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Cheap date ideas for college students

Janelle Vreeland

Fun dates while staying on a budget

Dating can be a nerve-racking experience – especially when mobile alerts from your bank inform you that your romantic evening, complete with an $18 cupcake, just threw you into bankruptcy. Being a college student is not exactly conducive to acquiring an incredible amount of capital, so when your awkward attempt to borrow a pen from the girl who sits next to you in BioChem miraculously turns into a date, you’re suddenly thrust into the realization that you are, in fact, flat broke.

So what can you do to go on fun and cheap dates for college students?

Thankfully, you have plenty of options. Whether you’re in the middle of a thriving city or your campus is more appropriate for an episode of “Man vs. Wild,” there are many ways to go on fun, cheap dates for college students.

Neighborhood or Nature Exploration: Chances are your campus or your city has many areas that you’ve not yet explored – whether they’re obscure hiking trails or hidden neighborhoods in your city – and can provide endless amounts of fun and cheap dates for college students. Pick an area you want to explore, walk around, stop for a quick picnic, then experience what the area has to offer. Or, better yet, drag out that bike and go for a ride together. Just spending time together in a new place can make for a fun, cheap date.

Museum Discount Days: If you live in a big city, chances are cheap dates can be harder to find. But there is also a good chance that it’s awash in museums and cultural centers. Museums try to get people in the door when they would otherwise be empty by offering free days or deep discounts (mostly during weekdays). Take the afternoon to go explore one of these museums after your morning classes. It’s not only a great way to learn about a new subject, but it will give you both something to talk about when you go for coffee afterwards. It’s a great option for fun and cheap dates for college students – and you might even learn a few things.

Speaking of Discounts…: If you are completely lacking in ideas, then let others decide for you. Over the last couple of years daily-deal websites have blown up offering deep discounts on cool and little-known businesses in your area, and they are perfect for fun and cheap dates for college students. The most popular one is Groupon which is available in most major markets. Scour their current deals and see what sticks out. You and your date can peruse the available deals and make a decision together. You might not typically be able to afford that fancy restaurant downtown, but what about if your meal was 60% off? These deals also provide an incredible amount of variety, as they range from restaurants, to yoga classes, to skydiving, to sports games all of which are perfect for unique, cheap dates. Take a look around and see what would make for a fun and cheap date.

Redbox-ing: Movie theaters, while the most popular of date-night destinations, can be overcrowded and usuriously expensive, neither of which are conducive to fun and cheap dates for the college crowd. With rapidly rising ticket prices and concessions, a night at the cinema can quickly add up to spending a weekend in Paris or funding a global circumnavigation. This would be a great time to use RedBox or Netflix — two ways to watch a movie very cheaply ($1 per night for RedBox and roughly $12 a month for Netflix’s streaming capabilities). Browse the Netflix selection or pull up to the nearest RedBox kiosk and grab some ingredients and make a quick dinner. Movie and concessions at the theater can add up to over $40 — not exactly a cheap date. But making dinner and grabbing your own movie is a perfect combination for fun and cheap dates for college students. You will also be in a more comfortable and intimate environment.

On-Campus and Local Events: You don’t have to leave campus to go on fun and cheap dates for college students. Being a college student means that you have access to a wide variety of free events with your ID card. Peruse your university’s website for upcoming events like lectures, concerts, plays and movie screenings. Checking your local newspaper will also tip you off to nearby happenings. Major college towns and universities in urban areas play host to an offering of free or deeply discounted events for college students, and many of these would make for a fun and cheap date. So keep your eyes peeled for the latest slew of college and local offerings that can provide the best options for fun and cheap dates.

Restaurant Specials: Many nicer restaurants offer huge specials during their slower days, ranging from a ½ price bottle of wine to a prix fixe menu. Dressing up and going to a nicer restaurant during one of these specials can easily provide fun and cheap dates for college students, especially if you want to treat your date to a nicer dinner without the sweat-inducing anxiety that accompanies the unpredictability of a restaurant bill.  Be sure to research which restaurant has deals and when and what your partner prefers. Although this can be quite pricy compared to your other date options, it’s an excellent idea if you can afford to splurge once in a while. 

Just because you’re locked in income lingo does not mean that there are no options for fun, cheap dates. Opportunities for fun and cheap dates for college students are everywhere – it just takes a bit of research, creativity and finding wiggle room in your budget.

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