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Does it really pay to go overboard to impress on the first date? Isn’t it a genuine connection you’re seeking and not just a fling?

Do yourself a favor: When you’ve found someone who appears to be the woman of your dreams or your Prince Charming, be upfront about your financial situation, especially if funds are limited.

If your prospective partner is unwilling to understand your situation, it is time to move on.

If they’re still willing to give it a shot, that’s great news. But you’ll have to do a little legwork, think outside the box and search for creative but low-cost date ideas to keep things interesting.

Here are a dozen frugal ways to date that will not make you look cheap.

1. Enjoy the Arts

Visit a local museum or attend a play at the community theater to support and enjoy the arts. Search online for specials from Groupon and LivingSocial or go for an annual pass, which may be much cheaper than you think.

A day strolling through a museum is very affordable. Some are free, and many others cost $10 or less.

2. Video Game Competition

If you own a video game console, a little healthy competition on the Wii or Xbox Kinect is a great way to spend time with your date. To change things up a little, Redbox is always available and offers inexpensive video game rentals.

3. Movie Night

Throw a bag of popcorn in the microwave, pop open a soft drink, turn on your favorite flick from Netflix or Redbox, and you have a movie date in the comfort of your own home.

4. Visit a National Park or a Zoo

A comprehensive list of national parks can be found here. Also, be on the lookout for free admission days at parks, museums and zoos.

5. Embrace Your Inner Chef

Whip up your favorite dish in the kitchen and head out to the local park for a romantic picnic. And if you’re no cook, grab takeout instead. No tip, no wait; just you and your date.

6. Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Perhaps admission to your state parks is free. Put on your hiking boots and head out with a picnic lunch. Or maybe go swimming or boating on a lake. How about snowshoeing in winter?

7. Date Night in

Instead of spending $100 at a fine-dining establishment, check the sales circular to spot coupons and deals on your favorite foods and spend the night inside. Dress up the table, light the candles and even add a glass of wine or Champagne to the mix.

8. Visit the Local Flea Market

If it’s not scorching hot outside or you find one in an indoor location, a flea market is a great place to get to know each other while strolling up and down the aisles. And if you do decide to purchase an item, it will likely be at a fraction of the cost you’re accustomed to paying in traditional retail outlets.

9. Attend a Community Event

Search the entertainment section of your local paper for free community events, such as art walks, concerts in the park, street fairs and events at the local college.

10. Take a Mini-Vacation

If you want to take a weekend trip, don’t wait until the last minute to book flights and travel accommodations (unless you spot a last-minute deal). Instead, plan ahead, start saving money, and search for deals on airfare, dining, entertainment and lodging using travel and daily deal sites.

Do you have any low-cost date ideas in mind? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

This post originally appeared on Money Talks News.

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