity, however.

But before we go over some inexpensive date ideas to get you inspired, the major question is: Should you tell your date about your cash flow problem? Some etiquette books say you should be honest and perhaps suggest "going Dutch" up front, where both parties pay for the date, while others say you should wait to ask someone out until you've saved up enough money to pay for the other person.

It can certainly make for an embarrassing first impression to reveal your financial woes to someone. You may have a good reason to be on a budget, like being in grad school, and you don't want to give off the wrong idea that you're irresponsible with money. With any luck, the other person will pick up on your situation when he or she learns more about you and offer to go Dutch anyway.

On the next page, we'll get into some tips for inexpensive dates.