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31 Cheap Date Ideas To Carry You Through a Recession

Make your dating life recession-proof.

As our retirement portfolios tank and talk of a looming recession gets louder, the idea of splurging on a fancy dinner date feels reckless. Especially for a first date, when we don’t know if we ever want to see that person again. It’s not us, it’s you, Brad. That’s why we’re all in on cheap date ideas right now.

It’s important to continue dating during a recession so you don’t lose momentum and become a hermit. Even in non-recession times, dating quickly adds up to a huge chunk of your monthly budget if you’re not careful.

While it’s true that no one wants to be known as a cheap date, we implore you to consider going on one (or 31). We’ve compiled this list of affordable date ideas to carry you through a potential recession and beyond. Go, Buzz Lightyear, go!
Cheap Date Ideas - couple cooking

31 Cheap Date Ideas

1. Stroll through a cute part of town.

Just be aware that heels do not bode well for cobblestone strolls. But your new athleisure ‘fit can finally get some air time!

2. Picnic in the park.

Pack up some snacks from your pantry or grab some cheap provisions from Aldi. Feeling rebellious? Don’t forget the adult beverages in discrete containers. (Corona bottles are not discrete.)

3. Have a beach day.

For a day at the beach, all you have to pay for is either parking or beach access. Then it’s hours of sun, sand, and splashing around in the waves. Not recommended if you’re withholding the fact that you’re secretly a mermaid.
Cheap Date Ideas - beach date

4. Grab some coffee.

Nothing is more affordable and wholesome than a coffee date. But for the love of God, bring a breath mint to save the inevitable post-coffee date kiss.

5. Go for a hike.

By “hike,” we don’t necessarily mean you need to crush a 4,000 footer in the Adirondacks with your new boo. A hike can take place anywhere with a trail. For the sake of having a conversation unrestrained by heavy breathing, take the flatter route.

6. Have a puppy play date.

Do you or your date have a dog? Hit the dog park or for a long walk with Rufus. Plus, if you win over Rufus, he will be asking about you forever if things don’t work out. Ruff.
Cheap Date Ideas - puppy play date

7. Visit a museum.

Sure, there’s the cost of admission. But a small entry fee for hours of entertainment is nothing compared to three rounds of drinks at that locally-sourced, craft cocktail lounge. What will that last you, thirty minutes?

Plus, many museums have certain days and hours that are totally free or discounted.

8. Get wet with some water sports.

Head over to a nearby boathouse to go kayaking, paddle boarding, pedal boating, or whatever else the water has to offer. Being tasked with propelling a boat or balancing on a paddle board together is… bonding, to say the least. Oh, and most importantly, pretty cheap.

9. Get an ice cream cone.

As long as your date isn’t lactose intolerant, this is one of the best cheap date ideas. Grab a cone and take a stroll as rainbow sprinkles dribble down the side of your arm. Adorable.
Cheap Date Ideas - couple eating ice cream

10. Cook at home.

Cooking a fun dinner at home can be just as enjoyable as going out to eat. Especially since it gives you a chance to chat with the other person in a more relaxed environment, sans waiter interruptions and awkward bill stalemates.

11. Attend a free concert, movie night, or play in the park…

…or really any free event that your city offers. You’d be surprised what you can find through a little Googling.

12. Catch a movie.

Movies aren’t necessarily the best first date since you can’t talk without getting shushed, but makes for a great activity a few dates in. Just avoid the Regal Premium Experience, because that cocktail bar is anything but affordable.
Cheap Date Ideas - movie night

13. Go fruit picking.

Not every region has this option, but if where you live happens to pride itself in fresh produce, go for a date at a farm. It also gives you bonus cheap date ideas, like baking a pie together or using the fruit to garnish a fun cocktail.

14. Hit up a cheap dive bar.

Bars aren’t always expensive. Especially the ones that perpetually smell like Bud Light and look like something out of a time machine. The more non-existent the aesthetic, the more likely you are to find $4 drinks.

