A Dozen Cheap Date Ideas

If you’re on a tight budget, or you’re trying to pay down debt or take care of some other financial goals, it can be a challenge to enjoy an active social life, particularly if you are single and looking to find a romantic partner. When most people think of a first date, dinner at a restaurant is probably the most common image that springs to mind. I remember after my divorce when I first got back into the dating game, I would take each new lady out for a nice evening meal and the costs added up quickly while the connections didn’t always last. Ouch!

A Dozen Cheap Date Ideas

There are ways to dine out affordably, but you might not want to pull your coupons out on a first date. Dating is filled with enough etiquette-related and emotional landmines without also having to worry that your date thinks you’re cheap. So how can you show a potential new love interest a good time without spending a fortune? Here are a dozen cheap date ideas that are still enjoyable, fun or romantic.

1. Lunch or coffee

Nobody said a date has to be dinner, especially if it’s a first date and you’re not sure how things will go. Meeting for a more casual lunch or coffee gives you a chance to get to know each other better without making a big time or money investment. Or do something really different and meet for breakfast.

2. Local events

Particularly if the weather’s warm, finding local events that are free or low-cost can be an easy way to enjoy a date. From concerts and festivals to film showings and group activities, there is always something going on that can provide inexpensive entertainment. Check out your local library, your community website, sites like Meetup or even your local newspaper for listings. Save even more by packing a picnic lunch or dinner.

3. The great outdoors

Doing an activity together can be fun and inexpensive. Ice skating or roller skating, hiking or biking, canoeing or paddleboats. Not feeling particularly athletic? Take a nature walk with a camera, go bird-watching, head to the beach or the lake, or do a little star-gazing.

4. Other sporting activities

There’s also mini golf, bowling, tennis, and billiards. Feeling more spectator than participant? Try rooting for your local sports teams…minor league games can be quite reasonable.

5. Cook together

Having an evening meal doesn’t mean you have to go to a fancy restaurant. Make it more fun by shopping together for groceries and cooking a meal together at home. If you don’t have much in the way of cooking skills, go simple or go for a class together!

6. Museums and historic sites

Whether it’s fine art, science, history, an aquarium or something really unique, museums and historic sites can entertain and give you some great conversation topics. Most attractions have half-price or free days you can use to your advantage.

7. Movie night

Instead of plunking down your bucks at the local cinema, borrow a DVD from the local library, stream a film or rent one while you cuddle up on the sofa. Change things up by picking a classic film or a cult hit. Be sure to have some popcorn on hand for the true movie experience.

8. Board games and trivia

Board games, whether old fashioned or new fangled, can be a fun alternative activity. Or compete at trivia as a team or head-to-head. Really want to get to know your date? Pick up one of those 1001 question books and prepare to answer personal trivia.

9. Arts & crafts

Get creative and do it yourself. Go for a nature walk to collect seashells, leaves or flowers and make a collage. Or head to a local ceramic studio where everything is ready and waiting for your inspiration.

10. Shopping

How can shopping be cheap? Window shopping in a nice downtown area can be fun (think of the people watching!) or head to your local thrift store or flea market. Have a contest to see who can find the best buy under $5.

11. Karaoke or open mic night

If you don’t mind being the entertainment, show off your musical or comedic chops. If you’re feeling a bit shy, just go to watch and be amazed at the talent or lack thereof.

12. Pick your own

In season you can find farms that let you “pick your own” whether it’s pumpkins, berries, apples, or a local specialty. Bring your harvest home and prepare something tasty.


Dating doesn’t have to dent your budget; you just need to think a little outside the box. Your imagination and creativity will be rewarded with a more interesting date, and hopefully a love connection.

What’s your favorite first date activity?

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic on freedigitalphotos.net (with changes)


  1. It’s been awhile since our first date, but my wife and I enjoy just spending time together, no mater what we are doing. We do watch movies from the local library or catch up on our favorite shows on our DVR. Doesn’t really need to be about the money you are spending, but more about the time spent.

  2. Mr. Crackin'

    We do #5 all the time. It’s a lot of fun to cook a meal, drink a glass of wine and relax at home. We even started baking the bread they gave you when you sit down at restaurants. Feels just like going out. We’ve never really went out to movies much. Mrs. Crackin’ is known for falling asleep within about 10 minutes. I’m not spending $10.00 for you to take a nap woman!

  3. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank

    What I and my wife typically do when we’re in Starbucks is we order a venti-sized cup of coffee. Then, we ask the barista to divide it into two cups. So, we actually saved more than 50% and a venti size is enough for the two of us.

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