Dating can be expensive, especially if you are still in college or just getting started on your career. No matter what budget your budget is, you can always find free and cheap things to do together that are a lot of fun.
1. Search For Roadside Attractions
No matter where you live in the United States, there are usually some sort of roadside attractions. Some of them are really silly, while others are actually pretty cool. Check out your local area on Atlas Obscura to get some ideas about where to go with your date.
If you live near a major city, most museums have at least one day every week or month where tickets are free to the public. Just keep in mind that a lot of people will take their entire family to these days. So try to figure out parking and transportation ahead of time, and consider showing up early.
Everyone has heard of “Netflix and Chill”, but sometimes, you’re not exactly paying attention to the movie. A good way to get to know someone’s taste is to ask them the following question: “If you could tell someone who had never seen a movie before to watch just one, which would it be?” Once you both have your answers, plan to watch the movie with the other person together.
If you love nature, there is no better setting to have a nice conversation than going to a park for a hike. Do a quick Google search for nature reserves, state and national parks in your local area. You may be surprised to see that there are several parks near your home that you never visited before.
Getting to know someone’s sense of humor is a really important part of dating, and of course, laughter is the best medicine. If you live near a city or large town, there is a good chance that there is a comedy club. Tickets are usually only $5 to $10 each, and some of them are even BYOB, so you don’t have to feel bad about bringing your own drinks and snacks.
Visiting a winery sounds like a very fancy night out, but wine tastings usually only cost $5 to $10. You are given a glass, and you are allowed to sample several different flavors of wine. As you are tasting them, the sommelier will explain how each wine is made, and the different notes you should be able to taste. You can learn a lot about what flavors you do or do not like when you go to wine tastings. Some of the more expensive tours will even include tours around the facility, and they will let you keep your glass. By the end of the tasting, if you and your partner really enjoyed a wine, you can always buy a bottle and save it for a future date night.
Some couples wait until they move in together before they ever go somewhere like a flea market, but it can be a really fun date. You never know what you will find there, and it can inspire some fun conversations.
Never heard of geocaching? People will hide something in a location that you need to find by following a GPS location. Most of the time, you will be digging through trees, under rocks, and in strange places to get to the geocache. It’s kind of like going on a treasure hunt. Download the official Geocaching app on your smartphone to get started.
Drive-in movie theaters are getting harder and harder to find, but a quick Google search will let you know if you still have one where you live. Combine that with going to an old school 24-hour diner, and you’ve got yourself a vintage movie night.
If you and your partner like to play board or card games like Cards Against Humanity, why not host a night in? Invite your friends over to share some drinks and snacks. Nights like these are usually full of laughs and good memories, and it’s a great way to introduce your friends to your significant other.
Breweries are all the rage nowadays, and more and more are popping up all over the United States. Some breweries let you go on tour for free in hopes that you will buy beer. Depending on where you go, a “beer flight”- or small sampling of several different types of beer can cost roughly $10. Individual glasses of beer are usually about $5. Sometimes, large breweries will allow you to bring your own snacks, board games, and cards to encourage people to stay longer.
In the spring and summer, a lot of towns will have free movies in the park. These are usually family-friendly films that are a couple years old, so you won’t be seeing any of this year’s blockbuster hits. Same goes with live bands in local parks. You aren’t going to see any celebrity musicians for free, but it can still be a really great time.
Starbucks can get really crowded, but smaller coffee shops are usually really cute and cozy. If you’re really lucky, you might even find one with a fireplace to sit by with your partner while you guys chat and drink coffee together.
Bars, coffee houses, and book shops sometimes have open mic nights where amateur musicians and comedians can perform. You’re kind of taking a risk, because someone could jump on the mic and make you cringe, but keep in mind that it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. The amount of local talent in your area may surprise you.
Maybe you can’t afford to buy your dream car, but it’s okay to dream, right? It’s free to go for a test-drive at your local dealership. If you’re showing up to drive an expensive sports car, just remember to dress the part. Show up looking like an adult. Keep in mind that they check your driver’s license before you go for a drive, so you won’t be able to do this unless you have a clean record.
