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Tight-Ass Date Ideas! | Budgets Are Sexy

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Dang! How expensive is dating these days!!? I just learned that the average date in the USA costs $102 … That’s average across all U.S. states, but where I live in California, singles apparently shell out an average of $226 for a date night. Ouch 😳

My poor wife… The last time I spent $226 on a single date night was… well, ummmm… I can’t even remember a time. Truth be told, we actually have more fun the less money we spend. Frugality can be a turn-on!

Granted, these average spending stats were from before the pandemic, and a whole lot has changed in the past few years. Even so, I think now that things are opening up again and people are itching to get out of their house, maybe they’ll be spending even more on dates in 2021.

Cheap and Fun Date Ideas to Try This Summer

If you’re like me and prefer to keep the dating costs down, here are some free or cheap date ideas to try this summer … that are all more adventurous than the ol’ coffee shop or happy hour standbys.

1. Rent a Private Pool ($30-$100)

Check out this website called Swimply. It’s like AirBnB, but for backyard pools. You can rent them out by the hour, or by the day!

Before picking up your date, tell them to pack a swimsuit and towel. They’ll probably think you’re headed to the beach or a public pool … but the date surprise comes when you rock up to a massive fancy mansion and relax in a private hot tub for the afternoon!

2. Test Drive a Tesla (Free)

Last time I checked, Tesla is still offering free test drives out of their retail stores. 

For the surprise element, just tell your date you’re headed to the mall to walk around and grab some ice cream. Then when you walk past the Tesla store, surprise them with a P100D test drive! Just remember, don’t get tricked into buying the car afterwards!!! 

This is actually a really cool way to see how your date reacts to fancy items. Do they really expect you to buy fancy stuff like that? Or are they more impressed with your sneaky methods of getting free rides without actually spending a cent?

3. Mystery Chalk Chase Adventure (Under $5)

All credit to Date Night Wingman for this fun idea. Here’s what you do…

  • Grab a box of colorful chalk from the store, as well as some candy or chocolate.
  • On the morning of your date, go to a local park or public area and hide the candy/chocolate in a sneaky hidden spot. This will be the surprise your date will find.
  • While walking home, use the chalk to draw a series of arrows and clues on the sidewalk. Draw your date’s name, some funny jokes, and colorful hints to find the treasure.
  • When your date starts, tell them you’d like to go for a walk… Then “accidentally” stumble across your own lengthy treasure hunt!

Another idea is to build the treasure hunt *with* your date. Making a fun adventure for strangers or friends together is a great bonding activity.

4. Rock Painting in the Park ($20-$50)

I’ve been rock painting for years. I use these Posca Pens (I know they’re kind of expensive for paint pens, but they are worth it if you take care of them!!) and for the rocks I just use whatever I find on the beach. The flatter and smoother the rocks, the better!

For your date, you can head to a botanical garden, peaceful park or look-out somewhere, and just chat while drawing rock art. Simple, cheap, and fun! When you’re done, spend some time walking around and leaving the rocks in random places around the neighborhood. Spreading joy together is really fun.

5. Geocaching Date (Free)

If you haven’t heard of it, “Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a GPS receiver (or mobile device) and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches,” at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world.”

Geocaching is popular with families and the kid set, but it can also be a fun date idea for a couple.

You and your date can search for nearby caches and use the clues to find hidden “treasures” in your city. It’s actually a fun way to learn more about where you live. When you find an item (typically a small toy or colorful memento) you can swap it out with a different item (maybe a painted rock you made earlier!) for the next stranger to find.

It’s free to sign up for geocaching.com and download the mobile app for IOS or Android phones.

6. Tree Climbing (Free)

If you’re the outdoorsy type, you might want to see how your date handles a good ol’ fashion tree climb. Are they clumsy? Scared? Or are they a natural climber who could help save a cat one day? These are important things to know about a future partner.

Head out to a park with some strong and tall trees. You could bring a picnic dinner to enjoy under the tree, or if you’re an expert climber, you could even try and EAT WHILE UP IN THE TREES!!?? 🤯

If you can’t find any good climbing trees around your area (can someone please create an app that maps out nearby climbing trees already!!??) you could consider picking up a slack-line rope, which is a fun balancing activity.

