Dating site Match.com has revealed that British singletons spend an eye-watering £3.4 billion a year on dating, with single men forking out twice as much as women in their quest for love. Here at Moneymagpie, we think that dating shouldn’t cost the earth, so if you’re looking for love, but don’t have the wallet to match, take a look at our ideas for dating on a budget.
We may associate romance with posh candlelit dinners and being swept off our feet on glamourous nights out but many of the most memorable dates are those unusual, quirky or spontaneous ideas that often don’t cost a penny.
Free theatre: Sign up to Myboxoffice.biz for free last minute theatre tickets to performances with spare seats. There’s sometimes an admin fee to pay but this is never more than £3. If you prefer films, sign for free with See Film First for the chance to see films for free before they’re released.
Free TV shows: Take your date to see a TV show for free. You can sign up for free BBC shows, tour and live events, or be in the audience of your favourite BBC TV show by clicking here. Another great site is Lost In TV where you can apply for tickets to other TV network shows like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? specials and The Cube. Add yourself to their mailing list to receive updates on any new dates of upcoming shows.
Free attractions: Don’t forget that there are lots of free places to visit all over the UK. To get you started, here are 10 fantastic free attractions from Visit England. You can also find information on free festivals, parades and other shows on Free-events.co.uk or try putting your postcode into the search box on WhereCanWeGo.com.
Museums and galleries: Many museums are completely free to enjoy in the UK. London is home to some of the most famous, and a great place to start is the national collections. For information on national collections in London, the north of England, Wales and Scotland go to Visit Britain or find a museum near yo. You can also find lots of great ideas on places to visit on Britain Express.
For further inspiration on living for free read our freebie guide.
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Go to the best places: Keep an eye out for restaurants that provide great value for money. Yell Reviews – a Moneymagpie favourite – lets people like us say what we think about bars, clubs, restaurants, galleries and other venues. It’s free to register, and allows you can see what other people recommend and tell them what you like, or don’t like, about the places you’ve been. It will save you money and heartache next time you go out.
Get a meal for free: Book your meal through OpenTable – they feature 50% off deals at great restaurants across the country. Plus the site is packed with helpful reviews, maps and suggestions so you know what to expect. If that wasn’t enough, for every five meals you book via the website you get the next one free!
Try breakfast instead: Meeting for breakfast is a lovely way to break with tradition on a date, and it’s much cheaper than an evening meal. Make sure you pick the location well, though (we advise against a greasy spoon for your first date). If you need some help, read reviews on sites such as 10best.com, Tripadvisor.co.uk and Qype.co.uk.
Check out the local attractions in your area or town. You’ll be amazed at how much there is to see and do in the great outdoors. Regularly scan the local paper to see if there are any free events or markets and enjoy the fresh air and blue skies.
Parks and gardens: Make the most of any good weather and take a delicious picnic to a park or garden nearby. We are spoilt for choice in the UK with stunning parks all over the island, lots of which are free for all to enjoy with events to enjoy in the warmer months too. Get all the info at Greatbritishgardens.co.uk, Nationaltrust.org.uk and Royalparks.org.uk.
Markets and fairs: Foodies can spend the morning sampling the culinary delights from their local farmers market, or if you prefer to rummage through bits and bobs for a diamond in the rough, find your local craft fair for a relaxed date.
Book stores: The bigger book stores often have poetry readings, live bands on weekend evenings, free lectures on all manner of topics. You can find regular poetry events across the country here.
Rise and shine: Get up early and drive to a nice scenic place to watch the sun rise and then go for breakfast. You can always try a spot of foraging in the great British countryside – find out more with our article on foraging.
Get active: Grab backpacks and go up a beautiful mountain, or along a river where you can skim stones across the water. Londoners can click here to find interesting routes and maps of areas in and around the capital. Walking directions and maps for other UK cities like Birmingham, Leeds and Edinburgh can try Walkit instead. If you’re feeling more energetic, take your bikes and follow a path somewhere or hire rollerblades for the day.
