A Brooklyn guy’s guide to cheap dates

Park Slope Brooklyn couple in the snow
Snow is free, and kind of romantic. Photo by David Minder.

Let’s face it: dating is expensive and there’s no guarantee of ROI. So why spend a bundle to make a good impression when you can be a cheap date who doesn’t seem cheap? Any dolt can come up with dinner and a movie (bye bye, $100), but being cash-challenged requires you to be a bit more resourceful and creative with your game. Here are a few things to do and places to go to help you kick off the year with a bit more swagger, if not a bigger wallet:
Get a Laugh For Free: For a long time, I would only take dates to comedy clubs because I knew that even if I failed to make my date laugh, there was a pretty good chance someone else could do the job for me.  For a lot of cheap, gut wrenching date night fun, pick one of the venues from this cheap comedy list that the good people at Brokelyn have compiled for you.  I’ve been to all of these shows and vouch for both their hilarity and cut rate cost. My favorite show not listed here is the free Wednesday night show, Big Terrific. I’ve been on several occasions and never had a bad time.

A $1 "hotdog cookie" from Dragon Bakery is a snack and a convo starter. Photo courtesy of Time Out/NY.

Eat Cheaply And Look Street Savvy: In case you didn’t know this already, eating out is one of the biggest drains on dating in New York.  Avoid dropping a bunch of cash on a big meal and opt for small, cheap eats.  This is pretty standard advice for the broke, but there’s a way to make it fun for both you and your date.  Time Out NY is an excellent resource for $1 eats but skip this section and go directly to the Sunset Park $1 Eating Walk. It lasts roughly 90 minutes and should you choose to buy everything that the guide suggests, it will only cost you $6. While you’re there, drop a couple tidbits of insider information from Forgotten New York’s Guide to Sunset Park, and impress your date with your knowledge of Brooklyn history. Did you know that the C Town on 45th Street and 8th Avenue used to be the Ritz Theater? Well, now you do.

Show Off Your Asana: Now, we can’t all have the gift of gab, but if you’ve got the gift of abs, show them off at a cheap yoga class.  At Hosh Yoga in Greenpoint, single classes are by suggested donation so you don’t have to bend over backwards to, uh, bend over backwards.  Make sure you get there before your date though: the $10 donation is strongly suggested, so pay for two ahead of time to not look like a cheapskate.If you can’t fathom exercise without skinny jeans, grab your fixed gear or your fancy boots and make your way to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.  The Botanical Garden is free on weekdays during the winter, so enjoy the bare trees and snowy scenes while your employed friends slave away in their cubicles.  If it’s too cold out, head to the nearby Brooklyn Museum and give your mind a workout.  The museum is $10 by suggested donation, so the rule about getting there early still applies.

Show Off Your Smart Side. Want to impress your date with your erudition?  Almost every bar or bookstore in Brooklyn has a reading series, so you won’t have to look far.  My personal favorites on this list are the reading series at Word in Greenpoint and Book Court in Cobble Hill.   Both stores bring in big name authors in a relaxed setting for absolutely no cost.

If you’d prefer to wow your date with facts and figures, I highly recommend the Secret Science Club, a free monthly meeting of attractive and entertaining nerds at the Bell House.  I saw a fantastically funny talk on Jackalopes here in December, so there’s no need to worry about being stuck with a dull host.  The nerds finally have their revenge.

Make a literal wine sleeve, then toast your own resourcefulness. Craft Zine magazine Illo by Tim Lillis.

Be Crafty.  I’m not very artsy by nature, but crafty girls are just my type. Grab a beer, invite your date over and try working on a project from the many on the Craft Zine website. My favorite project involves making a wine sleeve out of an old shirt, mostly because it’s easy and you can incorporate a bottle of $3 Chuck.

Since your date is already at your apartment, why not save some money and make a meal?  For cheap meal options, check out the Brooklyn-based blog Not Eating Out in NY.  The recipes are all pretty healthy and flavorful, but for my money I recommend giving the Molden Chocolate Business a try.  It’s business time.

Volunteer. Give and you shall receive. Volunteering is a great way to bond on a date or meet potential dates, so don’t waste time.  If you’re into animals (who isn’t, really?), I recommend checking out the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition.  You have the option of working as either a dog walker or a cat socializer; either way, they’ll be plenty of tail to go around.

If, for some reason, you hate cute creatures or have an unfortunate allergy. there are plenty of other ways to give back. For a big range of options, check out NYC Service.  I’ve worked in soup kitchens before and have really enjoyed it, so I suggest the New York Coalition Against Hunger.  Give a little, get a little.

These tips may not bring you love, but at least you’ll look good without worrying about looking cheap.


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