Most of us will admit that, generally speaking, we’d prefer a few carats over a handwritten sonnet from our favorite guy. These are tough times, though, and diamonds and gold are beyond the budgets of many these days.

So what’s the one recession-proof thing that women want that money can’t buy?

The fairy tale.

That’s great news for all those men whose recessionary budgets don’t include a Learjet or a condo in Aspen. You can still woo her with charm–assuming you were charming to begin with. In case you could use some help, here are five creative dates so innovative and romantic she’ll forget they’re practically free.

1. Be the cool hunter.
What do theater tickets and dinner for two at Chez Hot Restaurant have in common? They’re cliché (and will set you back a pretty penny). Instead go underground and off-the-radar.  It seems a little dangerous, exclusive and just plain hot. Take her to a cool bar that has no sign outside the door–one that you need to “know about” to find. Or go see the latest indie band on the cusp of being discovered. There are also foreign films, poetry slams, jazz or art house events. She’ll love that you’re supporting up-and-coming artists, giving her a chance to tell her friends just how cultured you are. She’ll never notice that the cost of admission tops out at 10 bucks a ticket.

2. Be sophisticated, James Bond-style. Martini tastings are the new wine tastings, even if you’re on a beer budget. With the resurgence of the classic old-school drinks, mixologists and cocktail connoisseurs are hosting sampling events in lounges, package stores, museums and restaurants, where you can test-drive and compare different flights of your favorite gin, tequila, vodka and more. You’ll spend time sipping and learning, all for less than you’d spend on an average evening of wining and dining. If there’s nothing going on in your area, host your own party for a few couples and have everyone bring their favorite bottle. You’ll just have to spring for nibbles.

3. Be brainy. Smart daters leverage what’s available for free. Every city has landmark streets, neighborhoods or buildings with an interesting story, such as a few blocks of turn-of-the-century homes, rows of historic mansions (the more haunted, the better) or the birthplace of some dead president. Create your own mini walking tour, impressing her with your insider knowledge of said historical sites. Mid-walk, take a break, spread a blanket and crack open the brown-bagged bubbly and homemade PB&Js. Frugality never looked more romantic!

4. Be a romantic at heart. Sunsets, rainbows, starry nights—they’re the romance equivalent of a bases-loaded grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, without the price of admission. Think An Affair to Remember without the whole getting hit by a car thing. No matter where you live, you’re bound to have access to a rooftop deck, an overlook, a terrace or [insert sexy venue with a view here]. Atmosphere? Check. All you need to bring are some candles, a bottle of wine and some personality. Bonus points if you know some astronomy basics—or can fake it!

5. Be domesticated. Tantalize her taste buds for a fraction of the cost of a dinner out by showcasing your culinary skills at home. Cooking for her—though not necessarily advised for the first date—shows that you’ve been kitchen-trained, are willing to burn something just to impress her and know how to pamper her in culinary style. One favorite site for easy gourmet (read: fewer ingredients and less expensive to prepare) that specializes in the art of seduction: Foolproof recipes with aphrodisiacal presentation. She’ll be reeling!