8 Tips for Cost-Effective Dating from The Millionaire Matchmaker

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Even though she's The Millionaire Matchmaker, Patti Stanger knows how to have a good time on the cheap. Stanger, whose fifth season of Matchmaker premieres on Bravo on Monday before returning to its regular Thursday slot on Sept. 1, offered The Price of Fame some dating tips for love-seekers on a budget. (Keep in mind that whoever asks for the date pays for it.)

1. Reasonably priced yummies go a long way.
One millionaire on the show confided that he loved See's candies, a mid-priced chocolatier with a cult following out west. Stanger, also a fan of See's, encouraged the rich Romeo to buy a box for his date. A 1-pound box of See's nuts and chews costs about $15 in the store. A 1-pound box of, say, assorted Godiva chocolates can run up to $50. The queen of reality-show courting saved the millionaire -- and now you -- about $35.

2. Be creative. Unless you're a royal prince, as is one contestant this season, pick a venue that shows off your initiative more than your bankroll. Stanger recalled a spot off of I-95 in Fort Lauderdale where she used to lie down and feel the landing and ascending airplanes move over her body. Complemented by a bucket of KFC and drinks, that was an evening's entertainment and a fun way to get to know someone. Economical dating "is about doing those cool and out-of-the-way things," Stanger says.
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3. BYOB. Pick a place where you can bring the wine. Even better, let it be Two Buck Chuck, the Trader Joe's pocket-change vino marketed under the name Charles Shaw. Stanger adores the stuff. If you go to a restaurant, be advised that industry-wide markups average about 75% over retail, according to winemag.com. In other words, you're not getting out of your meal for less than $25 on your bar tab alone. Stanger just saved you another $23. Hey, Patti, ever consider the personal-finance biz?

4. Scour papers and blogs for free and low-priced events. Free concerts, art exhibits, plays and old art-house movies can do the trick. You'll get props for your thoughtfulness when you bring a picnic. The beach is an option, too. The average price for a concert ticket has climbed to $31.57, according to digitalmusicnews.com. That's up to $31.57 (or $63.14, if you'd be paying for two) more for you to keep in your pocket.

5. Resist the temptation of coffee, lunch or an after-work drink.
Yeah, they all cost less than dinner, but you'll lose a potential relationship. "Romance is the key to dating," she says. "You can't get romantic on a coffee. A drink is an audition. Lunch is an interview. Brunch and dinner are romance." Even in urban areas like Los Angeles, where Matchmaker returns after a year in New York, you can find great brunch places that won't break your piggy bank.

6. Show off, but only in the right setting. It's free and it puts you in the best possible light. "If you sing, sing," Stanger says. "If you dance, dance. Show me your assets, baby. If you're muscular, wear a tight shirt." That doesn't mean you burst into song in the middle of a quiet cafe. Find your moment, like singing along to the radio or at a club. A professional golfer once took Stanger on a date to a miniature golf course. After a much-publicized broken engagement last summer, she is seeing a "starving artist" who is making her a painting. "You want to show that you're different than everybody," she says. "It's about the inner you." Stanger, however, has strict advice for magicians tempted to strut their stuff: Don't. Just don't. "I don't like magicians," she says. "They're creepy. Let's keep that in the box."

7. Don't put yourself in a position to look cheap. It's the biggest turn-off of all, Stanger warns. If you can't afford to be somewhere, don't be there. Stanger says a date once pulled up in a Porsche and requested that they split a tasting menu for one. Stanger's response? Neh-eh.

8. Don't talk about money.
At all costs. Never thought you'd read that in a personal-finance column, did ya? We're not sure this tip will save you money, but it will save your dignity.
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