A Response To The Chicago Tribune’s Top Ten Cheap Dates

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Chicago Tribune Terrible Date Ideas

Dating is expensive, and there comes a time when you need an alternative to dropping c-notes on dinners and entertainment, while still attempting to come across as someone who never thinks twice about paying extra for guac. I hit that point this week, and turned to Google in an attempt to find some date ideas that weren’t going to break the bank, but weren’t going to make me come across as a cheapskate. Luckily for me, the Chicago Tribune had some (questionable) advice just waiting for me to give my thoughts on.

1. Fire up the kitchen. What date wouldn’t be impressed by a dinner you cooked yourself? Better yet, make it a shared activity and cook together. It’s a great opportunity to talk while chopping vegetables side by side or wrapping eggrolls, for example.

While this isn’t groundbreaking advice, it’s a tried and true method. When done right, this can come off as “romantic and intimate,” instead of the realistic “costs a total of $38 and is within thirty feet of my bedroom.” However, as someone who can only cook three things, two of which involve a barbeque, this is probably going to lose me points with a girl. My advice to you other culinary-challenged people out there is to buy a premade dinner and litter your kitchen with dirtied utensils to pass it off as your own cooking. Or I guess don’t lie to the person you’re trying to date if you’re a “good person with morals” or whatever.

2. Rethink movies. Movies are the old dating standby. However, tickets and munchies can get pricey, and the routine may quickly get stale. Wow, your date by being creative. For instance, set up your TV on the patio or in the backyard along with a comfy seating area for a private outdoor theater.

Patio? Backyard? I live in an apartment, not a mansion in the suburbs. Why don’t I just project a movie on to my personal outdoors theater and watch it while floating around in my pool? Basically, this advice is telling me to invite a girl over to watch a movie on my couch. While this method was foolproof for me in college, somehow I doubt this is going to count as a “date” in the real world.

3. Go outside. Mother Nature offers a bevy of free or inexpensive activities, and her beauty can set the perfect stage for romance. For instance, pack a picnic and head to the park (I’m a fan of Subway’s $5 foot-long sandwiches for a quick and cheap picnic). You could also go to the beach, walk in the forest, watch wildlife, fly a kite, take a walking tour of your town or visit a pick-your-own-produce farm.

First of all, bringing Subway sandwiches to a picnic is like doing anal on your wedding night. All the possible romance has been sucked out of the situation, and there’s a serious chance someone is going to shit themselves. Other than that, a picnic is a pretty solid bet. It’s a step above cooking together at home, and everything you bring will be premade, so you don’t need to know how to cook. However, taking a walking tour of your town is just a fancy way of saying “walk around your block like a 70-year-old married couple.” Also, there is no possible way for a grown man to look attractive while running around trying to get a stupid kite off the ground and there’s an 80% chance it gets stuck in a tree within five minutes.

4. Visit the library. Your local library is a trove of free entertainment. Many offer book readings, film screenings, lectures or concerts.

Get the fuck outta here. The only place less sexy than the library is the hospital, and even that has a higher chance of you getting felt up (by your sixty-year-old doctor). You know what’s a great way to get to know someone better? Take them to a place where neither of you can talk or laugh without getting scolded. Plus, a book reading is not a turn on to anyone. Believe me, I’ve been reading my columns aloud to every girl I’ve taken on a date, and I’m still (surprisingly) single.

5. Get in touch with your inner child. Volunteering the two of you to baby-sit for a friend or relative can be a great way to impress a date. Plus, it gives you an excuse to act like a 5-year-old and get away with it.

Honestly, I’m impressed with this advice. I thought nothing could top “ go to a library” as the worst date idea of all time, but the Tribune has out done itself with this one. There is nothing that could get you less laid then taking care of a screaming baby all night. Maybe it’s because I’m 24, but I don’t ever want to be responsible for the care of a tiny human, let alone while trying to impress a girl. And what kind of piece of shit parents would allow this? “Hey guys, can I borrow your kid for the night? This girl I met on Bumble three weeks ago and I want to change his diapers and listen to him scream himself to sleep as a date.” What the fuck? My only explanation is that the writer of this column has a newborn and is so sleep deprived, he or she wrote this in the blind hope that someone will take care of them for a night.

