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Creatively Cheap: 12 Date Ideas to Have Fun on a Budget

cheap date ideas on a budget

Don’t have the time or cash to whisk your loved one to the other side of the world? Then read on for some great, low-maintenance date ideas.

It’s not unusual to want to impress a significant other on a date. If they’re the one you have your heart set on, and you can really see yourself having a future with them, why wouldn’t you want to impress?

However, the means don’t always match the intention, and that surprise holiday in the Bahamas isn’t an option for most of us. Let’s face it: if the spare funds just aren’t there–if you’re a student, for example, or there’s an employment issue–then even a visit to a plush restaurant can be a stretch.

Easy, affordable date ideas

For all those budding lovers whose hearts are bigger than their bank balances, why not try one of the following low-maintenance date ideas? There’s something in here for everyone.

#1 Eating out. Well, obviously I don’t mean taking the object of your affections out for some posh nosh. That would cost way too much–and if it didn’t cost way too much, you clearly haven’t done enough to impress.

When I say eat out, I’m talking about the great outdoors. What more romantic way is there to show your SO how much they mean to you than by organizing a picnic somewhere scenic and memorable? And it only costs as much as you need to spend. It’s the situation that counts, after all. Not whether you’ve packed Beluga Caviar and Bollinger or not. [Read: 10 fun and romantic summer date ideas]

#2 A day in the park. Okay, a day in the park could potentially be romantic, although it might be considered a little ordinary, to say the least. But I’m not actually talking about that kind of park. I’m talking about a ballpark or some other kind of sports stadium–specifically the amateur kind.

That way, if the person you’re trying to impress has a penchant for a particular sport, you get to tick all the right boxes without spending a penny. A win-win situation if ever there’s been one.

#3 Home comforts. If a meal at a restaurant is outside of your budget, then why not show off your culinary skills and invite them to a homemade meal at your place? Impress them with your best-practiced recipes, and create an ambiance that even a high-end joint would struggle to compete with.

Of course, this might not be the ideal choice for a first date and could seem a little forward. However, for a date a little further down the line, one that you wish to progress to a more physical plane, this particular thrifty offering could be the perfect ice breaker. [Read: 10 ideas to make cooking with your partner more fun]

#4 Boot up. If your significant other is the kind of person who loves the great outdoors and all that nature has to offer, why not boot up and invite them on a romantic hike somewhere? Not only does the physical activity take the onus off the constant need to impress and relax the conversation, but it potentially gets you out in perfect solitude.

Just the two of you tramping together through an area of outstanding natural beauty… what could be more romantic? And at the cost of practically nothing!

#5 A cultural affair. Not everyone’s kettle of fish, but how about taking your significant other to a cultural event of some kind? It could be a gallery, a museum, or a one-off affair being used in your locale to promote something.

It’s quiet, promotes good conversation, and there’s a good chance it won’t cost you a penny. Even if you just have to pay a nominal entry fee, it’s unlikely to cost much, and you could potentially stay all day. Now that’s a romantic bargain and a half! [Read: How to be more cultured in an age obsessed with social media]

#6 Something silly. If the apple of your eye is the more fun and frolics type of guy or gal, then steer away from the more serious date offerings, and instead choose something silly and frivolous. A round of crazy golf at the local park is always guaranteed to raise a few laughs. Or how about taking them to a karaoke joint?

Whether you’re a great singer or a terrible one, either end of the scale of vocal proficiency has its own particular charms, depending upon whether your aim is to impress or amuse!

#7 A night at the movies. A trip to the cinema can be quite an expensive affair nowadays, especially once you’ve figured in the popcorn, soda, and hotdogs–or whatever is offered in your particular part of the world. Instead, grab a DVD that you know your SO will be into, and spend the night watching it huddled up on the sofa together. As romantic as it gets, and nominal in cost.

#8 Get physical. Not the jiggy-jiggy kind of getting physical, but the more literal sense of the term. If your other half is the fitness and exercise type, then try getting together with them on a date that reflects this interest. Play squash together, play tennis, go on a long jog, tackle a hard run, or go on a gym date. There are so many options–and they’re mostly free.

Just make sure you are up to it, also. You don’t want to crash and burn at the first fence by sweating like a schoolboy in a spelling test, and passing out after five minutes of moderate warming up!

#9 Call of Duty. That’s right, the world-famous console game of the same name. Whatever the game, if your other half is into virtual action, then why not join them at their place for a gaming marathon? They’ll love the fact that you’re taking their interest seriously, and not only is it free–they’ll actually be paying for the night’s upkeep.

#10 Flea bitten. An unusual one, this, but if they like to do a bit of shopping, try steering them away from the high street and toward the local flea market. Not only is this a cheaper option, but you both may just spot some amazing bargains. Failing that, flea markets and thrift shops always throw up objects of amusingly nostalgic value that are sure to keep the conversation flowing.

#11 Drink up! If a night out on the tiles, moving from swanky bar to even swankier nightclub, seems too pricey an option, then aim for the happy hours. You can do some research beforehand to see which bars are offering happy hours at what times, and do a little pub crawl across them. That way, you’ll both feel like you’ve had a full evening out, at only half the price.

