Cheap Date Night Ideas

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What’s synonymous with being a college student? Being broke. Believe me, it ain’t easy keeping a relationship exciting and fun when there’s no cash flow. But rest assured, with a little imagination – and few bucks here and there – this summer doesn’t have to be a dateless vacation.

Dinner and a movie at home is the go-to, nice and simple, date-night-on-the-cheap idea that first comes to mind when dating on a budget. Manny del Rio, a student from Florida International University, and his girlfriend of three years, Michelle, count dinner and a movie at home as one of their favorite shared dates. “We’ll decide on a movie on Netflix, and get some subs for dinner,” del Rio says. There’s nothing wrong with this tradition, but it can get repetitive after a while, especially for long-term couples. Mix things up on your next home-cooked dinner date by creating theme nights: Mexican food for comedy night, Italian for the chick-flicks. Watch a Disney movie and make your favorite childhood macaroni and cheese. Always be on the lookout for new recipes; cooking for two can, despite popular belief, be cheap and easy.

One-on-one date nights are often ideal; however, when you’ve been in a relationship for a long period of time, it’s also nice to hang out with a group of friends, whether those friends are singles or other couples. “My best free date night is usually watching sports at a friend’s house,” says del Rio with a laugh. He adds that he and Michelle like to pick a friend’s house and “have a big group date.”

If you have a little dough, why not enjoy the summer weather and take your partner to a sports game? Many parks and arenas offer student discounts, and seats at local sporting events will run you $20 each at most. It doesn’t matter where you’re sitting, or even what sport or team you see- it’s all about being in the company of your date!

Not into watching sports? No worries; create the game yourself! Plan a sports-filled day for you and your special someone. Find the nearest public park and play a game of catch, basketball, or tennis. Not into sports? Find a new neighborhood to explore, or a trail to hike or ride bikes on.  Group date? Bring back your childhood with a friendly game of capture the flag or kickball. Creating your own athletic dates can be just as romantic and fun as going to an actual game – and cheaper too.

“Try to do more outdoors,” suggests del Rio. “Head to a beach for the day, or get a group together and have a barbecue.” Get out in the sunshine and enjoy yourself; the possibilities for summer dates are endless. How about a picnic? It’s cheesy, I know, but that doesn’t make it less romantic! (And personally, I love me some cheese!) Take a walk or bike ride somewhere new every week; you’ll be experiencing new places together with no money spent. For you artsy couples, grab some art supplies and draw outside; you’ll learn more about each other’s creative sides, and have some great keepsakes. Bookworms, trade favorite books and find a shady tree to read together under.

What about those cloudy days? Head to a museum or art gallery; museums are great places to get lost in for the day. Check out your local museums and see what special offers they have going on for the summer season; often you’ll find that there are summer discounts, students discounts, and even free exhibitions. While movie theaters are often pricey, there are always discount movie places that are constantly playing those “oldies but goodies.” Want something quicker paced? Invite a few friends over and dig out a deck of cards and your board games; game night is a great way to interact as a couple and meet each other’s friends and family.

Never underestimate the power of a Google search. You’d be surprised at what you can uncover from simply typing “free things to do” with your zip code behind it. Sometimes it’s fun to play tourist; it opens you up to new restaurants and events you might not have known about.

Remember: it’s not what you do, but who you are with. “It’s all about the company,” says del Rio. “A dinner at home or at McDonalds can be just as romantic and fun as dinner at an expensive restaurant like Prime 112; keep it fun and interesting, and just enjoy being with your date.”

Photo by Flickr User garyknight. 

Junior > Journalism > Boston University

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