Cheap Dates That Don’t Suck

Story by Jackie Lam of Cheapsters

So you’ve just updated your OkCupid or Tinder profile with fresh photos and an almost-too-clever bio, and you’re ready for exciting adventures that await you in datingland. But maybe you’re a little (or very) broke or saving your pennies to pay off debt or to go back to school. No need to despair. If you’re keeping a close eye on your budget, here are some simple ways to save on dates without skimping on the fun.

Turn a Date into a Game

If you’re really into someone, you can have a great time doing pretty much anything. After all, it’s all about chemistry and having fun being with each other, right? So put your heads together to brainstorm some silly date ideas that don’t cost much money. Maybe a clever scavenger hunt at a nearby IKEA followed by a simple dinner at the cafe, or a night cavorting around Target for a ridiculously fun game of I Spy or Spotted at Target (be nice, now). Another idea is to blindfold your date while driving around town and have them give you directives (i.e., after three stop lights, turn left; go four blocks, then make a right). After 15 minutes or so, stop the car, get out and explore your surroundings.

Use Existing Memberships

If you’re a member of an art museum or signed up for a VIP yearly pass at a local botanical garden, take full advantage of benefits and discounts that are included. Depending on the time of year, there are special events that members have exclusive access to. It’s super easy to let memberships fall to the wayside for months without using them, but using one for a date with your bae gives you a great way to make use of benefits you’ve already paid for.

Go on a Photo Exploration

Are you both shutterbugs? Venture to a place you’ve never been before for a photo exploration, and come up with funny hashtags to put up on Instagram. It doesn’t have to be something spectacular like Mount Everest; you can do a photo exploration of local dives in your ‘hood, or if you’re a foodie, go on a mission for the best taco happy hours.

Scour Daily Deal Sites

Ever want to try an escape room? Or how about indoor trampolining? Groupon has great deals for outings for two, and you can also check out offers and free events on Gilt City. Not only are daily deal sites great for saving cash but there are some outings that help you get out of your comfort zone. Just buyer beware: Heed caution when scouring deal sites to make sure you don’t go overboard. Don’t let those slashed prices lure you into spending more than you intended.

Split the Bill

Dying to dine out? Suss things out with your date beforehand to figure out what setup works best for the both of you when out on the town. Whether you decide to go Dutch for every date or take turns footing the bill, splitting the bill doesn’t have to be a spectacle. If you prefer to be discreet, you can use a digital wallet such as Venmo, Dwolla or Apple Pay to share expenses.

Opt for a Night In

By no means does spending a romantic evening in mean watching episodes of Orange Is the New Black and eating crusty leftovers. If you’ve recently taken sushi-rolling or cocktail classes, put those new skills to use during your special night in. You’ll save money and your date can serve as a guinea pig, so it’s a total win-win situation.

There’s really no reason that having a tight budget should put a damper on sizzling emotions. With a little bit of creativity and using what you already have, you won’t feel hindered while navigating the oftentimes complex project that is modern dating.


This story was originally published in our Fall 2015 issue. Get your copy here.