Dating Stimulus Package

Online dating membership: $60/month. Cocktails at trendy bar: $36. Countless trips to the office vending machine in hopes that the guy in the next cubicle will notice you: $10.50 in change.

Dating can take a toll on a woman's wallet. However, that doesn't mean that you should let tough economic times dampen your dating prospects. Below are four ways to meet men that won't cost you a dime.

1. Ditch the expensive membership

Forget paying $40+ a month for an online dating membership, for cash-strapped romantics, DowntoEarth.com, the newest site from Match.com is totally free and comes with a built in system that lets users rate the accuracy of people's profile photos, enabling you to avoid blind dates with men whose profile photos were taken 20 years ago. Other popular free dating sites include Craigslist.com, PlentyofFish.com, OkCupid.com, and IntellectConnect.com

2. Have your friends play matchmaker

No professional matchmaker will ever know you as well as your friends: They've met your past boyfriends, know what your deal-breakers are, and your likes and dislikes. More importantly, they won't think to charge you the $100/hour that professional matchmakers do (although you might have to promise to name your first born after them or at least send them an invite to the wedding.) If you don't want to ask them directly to wrangle up a date for you, one good way to get the word out that you'd like to be set-up is to host a potluck dinner party and ask everyone to please bring an eligible guy and you will do the same. Think of it as a clothing swap for cute guys, one woman's last season dud is another woman's hot, new date!

3. Frequent bookstores, coffee shops, and anywhere else that lets you lounge around for a while

Instead of waiting for a man to approach you at a bar (and racking up an expensive tab in the process,) take advantage of other less expensive opportunities to mix and mingle. Bookstores and coffee shops with Wifi, for example, are great places for people to strike up a conversation without too much pressure. Many church groups and single organizations also have mixers that are gratis. Lastly, don't rule out professional associations and networking events. Who knows? You might just land a new job and a new boyfriend in one evening!

4. Take a part-time job where the boys are

This suggestion not only will not cost you anything, it actually will make you some extra cash! (Not such a bad thing in this economy, even if it's just to give you some additional money to take advantage of all of the going-out-of-business sales!) For maximum man-meeting potential, try to zero in on places that will offer a lot of interaction with men, both co-workers and clients. Sure, you could apply for a job at a scrap-booking store or a high-end women's clothing boutique, but the potential to meet men won't be nearly as good as somewhere like the Home Depot or the men's department of a Macy's.

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