10 Great Ideas for Dating on a Budget

Budgeting, Savings, and Money Management
By Charles Navarro

Dating can be expensive but learning how to budget while dating will help you keep more money in your wallet. And we all could save a little.

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Money may not be able to buy you love, but it sure does seem like love costs a lot. Dating is expensive, especially if you’re young and balancing the cost of dating while paying off student loan debt and trying to make payments on all of your other bills. Not to mention how tough it is for you guys out there, as many people still expect men to pick up the tab on the first date. Still, despite the financial toll dating takes on us, nobody is going to give up doing it just because it’s costly. It’s a huge part of the culture of being in your twenties and thirties. So how do we continue dating without letting it break the bank?

In a perfect world, you could have an open discussion with every person you date detailing your financial situation and what you can and cannot afford to do. Unfortunately, discussing your personal finances isn’t exactly the way to set the mood when you first start seeing someone. Instead, keep your budget always in mind and make dating a part of your monthly budget. This may result in you cutting back a lot on what you’ve been spending on fancy dinners or expensive drinks to impress that special someone. But if you’ve been seeing the same person for a while, you have your opportunity to communicate your budget with them and see where that takes you. This may sound a little restricting and lackluster (who are we to tell you what you can and can’t do on a date?!) but looking at the glass half full, dating on a budget doesn’t have to hold you back. On the contrary, it provides you with an opportunity to be more creative and more thoughtful and might actually result in an even better date than you originally planned! So without further ado, here are suggestions for what to do when you’re dating on a budget.

Fun Date Ideas When You’re on a Budget:

  1. Go on a picnic. 

    Save money on dinner and pack up a few snacks, a bottle of wine, and your comfiest blanket and head over to a local park or lake on a beautiful day. Not only is this an extremely romantic setting (just think of all the romantic comedies that throw this scene in there), but you can also bring fun activities like a game of frisbee, cards, or a speaker to listen to music. Whatever best fits your personality. The best part? This is one of the easiest activities to plan, but still shows that you put effort into the date, all without spending a million bucks.

  2. Trivia night at the local bar.

    This is a great activity because you still get to go out and get drinks with that special someone but included in the deal is free entertainment! Playing a game together might also help break the ice in the event that this is the first time you’re hanging out. These trivia nights aren’t hard to find. Many bars have these weekly. Just be on the lookout and don’t order the most expensive drink once you get there.

  3. Free movie nights. 

    Many cities will host pop-up outdoor movie nights for free in various locations like parks or town centers. All you need to do is show up with a couple of chairs or blankets, and of course, snacks. Just like the picnic, this is fun because although it’s just an ordinary activity, there’s something special about being outside. Check your local paper or events site and see if this is ever going on in your city!

  4. Get some exercise. 

    This may sound like the last thing you want to do, but seriously. Go on a walk or rent some of those bikes that cost $1 an hour and explore your city or town. Stop and grab a cup of coffee, a juice, or a taco from that new food truck you’ve been wanting to try.

  5. Go to the museum. 

    Check the schedule of any museums in your area. Many of them offer free or discounted tickets on certain days. Unless the person you’re dating was an art history major in college, this will probably be a really unique experience for them and you’ll easily have something to talk about – whether you’re very cultured and a big fan of the arts, or whether you’re both talking about how you’re not sure how a blue square qualifies as fine art.

  6. Become a local sports fan. 

    Let’s be honest, a huge part of the fun of watching sports is being a part of the live crowd. Instead of spending the big bucks to go see your professional team, check out any rookie teams in your area. Tickets will be cheap, and get yourselves a couple of beers and some nachos and you’ve got a fun night ahead of you.

  7. Get thrifty. 

    Check out any local thrift stores or flea markets. You don’t even have to buy anything for this to be entertaining. It’s like window shopping through the past. You’ll spend a lot of time laughing saying “did someone really wear that?” or “wow my grandma had a chair just like this!” And even if you do happen to find a diamond in the rough and decide there is something you want to purchase, that’ll be cheap too!

  8. Go on a brewery tour. 

    Or if they’re not in to beer, a tour of a local winery. These are great because they’re usually free and they offer free samples of the drinks they make. Free entertainment AND free drinks! Besides, afterwards you’ll feel like an expert on beer or wine and you can spend the rest of your lives trying to culture your friends with the education you received.

  9. Dine in. 

    While it may seem a little forward for the first date, inviting someone to your home to cook for them (or cook for each other and making an activity out of it) can be one of the more special things you could do for a person, and it costs way less than eating out. Even just ordering a pizza and playing games during a night in could be a fun night!

  10. Check Groupon. 

    There’s no telling what sorts of deals you might find on Groupon. It could be a huge discount that crazy activity you’ve been wanting to try for months, or even just $5 tickets to the movies on a Thursday. You could plan a surprise or go through Groupon together to get some inspiration for your special night out.

When it comes to dating, you always want to keep your budget in mind, but also be sensitive to that of the other person. Hopefully at a certain point it becomes less awkward to discuss money and you can both decide together how you’ll pay for your dates, and how much that should be. Just remember: dating should be fun, not stressful, so if the cost of dating is taking a huge toll on your mental health, take a step back and think about some of these ways to make it easier

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