Great Date Ideas (that don’t break the bank)


Looking to impress someone without spending a lot of money but don’t want to look like a cheapskate?  Here are a few suggestions on how to have a cheap date without looking like one:


There are many websites where you can get discounts if you plan ahead. On you can purchase gift certificates for less than their printed value.  How to settle the bill without looking like a bargain-hunter? Tell your date you have to use the restroom, grab the check, and take care of it while you’re up.   Then you’ll seem like someone who knows how to handle business efficiently and they will still feel taken care of, even if it cost you 15% less.


Many museums have “free days” where you can enter at no cost.  Usually, it’s a little busier than other days but that just means your date will have to snuggle up close to you to get to see the exhibit.  You don’t have to tell them that you knew about the free day just say “Hey, want to go to the modern art museum on Wednesday.” Play it off as a surprise, whatever you need to do but as long as it doesn’t seem pre-meditated.  Sometimes these museums take donations instead of charging a specific amount. Even if you give a “generous” $10 donation you’ll still pay less than admission for two but you’ll look like a philanthropist…very sexy.


A lot of bars have adjusted happy hours to go later or run on the weekends.  Research which places in your area have happy hour during a date-appropriate time and get yourself a reservation.  If the place is busy, it’ll just seem popular and you’ll have to get closer together to hear one another.


Emphasize how into fitness and/or the outdoors you are and invite them to go on a hike with you.  After the hike you can surprise your date with a pre-packed picnic basket and blanket and turn the day into a romantic outdoor retreat.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a good impression.  Effort should win over dollars spent any day.

The Phases of Dating During COVID


Since I began my practice, there have been only two major disruptors to the online dating process that have required me to modify my approach: Tinder and COVID. 

Online dating was always one of my favorite mediums for singles to meet but Tinder and the apps that followed made online dating accessible to all and forever impacted the dating landscape. 

COVID has changed everything about how to date online, use the apps, and filter for matches. Today, the number one question I hear is: “How does dating during COVID work?” Luckily for daters, the stages of dating have stayed the same, but the way we navigate them could be a little different.

These are the phases of online dating today:

Phase 1: Online Matching and Introduction

The speed of swiping is still just as quick as before but I find that daters are slower to move on to in-person dating in the pandemic as they take time to assess someone’s dating risk.

Phase 2: Texting/Messaging

This stage, which used to drag on for weeks or months, is truncated now because a call or video date is less risky than a traditional date. Before, people had to weigh the value proposition of an in-person date based on the investment of time and money. Now that those factors are removed, there is less pressure on this decision and singles are speeding through this part of the process.

Phase 3: The Phone Call

I have been a long-time advocate of the phone call prior to the first date. It is impossible to tell compatibility over text, yet before now, many people were skipping the phone call in favor of speed and efficiency. Now phone calls have once again become an accepted phase in the dating process as a lead up to a video chat or social distance date. 

For my clients who are nervous about giving out their phone number, I recommend downloading the TextNow App which gives you a free alternative number that will ring to your primary phone. That way if you ever change your mind about a match, you can change your number safely and easily and keep it moving.

Phase 4: Social Distance Date

Once you have talked on the phone or video chatted, you will need to meet up in person to see if the connection is real within a month or less. Most catfish situations come up when the daters have never connected off the app so I encourage clients to move offline as soon as it feels safe and comfortable.

For months, singles have waited for things to return to normal. So if you ever wondered how to date online in the middle of a world-wide pandemic AND election year, my answer is: it’s a lot like the old model of online dating with more precaution.

Now, more than ever, those who are uncoupled have felt the weight of their decision to stay single or the frustration of being unable to find a suitable partner. However, we are in the new normal and dating will not return to the old model anytime in the foreseeable future.

The positive side of this shift is that it has slowed down the filtering phase. What had become a rapid-fire round of swiping directly to a date and the inevitable ghosting that followed has been replaced by more mindful conversations and meaningful phone calls and video chats.

Ultimately, you have to create your own safety plan for dating in the time of Coronavirus but if you move offline quickly, I recommend downloading the TextNow App to communicate safely then meet up in a COVID-safe environment, you can still find love in today’s world.


This blog is sponsored by TextNow. The app solves many major challenges that my clients face in dating today:

  • You can keep your main number private
  • You can separate your personal and dating contacts
  • Plus, It’s easy to use and FREE.

I’m proud to collaborate with an app that empowers modern daters to feel safe and secure. Click here!

Damona’s Algorithm Hacks!

Here are a few key tips on how to making the algorithm work for you:


  1. Sign on regularly – daily if you can. If you have notifications turned off you will miss communications plus logging in less frequently tells the app you’re not that engaged and bumps you lower in the search when others are looking for someone like you. 
  2. Initiate messages and swipe liberally – if you don’t swipe or message anyone, the app can’t tell who you want to engage with and will keep matching you more broadly with people you might not actually connect with or find attractive. 
  3. Switch it up – making changes to your profile on regular intervals every month or so means you’re going to the top of the queue regularly 

Click here to get your FREE ALGORITHM HACKS from Damona!

5 Binge Worthy Dates & Mates Episodes

New to the Dates & Mates Podcast and Damona Hoffman? Here’s where you start.



Episode 387: Thirst Traps & How To Date A Celeb

Damona is joined by Emmy-nominated actress and Transgender Rights Activist, Laverne Cox (YES, THEE LAVERNE COX). She dishes all about how she found love on Tinder, her dating app strategy as a trans woman, & how she responds to being fetishized on dating apps. If there’s one sentence that summarizes this episode, it’s when Laverne said “don’t disrespect yourself by accepting less than what you’re looking for in love.”

Read the full recap here…


Episode 400: Dr. Drew & The Big 400

As it’s the 400th episode of Dates & Mates, Damona is talking with the man that started it all. The OG, the GOAT of dating and relationship advice, and host of the Loveline radio show for over 30 years – it’s Dr. Drew Pinsky! Damona and Drew answer listener questions throughout the episode, and his top tips for “doing the dance of dating.”

Read more about Dr. Drew here!


Episode 402: The 7 Love Styles & Doppelbangers

We’ve all heard of the Five Love Languages – AKA words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts and physical touch. And most times, you can’t go on a first date without someone asking you what your love language is.

But fun fact: did you know that the love languages were created in the 80’s? Former therapist Molly Owens thought it was time for a refresh, and we agree. Molly is the CEO of Truity, one of the leading providers of research-backed personality tests, and created the 7 Love Styles.

Read here to figure out what love style you are…


Episode 431: Green Flags & Don’t Text Your Ex Happy Birthday

Nick Viall, former star of The Bachelor and host of The Viall Files podcast, joins Dates & Mates for a 2nd time to talk about his new book, “Don’t Text Your Ex Happy Birthday.” Damona and Nick also deliberate our generation’s crucial questions: Does bad texting mean bad communication? How can we stop feeling stuck in our dating lives? And what really is the difference between a player and a f**kboy?

Find out the answers here!


Episode 450: Code-Switching Valentine & Smart Sex

Damona’s long-time friend and colleague Emily Morse, host of the Sex With Emily podcast, sits down with Damona for a special (and might I say, spicy) Valentine’s episode of Dates & Mates! Damona and Emily dive into what “great sex” actually looks like, and how to take control of your own arousal.

Plus, did you know you have a Sex IQ?? We didn’t either. Emily shares how you can figure out yours.

Read more about it here!


Dates & Mates is here to give you all the latest & greatest information you need on dating. Are there any topics you want Damona to discuss on the podcast? Let us know! DM Damona on all the socials @DamonaHoffman OR email