Fact: Dating is expensive. Wining and dining, paying for dating apps and other hidden costs can take a hit on your wallet. If you’re not minding your spending, you may end up on a Tinder date at Taco Bell.
The good news? There are plenty of ways to paint the town red with potential mates during the summer months – without going broke. Here are some of our favorite ways to date on the cheap without skimping on the fun:
Go on a Mission Date
No, we’re not talking about a tour of Junipero Serra’s Catholic historic missions in California. A mission date is when you pick a fun focus for your outing and roll with it. For instance, find the best ice cream in your respective ‘hoods, go on a local tour of book shops, or hunt for the best three dollar taco in town.
Taking the “mission date” one step further, I enjoy a good “mission-based staycation” in the summer. For instance, you can check out the best public pools in Los Angeles, or go on a hike that’s under five miles.
This isn’t as creepy as it sounds. Okay, maybe just a little. My friend Andrew Watt, a screenwriter, loves to just grab some coffee on a date and sit on a park bench. It’s quite pleasant to scope out the scene. After all, people watching – or just shooting the hay over some coffee or hot dogs – can help you get to know each other.
Find Free Entertainment in Town
You don’t have to attend an epic music festival like Coachella to have a blast. City-sponsored movies and concerts in the park, street festivals, and free museum days are a plenty in the summer. My partner and I love going to art openings. We can chat it up with interesting folks, and catch up with fellow art scene peeps. Plus, there’s usually free booze and snacks to boot.
You can find listings of such activities by scouring the arts and entertainment section of your favorite online publication. While this may be a tad easier if you live in a bustling city, you can also find free local activities on your city’s website.
Take Advantage of Your Library Perks
Okay, so the library may not be the first thing that pops up when you think of things to do when you’re trying to woo someone. But these days your library isn’t just a place to check out books. Libraries are more like resource centers where you can access loads of free entertainment and even attend interesting lectures.
Namely, your local branch can hook you up with movie streaming services, and sometimes even passes to museums. The Los Angeles Public Library, for example, offers Kanopy, a free movie streaming service, to its card-carrying members. In turn, it’s an inexpensive way to cozy up with your date for a movie night in.
Be Shutterbugs Together
Got a bit of a shutterbug in you? All you need is a bit of imagination and a smartphone. You’ll then be tottering off with your date for a fun outing snapping pics. I’ve had photographer friends take photos of cool patterns and textures for design projects, or scour sites such as Atlas Obscura for new terrain to explore.
Host a Chaos Cooking Party (for Two)
As they say, the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach. My fellow freelance writer pal, Louis DeNicola, has hosted chaos cooking parties for his pals. If you’re like me and hate buying a bunch of ingredients for a single meal, shop in your pantry instead. See what kind of dishes you can cobble together from existing foodstuffs in your kitchen.
Have leftover brown rice from last night’s Chinese takeout? Mix it with some eggs and onions, and you’ve got yourself some fried rice. Or, if you have some more exotic ingredients – I have a variety of Indian spices and chickpea flour in my cupboards – you can concoct a unique dish.
Picnic in the Park
Head over to the local sandwich shop or combine the delicacies from your chaos cooking party (see above) into a picnic lunch. Dust off that large blanket that’s been sitting in your closet and enjoy some quality time outdoors. It’s a romantic way to languish on a summer day without having to pay for a pricey meal at a fancy restaurant.
Go on a Rummage Hunt
I love me a good “rummage” date. Not only do you get to bond with someone over cool deals, but you’re also getting some of your shopping done. Whether it’s looking for pieces for an art project, inexpensive frames to spruce up your apartment, or vinyl to add to your record collection, scouring thrift shops, swap meets and yard sales makes for a super inexpensive date.
While you may not want to go all out and do it Ferris Bueller style and call in sick, you could both schedule a weekday off. You’ll be able to take advantage of happy hours and dining during lunch instead of dinner. There will also be fewer crowds wherever you decide to venture. Plus, there’s the added thrill of having fun while everyone else is slaving away at work.
Pick Your Summertime Fun
Besides helping you save, these low-cost activities can also help you suss out whether your date is cool with your frugal ways. Plus, he or she can flex money-saving muscles as well. And, don’t forget: set aside a budget for love.