Ah, to be a teen again. I turned 16 sometime in the ’90s, so I hit my teen years back when butterfly hair clips, the Backstreet Boys, and the show “Boy Meets World” were cool. While I definitely wouldn’t want to go back to wearing casual overalls and plaid shirts, I yearn for the heart-pounding, sweaty-palmed dates I went on when I was 17 and 18.
As you may remember, part of being a teen is about gaining independence – and if you are now the parent of a teen, you are likely reminded of this on a daily basis. Unfortunately, hopes for gaining independence are often dashed when your teen has to ask you for the keys to the car or to spot him or her $20 to go to the movies. Luckily, what your teen lacks in funds, he or she probably makes up for in a willingness to impress. In fact, an empty wallet might really be an opportunity to impress a date with something other than movies and popcorn.
Cheap Date Ideas for Teens
If you want to help your teen impress a date, help plan something out of the ordinary. Not only can original ideas be more memorable, but they can cost less than doing the whole “dinner and a movie” drill. Some of the best ideas require other participants, making them perfect for group dates to help diffuse the awkwardness of a first date.
1. Progressive Date
One of the best dates I ever went on was a progressive date. Instead of just hitting the movie theater, my date had planned stops for a number of different activities in the same area. We started at the golf course and hit a few balls, and then went and played laser tag before grabbing some eats.
A progressive date can be pricey, but it’s all about the chosen activities. For instance, your teen could do a progressive fast food dinner: going for appetizers at one location, grabbing dinner at another, and stopping by an ice cream parlor for dessert. Or, he or she could pick any number of the other date ideas and stack them for a date that keeps the action moving.
2. Free Museums
Some museum admission prices can be pretty steep if you go during regular hours. But plenty of museums offer special admission prices during “off” days. See if going on a non-weekend day helps relieve price pressure. Your teen can also score better deals by flashing a high school student ID card at the front entrance.
You can also check your community or city for free museums. Near my home, we have a local natural history museum that only asks for a voluntary donation in lieu of an admission fee. A museum date is cheap and gives teens plenty to talk about, which makes for fewer awkward pauses.
3. Karaoke Party
If more than one couple is planning to head out for a date, nothing gets a group going like karaoke. Since underage teens are banned from karaoke bars, you can set up your own basement for a singing competition. Different game consoles, such as PlayStation, Wii, and Xbox, all have karaoke games where you use an included microphone and song library to belt out tunes.
Since most games have duet capabilities, you can suggest teams and an all-out singing war. Don’t have a game console? Check local listings to find a “box karaoke” lounge. These allow groups to rent private rooms and karaoke machines for a couple of bucks an hour. And since they don’t serve alcohol, they’re perfect for teens.
4. U-Pick Farms
If it’s the summer, suggest a trip to the farm. While your teen might first complain that working on the farm for a date is lame, talk it up. Not only will it cost only a few dollars to get an entire basket of whatever fruits or veggies are available, but the daters could come back and make dinner or dessert from the spoils. Cooking in the kitchen makes teenage sparks fly.
5. Board Game Competition
In my family, we don’t just play board games. We compete. So to us, family game nights are the best way to initiate a new boyfriend or girlfriend into the family. We pump up the stakes by breaking off each couple beforehand to brainstorm team names, costumes, and prizes. Each team picks a board game to play during the tournament – we like Scattergories, Taboo, and Balderdash – and then play in twos until a couple is crowned the champions.
A similar competition could be a lot of fun for a group of teens. It’s cheap, you can use whatever games you have in your closet, and it keeps them at home and out of trouble – for one night, at least.
Get your teen to think outside the movie theater when it comes to asking someone out on a date. Instead of blowing wads of cash on something completely forgettable, he or she could instead be original and make a big splash with just a few bucks.
What do you think? Has your teen ever planned an original date without spending a lot of cash?