10 hot dates for hard times © Photodisc Blue / Getty Images

The Basics

10 hot dates in a bad economy

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Wine -- and cheese -- for free

Every former art student knows this is the ultimate cheap date: art-gallery openings. There's free wine and cheese, interesting art, random conversation and great people watching.

Did I mention the free wine and cheese?

A date you can feel good about

Do something that's fun and helpful at the same time, such as volunteering together at a charity event, a church fundraiser, a beach cleanup or another cause you're passionate about.

In bigger cities, check One Brick for one-time events needing volunteers. Van Petten and her boyfriend occasionally make arrangements to play with the dogs at their local shelter. "It's really romantic and really funny," she says.

How to find deals

You can find most of these free attractions and activities by doing a simple Web search for "free events" and the name of the city you live in. Searching for "tourist" and the name of your city can also yield coupons for local activities, restaurants or attractions.

"Local establishments want to attract tourists, so they often give away free stuff," says Mary Hunt, the author of "Live Your Life For Half the Price" and other books, and the editor of the Web site Debt-Proof Living.

Many other free events and festivals are listed in the entertainment weeklies found by the doors of many convenience stores and coffee shops, and in the entertainment sections of daily newspapers. Don't forget to check out community colleges and universities for free or low-cost performances.

Also:

  • Make sure you're not missing any perks you might have coming to you. Banks and credit cards often offer discounts to customers. Bank of America, for example, gives its account holders free access to a handful of museums on the first weekend of every month.

  • Sign up for newsletters. Your local theater may have a "pay what you can" night. Your university, community center or neighborhood association may keep an events calendar. In bigger cities, sites such as Goldstar, Going and Yelp list discounted or free events. With that many places to look, get on regular e-mail lists so ideas come directly to you.

An inexpensive date can be just as much fun -- and maybe even more memorable -- as long as you don't get hung up on how much or how little you are spending.

"I think probably the biggest hurdle for most of us is getting past the idea that 'I'm doing this because I'm poor,'" Hunt says. You have to adjust your attitude. "You say: 'I am choosing to not spend my money this way. We are doing it because we are frugal and we are smart.'"

Published July 30, 2008

Video on MSN Money

Ride with the matchmaking cabbie (C) WSJ
Ride with the matchmaking cabbie
Ahmed Ibrahim, who has been playing cupid from the driver's seat of his taxi since 2005, shares his rules for dating.

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