15. Host a game night.

A good ol’ game night can be super flirty…and free. Invite some friends over so you have enough players for Monopoly, or boot up your game console for some Mario Kart. Let’s-a-go, Luigi!
Cheap Date Ideas - game night

16. Go window shopping.

Thrift stores in particular breed fun, conversation-starting finds. You can even try on silly hats and re-enact every date montage in every rom-com, ever.

17. Explore the library.

Exchanging whispers while you poke around in the dark corners of the library can be kind of hot. For Rory Gilmore types, anyway.

18. Rock climb together.

Nearly every city has an indoor rock climbing gym for you to monkey around in. A day pass is usually $30 or under, and you’ll have a thrilling time trying to impress your date with how high you can climb. So, a whole two feet off the ground.
Cheap Date Ideas - rock climbing

19. Have a movie night in a fort.

This is one of those date ideas you see on Pinterest and wonder how many people actually do it. If you don’t feel like draping blankets around your living room and sitting on your dusty floor, the couch will do just fine.

20. Go for a bike ride.

If you have bikes already, congrats – you’ve just unlocked another free activity! If you don’t, bike rentals for a few hours are pretty cheap, so hop on a pair of Blue Bikes and don’t forget the helmet. Hat hair is sexy.

21. Volunteer.

Donate your time by helping out at a local soup kitchen or animal shelter. Not only will you feel good afterwards, but you’ll get to see a sweet side of your date.
Cheap Date Ideas - volunteer

22. Take a fun class together.

Salsa dancing, Italian lessons, a cooking class…the list goes on. You can flirt while you learn – how productive!

23. Attend a cheap sports game.

Sports are even more fun in the cheap seats, we say as non-sports fans.

24. Go to the arcade.

Don’t sleep on the arcade, people. Getting competitive over a game of skee-ball will bring you and your date closer…or, if they’re a sore loser, ruin everything.

Either way, arcades and arcade bars are great cheap date ideas and they’re telling of your date’s character. They better let you use the tickets towards a big stuffed animal.
Cheap Date Ideas - arcade

25. Grab a bubble tea.

Looking for a fun beverage that’s not alcohol or coffee? Insert: boba. Just make sure your date is aware of the tapioca balls so they don’t end up like this guy.

26. Go bowling.

Bowling is generally pretty affordable and it’s super fun. And it allows you ample opportunities to playfully neg your date when their ball goes straight into the gutters.

27. Stargaze.

If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where stars are visible (aka not a big city), lay out a blanket and try to spot the Big Dipper with your date. Laying out a blanket on a city street presents its own problems.
Cheap Date Ideas - stargazing

28. Head to the drive-in.

While movie theaters are tough for conversation, drive-in movies offer many more opportunities to chat. And if you or your date despise movie-talkers, just enjoy your drive-in snacks in blissful silence.

29. Attend an amateur comedy night.

Anything with the word “amateur” in front of it could probably also include the words “cheap” or “discounted.” Go laugh at some potentially unfunny comedy for a fraction of the price of a typical comedy show.

30. Get a massage from a local massage school.

Further bolstering our above point about newbies, amateur masseuses need bodies to train on. Perhaps it won’t be the most incredible massage of your life, but at the end of the day, a massage is a massage.

Cheap Date Ideas - couples massage

31. Play mini golf.

Who doesn’t love mini golfing? You can take it as seriously or as un-seriously as you want. Unless you’re Happy Gilmore.

By Jess Lohr

Jess is a Cambridge-based, Syracuse-born twenty-something who loves coffee, dogs and stalking Zillow for her future home. Her favorite ways to kill time include strolling through Boston’s cobblestone streets, socializing over a glass of wine, and reading finance books (if only 22-year-old Jess were like this).

She has spent the past 4+ years working in Consumer Insights, and when she’s not working on her 9-5, you can find her pursuing her most recent side hustle as a dog sitter. Jess is co-founder of Adultescence, a podcast and lifestyle website with the mission of helping post-grads navigate adulthood.

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