But if you’re also trying to stick to a budget, actually meeting up in person can get pricey. Even going on a dinner date just once a week can drain your savings, especially if you pick up the check. Being frugal and having a vibrant social life requires a little creativity.
My husband and I have been perfecting the cheap date for the almost ten years we’ve been together, from our time as broke college kids to less-broke adults. We’ve learned over time that cost and quality don’t always correlate—a memorable date can cost nothing while a disastrous outing can break the bank.
Here are some of our favorite date options when money is tight:
1. A picnic
During our honeymoon in London, my husband and I had a picnic in Hampstead Heath, one of the most beautiful and expansive parks in the city. We bought wine, cheese and prosciutto and enjoyed a couple hours eating, drinking and reading the novels we had brought.
It was a really frugal date compared to our other honeymoon adventures, but it’s one of my favorite memories. The romantic backdrop and relaxing atmosphere were perfect, and bringing our own food kept costs down.
The good news is that you don’t need to go to London or be on your honeymoon to enjoy a romantic picnic. Grab a bottle of wine or a few beers, some light snacks and you’re good to go. I also recommend bringing a comfy blanket and portable speakers if you want to listen to music.
2. Bake together
In the last few weeks, my husband and I have discovered “The Great British Bake-Off” (I know, we’re really behind the times). Since then, we’ve tried to do more complex baked goods, including pot pies, Viennese sachertortes and more.
Baking with your sweetie is a frugal date, and it also teaches you how to communicate and work together. Plus, at the end you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Even if neither of you are that good at baking, you’ll still have a fun time.
3. Find free events at your local bar
I’ve been doing trivia nights at a bar with my friends for more than a year now, and they’re surprisingly fun. Most bars have trivia night at least once a week, and it’s almost always free.
My husband and I went to a Euchre tournament at our local bar, which also has bingo night and Mario Kart tournaments. Nowadays, lots of bars have a decent supply of board games that are free to use.
4. Find a local hiking trail
No matter where you live, you’re sure to find a hiking trail nearby. Look up state and national parks near you and find a trail suitable for your activity level. If you’re comfortable, you can also bring bikes on the trail. Stash a couple power bars and water bottles if you want to stop along the way.
Bring along a pocket guide about the local flora and fauna so you can learn more about what you’re seeing.
Many local breweries offer free tours, complete with samples. You’ll learn how the beer is made and at the end, you often get a discount on more beers. You can skip that part if you’re feeling really cheap. Either way, you’ll leave a little boozy.
Distilleries also have tours and tastings, which can cost less than $20 a person. This cheap date is perfect if you and your sweetie share a passion for locally-crafted bourbon.
Back when my husband and I were broke twentysomethings, we would often visit Groupon to snag deals for our favorite bars or restaurants. Sometimes we wouldn’t find anything, but often we could get a discount for a place we love.
Even though the shine has worn off Groupon, the site still offers discounts for restaurants, activities and more. Browsing through my local Groupon, I found 50 percent off an escape room and $30 worth of Indian food for $18.
7. Free museum days
Almost every museum, zoo and other cultural attraction has free days, when tickets are free to the general public. When my then-boyfriend visited me in New York one summer, we took advantage of the Bronx Zoo’s free day to check out all the animals.
These places are usually more crowded on free days, but it’s the best way to explore without spending any dough. Look up the tourist spots in your area to see when their free days are. Some have them once a quarter, while others are on a monthly basis. If you work as a teacher, policeman or firefighter, you might even get a regular discount on admission.
8. Go to an arcade
A few years ago, my husband and I spent Valentine’s Day at an old-school arcade. I don’t remember how we got the idea, but it still remains one of the best dates we’ve ever had.
We played air hockey, skee-ball and whac-a-mole and got a slice of pizza. The whole date cost about $10-$15 each. In the end, we traded in our tickets for a stuffed bear that we gave to our Beagle.
If you want to have a more adult version of this date, find a bar near you that has old-fashioned arcade games and pinball machines.
9. Look at the stars
If you’re looking for a date that costs literally nothing, stargazing is a great option. Take some lawn chairs into the countryside, set them up and enjoy nature’s free light show.
You can also find your city’s astronomy society or observatory and see if they do regular showings. Visitors can usually look through powerful telescopes to see constellations, planets and stars. Admission is usually cheap, less than $5 a head.
You’ll have to plan ahead for this date, since clouds can obscure the view and make it impossible to see anything.
You don’t need to spend a fortune to enjoy a day with someone you care about. These cheap date ideas promise fun on a budget!
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