June 14, 2022

Live, Love, Budget - Date Ideas for the Romantically Frugal

Joshua Jeans
People Operations, Mortgage and Finance Specialist

All of us have people in our lives that we care for deeply, and many of us have special folks in our lives that we endeavor to romance and make feel special whether it is a long-time partner or someone you just met last week. Here is the tough part: often, our desire to woo someone and our bank accounts do not match up so great. This is what we are here to talk about today, how to create memorable moments of connection without totally breaking the bank.

Date Idea Number One: Coffee in the Park

A lot of folks live by the mantra of “no food first dates” and we can rock with that. There is nothing worse than realizing after you have ordered at a restaurant and before your food even shows up that your date does not pass the vibe check. Now you have to endure the next hour of small talk knowing that you are not ever intending to go on another date with this person.

We recommend coffee first dates for the budget mindful. Grabbing coffee for you and your date is probably going to cost you around $10 total, but it is still a really kind gesture. If you were to meet up at a bar for drinks instead, you could very easily be looking at a $100 first date before you even know this person’s spirit animal. Taking coffee with you to a park offers a lot of flexibility: you can do iced coffees in the summer or hot coffees when it is cool out, you can walk together and chat or find a cute bench to rest. Going to the park is also free and can create more opportunities for a memorable experience than just sitting in a coffee shop.

Date Idea Number Two: Happy Hour at Home

If you really think about it, part of the reason that traditional dates out can get so expensive is because there is this expectation to buy so many different things at a restaurant: appetizers, drinks, entrees, sides, more drinks, dessert- it can be a lot. That is why it can be really fun and budget conscious to think through all of the elements of a typical “night out” and think through what pieces of that night you could do at home.

One great option is to do a “happy hour” before you head out for dinner. This could look like a glass or two of wine, some cheese and crackers, and maybe even a few smoked meats for a charcuterie board if you’re feeling yourself. For newer relationships, this could be a low-pressure way to let your significant person get to see your home for the first time because you both already have the expectation of leaving for your dinner reservation. And this can make a big difference in the cost of your evening, let’s break it down:

At home:

  • One bottle of wine: $15
  • Cheese & Crackers: $15
  • Meats: $15
  • Total: $45

At a restaurant:

  • One bottle of the same wine: $40
  • One charcuterie board: $45
  • Tipping 20% on those two items: $17
  • Total: $102

This is a pretty simple example of how doing a “happy hour” at home and skipping the apps and drinks out at a restaurant could save you almost $60. Plus, when you make your own charcuterie board at home, you get the added benefit of your night feeling a little more special because now your date knows that you put in the extra thoughtfulness and effort to make something with your own two hands.

Pro tip: you can use the same principle for doing desserts at home too instead of paying the premium at a restaurant.

Date Idea Number Three: Game Night

Date idea number three is a little bit different because this could involve other people or it could be just you and your special someone. Group game nights are great because you can do food in a pot-luck style where everyone chips in for snacks and drinks, your significant other can spend time with your friends, and you don’t break the bank. The two-person game night and the group game night will definitely have different feels, but they can both be super fun and can create memorable moments of connection.

If you are hoping to continue kindling the fire between you and that special person, one awesome date night idea is to do a throwback game night. Gather up some of the games from your childhood (we are talking ConnectFour, Battleship, Operation, Ticket to Ride, whatever floats your boat) and some of your favorite snacks from that time of life and make a night of it. You hopefully either have some of those games or can borrow them from friends, so ideally you are only spending about $20-$30 on some pizza rolls, capri suns, cosmic brownies, Dr. Pepper, and fruit-by-the-foot. That makes for a hilarious, memorable night you will think of fondly and surely want to repeat in the future.

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