What to Wear? Who Pays? Great Ideas for Fun, Affordable -- or Free -- First Dates

It's summer and love is in the air. While true love might not cost a thing, dates are another matter. Given the uncertain economy, it's important to stretch your dating dollars.

Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments and "Good Morning America" personal finance contributor, appeared on the show today to share dating tips that will help you have a good time without breaking the bank.

Q: How much should I spend on the all-important first date?

A: Mellody thinks ... You shouldn't spend more than you can afford. A Recent match.com survey found out that more than 50 percent of men spend more than $50 on their first date. Make a budget for your dates and do not exceed that. There's no need to be lavish in order to impress your date, and don't forget that going all-out financially on the first date heightens your date's expectations for future get-togethers, making it hard to spend less on other dates.

Click here for Mellody's Web extra bonus tips for dating on a budget.

Q: How much should women spend on a first date?

A: Mellody thinks ... Women usually have it easier when it comes to spending money on the first date, but where they really go overboard is on getting ready for it. Fifty-three percent of women say they spend money on buying new dresses and grooming for first dates. This is unnecessary. Wear the clothes and jewelry that you own.

Q: Do you have any cheap-date ideas?

A: Mellody thinks ... You can have a date for virtually nothing. Many museums in major cities have free or discount days where you can impress your date with your knowledge of art. Many cities and towns have free concert series in their parks. Don't forget about the attractions of the great outdoors. Hikes in parks and other outdoor activities are easy to do, free, and are a great way to have your date's undivided attention.

Q: Who should pay on the first date?

A: Mellody thinks ... This is always a controversial question. In my own, old-fashioned, personal opinion, the man should definitely pay for the first few days, but there are a number of factors to consider. Who invited whom to go out? The younger generation is more likely to be OK with going Dutch. If you've been dating someone for a while and you earn more, you might consider paying, although you shouldn't do that to the exclusion of your other financial obligations, including student loans, credit card debt and living expenses.

Q: What is a great, free date activity that will really impress my date?

A: Mellody thinks ... You can consider taking your date to volunteer. For example, take your date to work in a soup kitchen, or help build a home in a community, or help out at a pet shelter (find out more about this option at petfinder.com). This might not be best for a first date, though, but it might be a good, cheap option for, say, a third date. This idea might not be for everyone, but it could be a great way to spend quality time with someone you are trying to get to know, and it will look great in the eyes of your date.

Dating on a Budget

Q: I just want to take my date out for drinks, or dinner. Is there a way to do that economically?

A: Mellody thinks... Taking someone for dinner or drinkers can be expensive, but many restaurants are now offering special promotions, such as one deal per week, half-price appetizers or discounted drinks. Some restaurants even offer different daily specials. Don't be afraid to take your date to these places, especially if they are discounting something he or she really enjoys. There are good websites, such as Metromix, that you can check to learn more about restaurant promotions in your area.

Web Extra Tips

If you are going to dinner for a date, then consider going to a restaurant that is "BYOB," or bring your own booze. Many restaurants will let you bring your own wine or beer for free or a small fee. This is a great way to save on alcohol and this will ensure that you will have exactly what you want.

If you are a member of an on-line dating service, try to be as selective as possible, so you are only going with dates that truly have some future potential. Going out on too many first dates can be a drain on your finances.

Think about doing things at home. For example, cook your date a meal instead of going out to eat. Not only will it be more intimate, but it will surely impress your date.

To return to the "Good Morning America" website.