8 Cheap Date Ideas When You’re On A Budget

You're on a budget. We get it. But your date doesn't have to know that.


Meagan Drillinger |

Dating is hard. Finding that person whose quirks you find charming – or, better yet, finding that person who finds your quirks charming – is no easy feat. But just because dating is hard doesn’t mean it has to be hard on the wallet. A lavish, six-course dinner with wine pairings or a weekend getaway to the Cape are all certainly lovely date ideas, but let’s face it – most us us are not Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. In fact, many of us are just downright cheap. And that’s OK! Because let’s be honest – cheap bastards deserve love, too.

Related: 6 Ways She’s Judging You On The First Date

“Whether you are on a budget, or you are just cheap, there are plenty of date ideas that can be both engaging and affordable,” says Brittney Smiejek, a matchmaker with the dating website Three Day Rule.

Plus, here’s a little secret: when you meet the right person, it’s not going to matter how much you spend on your time together. What matters is that you’re spending time together in the first place. Here are 8 date ideas that you can pull off on a budget.

Hit The Beach

Sure, you might have to shell out for petrol money, but a beach date is the perfect, low-budget opportunity to strike up some romance. (Don’t live on the coast? A dam or a pond will do just fine.)

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“Bring snacks, get ice cream, play in the sand and water. While you’re at the beach, work your way out to the water,” says Brian Begin, a men’s success coach and co-founder of thefearlessman.com.“Take your shoes off, splash at other, make each other laugh and enjoy the moment. Make it spontaneous.” Plus, it’s always a good idea to opt for an activity that lets you see your date in a bathing suit.

Eat In

This one might be obvious, but let’s mention it anyway, shall we? You don’t have to go out for a dinner date, nor do you necessarily have to resort to takeout (though Netflix and Chill is a classic for a reason).

You don’t have to be Jamie Oliver to make a meal your partner will swoon over. In fact, it’s almost better if you’re a less-than-stellar cook, because it shows you’re willing to make an effort.

“Pick up some produce at a farmer’s market or try something more recipe-based, like Blue Apron,” suggests Smiejek. “Here’s a tip: light some candles. She’ll think it’s romantic and adorable.” Try this protein-packed pasta dish.

Walk On The Wild Side

You don’t have to climb Table Mountain, or hike to the top of the Drakensberg’s Rhino Peak  (though, I mean, I guess you could), but going for a hike can be a great way to spend time with someone. If you really want to be bold and use it as a bonding experience, pick a trail and put your phone away so it’s just the two of you. But don’t turn it off or leave it in the car, there might be an emergency or a safety hazard.

Do A Themed Happy Hour Bar Crawl

Happy Hour is a casual, convenient date idea, but that doesn’t mean that it’s lazy.

“Happy hour is the perfect time to meet up for a few drinks while not spending a fortune. Search for the best deals at your local restaurant/bars and meet up for a drink once you have wrapped up the work day,” says Smiejek.

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If your date really likes martinis, jazz music, or dive bars, make a roundup of those types of bars in your city with happy hour specials and plan a customized, cost-effective bar crawl.

Soak Up Your Culture

You don’t have to score front-row tickets to the Philharmonic to show off your cultured side. Museums and galleries are a great way to strike up interesting conversation, and, most importantly, keep costs low.

“Museums are an incredible place to go. There is always a free night at the museum, so do the research to find one in our around your area,” says Begin. First Thursdays in Jozi or Cape Town, or Musuem Night in Cape Town is the perfect free excursion where several musuems open their doors for free or a much lower rate.

Dine Al Fresco

Skip the overpriced brunch cocktails and eggs benny. Instead, hit the farmer’s market or the meat & cheese section of your grocery store, grab a baguette, and pick a spot with a nice view. “Pack a picnic with a few snacks, maybe a bottle of wine and spend time chatting and soaking up the sunshine,” says Smiejek.

Related: How to Make the Ultimate Eggs Benedict In 4 Easy Steps

Hit The Dance Floor

You don’t have to be a great dancer to have a dance date. In fact, for this one, it’s probably better if you don’t know how to dance. Dance classes for beginners at your local dance studios are cheap (or free!), easy, and are a fun way to feel a little foolish in front of each other.

Related: Stop Looking Like A Ding Dong On The Dance Floor & Follow This Guide

“Whether it is a class or an open night, if you find the right place that has a sexy environment, dance instructors can teach the both of you the proper techniques,” says Begin. “Or you can learn a little bit of the basics of certain dances, so you can take the lead.”

Play Tourist

Most of us are so busy that it seems like a waste of time to go sightseeing in your home city. Why would a Capetonian, for instance, hit up the V&A on a Saturday?

That said, hitting up famous attractions in your hometown is a great idea for a fun, kitschy date. “There are many different options for exploring that don’t cost a dime,” says Smiejek. “Go for a scenic bike ride, or make it as simple as exploring a new neighbourhood.”

Related: Five Date Ideas That Are Better Than Dinner

Inside tip: Pick up a guidebook to your own city. You might be surprised at how many new things you’ll both discover.

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