When it comes to dating in college, you shouldn't have to choose between having a good time and saving money. While an expensive dinner is sure to knock the socks off just about anyone, affordable dates can be just as impressive. In fact, there are plenty of budget date ideas that are enjoyable and will help you create lasting memories. Below is a list of affordable date ideas to keep your savings and social life happy.
1. Go on a picnic
Picnics are relatively simple, but can add an exciting twist to any meal. Whether you order pizza or pack a beautiful picnic basket, eating a meal outside makes it much more fun. For the best picnics, you should find a location with beautiful scenery. Don’t forget plates, cups, utensils, napkins, a blanket, and cushions. Going on a picnic with your partner gives you uninterrupted quality time and potentially, a classic post for your Instagram feed.
2. Visit the local art museums
If you're into artwork (and even if you aren’t), museums can be a fun way to get to know someone. Many art museums are free or cost very little. Some even offer student discounts, making for an affordable way to dive into the local art culture. Plus, the museum might offer certain free days or nights to make your date even more budget-friendly. Museums offer a lot of conversation starters, too. If there’s ever a lull in conversation, ask what your date thinks the meaning of the sculpture or painting is.
3. Go out for ice cream
Going out for ice cream is a date that you can do with your friend, romantic love interest, or committed partner. There are many places that sell rich and creamy ice cream that will hit the spot after a long day, especially during the summer. If your date happens to be lactose intolerant, you’re still in luck. You can try an ice cream shop that sells dairy-free ice cream or hit up a frozen yogurt joint. This classic date idea can stir up some fun conversations, and you can walk around while you’re eating it too.
4. Explore the local farmer’s market
One of the most fun date ideas on a budget is going to the local farmer’s market. Some towns are lucky enough to have a bustling, thriving farmer’s market. If you’re in the right place during the right season, it can be fun to browse through the stands. From fresh, organic foods to homemade knick-knacks, farmer’s markets have it all. You may also be able to pick up the ingredients to make a snack together later or find a souvenir.
5. Enjoy local events
Sometimes for the best date nights, you don’t have to go very far. If you pay attention to local ads and view your city’s event calendar, you might be alerted to some fun activities you didn’t know about. Art shows, concerts, musicals, live music, and more could be offered nearby. These events are usually fun outings for a double date with friends. Plus, it’s also a great chance to support your local community.
6. Get coffee
Most coffee shops offer a quiet, intimate environment. This can be a great opportunity to get deep into conversation with your person. If you’re not a fan of coffee, try a smoothie, tea, or hot chocolate. Another idea is for both of you to study or read a book while listening to the chatter in the coffee shop. Lastly, you could just sit back and watch people come and go.
7. Go on a hike/walk
What is more fun than getting exercise and having a good time doing it? Going on a hike or a long walk is a great way to spend time with someone. You can head to your local hiking trail, walk around your town, or even make your own path (as long as you’re not trespassing). When you lace up your hiking boots or tennis shoes, you can begin to facilitate conversation and enjoy the outdoors one step at a time.
8. Make dinner at home
After a long day of work or class, sometimes you just don’t feel like heading out to a restaurant. Making dinner at home is the perfect cheaper alternative to a fancy dinner date. You can make dinner by yourself to impress your partner or you can share the kitchen and cook the meal together. Cooking supper is a fun home date idea that allows you to try out a recipe you say online. If you decide you like this date idea, you can even make it a weekly tradition. Before you get started, read ways to save money on groceries.
9. Host a movie night at home
Movie theater dates sound good in theory; however, you can quickly spend a small fortune on tickets and snacks. Other times, fellow movie-goers aren’t respectful during the movie. A better alternative is to pop some popcorn, grab a drink from the fridge, and settle down in the living room for a comfy date at home. You can watch a classic movie or a new release. Either way, you will have a comfortable home date.
10. Put together a puzzle
Another very cheap date idea is to put together a puzzle. This laid back activity gives you the opportunity to dust off the 600-piece jigsaw puzzle hiding in your closet and put it together. Puzzles allow you and your date to work closely in a relaxing environment. Completing puzzles together can be paired well with other at home dates, too.
11. Go for a drive
If you don’t want to stay home but you don’t feel like heading out, going for a drive can be the perfect happy medium. You can put together a queue of new music or sing along with old favorites while touring around town. If you’re feeling adventurous, flip a coin whenever you arrive at an intersection (heads means you turn left and tails means you turn right). If you go out during the holidays, you can look at decorated houses while drinking homemade hot chocolate.
12. Have a game night
Game nights are a fun and goofy way to loosen up with your date. Just like the puzzle, you’ll get a chance to dust off some board games that you haven’t played in awhile. You could invite your significant other over for a fun game of Twister, Guess Who, or (if you’re daring enough) Monopoly. These games give you and your partner a chance to be competitive in a relaxed atmosphere.
13. Look through old photos/albums
Some people share a clear resemblance to their younger selves, but others may look completely different once they’re grown up. Tell your partner to bring over his/her photo album. You can sit together on the couch and crack open photo albums containing baby pictures and more. This allows you to take a walk down memory lane and maybe learn something new about each other in the process. Plus, there will most likely be a lot of belly laughs and funny stories.
14. Start your own book club
Another date idea for college students is to read books together. You could go to your public library and pick out different books for each other. If you both wanted to read the same book, you could start your own personal book club. Whether you want to invite your whole friend group or just you two, a book club would be a cheap way to challenge each other intellectually. Once you finish a chapter or two, talk about what happened and share your predictions on what is going to happen next.
15. Become an artist
When in doubt, get creative. Grab some paint, brushes, and paper and invite your date over for an art night. Some great ideas for artwork are to draw random doodles or places you’ve been. If you really want to laugh, try to draw each other! One of the best things about this date night suggestion is that it is portable. You can pack up your art supplies and head to the local park to paint what you see there. You will get to be creative, while creating mementos to put on your fridge.
16. Plan a scavenger hunt
One of the most creative activities is putting together a scavenger hunt. You can create a list of items that you want to find on your walk: a pine cone, a bluebird, a white fence, etc. Another idea is to plan a scavenger hunt that encourages your partner to read clues to reach each checkpoint. When you first plan a scavenger hunt, you can set it up inside your home. As you get comfortable, you can expand your hunt to your backyard, your neighborhood, and even your town!
17. Pick out clothes at the thrift store
Thrift stores are one of the best places to find cheap clothes. Your local thrift store may have days where all clothes are discounted or certain racks are on sale. You and your date can go in and find an outfit for the night at a very low cost. To take things to the next level, you can make it a competition. See who can pick out the coolest outfit or pick out outfits for each other to wear. The possibilities are endless!
A lot of money doesn’t have to be spent in order to have a good time with your date. In fact, the amount of money spent on your date isn’t important. What’s important is the experience of spending time together and creating memories. We hope you keep your savings and social life happy with these budget date ideas. Good luck and have fun!
🏛️Need more ways not to break the bank? Check out 6 Tips for Budgeting Your Money in College!
💕If you want to take your financial conversations with your significant other to the next level, check out 6 Tips for Talking to Your Partner About Money.