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 cheap date night ideas that are enjoyable and will help you create lasting memories. Check out the following list of cheap 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. Make sure you grab a blanket, cushions, plates, cups, utensils, and napkins. Going on a picnic with your partner is a great way to spend uninterrupted quality time together. Plus, you might even have a great photo opportunity 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. Admission to many art museums is free or very low cost. Some even offer student discounts, making for an affordable way to dive into the local art culture. With plenty of conversation starters, museums provide an ideal setting for an enjoyable date. If there's ever a lull in your conversation, try asking for your date's interpretation of a particular sculpture or painting.
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 be the perfect treat 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 budget date ideas is going to the local farmer’s market. Some towns are lucky enough to have a bustling, thriving farmer’s market that offers a variety of products. 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 something for everyone. You also might be able to find a souvenir to remember the outing or pick up the ingredients to make a snack together.
5. Enjoy local events
Sometimes for the most memorable 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 find some fun activities you didn’t know about. Art galleries, concerts, musicals, live music, open mic nights, and more could be offered right in your neighborhood. These events are perfect for double dates with friends. Plus, local events are a great opportunity to support your community.
6. Get coffee
Most coffee shops offer a quiet, intimate environment. This can be a great opportunity to engage in deep 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 enjoy some quality people-watching time.
7. Get some exercise together
It’s hard to top the combination of exercise and fun. With so many activities to choose from, you can easily find one that suits both of your interests. Try exploring a local hiking trail, taking a bike ride through your town, or challenging yourself to a rock climbing session at a nearby gym. If you prefer something more competitive, you can invite some friends to play against you in a game of pickleball. Staying active with someone is an excellent way to spend time together and get your heart rate up.
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 dinner is a fun home date idea that allows you to try new recipes that you find online. If you decide you like this date idea, you can even make it a weekly tradition. Just be sure to read up on ways to save money on groceries before getting started.
9. Host a movie night at home
Movie theater or drive-in movie dates sound good in theory. However, they can become expensive when you factor in the cost of tickets and snacks. Additionally, there's always the chance that other movie-goers might be inconsiderate during the film. 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. Whether you choose to watch a classic movie or binge-watch your favorite series, a home date is the perfect way to unwind and enjoy each other's company.
10. Put together a puzzle
If you're looking for an inexpensive and entertaining date night idea, consider doing a puzzle together. You can start by rummaging through your closet and getting out that 600-piece puzzle that's been gathering dust. Working on a puzzle together allows you and your date to collaborate in a laid-back, 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. Whether you decide to visit your local car dealership to test drive a new vehicle or use your own, it can be a fun way to spend quality time with your partner. Prepare a new playlist or sing along to your favorite tunes while cruising around town. Alternatively, you could take a scenic drive to watch the sunset. If you’re feeling adventurous, flip a coin whenever you arrive at an intersection to decide which way to go (heads for left and tails for right). Additionally, if you’re out during the holidays, you can enjoy the festive lights and decorations 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, Uno, Guess Who, or (if you’re daring enough) Monopoly. Alternatively, you could invite a few friends over for trivia night. 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 activity 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 local 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 keep it intimate or invite your whole friend group, a book club is an excellent way to challenge each other intellectually. After reading a chapter or two, discuss what happened, and share your predictions on what may 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’s flexible. You can bring your art supplies to the local park and paint the beautiful scenery there. You will get to be creative, while creating mementos to put on your fridge.
16. Plan a scavenger hunt
A scavenger hunt is one of the most creative, budget-friendly activities that you and your date can enjoy. Simply create a list of things you'd like to find during your walk, such as a pinecone, a bluebird, or a white fence. Another idea is to plan a scavenger hunt that challenges your partner to read clues that will lead them to each checkpoint. Start by setting up a scavenger hunt inside your home to get a feel for it. You can gradually expand your hunt to include your backyard, 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 both find an outfit for the night at a fraction of the cost. To make it even more exciting, you can turn it into a competition to see who can find the trendiest outfit or pick out the perfect attire for each other. With endless possibilities, you're sure to have a blast!
You don't have to break the bank to have a great time with your date. The amount of money spent on the date is not as important as the experience you both share together. There are plenty of best ways to save money on date night while doing activities you both enjoy, like mini-golfing vs. regular golfing or eating during a restaurant’s happy hour to save money. No matter what activity you’re doing, the time spent together is the most important. We hope these cheap date ideas will help you balance your social life and savings. Good luck and have fun!
🏛️Need more ways not to break the bank? Check out 6 Budgeting Tips for College Students!
💕If you want to take your financial conversations with your significant other to the next level, check out How to Talk About Money With Your Partner.