Summer is the best time to ramp up your social life. Why? Because the now accessible great outdoors allows you to date on a dime without feeling guilty about being a tightwad.

 

A romantic candlelight dinner with cocktails and wine in the city can easily set you back $200. But the romance factor increases logarithmically when you set the table yourself under the stars. Cold roasted chick­en, vegies and dip, a french bread stick and a bottle of wine tastes like it cost a million bucks with the constellations overhead.

 

Here are a few date-on-a-dime picnic tips:

 

• Scout your location first. Not everyone’s knees and rump are made for an evening on the ground. Many parks have picnic tables, but also look for cover in case of rain.
• If you are pressed for time, buy a grocery store roasted chicken and cut it up, the cost isn’t much different than cooking a bird from scratch.
• Buy plastic plates and glasses rather than disposable and you can re-use them for years.
• Candles with lids will last through many dinners. Another option is a collapsible or telescoping camping lantern.

– Alison Griffiths is a financial journalist, author and host of Maxed Out on the W Network. Write to her at griffiths.alison@gmail.com.