First dates are always difficult. Besides the awkward conversations and being paranoid about messing up, first date really seems to set up the course of the rest of the relationship. There are ways to make sure that you set yourself up for success. But there are also ways you can doom the relationship before it even starts. And one of the most critical errors you can make on a first date is to spend a lot of money on a girl you barely know.

I have a friend who tells me that he expects repayment for what he does out on a date. If he spends a lot of money, he expects to be paid back in the bedroom. So on a first date, he goes overboard. He takes them to expensive dinners, then buys drinks, gives the girl flowers, buys new clothes for himself, etc. Then, when the night is over, the girl shakes his hand, gives him a hug and goes home. Being the only girl who he considers a friend, he always complains to me, telling me about what a bitch that girl was. Well, no, she wasn’t a bitch. He just scared her away because she wasn’t ready to put out. And what kills me is that he taught his approach with women to another guy I know. Both of them are still single and miserable.

If only they learned that spending a ton of money on date number one is a recipe for dating disaster. I know it might seem like a good idea because you are trying to impress a girl. But she might think you are trying to buy your way into her pants. Why would she think that, you ask? Well, most girls have learned that lesson because of their own past experience or their friends dating horror stories.

So rather than run the risk of damaging your chances, pull back the reigns and go low budget. This will help the girl be more comfortable, create a low-stress environment for both of you, and help you score date number two.

One of the most common fears, however, of not spending a lot is that the date won’t be as good. That’s not true.  There are a ton of other options for low-cost, successful dates. Here are some suggestions for fun and engaging first dates that won’t cost you a lot of money:

  1. Go bowling.

I know it sounds like something out of the 1950’s, but bowling can be a really good way of getting to know someone while also easing the tension of being on a first date. It’s a great way to talk and rather than have the issue of awkward gaps in conversation you have something to do, like throwing the ball. Also, you can really gauge whether this girl is right for you by seeing how competitive she can get or how much fun she can be. But more importantly, bowling really isn’t that expensive. And most bowling alleys run specials like cosmic bowling. This will help you both have fun without breaking the bank.

  1. Race go-karts

There is nothing more amusing that racing around in a teeny-tiny car, bumping into one another. This is a great way to challenge your date while also showing her how you can take the wheel. It also doesn’t cost a ton of money. Many times you can even find a Groupon for this, which would cut the price down.

  1. Go for a walk.

There is no better way to save money than to do something that is completely free. A simple walk could be an amazing free first date. Find a place that you think would be enjoyable and that could spark conversation, then see if your date would like to go for a walk. This will give the girl insight into what you value, which is time together.  You can walk along chatting about everything and nothing. Just enjoy the time getting to know one another.

  1. Trivia night

Most restaurants have one night a week dedicated to trivia night. Although I don’t recommend dinner for a first date because your dinner conversation could feel more like an interview or even an interrogation, this is a great way to integrate dinner with something more fun. Trivia allows you both to stretch those brain muscles and work together as a team, thus bringing you closer while simultaneously getting to know one another more. There’s usually no extra charge for trivia nights either, only your food and drinks.

  1. Go to a farmer’s market.

I have a friend who loves when guys ask her to go to the farmer’s market. This shows her that a guy cares about his local community. It’s also a great place to learn about each other. You can learn what foods she likes, what it was like for her growing up, and what she values. And you can learn all of that while just walking around and visiting stands. It’s inexpensive and impresses on her the idea that you want to be together for more than just what happens in the bedroom.

  1. Go to an arcade.

As a gamer girl, this would be the first date after my own heart. Arcades are not incredibly expensive but filled with tons of fun. You can compete with your date while also getting to see her playful side. And if you find yourself struggling for conversation, just find another game to play. It’s low-cost and low-stress. Plus, if you get hungry, most arcades have food and drinks.

  1. Play video games

Maybe you have a PlayStation or a Wii. Pull it out and see if your date wants to play. If she isn’t a gamer, maybe you could teach her how it is done giving you that bonding time. If she is a gamer, turn it into a friendly battle. Don’t get too competitive, though. You don’t want her to think this was all just so you could stroke your ego.

  1. Laser tag

Nothing says young love like running around in the dark shooting one another. It’s a bit off the wall and unorthodox but it is incredible amounts of fun. You can join forces or compete against one another. It’s up to you. See what missions the arena offers and plan together your strategy. Many laser tag arenas run specials on Friday nights but also are advertised on Living Social or Groupon. So dress in black and wear your sneakers. It’s time for battle.

  1. Netflix marathon

Do you both love the same television show or series of movies? Willing to try watching the show she likes for just one season? Then you might want to try a Netflix marathon. Ask your date over, order food or make it together, and get comfortable. It’s going to be a long night with potential snuggling and cuddling included.

10.  Volunteer together

Show a girl your softer side while giving back to the community. Ask her to volunteer with you at a local charity event or shelter. Maybe even do some research to find out what charity is close to her heart in order to score some bonus points. Just remember, time is more valuable than money to charities. Therefore, volunteering will show her the size of your heart rather than the size of your bank account.

11.  Geocaching

Many people have never heard of geocaching but it is something that my sister got into and raved about how much fun it is. All you need is a GPS and access to Still confused? Geocaching is simply a worldwide scavenger hunt. You go to the coordinates you gathered off of the website where you will find a treasure awaiting that someone left from before. It’s nothing expensive but it makes you feel like a real pirate searching for buried treasure. Replace the treasure with one of your own and continue the game. This is fun and will take you both back to your childhood as you drive or run around to each new adventure.

12.  Go for a run.

Either find a route that you can both run together or sign up to run a local 5K. But working out together is a great way to bond. Just be sure to keep a pace where you can still talk. Don’t run ahead either, even if she runs slower than you do. This is a date, not a race against one another.

13.  People watch

My boyfriend and I do this together all the time and sometimes it makes the best date. Meet together in a mall or at a local area where you can sit and watch the world go by. Starbucks is a great place to people watch. Talk about what you see, make up stories for the people going by, and just enjoy being together.

14.  Try Cross-Fit

Put on your workout gear and meet up at a local cross-fit gym. Cross-fit is interval training to the extreme. Together you can work out, sweat it out, and have some laughs if it isn’t your thing. Just be sure to check on both your own and her fitness level to make sure this is something you both can do. The last thing you want is to have your first date end with a trip to the hospital.

15.  Go to a museum

Most museums have times that entrance is free or low cost. Show your date your intellectual side and learn something new. Pick something unique that maybe you haven’t seen before to really step out of your element so you can learn together.

Regardless of the date you pick, just remember that a girl wants to get to know you, not your bank account. So go low-cost and you will see the rewards pay out over time.

Good luck!