Upon entering my relationship, I quickly realized that dating can be expensive. I’m fairly easy to please — give me some cereal and play with my hair, and it’s basically a date. But for those nights when I want to go out and do something, my boyfriend and I try to get creative while still sticking to our budgets.
Here are some cheap date ideas for college students or anyone else looking to try something fun! Some of these might be a little basic, but they’re definitely tried and true!
1. Ice cream date at Ampersand
OK, so I know this sounds like a typical first date, but this actually was the first date for me and my boyfriend. We went to Ampersand and he got me a double scoop (fancy, I know) and then we walked around the neighborhood and just talked. It was so simple and fun! And if you haven’t been to Ampersand yet, then you need to go. Like, right now.
2. Go gymming together
0825_Rec Center (Campbell)
To some, the idea of sweating in front of your significant other sounds like a nightmare. Or maybe that’s just me, but I got over it, eventually. And you will, too! Working out together was an important bonding experience for me and my boyfriend, and even though I’m super weak, it meant a lot to him that I learned how to bench with him.
It’s a healthy date idea, and you don’t have to feel bad if you’re lazy together for the rest of the day because hey, at least you went to the gym! Plus, Fresno State students can use the Student Rec Center for free! And let’s not forget about the post-workout meal. It’s the best part of working out.
3. Stay-at-home movie night
Sure, you could go to Maya Cinemas on Tuesdays with everyone and their mothers for the discounted price — or you could just hang out at home! Go to Winco, hit up their bulk candy and snacks, lay out a bunch of blankets and pillows and, voila — your home is your own personal theater. Plus, if you fall asleep in the middle of the movie, you’re already home and you haven’t wasted money on a nap at the movies.
4. Game night
Ideally, this date would be a double date or a group date because if you’re playing board games, you might want more people. However, there are plenty of games to play with just two people — Exploding Kittens, Pandemic, Burgle Bros, Mancala, Forbidden Desert, Ticket to Ride, etc. But we always welcome company to these game nights — you could even do teams (boys vs. girls, couple vs. couple).
Or you could go the route of video games, which is entertaining in itself if one of you (me) is worse at video games than the other (my boyfriend). Just try not to be too competitive — unless you’re that couple. Then go for it!
5. Roller skating
Roller skating is exercise without feeling like it, which is always good. My boyfriend had never gone roller skating before, so I knew this was a great choice for a date on Valentine’s weekend. Cal Skate Clovis is pretty close to Fresno State and it’s reasonably priced for a day of fun. And it’s always funny when you fall. Even if it’s a little painful, it’s still funny.
6. Go to for a walk in the park
Walking through a park can be a relaxing way to get to know your significant other. It’s peaceful, it’s just you two and, depending on the park, it’s free! You can go out and enjoy the fresh air, nature and each other’s company.
And if you’re feeling adventurous, feed the ducks — just be careful when they start chasing you. (Also, be aware of what foods you’re feeding ducks and make sure it’s something safe and healthy for them!).
7. “Happy Hour” at pretty much any restaurant
As I get older, happy hour has become a big deal to me. Look up whatever restaurant you’re feeling that night and check out their happy hour deals. Some restaurants might just have daily deals as well, so check those out too.
For instance, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse has $5 margaritas and half-off large pizzas on Mondays, half-off wine and $3 pizookies on Tuesdays, etc. It’s good information to know before you go out.
8. Paint something at Color-Me-Mine
Photo: Christian Mattos
My boyfriend and I went to Color-Me-Mine for a friend’s birthday party, and we quickly realized it is a great date spot. It’s where we made a cute little mug together — I call it the “love mug.” (To be honest, we were too cheap to paint our own separate pieces of pottery.) We got to collaborate on the mug and personalize it to our taste as a couple. Of course, you can totally make your own pieces, but collaborating on the pottery painting was lots of fun.
9. Go to a concert at Strummer’s
The little bar/concert venue in the Tower District is small but cute for a unique date! While some of their concerts have an age restriction of 18 and older or 21 only, many allow a separate section for younger attendees. I’ve been to a few concerts there and the tickets have always been under $20.
Even if it’s a really obscure band you’ve never heard of, it’s worth checking out some of their musical acts. It’s an experience if nothing else.
10. Grocery shopping
This is probably the most expensive date idea on this list if you’re stocking up on groceries, but going grocery shopping with someone can be very telling about a person. What foods make up their daily diet? What junk food do they indulge in? And most importantly, what is their favorite cereal?!
It’s a normal activity, but grocery shopping together can be fun and kill two birds with one stone — you get to spend time with bae and get your meals sorted for the week!