When searching for your “happily ever after,” you may feel shackled by the confines of your tight budget. However, dating doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, many women are very impressed by a man’s own culinary talent opposed to that fancy restaurant he can’t afford. Showing off your utter disregard for money by spending your month’s grocery budget on a 4-ounce slice of filet mignon and a random overpriced bottle of Merlot is not as attractive as you may think. Thoughtfulness and creativity can go a long way in the dating world. Glance through this list to start planning your next unique AND cost-effective date, and soon enough you’ll be an expert at budget dating.
1. A Natural Chef Boyardee
Cooking blogs like The Pioneer Woman and Serious Eats give you plenty of recipe options and techniques to make just about anything! Find something that looks tasty and make a trial run. Then, by the big date, you’ll have something you feel comfortable cooking and you know first-hand your potential lady-friend will love. If you’re not feeling ambitious about trying a new recipe, you can’t go wrong with the salad, steak, & wine combo (unless of course, your date is a sober vegan). To take it a step further, buy some lettuce seeds at your local seed store (won’t cost more than $1). Plant a few seeds in your backyard or even in a pot on your patio for all of the urban millennials out there. Lettuce is easy to grow and nothing makes a bigger statement than preparing a salad from your own personal organic, free range garden (talk about major points). Add some olive oil and sliced tomatoes and your first course just cost you two whole dollars. Throw a steak on the grill, buy a bottle of $10 red wine and you’ll have her weak at the knees.
2. Animal Lover’s Paradise
Another great date is a picnic at a local zoo or park! Some major city zoos can cost $15-20, but a short road trip outside the city on a Saturday may uncover a smaller zoo in the budget friendly range of $2-3, without the extra temptations of overpriced pretzels or soda. Do some research on parks as well because a lot of local parks are partnered with beautiful hiking trails. More free fun!
3. Long Walks on the Beach
Cliche, but nice. If you’d prefer sand and saltwater over grass and giraffes, bring that picnic to the beach. This will provide a free and scenic place to get to know one another and maybe even catch a sunset.
4. Take Me Out to the Ball Game
If you’re a sports fan, this is right up your alley! One of my favorite budget dating tips is to head to a sporting event. Pick a game and check second hand ticket sites like before you take the plunge and buy tickets. These sites sometimes have amazing deals (less than $10 ea) for nosebleeds. Tailgate beforehand by grilling up cost effective burgers and drinking beer you brought from home. This will save you loads of money once you’re inside and surrounded by nothing but $12 light beer. Also, don’t forget about your local alma mater. They can provide a thrilling sporting event and memorable experience as well!
For the best second hand ticket prices, be sure to check several sites. For example, a local upcoming game gave me the following results for the same seats: Ticketmaster $27 each, Stubhub $25.31 each, and TicketNetwork $17 each. When it comes to budget dating, it pays to shop around.
5. Bike it Up
A great way to break the ice is with a casual bike ride. Although renting is an option, this idea makes more financial sense if the bikes are already sitting in the garage. Bike rides allow for casual conversation and when things get awkward or silent, you can just bike around a curve or pretend to race a little providing for a non-threatening break in conversation and a playful competition. Just make sure you to watch where you’re going, you want that first impression to be memorable for the right reasons.
6. Look on Your City’s Municipal Website
Many cities have programs like “Shakespeare in the Park” or “Movies Under the Stars” that cost little to nothing. These will provide for some quality chatter before the event, silence during the main gig, and if you’re both having a nice time, the opportunity to keep it going.
7. Culture Shock
Many local museums are next to free and provide excellent opportunities to gain a little culture and learn a thing or two (even if the date is a dud). This may also spark some intellectual connections as well!
8. Street Fair
Street fairs and farmer’s markets are almost always a good time. There’s no pressure to buy anything and good ones can take hours to walk through. Conversation can be had by looking at the bizarre fruits and veggies or the random handmade items people are selling.
9. Dance the Night Away
Many (country) bars offer free dance lessons early in the night. You could visit early (chances are with a reduced or no cover) and take the lessons as a date. If things go well, stay into the night and practice with your new favorite dance partner.
10. Netflix & Chill
No budget friendly blog post about millennial dating would be complete without the now infamous “Netflix & Chill.” All jokes aside, this may be an effective “date” thrown in the mix, but the other ideas listed above will show that thoughtful and creative effort that many look for in a partner. And if you want to watch a movie out of the house, be sure to check out sites like Dealflicks. This newer site works like Fandango, but offers up to 60% off local movie theater prices, providing excellent budget dating options.
Whatever you choose, “cheap date” doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and budget dating can actually be kind of fun!