#12 The road to nowhere. Sometimes, the key to a great date is spontaneity, and what could be more spontaneous than jumping in your car, sticking a pin in a map, and going wherever fate takes you?Spontaneous, exciting, and very, very inexpensive. [Read: Couple’s road trip – a perfect escape with your lover]

You don’t have to rob a bank to organize an interesting, fun, and memorable date. Any one of the ideas above should be more than up to the task of creating that perfect moment in time that your loved one will forever fondly recall.

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David Cullen
David Cullen
David Cullen is frequently described as erudite, insightful and witty – but only by himself and only after several large glasses of Rioja....

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One thought on “Creatively Cheap: 12 Date Ideas to Have Fun on a Budget”

  1. wyatt says:

    I went on a tinder date (of all things) a few months ago with a girl who seemed kinda reluctant about meeting me. But we eventually decided to get some ice cream at a Cold Stone that’s between us. So we go get some ice cream and we stand in line for a few minutes. I try making some quick banter, but it’s not working and the date is starting to become very awkward. It’s starting to get really crowded inside, noisy, and hard to hear. She starts giggling a little because she’s saying that she’s uncomfortable, which makes me uncomfortable because I feel that I’ve done something wrong. Anyways, the people preparing our ice cream are taking extra long this time, and we don’t have much to talk about yet, so we’re just kind of waiting to get our ice cream silently, with the buzz of families talking and children screaming in the background. We finally get our ice cream, I pay for mine and she pays for hers. We sit down outside and I tease her about being so worried about what she was going to wear, this opens up some conversation about what we did that day, little things that annoy us about working retail, how my watch is impossible to read (it has black hands on a black surface, why), how I got into a car accident and the only thing I was worried about was getting mud on my shoes, how her boss always tries to take her shopping, and dinosaurs. We talk for about two straight hours without any awkward pauses and once our conversation finally does die down, I just ask her; “Do you like bowling?” She said “yes” and bragged about how good she is, which was a relief because it’s much more fun when you bowl with someone who is competitive. So I bragged about how I broke a personal record the week before and how obviously I was going to win. I was planning on asking her out for a second date and saving bowling for that, but I decided fuck it, “Wanna go bowling?” “Right now?” “Yeah, right now.” So we get into my car and she starts playing some music and we bond over common interests and drive down to a bowling alley nearby…which was super crowded. So crowded that there was an hour long line to get a lane, so instead of waiting we get back into the car and go down to a different alley. We bowl there, and I suck ass at first, which worked perfectly because that allowed her to start giving me shit about it relentlessly. So she’s winning at first, then I obviously make a inevitable comeback and win. The thing I loved most about that night was when I would turn around from just having bowled a whatever, she would be looking at me with the biggest grin on her face. A grin that says; “I want you”. Gave me goosebumps every time I turned around. Now the thing about bowling dates, is that they can get boring and stale pretty quickly. So we leave after the first game and go back to the ice cream location. The entire drive back was full of laughs, banter and just fun. I even took a slightly longer route so we could spend more time talking. We eventually get back to her car and start doing that awkward end-of-date shuffle. As we kind of realize that we’re done for the night I notice a sticker on her driver side window in the silhouette of a rabbit head. I quickly move over to her car window and see that it’s a sticker of “Frank” from Donnie Darko. I had just seen that movie for the first time 3 days before that. So it was still fresh in my mind and just honestly kind of amazing that of all things, it was that. We’re still joking around, but kind of tired. We’re also halfway in a parking lot for Denny’s, and seeing it kind of made me want some pancakes. So I say; “I kind of want some pancakes…” “You should get some pancakes.” “Wanna get some pancakes?” “Let’s get some pancakes” So we go into Denny’s and get some…hash browns. She had a thing for potatoes, and they sounded pretty good, so we got some hash browns. Our waiter looked a lot like Kevin Bacon, but she didn’t agree. And she took off her over shirt for the first time that night, so we talked about some of the tattoos on her arm and how her grandpa hates them. We talked about how much I love tattoos and want some of my own. Then we talked about family, and more dinosaurs. She offered to pay for hash browns because I had paid for bowling, so she did and I waited for her to pay at the register. I took out my phone for the first time that night and texted as many friends as I could about how great of a date I just had and I watched her stand by the register waiting to pay. I already knew I wanted to be her boyfriend at this point. We leave and go back to her car. We stand around awkwardly for a little, and I finally say bye. I say bye and I go in for a kiss, but at the last second I change my mind for a hug and then pause in the middle of the hug because I really wanna kiss her but-it’s-too-late-so-nevermind. It was awful and awkward. So she says bye and goes back to her driver side door, but I really wanted to kiss her so I turn and say; “Hey can we try that again?” So we did. And I walk up to her and, without hesitating, kiss her on the lips and say goodnight. We stay up really late all night texting each other about how great that night was and set up a time to hangout the next day. She eventually became my girlfriend, and I enjoyed every moment of it. But she decided to leave me for her ex-boyfriend because he is who really had her heart and everything moved too fast for us apparently. They broke up a month ago, and she’s already with someone else. I hope she’s doing well, because even though it might not sound that special, it was special to me.

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