A universal truth about dating: It’s expensive. Sure, most guys insist on paying, but we ladies also like to pick up the occasional tab, which—as much as we’re glad to do it—can certainly add up.
That said, it’s key to look for ways to save a little dough when it comes to your dating life. The good news is that dating on a budget isn’t nearly as challenging as once it was. Read on for our list of the top 25 cheap date ideas that are all equally fun, stimulating, and engaging!
1. Make Groupon your new best friend.
If you’re dating, especially if it’s a relatively new situation, Groupon is about to become your new best friend. With everything from sweet deals on dinners for two at awesome restaurants to half-off massages for two, there’s a plethora of fun things to do at a fraction of the cost.
2. Take a class together.
If you picked a good dude to date, chances are he likes to learn new skills and is interested in sharing those experiences with you. So kill two birds with one stone by signing up for something fun like a cooking class, a wine-tasting course, or even an introductory trampolining class. Check sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, and Let’s Feast for ongoing, discounted specials, and check your city’s YMCA for free and cheap courses.
If you live anywhere near a city or decent-sized town, there’s probably a lot of things you still haven’t yet discovered about the place you live. The free-est activity of them all: walk around and explore! You don’t even necessarily have to visit any sites, shops, or museums–just walk around and see what kind of trouble you can get into.
4. Have a picnic.
One of the fastest ways dating can add up is going out to dinners on even a semi-regular basis. Do your budget a huge favor and start preparing food for yourselves more regularly; and if the weather affords, throw some sandwiches, fruit, and a blanket into a bag and have a picnic! You know the ambiance will be amazing, and you probably cut your food bill in more than half in the process.
5. Go to meetups together.
Meetup.com is a fantastic resource for all humans–single, dating, and otherwise–who want to connect with other like-minded folks. Learn about meetups that are happening in your area, then you and your date can find some that you’re equally interested in–and the good news is, many of them are totally free.
6. Don’t go to bars just to drink.
Many bars aren’t just places you go to set up at the watering hole; they maintain well-curated calendars of weekly events. Whether it’s a book reading, an open mic night, a karaoke night, or a trivia night, there’s usually something going on, and it usually won’t cost you more than $5 or $10 to get in. Once there, stick to beer to cut down your tab even more.
7. Take a short day trip.
If you have a car at hand, why not devote a Saturday or Sunday to taking a short drive to some cool place nearby you’ve never visited? Once you get there, you can explore (see number 3), and if you packed a picnic beforehand (see number 4), you’re all set for a fun day, and all you paid for was the gas to get out there.
8. Become expert coffee brewers.
Going out for a morning coffee is one of the fastest ways to rack up your weekly and monthly bills–so why not partner up with your beau and make an effort to become expert at-home coffee brewers? If one (or both) of you aren’t into coffee, bond over a new dedication to becoming tea connoisseurs.
9. Get outside.
Whether it’s hiking on a trail nearby, taking a run together, kayaking, bouldering, or anything similar, just making an effort to get outside can be super healthy–and it’s free. Go to the local national parks website for your area and see what kinds of activities are out there for you to try!
10. Plan at-home evenings.
Make a promise to yourselves (and to each other) that you’ll stay home for at least one out of every four dates. It might sound like a lot, but there are so many fun things to do at home—cook a meal together, rent movies on Netflix, try new cocktail recipes, play board games, and many more.
11. Invite other people along.
If you’re planning a picnic or making a dinner together at-home, invite some friends to join. Ask them to contribute something to the meal, whether it’s a homemade dish or something easy like a bottle of wine or a pre-baked dessert. Not only will you cut your costs, but you’ll double your enjoyment.
12. Pick a television series to tackle together.
Whether you’ve been dying to watch “House of Cards” or you started “Breaking Bad” but never made it past the first season, there’s no shortage of amazing television shows for you to pick up. Try to decide on one you’re both interested in watching, then enjoy–many of them are now on Netflix, and renting them from an iTunes or an Amazon runs as little as a couple bucks an episode.
13. Turn budgeting into a game.
Budgeting doesn’t have to suck! Work together to make up fun games that will turn it into a more enjoyable task. For example, set an upper limit of just $10 and go to the grocery store together to make a full meal for the two of you. See what you come up with.
14.Take advantage of happy hour.
If you’re a couple who enjoy having a cocktail or two after work, keep track of your local watering holes’ happy hour schedules. On warm days, sit outside and enjoy a glass of half-price wine, knowing you’re the smart ones who took advantage of the deals in your hood.
15. Read a book together.
This might sound cheesy, but it can be fun to have a mini-book club together. Pick a title you’re both interested in, buy it for $5 on Kindle, then schedule weekly or bi-weekly discussions on what you think so far. And if you can’t commit to it, join an actual book club, where you can chat with other folks on a less frequent basis about literature.
16. Go to the pool.
Obviously this one is seasonally dependent, but when it’s warm enough, take a weekend afternoon to visit your local pool. Chances are your city or town has public pools, which are totally free to use.
17. Treat each other in moderation.
Head to your favorite local bakery and buy each other just one small treat–a croissant, a danish, or a cupcake will only run you a couple dollars, but the enjoyment and the memory will last much longer.
18. Look up at the stars.
Take a drive out to somewhere relatively remote on a really clear night, park the car, and lie on the hood. Look up at the stars and just take a few moments to recognize how amazing it all is. (Pack a cheap bottle of wine for an extra level of fun.)
19. Go to the library.
Head to the library to pick out movies to watch or books you’d each like to read. In the age of the Internet, libraries are a vastly under-utilized source where you can get things like novels, history books, and highly entertaining films for free.
20. Hop on a bike and take a joy ride.
If you don’t have a bike, chances are your city or town rents them out for relatively cheap. Pack a lunch, pick a common meeting point, and hop on (with a helmet!).