The Online Dating First Date: Get a Drink


Single folks, repeat after me — "Would you like to go out for a drink?"

It can be coffee. It can be a beer, cocktail, or glass of wine. It can be tea. Bubble tea. Juice. A milkshake. Heck, it can be for bottled water if you want. (Going to a bottled-water bar could either be a hilarious first date or one of the most pretentiously off-putting things I can think of. Take a gamble!)

But seriously, make your first date grabbing a drink.

A few months ago, I rejoined the ranks of the single — and I returned to the hopeful, frustrating, and sometimes pleasantly surprising world of online dating. While I've had my share of terrible dates — dates where pulling conversation out of the other person was about as easy and pleasant as pulling a particularly onerous clog of hair out of the drain — I've really been enjoying the opportunity to meet new people I would never meet otherwise. (See also: From $5 to $30+, Date Ideas for Every Budget)

Perhaps even more than meeting new people, though, I've enjoyed how dating has both made me closer to my existing friends and helped me forge new friendships. People LOVE talking about dating — about what a good relationship means, what kind of people you meet on each dating site, and how many dates you go on before you have the "what are we doing?" talk.

And one thing that everyone agrees on, no matter what dating site you use — OkCupid,, eHarmony, Plenty of Fish, or whatever else — always get a drink for your first date.


1. It's Frugal

Yeah, you're reading a frugal-living website — this is obviously going to be the first point. But dating can be expensive! I've been on exactly one online-dating first date that consisted of dinner, and I made a special exception because we had been talking about older restaurants. The date was fun, although I wasn't interested in a second date — and it cost me over $30. I think that $30 isn't unreasonable for a good meal and drink out, but if you going on a few dinner dates a month where you could have just gotten a $2 cup of coffee instead...? Well, that makes quite a difference.

2. You Have an Easy Out

If it's immediately obvious that you guys just don't have that spark, you have an easy out — it's just a drink. Stay 45 minutes, chat, and kindly take your leave. If you're at a meal or an event, getting out is a dicier situation.

3. You're in Public

I'm generally a pretty trusting person, but you are meeting a stranger for the first time. I've had people suggest hikes for first dates. While I love hiking (and love that it's free), I'd prefer to not have the first time I meet someone be when we're walking alone on a trail into the wilderness.

4. You Have Something to Do (That Isn't Too Demanding)

I'm a fidgeter. I like having something to do — even if it's as small as taking a sip of coffee. (And then, realistically, usually shredding the coffee cup or beer label or whatever it is.) But, at the same time, you're not doing a more-involved activity that makes it difficult to talk and get to know the person.

So, readers — do you agree? Or do you have a different favorite cheap first date?

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Guest's picture

I'm with you. Back in my single days, a drink was good, and if you got a good vibe, you could progress into another drink or dinner.

Guest's picture

Number 2 is key I think. Committing to having an entire dinner with someone you've never met can leave you sitting at an awkward meal and forcing conversation. Having just a drink can give you an easy half-hour meet and then take off if you want.

Guest's picture
Thrifty Writer

I usually meet first dates for coffee or tea. I don't trust first impressions (from either side) made under the influence (and, of course, it's cheaper:-).

Guest's picture

Yo. This is all very good but what if you're a cripplingly shy, social anxiety ridden recovering alcoholic? It's a bit more difficult then.