7. Schedule a Brewery Tour (Under $50)

A lot of local microbreweries offer tours of their facility (mostly for free!) and they’ll give you a rundown of how beer is made behind the scenes. If a brewery doesn’t offer a public tour, try calling them during off hours and asking if they’ll give you one anyway. Most people that work in breweries are enthusiasts. And enthusiasts love to share their passion with new people!

Depending on the location, you’ll probably want to plan on tasting a few beers, or buying a small souvenir afterwards. Even if the tour is free, it’s nice to spend a few bucks and support the brewery.

The same goes for small wineries, which will often give you a free vineyard and cellar tour with a paid wine tasting.

8. Estate Saling or Flea Market Wandering (~$20)

My wife and I love looking through other people’s junk. Haha. Actually it’s more about hunting for rare and interesting things. Garage sales, thrift stores, and estate sales are fun places to explore as a couples activity.

One great idea is to challenge your date to a “best gift under $10” competition. You both enter the estate sale with the goal of buying the other person a gift for under $10. You can grab multiple items if things are cheap, or try your hand at negotiating if what you want is over $10. You compare gifts afterwards and get to take home fun mementos from each other. 🙂

9. Sing King Karaoke (Free on YouTube)

This might be a better date night idea for couples who know each other a little bit already vs. a first date activity. It takes a lot of courage to sing in front of strangers!

Instead of heading out to a Karaoke bar or an open mic night (which is still a cheap-ish fun date night), you can set up a private karaoke theatre at home. Sing King Karaoke is a free YouTube channel that you can broadcast to your TV and search hundreds of thousands of sing along songs.

10. Backyard Bowling (Free)

Find or save up 10 large empty coke bottles. Fill them with a few inches of water and use these as your bowling pins. Set them up at the end of the driveway, or along the sidewalk for a FREE date idea!

My friends and I play this all the time. For a ball, we let everyone choose their ball of choice (You can choose from a soccerball, basketball, baseball or even a massive yoga ball!) and keep score with sidewalk chalk.

I know a bunch of bowling alleys are still closed due to the pandemic, and the ones that are open can be quite expensive. Why not stay at home and have a cheap/free bowling date?

11. Play Flingy Dingy (Free)

Flingy dingy is a game you can play at the beach, a park, or really any wide open area — check the alcohol regulations there, though.

It starts by drinking a few beers, then stacking your empty cans on top of one another, making a small tower. Once the can tower is set up, take 10-15 steps backwards, and then take turns throwing a frisbee at the beer cans to see who can knock them over first.

Each time you knock the cans down, step farther and farther away to make it slightly harder each round. New empty cans can be added to the tower as the drinking continues.

I’m almost certain this is how yard games like Kubb got started.

12. Join a Team Sport or League Together ($10-$100)

For couples who are past the initial dating phase, joining an amateur league or team sport can be really cheap and fun! My wife and I have been doing beach volleyball in the summers for the past 5 years. It costs about $60 per person and the season runs for about 2 months. 

Although it’s a team sport, my wife and I think of volleyball as a regularly scheduled date night. We play together, celebrate together, and get fit together.

Check out the message boards at your local YMCA, community center, or local Facebook groups to see if there’s a new sport you and your partner want to try. Even if you have zero experience, it can be really fun.

My wife’s killer serve! Also a killer sunset that night!

Indoors alternative: If you’re not into sports, see if you can grab some other friends to form a regular team for trivia night at a dive bar. You can even win prizes at some of those. Or if the bar has the equipment, get a regular ping pong, shuffleboard, or board game competition going with your mutual friends for a game night. As long as you stick to the cheap drinks, playing games at the bar won’t set you back too much. (To save on drink costs, you and your friends can always host game nights at home, too. The point is to just have fun with your date and your friends on a regular schedule.)

Cheap Dates Are Still Fun Dates

Romance isn’t determined by the activity you’re doing. It’s determined by the *way you act* during an activity.

It’s nice to splash around money sometimes and buy experiences for dates, but there’s also no shame in spending zero dollars and thinking way outside the box to show someone a good time.

Hey, frugal people — let’s hear your favorite cheap date idea!

Adiós amigos,

– Joel



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