Frugal Date Ideas


Bronze Wordsmith
May 17, 2018
One of the tough things about trying to maintain a frugal lifestyle is that, for the most part, the world doesn’t really revolve around your lifestyle. By that I mean, you can try to live frugally, but you will always be put in a position where you will have to spend. Case in point: dating. I considered myself a pretty frugal person, but when I was a junior in college, I used to go all-out on dates. As you would expect, it wrought havoc on my finances.

I once took a date to a quaint little Italian place near the campus. Well, “quaint” and “little” don’t really translate to cheap… quite the opposite. The placed turned out to be a highly-regarded (read: expensive) artisanal deli. I spent over a hundred bucks on that one date. It was a fun evening, but the cost of that meal put a serious dent on my finances that month.

The thing is, I knew I could stop living expensively as a college student. And a large part of being in college is dating. After that pricey-Italian meal, I started thinking of date ideas that are affordable, but still fun and sometimes even romantic. I’ll be sharing my list of frugal date night ideas in a bit, but first I want to tackle something important.

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There’s No Shame in Frugal Dating

I get it; when you’re about to date someone, you always want to put your best foot forward. And you don’t want to come across as cheap. But think about it this way: you’re a broke student, and chances are the person you want to date is also broke. So you’re both broke and trying to save money. If the person judges you for wanting to save some money, there’s a big chance they’re not worth dating in the first place.

But I also need to clarify that dating on a budget doesn’t have to be dull or boring. On the contrary, my last serious relationship (which evolved into marriage) started as a frugal date. Dating on a budget forces you to be creative and resourceful. And that, in turn, can make for some very fun and memorable evenings. With that out of the way, here’s my list of frugal date ideas!

1. Have a cheap wine and cheese tasting night at a low-brow wine bar.

2. Have a breakfast date. Everybody loves breakfast foods, and they’re usually cheaper than dinner. And If you don’t feel like waking up early, there are dinners that serve breakfast 24/7.

3. Have a series of greasy-spoon date. Confession: this is my usual way of finding if my date is a potential keeper. I love eating at cheap diners. I love the taste of greasy bacon and slightly-burnt coffee. Asking my date out to a super-cheap eatery is one of the ways I gauge whether I’ll get along with my date.

4. Go to a wine-tasting party. These parties usually charge a small fee for the opportunity to taste a variety of wines. Don’t worry if you don’t have a super-developed taste for wine; you and your date can learn together, which would add to the overall experience.

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5. Visit museums. Museums are usually free or charge a really small fee. But they give you the opportunity to experience culture first-hand. Plus museums are great conversation-starters. If you want to pick the brains of your date (figuratively, I hope) take him or her to a museum.

6. Go art gallery hopping. This is different from visiting museums. Art galleries usually show more contemporary art. Keep this as an option if you and your date prefer to discover what’s new in the art world. Plus, exhibit openings usually have fully stocked bars and buffets (just don’t overstay your welcome!)

7. Listen to music in record shops. If you and your date are music fans, college towns usually have lots of used and vintage record shops. The cool thing about these shops is that they usually have a record player open for anyone to sample the available records. I once spent three hours in a record shop with someone and it was one of the most enjoyable times we’ve had. Plus, records are cheap, so you can always buy a memento of your evening without spending too much money.

8. Have a “Netflix & Chill” evening. That term is a meme for a reason: Netflix (or whichever streaming service you prefer) is super-cheap and it’s a great way to kill a few hours. You can also get to know a person by the movies they want to watch. I once dated someone who loved cheesy 80s action movies. I thought the date would be a dud, but the person offered so much funny commentary, that we ended up dating a few months after that.

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9. Watch buskers and street musicians. Here’s the thing about a lot of street musicians: a lot of them are crazy-good. Just go on Facebook and Instagram, and you’ll find no shortage of videos showing super-talented street musicians and buskers. But people never really take the time to stop and watch them for extended periods of time. It’s understandable: if you’re in the subway or bus station, chances are you’re rushing somewhere. So take your date and watch a complete “set” of a street musician in your area. You’ll be surprised by how entertaining it’ll be. And once the musician is done, make sure you tip them.

10. Hang out at a playground after the kids are gone. This is super-fun and has a lot of romantic potentials. There’s something about hanging around swings and monkey bars that makes on feel freer. Just make sure the kids are gone, because the last thing you want is a kid crying and complaining that you and your date are hogging the swings! And if a playground isn’t up to your tastes, chances are there’s a park nearby that you and your date could hang out in.

11. Visit the local planetarium. This is one of my favorite frugal date ideas. There’s something awe-inspiring about seeing the wonders of the universe laid out before your very eyes. It’ll make for a very memorable evening – doubly so if they have a telescope that visitors can use!

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