Go to the beach: Grab a frisbee and your dog if you have one. You and your date can bury each other in the sand and have fish and chips for lunch. If the sun is out play some ball games, collect some shells, hunt for crabs or simply chill out with a good book by the peaceful ocean. Search for your nearest beach at the Good Beach Guide website.
Volunteer together: Charities and other organisations need people to volunteer and if you want to help out, it could be a great way to put your dating time to good use. Your local community centre will have information on opportunities in your area or try Do-it.org.uk and Volunteering.org.uk.
If the sun isn’t shining there are still plenty of fun things to do together – it’s actually a great opportunity to snuggle up and keep each other warm!
Independent cinemas: Going to the cinema is nothing new to the dating world, but if you get the film right, and the cinema, you’ll be on to a winner. Independent cinemas are far more romantic than the usual Vue or Odeon offerings and lots offer cheap tickets with special loyalty concessions to cut costs even further. Tickets to the art deco Tyneside Cinema start from £7.50, for example, but ‘friends’ of the cinema can pay £25 for annual membership and save £2 per ticket. There are also several Picturehouses in the UK and if you’re ever near Nottingham, try The Broadway where you can buy a meal and film deal for just £14!
Coffee shops and pubs: Take along some board games, or a pack of cards and you can wile away the hours together. Go to Cosy Coffee Shops where you can find listings of some independent at coffee shops. Just click on the map to find one in your home town. The pub is a fairly obvious choice for a date, but it’s also one of the easiest and if you’re going for a date choose one of best you can find. Try Fancyapint where you can search for a pub near you by location, nearest station, name or rating.
See a show: Spend an evening at the theatre or a concert of your favourite band, or if you need a giggle go and see a live comedy show. You can save money on theatre tickets if you buy on the day or attend a matinee or go to Lastminute.com for great discounts. Another useful website is Theatremonkey where you can find out the latest special offers on London theatre and concert venues and read our full guide to cheap tickets.
It takes two to tango: The dance of lurve, tango classes will get the passion blazing (or just your face) and there are classes for beginners all over the UK. In London, for example, Tango Movement offers drop-in classes for £15 and a beginner’s crash course for £100 if you’re really keen. Find a tango class near you here.
Home sweet home: Cook dinner together, rent a film and get cosy on the couch. You can get some real bargains at Play.com and Amazon or you can rent movies online from Cinema Paradiso and LOVEFiLM, both of which offer a free trial to see whether it’s for you or not.
And if there’s just too many options to choose from, write down all the ones you both like the sound of, throw them in a hat or bowl and pick one out. If you like each other and keep going out, you may even get through all of them.
Lots of dating websites are free to join initially but you will usually need to pay a subscription fee eventually to contact other members you like the look of.
Match.com and Dating Direct are two of the biggest dating websites and you can become a member for free, but if you want to arrange a date, subscription starts from £29.99 per month.
At Mysinglefriend.com you get a mate to write about you to spare you the awkward GSOH description and if you decide it’s the site for you, one month subscription costs £28.
Finally, at The Times Encounters Dating once again,it’s free to create your profile and start searching. It also has a very wide range of fees from as little as three days at £7, but one month costs £33.95.
If you really don’t want to pay a subscription, you could try out one of the many free dating websites. Some of the better ones include Smooch, which we think is the simplest of the lot, and doesn’t have too many irritating adverts everywhere.
Plenty of Fish will give you a ‘chemistry test’ to help you find your ideal matches, and Completely Free Dating has loads of free advice on everything from what to wear on a first date to how to master the subtle art of flirting.
While your personal safety is always a consideration with using these sites, take extra care with the free ones. If anyone can make a profile without having to pay, then there are bound to be scam artists who will give it a go.
All the sites say they monitor users carefully but make sure you don’t give out any personal information online. And don’t forget to tell a close friend when you’re off on a date for the first time so they know where you plan to go and at what time.
Make sure you don’t miss our article Find a date in 47 steps – it’s packed with great advice on leaving singledom behind and finding that someone special.