Budget Date Planning 101

Male clients often ask me for inexpensive date ideas in the DC Area since they generally are the ones who plan and pay for dates, and after a while of “trying to find the one” costs can add up. This article focuses on dates outside of your home (as opposed to cooking for her or watching DVDs).  As such, I’m talking about beginning dates, such as first or second dates, although some of the date ideas could work later on as well.

What is important is that you do your research, be prepared, and get an idea for the kinds of activities or foods your date would enjoy.

Check with some of your favorite restaurants and see if they have daily or happy hour specials. This area has enough going on that you can probably find very affordable burger nights, live music, wing nights, salsa dancing, trivia nights, karaoke nights, etc.  somewhere on nearly any night of the week.

You also want to research areas that have appropriate venues for dates. So, if you are taking someone on a date for drinks, look into places you can take her afterwards for dinner, dessert, or just to see the sights. I tend to focus on Gallery Place/Chinatown, Eastern Market, and Clarendon, but you can research areas that are convenient for you, keeping in mind that your dates may not live near you. When I’ve had to choose a Maryland neighborhood for dates, I’ve chosen Bethesda.

Part of doing research is finding out about the person with which you will be going on the date. Knowing her interests, what she likes to drink or eat, and where she either hangs out, lives, or works can be helpful when it comes to suggesting particular places. Even then, you are selling the experience and your knowledge. So, if after researching where the restaurant bargains are on a particular night, you can get across that you know a place for great tacos, sangria, beer, or coffee, she will be more interested in the venue because you are being more specific and have knowledge of the venue or menu item.  This may explain why many of my suggestions in the below list are Latin. J A great art opening, live band, or book signing can work just as well. Know your audience and the venue.

So how can you be prepared? If you’ve already researched several places to get drinks, coffee, and inexpensive food in several neighborhoods, you are prepared with other options if you suggest something that she isn’t interested in. Maybe she doesn’t like sangria or tacos. Or maybe you get to the venue and it is closed for a private party, out of business, or packed with people–have other options ready. Depending on where you both live and the date venue, you may need to think about transportation logistics.

Here are some examples of inexpensive date ideas:

1. The National Zoo, music shows at the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, free outdoor movies (National Mall, Capital Riverfront, Crystal City, Rosslyn, etc.),  Smithsonian museums, and art openings at galleries are good arts and/or culture options that are free.

2. La Tasca in Chinatown has $3.75 glasses of a variety of sangrias and (specific) appetizers in the bar area during happy hour, 4-7pm daily. You want to get here early to get a bar table, so you may wind up waiting for your date. I get there at 5:15 pm, and read a book till my date shows up at 6:00 pm.

3. Zengo in Chinatown has a happy hour that is 7 days a week 5-8PM, and features $5 Latin-Asian Cocktails and $5 Small Plates.

4. Mate in Georgetown has Half Price Sushi, $6 martinis, margaritas, mojitos and glasses of wine, and $4 beer during their happy hour, Monday-Friday 5-7pm.

5. El Centro D.F on 14th Street NW has a year round rooftop happy hour 5-7 pm daily with $4 margaritas, Mexican beers, red & white wine. They also have a $2 taco night featuring chef’s choice of 3 special tacos all Tuesday evening in the Taqueria & Tequileria.

6 & 7. Either Teaism in Penn Quarter or Northside Social in Clarendon are good options to offer along with a bar option like La Tasca or Mate.

8. Eastern Market is a good option for a date on a weekend, when everything is open. Eastern Market works well because you can walk together looking at the stands (joking about the wilder merchandise), and take a break at a coffeehouse or get inexpensive food nearby.

9. Activity dates like hiking, playing pool, or bowling can also be good options, if you are both interested in the activity.

10. Book signings work as well, as long as the date in question is interested in the topic.  Some book signings are free, while other venues (such as Sixth & I) charge for their signings. The authors are often celebrities, making the experience even more memorable. Sixth & I sometimes gives you a discount on the book with the purchase of tickets to a signing.

Now get out there and plan some good inexpensive dates that both of you will enjoy!