By Maude Standish

I have three theories about dating in New York. First, you should never go to a movie on a first date. This is for obvious reasons like you can’t really get to know each other behind plastic 3D goggles and if the movie is boring and you start to doze, you will reveal your unsettling sleeping habits (snoring, drooling, etc.) long before you show off your revealing lingerie. The second theory is that the ideal dates night is Thursday; it’s practically the start of the weekend and places are less likely to be crowded with imports from Jersey. The third theory is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a date for it to be completely magical. Seriously, it’s true. Don’t believe me? Here is what my dream (cheap) NYC date looks like.

Photo Credit: Mariano Rolando/AFP/Getty Images

7 pm: Meet at the New Museum for free art

New Museum
235 Bowery
New York, NY 10002
Hours: Wed, Fri to Sun 11am-6pm; Thu 11am-9pm
(212) 219-122
Website & Reviews

This part only works if you adhere to my Thursday night theory. From 7 pm to 9 pm on Thursdays, you can gawk at both upcoming artistic talent from across the globe and the copious hipsters taking advantage of free art. If the current show is bad, you’ll get see whether your date has a discerning eye or a comedic talent. If you both love the exhibit, you’ll have something interesting to talk about the get-go, filling in awkward silences that might otherwise be stuffed with TMI stories of relationships past.

Cost: $0

Photo Credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

8:30 pm: Dinner for two at Vanessa’s Dumplings

Vanessa’s Dumplings
118 Eldridge St
New York, NY 10002
(212) 625-8008

Hardly a well-kept secret, Vanessa’s Dumplings is a go-to for anyone looking for a delicious meal at uber-cheap prices. A serving of four perfectly fried pork and chive dumplings will only set you back a dollar. My personal favorite, the Sesame pancake with veggies, is just buck fifty. Because the place is always packed with a mixture of locals and tourists it’s not the ideal slow dinner, but rather a great pit-stop to fill your growling stomachs with yummy food.

Cost: $10 should do it.

Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

9:00 pm: Walk across the Williamsburg Bridge

Williamsburgh Bridge, Manhattan side
Starts at Delancey and Essex St.
New York, NY 10002
Open all night.

New York is a city for walking, and one of my favorite walks is across the bridge as it provides breathtaking views of lower Manhattan, Uptown, and Downtown Brooklyn – not to mention the East River. Replay the days before you could legally drink in bars, by stopping a local liquor store and buying a small bottle of whiskey and two cans of Coke. Pour out a little of the Coke and top it off with the booze and presto! the bridge has becoming your outdoor bar and the perfect place for your first kiss.

Cost: If you opt for the cheap stuff, it should cost you roughly 10 bucks.

Photo Credit: Nitehawk Cinema

10:30pm: Cap off the night with a movie and ice-cream sunday

Nitehawk Cinema
136 Metropolitan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 384-3980
Website & Reviews

Okay, I know I said that you shouldn’t go to the movies on a first date. But what I really meant is that you shouldn’t start your evening by staring away from each other, when you could end it by excitedly cuddling. By the end of the bridge, you’ll have a few blisters and a rough ideas as to whether your date is someone you want to spend time with. Instead of ending the night with more drinks, which would likely mean that your night will end tomorrow morning as you scramble to find your clothing, opt for a sobering ice-cream sundae. Head over to the Nitehawk Cinema – the new Williamsburg “dinner and a movie” theater that plays a great selection of independent films and serves a full menu in the theater. This way you can hold hands and each hot fudge at the same time.

Cost: For two tickets and a sundae, $30

Midnight: Go home!

It’s Thursday and you have work the next day. You don’t want to do the walk of shame down your office hallway do you? I thought not.

Total cost of date: $50

Maude is the research director for trend forecasting company Trendera and writes daily for The (T) Files. In her spare time she tries to enjoy New York on a budget and is writing a screenplay.