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How to Go on Dates for Less

By Sally Aquire

romantic dinnerDating can be costly, but don’t let this put you off, because it’s more than possible to have great dates without breaking the bank. We often fall into the trap that we can’t have fun with our significant other without spending a bunch of money, but that’s simply not true. Whether you’re on the hunt for your perfect partner or are looking to inject some romance into an existing relationship, here are some ideas for dating on a budget.

Dinner Dates

Eating out can make a big dent in your budget, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy good food and drink. Here are some tips for taking your date out for drinks or a meal without spending a fortune:

  • Happy Hours: Look for restaurants and bars that have “happy hour” deals. If you time your date to coincide with one of these, drinks and meals tend to be half-price, so you can enjoy some good savings on your food and drink. If money or time is tight, you can often get a couple of drinks and food each for around $20. For example, McCormick & Schmick’s, a popular seafood restaurant chain, has $2.95 burger and fries during its Happy Hour and it’s a ton of food!
  • Wine Tasting: This can work well if you both enjoy drinking wine. For something in the region of $5 each, most wineries will let you sample up to five different wines. Some wineries even offer free wine tasting sessions.
  • Candlelit Dinners: If you’d rather stay in, why not cook a romantic dinner for your date? Most of us can cook at least one dish, even if it isn’t anything particularly fancy. Add a touch of extra romance with candles and soft music.
  • Picnic in the Park: If you and your partner enjoy the outdoors, taking your date for a picnic in the nearest park can be really romantic and can be relatively cheap too. If you stick to simple snacks like sandwiches or cheese and crackers, you can keep the costs down. If you want to spice things up more, try introducing a bottle of inexpensive wine or a bottle of something non-alcoholic. If you live near a beach or can travel to one, this idea can become even more romantic.

Other Date Ideas

Because you won’t always want a date to revolve around food, here are a couple of alternative date ideas:

  • Local Music Shows: Most big or medium-sized cities will have a local music scene that can be tapped into for dates. Because the artists will not be well-known, show tickets can be bought for as little as $5 each, and if they go on to become stars, you’ve got the added bonus of being able to say that you saw them before they were famous!
  • Museums and Galleries: Visiting a museum isn’t everyone’s idea of a great date, but it’s a good option if you both enjoy culture. Many museums have free or inexpensive entry, but you’ll have to pay to get into others. Sites like MuseumStuff can help you locate museums that are local to you. If art is more your thing, try an art gallery instead.

Dating can become expensive, especially if you’re going on regular dates to feel your way into a new relationship, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t work it into your budget if you’re selective about the type of activities that you choose as the basis for your dates. It’s likely that you’ll have to make some compromises to avoid overspending, but this doesn’t need to stop you from having a great date. Let us know your tips for dating on a budget!

(photo credit: Kristian Gimring)

Sally Aquire
Sally is a UK-based freelance writer. As well as personal finance, she also writes on health & beauty and lifestyle topics. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, shopping, hanging out with friends and generally making the most of her downtime!

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  • http://madsaver.com Mac

    Though married, we try to find some time for a date out on the town as well. Not that we get out much, but when we do, there are always coupons or gift cards that can be had on the cheap and allow us to go to many different restaurants affordably. Restaurant.com, halfoffdeals.com, and bogo local coupons all have helped us save some green.

    • Sally Aquire

      Good tip!

  • http://www.yourfinances101.com/blog David/Yourfinances101

    Do lunch instead of dinner for the first date. If it doesn’t work out, you just saved yourself some money right there.

    Better yet, make the first date a freebie type thing like a picnic.

  • gina

    I am married, and I do try to schedule a ‘date night’ with my husband every now and again. Babysitting can be costly, so we usually try to swap babysitting services with our neighbors–one time they watch our kids, the next we watch their kids! T

    • http://madsaver.com Mac

      Awesome idea. And one our family has meant to do for a long time. Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately), both of our parents are within a 40 minute drive of our house and we rely on them too often!

  • http://www.greenandchic.com/blog Carla | Green and Chic

    These are all really great idea. I have done everything on this list, but didn’t necessary think about them as “money saving”, just fun. Living in a city like Portland makes it super easy to have a great time, eat quality food, listen to great music, etc for cheap. There are happy hours galore. Like David said, going out for lunch instead of dinner can lower the cost of a meal as well.

  • Elizabeth I

    I recommend going for a dessert only establishment. The desserts are usually divine. You can go later in the evening, and the date will not linger on forever in case it is not going well.

  • Elizabeth I

    I live in Wisconsin and ice skating (including skate rental) can be pretty cheap, perhaps a total of $12 per person.

  • Elizabeth I

    IKEA is a fun place to go as well. Food is super cheap. Think of (500) Days of Summer….

  • Winston C

    Dinners and gifts tend to be the most expensive while other activities cost a lot less. When my girlfriend and I go on a date, we usually go to the park, wax museum, skating, window shopping, amusement parks, etc.

  • Elizabeth I

    My husband and I went out for Mexican tonight…total cost of the bill with tip $30.07–not bad.

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