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Cheap dates

Dating is tough enough. With so much to think about, the last thing you need to worry about is your wallet. Lucky for cost-conscious couples, there are plenty of ways to work some magic without blowing your budget.
Time-share childcare Finding a competent and dependable babysitter is often an expensive nightmare. It's almost enough to make a parent want to stay home. When you think about it, however, many others face the same situation. Why not swap services with neighbors, co-workers, family or friends for a free night or afternoon out? Otherwise, consider sharing one babysitter among a coupe of families and splitting the cost.
Avoid booze Even if you find a cut-rate meal (early bird special, anyone?), a couple drinks can quickly add up. You might want to hit a restaurant that doesn't serve booze or make it an afternoon date. Otherwise, plan to drink and dine at a restaurant or bar that offers happy hour prices which is usually in the early evening.
Date with gift cards Buy a gift card at a discount online site. They can save you anywhere from 5 to 50% on restaurants and other entertainment activities.
Plan a freebie Dating doesn't always have to mean dinner and a movie. Some activities - like hiking, biking or visiting farmers' markets - don't cost a dime and tend to reveal more about your partner than a standard date.
DIY Create your own dinner with a picnic in a local park. For more romance, pack portable speakers with a pre-mixed playlist on your iPod as well as a bottle of wine and a few chocolate-covered strawberries. Not only is this DIY date an inexpensive alternative to a night on the town, but you'll score extra brownie points for taking the time to plan a special event.
Get advice from Smartphones Use your mobile phone to find local deals and date ideas. The Date Night iPhone app for will help you find unique, interesting and affordable events that are sure to impress. The app randomly selects a "thing to do" for your next evening on the town, some of which won't bust your budget.
Dial into daily deals Groupon, Living Social and other group-buying coupon companies offer some great deals - up to 50% off - on such entertainment experiences as wine tastings, boat tours, museums and comedy clubs. If you're worried about appearing "cheap," redeem the offer when your date is in the restroom.
Go cultural Many libraries and coffee shops offer free poetry readings and musical entertainment. Look for art gallery tours or free museum days to improve your cultural IQ while impressing your date.
Thrifty movie night Instead of dishing out $20 for two movie tickets plus cost of popcorn, candy and soda, plan a romantic movie night at home. Pick-up a free DVD from your local library. Then dim the lights and serve some freshly popped popcorn or your date's favorite candy for a theatre-like experience.


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