So you’re broke AF. Maybe you got the pink slip from the tech startup you thought was a sure thing. Maybe you’re taking time off from the 9-to-5 grind to find yourself. Whatever the reason, you’re scrambling to find change so you can eat… or at least have enough money to do laundry.

Here’s the good news. One, you’re not alone (thank you, student loans!). Two, your brokeness doesn’t have to negatively impact your dating life.

You don’t need a pile of Benjamins to impress a Tinder match. Truly. When it comes to setting up a date, all you really need is a great deal of imagination and creativity — or at least the ability to glean something from the following ideas.


Stay home and actually cook something

There’s no need to splurge on a fancy meal when you can stay in and whip up a home-cooked meal for your date. But what if you’re not Bourdain in the kitchen? No matter. There are a ton of quick and easy recipes anyone can do that will easily give you the vibe of a culinary god. An even better option is cooking your meal with your new ladyfriend, which provides a great opportunity for bonding.

Pro tip: find out if she’s vegan (or allergic to peanuts) beforehand.


Have a damn picnic!

This classic date idea is as cheap as they come. Pack a blanket and some of your fave sandwiches — or grab a few $2 slices — and visit your local green space. Get playful and unleash your inner child with your date by tossing around a Frisbee or flying a kite (you can find inexpensive options at your local dollar store). Also recommended: including a couple cans of beer or a cheap bottle of wine from Trader Joe’s in your backpack.


Visit your local museum/art gallery on those clutch “free” days

If you want to treat your date to something a little posh — without breaking your nonexistent bank account — there’s usually at least one free museum or art gallery in your town or city. Pay-to-play museums and art galleries usually also offer a day when they will accept donations instead of general admission fees.

I can attest that this is a killer date idea; but unless you were a fine-arts major, sometimes strolling through a museum can be boring. You can make it interesting by reading up on one of the exhibits ahead of time so you have something to talk about and critique. Or, if you’re the playful type, create a scavenger hunt. Make a list of things for you and your date to find in paintings — flowers, birds, horses (there’s always a shit-ton of horses) — and whoever finds everything on their list first wins.


Have yourselves a massage night

For a ridiculously amorous and inexpensive date (but NOT A FIRST DATE by any means!), treat your SO to an at-home, pampering massage. Beforehand, purchase some sensually scented body oils or lotion from the local drugstore. Later that night, light some candles and play soothing New Age music that isn’t overly obnoxious while treating your sweetie to a romantic rubdown from head to toe. If you’re lucky, she’ll return the favor. Draw a warm bath afterward for the two of you and then get down with some soaking sexy times.

Really, though, this is for people who are already couples. Don’t be that creepster who suggests such a night for the third (or first!) date.


Netflix and… well, you know

Staying home to binge-watch the latest Netflix obsession is a pretty obvious choice. But snuggling under blankets while sharing a mutual admiration for Bloodline’s Kyle Chandler over a frozen pizza is still a good time. Back when I was a broke 20-something and Netflix was still strictly a DVD-by-mail company, my boyfriend and I frequently would stay in, watch Willow, and have sex.

I had no complaints.

Which brings up the other obvious point about the Netflix-and-chill phenomenon: it’s the best way to ensure getting laid.


When in doubt, go to happy hour

If you don’t want to remain homebound, meeting a woman for after-work drinks is a safe and cheap bet. Most bars offer happy hour specials, allowing you to pick up the tab and appear at least modestly well-off. Plus, suggesting a date before the sun sets says you actually like this person, and you’re not just looking for a booty call.


Get a sugar mama

As Drake says, YOLO. If you’re thinking of being a well-kept fuckboy, dependent on the whims of a rich widow/divorcee, that’s your Zuul-given right — and something you might want to consider until you get back on your feet again. Crank up the end zone of your Tinder to 50, and prepare yourself to be wined and dined by cougars who are not only DTF, but who will also foot the bill.

Remember: just because you’re not feeling like a baller — because, well, you aren’t one — doesn’t mean that you can’t date. I get that if you’re feeling shitty about your financial status, a drop in self-confidence will affect your dating life. But still! Don’t be afraid to go out there, meet new people, and have some fun. Yes, some people will reject you based on your income (or lack thereof). But who needs people like that? The key is to remember there isn’t anything to be ashamed of, and that your bank account doesn’t define you. Besides, chances are your latest Tinder date is also rolling in more debt than dough. Thank you, economy!


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