How to date on the cheap without feeling cheated on date night

Love can cost you.

American singles spend about $20,000 on average dating in a lifetime, according to event planners Paint Nite who surveyed 1,000 people on the ins and outs of dating.

For the more than half of all millennials who are currently single, based on a Gallup survey, that's a large chunk of change.

These days, just dinner and a movie costs about $90 — even more if it's in 3-D. On average, a special night out on the town can set you back a few hundred dollars.

But there are plenty of fun things to do that don't break your bank. To that end, here's how to date on the cheap without feeling cheated on date night:

Grabbing drinks

Going out for drinks can add up quickly, especially when cocktails can cost more than $14 a glass in many metropolitan areas. Instead, try meeting for coffee, especially if it's a first date. If you still prefer the bar scene, pick a spot during happy hour and snack on the free chips or nuts.

Or go "bar hopping" with friends by rotating among friends' homes and supplying your own drinks and snacks, suggested Victoria Fillet, a certified financial planner and founder of Blueprint Financial Planning in Hoboken, N.J.

Wine shops also often offer wine tastings for free. Try the tasting, then "buy a bottle of wine and go find a good spot to catch the sunset," said equity strategist Ken Talanian. It's a romantic way to spend time over a drink without paying restaurant prices, he said.

Parks, in general, are a great spot for a cheap date, Talanian added. "Sometimes the best dates don't have to be expensive," he said. "A picnic, wine and cheese in the park, or even an ice cream date can be more enjoyable than an expensive dinner."

Getting some culture

Seeing a show or concert in the evening is the prime pricey time. Instead, try hitting the theater in the morning or early afternoon, when tickets are often half price. Then, follow it up with brunch, which will be lighter on your wallet than dinner.

Many museums offer admission at no charge on specific days or times of day. For example, the Museum of Modern Art in New York is free on Friday nights between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., the perfect time for a date.

"Big cities always have lots of opportunities for free fun," said Fillet. Check your city for free concerts, guided tours or movies in the park, she said.

Getting physical

Ahem, as in hiking or biking. "Sometimes I think it's more fun — and certainly less expensive — to do activity dates," said Lauren Berg, a marketing manager at Unilever.

"In nice weather there are so many things to choose from outdoors, like biking, hiking, paddle boarding and picnics," she said.

"One of the first things necessary is to lay the ground rules," Fillet said. If money is tight, expenses for dates should be shared, she said. "Maybe not the first date, but soon after," she added.

The most important thing to remember is to be open about your finances and spend time together without putting the burden on just one party, Fillet said. If one party has more spending money and they are willing to share, that's OK, too, she said. "Communication is key to making all this work," she said.

©CNBC is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news and commentary. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

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