Dating doesn’t have to drain your bank balance. Invest in your love life and your credit rating with these tips…

Save the best till last
Dinner in the fanciest restaurant in town may be the quintessential, traditional date but, even if you’re splitting the bill, it’s going to be pricey. First dates are always hit and miss – there’s simply no guarantee you’re going to end up going out together for a second/third/fourth time, no matter how good the email banter or how much you think you fancy each other. So it makes sense – certainly financially – to start small, perhaps with a couple of drinks, and splash out further down the line when you’re more sure you’re onto a winner.

Daytime dates
Who says dates have to be in the evening? Ok, so there’ll probably come a point when you’ll want a fun night out together (or something that ends in an excuse for a nightcap!) if the dates are going well. But in the early days, when you’re just getting to know each other, daytime dates are a great way to save money. Firstly, for many it’ll mean less money spent on pints and cocktails. Plus, tea and coffee shops are a great place to chill and chat and will only set you back a few pounds, and lunch is generally a cheaper option than dinner.

Pick a picnic
Is there anything more romantic than a picnic, which you’ve thoughtfully taken the time to prepare for one another? Find a secluded spot in a nearby park, or countryside then you’re free to enjoy your spread, and each other’s company, without a clock-watching waiter or bill in sight. Wine, or champagne, is far cheaper from the supermarket than restaurants and bars, and even if what you pack is cheap and cheerful it’ll feel special because of the effort you’ve made. And picnics aren’t just for summer – just find somewhere with shelter, wrap up warm and pack a blanket!

Do your research
Finding out your date’s interests and suggesting imaginative things they might enjoy is a great way to build a connection, but you don’t have to fall into the trap of thinking you need to impress them with expensive ‘out there’ ideas – just do some homework and be creative. Scour the web and local listings pages for things going on in your area; there might be loads of exhibitions, shows and fairs you had no idea about, some of which could even be free.

Wonder walks
If you’ve got through that exciting/terrifying/awkward/brilliant first date phase, and now things are more relaxed and you know you get on well and like each other, a country walk (or an urban stroll if that’s more up your street) is a truly wonderful date – and, usually, completely free! Don’t be fooled that its simplicity means it can’t be special. Being outdoors in the fresh air is inspiring and a walk’s a great chance to just let the conversation flow. Pick an interesting route and, who knows, you might be reminiscing about those views, or revisiting ‘your special spot’ for years to come.

Swap shop
Everybody wants to look their best when they’re trying to impress a potential new partner, but while it’s tempting to rush out and buy new outfits, this is a sure-fire way to dent your bank balance. Why not ask a good friend if you can borrow a dress, or their smart jacket, for a special date if you don’t have anything suitable in your own wardrobe? So long as you don’t take too much (and take care of their stuff!), they’ll want to support you and help out.

Better in than in
It might be called ‘going out’ together, but dates can be about ‘staying in’ too. Now, it goes without saying that it’s wise for your first date – particularly if it’s with a stranger you’ve met on the internet – is somewhere public. But a little further down the line, inviting your date to your home is a great way to show that you’re really interested and want to invite them into your world, and it can be done cheaply too. Impress a foodie with some home-cooked grub (or just bung a pizza in the oven) and perhaps watch a movie, or just chat. (Candlelight optional…).