25 Fun, Budget-Friendly Date Ideas That Don’t Feel Cheap
Dating is hard, especially when you’re trying to live on a budget. When even the cheapest dinner can cost upward of $25, going out on the weekends can seem daunting.
If you want to hang out with your significant other without draining both of your bank accounts and you don’t want to settle for another night of watching Netflix on the couch, why not try some of these creative cheap date ideas?
1. Go Geocaching
Geocaching is a modern-day form of treasure hunting. Identify your location on your phone or geocaching device, choose a “package” to search for, and follow the clues to try to find it.
It’s a great bonding activity, and it forces you to work together to find the object. Once you do, you can both put your names on the little notebook inside the capsule and commemorate your first date forever.
2. Attend a Trivia Night at Your Local Bar
Trivia nights usually charge a $5 or $10 cover charge, but anything after that is up to you. Eat beforehand, order some sodas, or take advantage of drink specials, and team up to answer some quiz questions.
And who knows? If you’re good enough, you may even win a free pitcher of your drink of choice or a prize. Simply search “bar trivia night” and your neighborhood or city, and see what comes up!
3. Break Out Some Conversation Cards
For introverts, conversation cards are a blessing. Not only do they immediately help break the ice, but they usher everyone out of the dreaded small talk zone.
4. Embark on a Photo Walk
Maybe you can make a competition out of it and raise the stakes: Winner buys dinner or gets to choose the movie on your next Netflix night.
5. Attend a Poetry Slam or Comedy Show
I’m aware we’re no longer living in the ’90s, but poetry slams have been making a comeback in many cities, and comedy shows never left.
These events typically cost around $5 to $10, depending on where you live. Some can even be free, and you’ll have plenty to talk about when the show’s over.
6. Build a Kite and Fly It Outside
What better way to test your compatibility than by trying to master the “art” of arts and crafts?
This particular exercise is the perfect combination of indoor and outdoor activities, plus a great chance to work together.
7. Play Some Good Old-Fashioned Pool
Don’t underestimate how charming a dive bar can be, especially when it comes with a nice pool table.
A game of billiards provides the perfect opportunity to casually chat about your day, but it also involves an element of competition that will keep your date on his or her toes.
8. Re-Enact Scenes From Your Favorite Movies and TV Shows
Either way, if you live in or near big Hollywood hubs like NYC or LA, why not print out a few screenshots from your favorite films and try to re-create them?
You can even reproduce your favorite “date” episodes. (Katz’s Delicatessen in NY is a good start if you want to have what your neighbor is having.)
9. Pick Out Crazy Outfits for Each Other to Try On
There’s nothing more satisfying than finding a ridiculous outfit at the mall… except for convincing your friend or partner to try it on.
Every clothing store has its fair share of quirky outfits. Give them a little time in the spotlight by putting on an impromptu fashion show and modeling the outfits with your partner for laughs.
10. Buy Paint Supplies and See Who Can Make the Wackiest Art
Not everyone can be Picasso, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
Take a trip to an arts and crafts store — or even a thrift shop or dollar store if you want to make it even cheaper. Embrace your creative side and see who can paint the weirdest picture. Who knows? You might give Dali a run for his money.
11. Wander, On Purpose
Not all those who wander are lost. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a walk around your neighborhood or, even better, one you’ve never been to before.
You and your partner can indulge in the sense of mystery, and maybe even stumble upon an unexpected opportunity, like a community event or hole-in-the-wall restaurant, giving you future cheap date ideas.
12. Enjoy a Meal or Treat in Character
Everyone says the key to dating successfully is to “be yourself,” but that doesn’t always have to be the case.
Turn your next dinner table into a stage and try your hand at role-playing as your favorite dynamic duo from film or literature. Maybe you’ve always wanted to know what it felt like to be Holden Caulfield for a day or David Copperfield. Now’s your chance!
Hit a local restaurant or fro-yo place and stay in character as long as possible. The first person to slip up pays for your food!
Is the stranger walking ahead of you a secret agent on the way to his next mission? Or an accountant who wore a suit to work in an attempt to spice up his normal routine? You decide!
Find a bench in a hip part of town and speculate the lives of passers-by. May the reward go to whoever concocts the best tale.
14. Take Advantage of Late-Night Specials at Indoor Trampoline Parks
Indoor trampoline parks are, excuse the pun, springing up all over the place. Many places offer late-night deals for the over-18 crowd that often include food and drinks. This is one of those cheap date ideas that’s enough to make you want to jump for joy.
15. Go to the Library
You’d be surprised how many odd books get published these days. Honor your inner bookworm and meander through the aisles of the nearest public library with your date.
Challenge each other to find the funniest book title or locate an obscure item the fastest. (Quietly, of course. Other people may be trying to read!)
16. Visit a Psychic
Is your relationship headed for success or a dead end? A psychic may not be able to tell you everything you want to know, but the visit will sure give you plenty to talk about on the way home.
17. Cook Something
You don’t need to go to an expensive restaurant to enjoy a luxurious meal. Skip the pricy entrees, and cook up some fun in your own home.
For an added pinch of romance, set up some candles and put on some soothing music. You’ll never want to eat out again.
18. Find a Board Game Cafe
Depending where you live, you may be able to go to one of these unique establishments with your partner.
Pay a low cover fee, and gain access to stacks of classic board games you and your date can play all night (or until your game of Boggle gets too heated to continue).
19. Engage in Some Friendly Public Debauchery
Who said truth or dare was just for middle schoolers? Test the limits of your bravery by challenging each other to embarrassing feats in public.
For example, get a stranger to high-five you. Photobomb a tourist group selfie. Dance on a bench until someone else joins in.
The more fearless you are, the more brownie points you get.
20. Play Some Old Video Games
A little bit of nostalgia never hurt anybody. Stay in and break out your favorite childhood console games. There’s nothing like a little Mortal Kombat or Mario Kart to level up your next date night.
21. Re-create Childhood Photos
One way to take baby steps in your relationship is to literally follow in your partner’s baby footsteps.
Find a bunch of childhood photos and help each other walk down memory lane by re-creating old snapshots. Fitting a bonnet onto your date’s head is the quickest way to become more comfortable with each other, in my opinion.
22. Attend a Silent Disco
Have you ever wanted to throw a wild dance party without being disruptive or bothering your neighbors with your loud music? Now you can. “Silent discos” are becoming more and more prominent, especially around college campuses.
After paying a small fee, you’re given headphones and digital playlists and directed to a place filled with other participating members. On the count of three, everyone hits play and suddenly hundreds of people start dancing in sync, in silence.
23. Attend a Lecture at a Nearby College
Students aren’t the only ones who can benefit from educational events on campus. Many universities offer public events like lectures or panels.
Research the schools in your area, and check their “campus calendars” to see what events they have planned!
24. Try to Replicate Pinterest Posts
Pinterest is full of adorable art and baked goods items — many posted by people who will never make them.
On your next date night, challenge the status quo and attempt some of the quirky crafts and projects You may fail like these people, but that’s half the fun!
25. Learn a Dance From YouTube
Want to get active without heading outside? Search for fun dance routines on YouTube and dance the night away! Bonus: You’ll be ready to rock the dance floor on your next night out (or when you’re invited to nine weddings next year).
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Tyler Vendetti hopes to win the lottery and lead a carefree life, or if that doesn’t pan out, work in television. When she’s not traversing the world or liking cat pictures on Facebook, Tyler can be found on Twitter @HeyThereFuture. You can also reach her via email ([email protected]), if you feel so inclined.
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