Dates on a shoestring….(not on an actual shoestring: that would be weird…)

Statistically speaking, the single life is more expensive than being coupled up.
Tell me about it.
Never mind all those bills paid for by one; lack of shared hotel rooms (for all those weddings that you get invited to – on your own)  not to mention all the gym memberships, new clothes, shoes, haircuts, to keep you tip-top and ready to date….
And dates themselves??!  Well, this is where I come in. 

Dates do not need to be expensive.  NO!  Single people – we are all in the same boat.  Please, spare yourself the extra cash that you may be tempted to flash (!) on your potential other half, and spend it on your heating bill instead… hopefully, one day, you may well need less heat in your single abode…. (because you will snuggling up on the sofa with your beloved.  Bingo!)
Some suggestions of free, or pretty cheap dates (in the best sense of the word) for you….
A picnic… one of the Top Ten dates that I have ever been on involved a simple blanket, picnic and stunning view.  OK; choose your food carefully – this is not free, admittedly, but a bit of imagination can you get you far.  Forget fancy fare – I was cooked a fish (points for confidence) over a gas cooker, with some salad, French bread and wine.  By selecting lots of little things to munch on, you have demonstrated thoughtfulness, confidence and originality.  Tick, tick, tick.  You can bank more Dating Points if you managed to concoct any of your nibbles yourself.  Oh, and if you can get to a beach or river, so much the better.  There is something about gazing over water that can really bring out the romantic nature of a shared blanket, with the sun dipping down over the waves/ripples… (I'm welling up.)
A walk… in the countryside, along the beach, up a hill.  Do your research: if your date has some health problems, or is not quite as fit as you, best avoid dragging him/her up a mountain.  Most females don't want to sweat excessively on a first date: just saying.  However, a well chosen route will enable you to both chat, drink in some beautiful views and bond over a well earned tea/coffee/beer at the cosy pub that you could end up at. 
A hobby.. be it one that you both share, or one that you are both trying for the first time – a creative art class or sporting hobby will enable you to chat about the activity and laugh over the potential pitfalls that it may present.  If you are trying something new, it will bring you together in your attempts to succeed; if you are playing a sport that you both, or one of you, excels in, or sucks at, you can laugh at competitive natures or give helpful tips.  Warning: do not treat the date as an opportunity to smash your opponent into the ground, or smugly outdo your mate:  you will remain mateless. 
Watching an event… with a little research, you can find a variety of events in your area which you could base your date around.  An open air concert; free spectacle, such as an air display or hot-air balloon festival; regatta; sporting event in your area, such as a bike ride or climbing or surfing competition…. obviously, not all of these ideas suit everyone's taste, so mention your idea before you go, to see how well it will be received.  An open-minded date may not have necessarily thought of the idea themselves, but then end up enjoying it.  At worst, you can laugh about how terrible the morris dancing was/loud the planes were/skinny the cyclists were (delete where applicable) .
Something different… there are always those dates that you had no idea what to expect.  And if you did have an idea of what to expect, you would still never have expected that.   I was once invited over to for a meal in my date's local pub, and once I arrived at his house, he casually mentioned that it was his turn to wind up the village church clock and would I mind if we did it together, en route to the pub???   What was initially a very bizarre request, turned out to be a very fun (and funny) shared experience, as we trudged across a darkened graveyard and, after unlocking a 12th century church, ascended several flights of tiny, ancient, spiral staircases.  I mocked his frenetic winding of a very heavy cog, so he got his own back by making me do it.  We laughed about it later in the pub, and I later reflected that it showed he was confident enough to do something a tad offbeat with me.  And I was proud that I conquered my vertigo and did not wuss out.  We learned a lot about each other… and I learned that I am crap at clock winding.   Still, it's appealing if your date deviates from the usual coffee/drink/meal that is usually expected from them.  (our next date was riding a big wheel in our local town.  What was it with that boy and heights?!)
So… I hope that you have found some of these ideas useful or interesting.  I would highly recommend doing your research to see what is happening in your local area – do something different, do something cheap; just remember: throwing money around does not guarantee a good time… and a special person would not expect you to do this.   Oh go on, insert that 'best things in life are free' cliché here, if you wish…
Happy dating!