For people who have never gone to one, the thought of visiting an art gallery seems kind of intimidating, especially since the price tags on the work can be hundreds or thousands of dollars. Most art galleries actually let you walk around for free. It’s kind of like shopping in a store. If there is a public opening night for a new exhibit, you will usually get free food and drinks, and there is a lot less pressure to buy something.
A lot of bars and restaurants will have a trivia night or a pub quiz once a week. This is great for a date, but if you want to increase your odds of winning, you may want to form a team with some friends and make it a double date. Some places will even have themed trivia nights, like Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. Depending on where you go, winners have the chance to receive free food, drinks, gift cards, and cash.
It might sound cliche, but going on a picnic can be very romantic, especially if you find a place with a great view. Find a comfortable blanket, a bottle of wine, and some good food. Try to pick a spot without a lot of bugs or mosquitos.
If you have been together for a long time, taking selfies with your arm outstretched might be getting tired. Some of the best instagram photos are taken by another person, because you can see someone’s full body. Who better to ask to take your pictures than your significant other? Even better, you could get a third person to take photos of the two of you together, so that you have a great-looking couple photo.
When an expensive house goes up for sale, a real estate agent will often host an open house where people are allowed to browse the property. They are usually given free food, and sometimes even get alcoholic beverages. Even if you and your partner are not in the market to buy a house, it’s still okay to pretend.
If you love crafting, why not try to do it together with your significant other? Making something together can be a great memory, and you’re creating a physical object to remember the date. Some towns have ceramic studios where you can go to make something, and some art studio have painting and wine nights that are BYOB.
Learning something new together can be a really great experience. Check out your local area for classes in cooking, pottery, and painting. If you’re both into fitness, maybe try something new like kickboxing, tai chi, or yoga. The price of each activity depends on where you go, but it usually ranges from $10 to $20 per person. If you guys end up falling in love with the class, it might be a new hobby you guys and end up doing together.
Getting a couple’s massage at a spa is really expensive, which is why most people reserve those treats for anniversaries or Valentine’s Day. But it can be very romantic to give each other back massages at home. Put on some romantic music, light some candles, and you’re likely to have a very good night.
AMC and United Artist both usually have discounted movie nights either on Tuesday or Wednesday nights. The prices range from $5 to $7 per person, which is half the price of a movie ticket on any other night. Popcorn is usually half-price too.
Sometimes, you won’t know you want to go somewhere until you see it. Download the Groupon app and see what is going on in your local area. You can get discounts on tickets to events, meals, and experiences. Something may catch your eye, and you can book a last-minute date.
Nowadays, everyone has a GPS on their phone, so getting “lost” shouldn’t be a very big deal. There may be a part of town that you have been curious about, but you’ve never been there before. Or maybe there is an interesting town you never explored. If your partner is down for the adventure, just pick a direction and start driving until you find somewhere interesting to go. Just don’t forget to charge your phone, because you will probably need Google Maps to get home.
If one of you guys is good at cooking, it’s a huge bonus. It’s really romantic for one person to cook for the other. But it can also be a great bonding experience to cook together. Go on YouTube and search terms like “gourmet recipe for $5” or even “dollar store gourmet meals” to get some ideas on cooking a really delicious meal for cheap.
If you have a prestigious university where you live, check if they offer public lectures. These are usually free to attend, and they sometimes have amazing speakers that you have actually heard of before, but you never would have imagined you could hear them speak in real life. After the lecture is over, it gives you guys a lot to talk about together.
If you and your partner want to have a lot of fun, and you live near a city, why not go to a trendy night club? Most clubs have a cover charge that are $5 or less, but you don’t have to buy expensive drinks at the bar if you can’t afford it. Pre-gaming beforehand can save a lot of money.
Companies like Barnes and Noble and Amazon have dominated the industry, but there are small independent bookstores that have survived. Sometimes, they are also a cafe, or they at least have a cute coffee shop nearby. You get to learn a lot about your partner’s taste in books, and maybe you can swap your favorite titles.