6. Do good. Come together by helping others. You can check out volunteer opportunities in your area…or choose a project of your own, such as doing yard work for an elderly neighbor.

At this point, I don’t know if this advice is bad or if I’m just a terrible human being. Call me old fashioned, but I think community service should only be involved in dating as a story about how “you love helping others less fortunate” in order to make you seem more attractive. Just kidding. Kind of. I’m all for helping others, but I don’t see this as being especially fun or conducive to getting to know someone. Maybe keep this in your back pocket for when you’re really broke and frame it like “Well I was going to volunteer at the shelter today, but if you’d like to come along, I would enjoy the company.” That seems like a pretty solid move actually.

7. Get moving. When your body is active, it releases endorphins — hormones that boost your mood. That’s a definite bonus when it comes to dating. For a budget-friendly activity to get your blood pumping, try riding bikes, hiking, ice skating, rowing on a lake, fly fishing, sledding, shooting hoops or playing tennis at the local park.

Unlike a lot of other people, I actually don’t mind an active date. I like to exercise and date girls that also like to exercise, so hiking, bike riding, and ice-skating all sound like solid dates. My issue is when any kind of sport or competition comes into play. I’m extremely competitive, and will pick winning over making sure my date is having a good time every time. I’ve been on many a date that were going swimmingly until the girl decided “she could totally kick my ass at shuffleboard/darts/ping-pong,” and spiraled into awkwardness due to the following obnoxious victory dance or sullen silence.

8. Soak up culture. Many theaters, museums, galleries and zoos offer special discount days, such as standing-room-only shows or pay-what-you-can nights. Some even have free admission on certain days.

This would be a welcome change from what I’m usually soaking up (gin), and has the possibility of being a fun time. I say possibility because it all depends on how serious you and your date take your culture. I don’t want to take a tour and actually learn about all kinds of history, science, or god forbid, art. I’m trying to walk through exhibits, stop at things I think are cool, and make fun of everything else. If a girl is hoping that walking through the door of an art museum is going to get rid of my ADD and make me more in-tuned to my emotions, she is sorely mistaken. However, if she’s down to pregame with some wine before hand and talk about the exhibits like normal people, we’ll have a great time. Also, I don’t read plaques so that’s not going to fly.

9. Show some team spirit. Dating a sports fan? Many professional sporting events can carry hefty price tags. Why not feel like a teenager again — and save some money — by taking a date to the local high school game or check out your niece’s Little League or soccer matches?

Aside from being creepy as fuck, this also sounds incredibly boring. Unless your local high school football team is ranked, get ready for a lot of blown plays and shitty fundamentals. I love my niece, but I would rather not date at all then have to watch her and her teammates fail to complete a pass for an entire 60-minute soccer game. Also, when was the last time you watched a sport without drinking? This date would end with my face being plastered on the local paper under the headline “Man arrested for drinking vodka out of a water bottle at local high school game; most likely a pervert.”

10. Satisfy your sweet thing’s sweet tooth. Dinner and drinks for two can be pricey. Instead, go out for dessert at a cozy cafe or bakery.

Somehow, I don’t think this is going to be much cheaper than a normal dinner date. The only bakery or dessert places I know offer individual cupcakes or brownies for like $8 a piece, and I’ve seen the sweet tooth most girls have. All the will power they save for not gorging themselves on dinner dates goes out the window as soon as the words “red velvet” appear on the menu. If I’m going to drop money on a meal, it’s going to be somewhere that won’t make me feel like I’m dying from a sugar rush afterward.

Great advice, Chicago Tribune. You can catch me crushing the dating game by cooking up some homemade food while my date watches the baby before we all go to the park to fly a kite. Wait, I just described having a family. Is that supposed to be the end result of dating? Shit they might be on to something.

[via Chicago Tribune]

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