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13 Inexpensive Date Ideas

Last week, I wrote about how dating can get costly as you grow into your twenties and I offered some tips for learning how to avoid spending a lot on dating.

This week, I’m back with a list of a few inexpensive date ideas to help with your frugal dating journey. An inexpensive dating life is possible; it just takes a little creativity to plan dates that are fun and inexpensive but don’t feel cheap. The inexpensive dates may take more time to plan, but your wallet (and hopefully your date) will appreciate it in the end.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, hopefully these ideas will help you put a fresh and frugal spin on your next date:

Tour a Local Winery or Brewery

Many wineries or breweries offer free or inexpensive tours. In fact, many smaller breweries will not only allow you to tour their facility, but also taste-test their drinks for 30 minutes to an hour. This type of outing is not only fun, but brings up a lot of good talking points for you and your date. Get out of your comfort zone and sip new beers or wines that you wouldn’t normally try. It will be a fun and cheap new experience for you and your date. Just skip the overpriced gift shop on the way out!

Check Out the Great Outdoors

If you want to take your date out to eat but can’t foot the bill, consider putting together a picnic. Get together some snacks like fruit, cheese, or crackers and maybe the makings for some sandwiches and you’ve got yourself a date. Don’t forget a couple drinks and a blanket so you don’t leave your date parched and sitting in the weeds. Now you can enjoy the outdoors, your date, and a nice meal without having to spend money at an impersonal restaurant. If you’d like to make the event into a day-trip, plan your picnic at a nice city park where you can throw the ball around or take a long walk.

Make It a Daytime Date

Restaurants usually always offer discounted rates during the lunch hour. Movie theaters have matinee prices during the afternoon. Consider choosing day time activities for a first date so you can avoid mark ups on night time prices.

And don’t forget about happy hour prices! Happy hour usually runs from about 2 or 3 p.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. at bars or restaurants. You could put a twist on the traditional first date and meet up for drinks during happy hour instead of a full dinner or lunch. This way you’ll spend less money and less time on the date in case it doesn’t work out.

If happy hour isn’t your thing, try meeting at a local coffee house where a $4 latte is a heck of a lot cheaper than a $30 entrée.

Animal Kingdom

Zoos aren’t just for kids these days; zoos can also be a fun and frugal date. In a lot of cities, zoos are even open year-round. Entry fees for zoos vary, but are normally less than $15 per person. A small fee can buy you an entire day’s worth of animal watching. Just beware of all the extra events and souvenirs that zoos are famous for—if you partake in those activities, your frugal date may turn into a rather large expense. Don’t forget good walking shoes so you can forgo those expensive trains and trolleys!

Even More Ideas

You could also try:

  • A walk or hike along a scenic trail
  • A visit to an art, history, or science museum
  • A day at the pool
  • A visit to a local botanical garden or nature park
  • A walk through you city’s downtown or plaza area
  • A visit to a local beach or lake
  • Homemade dinner
  • Game night or movie night at home
  • A free concert or other community event (check your city’s Website!)

Everyone enjoys a traditional dinner and movie date night, but a creative and frugal date is often refreshing and exciting. Don’t be afraid to break the tried-and-true rules of dating and come up with new and exciting ideas to spruce up your dating life…on the cheap!

What do you think? What are some of your favorite inexpensive date ideas?

Published or updated on February 2, 2010

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About Amber Gilstrap

Amber is a twenty-something CPA from Kansas City, Missouri who loves writing, working out, and---of course---finding fresh ideas for saving money. Follow her on twitter @amberinks.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. Mikayla says:

    Well i need a Cute/Inexpensive idea for my next date with my boyfriend. and im still a bit unsure on what i should do does anyone have anyideas and remebr im 17!

  2. Another take especially for the “Love” holiday thats fastly approaching is making “love certificates.” You can make up whatever value you want to have .These are crafty and usually from the heart thus you significant other would appreciate the thought behind the gesture. Another Idea is to have a scavenger hunt and hide miscellaneous things around the house or neighborhood and have them search for them. Even though you can’t buy love, you can at least have the money when you’re in the doghouse.

  3. Kate says:

    Take him or her on a picnic at sunset. It’s totally romantic.

  4. Stu says:

    Great ideas Carrie!
    I like a lot of these because the atmosphere will generate multiple talking points thus the conversation won’t run dry. No one likes a long dinner with the same old boring interview type questions.
    All I can suggest is to do an activity that YOU enjoy. Remember: you are trying to see if your date is a good match for you, not the other way around.

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