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Date Night

How to have a great date for less.

Dating in college can be rough. Financially you’re probably a little strapped for cash. But you got the number of that cutie in your astronomy class, and you want to see if there is some chemistry. Your brain is telling you dinner reservations and the theater. Your budget is telling you to share a pack of ramen and use your roommate’s Netflix account.

Here are some ideas to help you woo over the person of your dreams without having to tell your roommates you’re going to be late on the electric bill again.

Night at the museum. Or day. The time doesn’t really matter. Most museums have discounts in place for college students. A lot are free. So head on over to the art museum, look at some old paintings, and try not to talk about your ex.people eating

Be picky. Go to a pick-your-own-fruit orchard. Apples, strawberries—whatever is in season (and you and your date aren’t allergic to!). It usually only costs whatever your basket weighs. Bonus, if things are going well, you now have a snack for the second part of your date. Go to a park, walk around a bit more, and enjoy your fresh snack. But make sure you wash the fruit first.

Hit the gym. If fitness is something that you’re both into, try doing it together. If your routines are different, great! Try yoga for once—your squats could use more depth anyways. You only run? Squats can help speed you up. And, if the date is a flop, you’re at the gym getting those endorphins and staying in shape.

Take a hike. Even if you live in the middle of a big city, there are probably walking paths someplace nearby. Whether you’re walking through town or down a wooded path, the chances are good that it ends up at a beautiful spot.

Give up. Your time, that is. Volunteer someplace. Show you’re good with kids by reading at the library. Cuddle with puppies at the local animal shelter. Play card games with elderly at a senior center or clean up the local park together.

Go for something old. Antiquing can be fun. Some people may have been traumatized by being dragged around an antique mall as a kid by their aunt, but it turns out you can find some buried treasures. Or an art project! You can buy some old nature scene paintings, get cheap paint from a craft store, and make your own masterpieces featuring an alien spaceship, bigfoot, or batman.

Take a ride. Hop on the local commuter train or bus and ride somewhere new. With your student ID, it’s probably free or discounted. Just be sure to know where you’re going so you don’t end up in a sketchy part of town after service ends.

Embarrass yourself. Go sing karaoke. Sing your date’s favorite song.

Be a tourist. Not a real one—a tourist in your own town. Locals may shun tourist spots, but there’s a reason people travel to your town to see those things. Whether it’s the world’s largest ball of bread ties or the observation deck of a tall building, go check it out and find out why people like your city.

Here is the most important tip of all: what you do—especially how much you spend—on a date doesn’t matter. It’s your connection to the other person that makes the difference. Be yourself, engage with them, show that you’re interested. And, if you’re not, be honest with them about it. That won’t save you money, but it will save you a lot of time. And that is just as good as money in many cases.