I’ve often viewed dating as a sport played between two individuals that is filled with rituals of courtship and fine dining. Along the way there are many emotional and (more importantly) financial hurdles, which unfortunately can be a potential nightmare for someone who is trying to save money.
There is always the consideration of who is responsible for paying for dinner? Must it be in the top twenty up-and-coming restaurants? Will you have to borrow money from your parents to fund the whole endeavour?
Regardless, the old-fashioned expensive dinner is increasingly becoming more and more average in both popularity and creativity. It can be pretentious and uncomfortable, with often some delicate little morsel served on top of a handful of greenery that leaves you both starving and gob smacked at the sight of the bill.
This is something that is not enjoyable for either party and inspired us here at Savings Guide to think about some inexpensive and cheap date ideas that still manage to create the all-round perfect date night.
Great dates are those elusive things, where the stars align and the activity of the day is something you both enjoy and it can be more creative than just an expensive meal.
There is still the romantic spirit within me that sees the idea of dating as a romantic chance to do things a little less ordinary, but in doing so – still save money. So use this list as a bit of inspiration for the next date night, a bit of money saving and more importantly – a bit of romance.
Let the cheap romantic dating begin!
It’s the thought that counts when on a date
When deciding where to take your betrothed on a first date you should consider the context in which you first met and of course how much you know about them already.
For example taking someone you know has a fear of heights up Centerpoint Tower to admire the view is probably not going to get you in the good books. Just as taking a non-drinker on a brewery tour might also result in you being stood-up.
They say it’s the thought that counts so if you really are interested in making a lasting impression, consider what your potential other half might enjoy before making any grand plans.
Dance lessons as a date idea
Dancing is great. It’s romantic but casual, and it is a good test of your partner’s humility. Dancing is just another form of exercise and during physical activity we release endorphins (or ‘feel good’ hormones). Combined with a little light hearted conversation, this could have you two swooning by the end of the evening. Further, if you do discover you have two left feet, it may even see you both trip, stumble and fall head over heels for each other.
There are heaps of dancing lessons around town, a quick internet search will show up the best ones. A once off lesson is usually under $25 for a couple and for that price you could even afford a couple of drinks before you hit the dance floor.
Star light star bright
I love the observatory. Anyone who organises a date to the observatory is going to go straight to the top of my list (as I am both romantic and nerdy).
You can head up there for under $20 each, and spend the evening checking out all the wonders of the night sky. Alternatively weather permitting, you could choose to don the bug spray, pack some comfortable doonas, champagne and you have yourself a perfect cheap date in your backyard.
Get an astronomy book out at your local library and work out what some of the constellations are. A touch of star gazing worked for Ross and Rachel in ‘Friends’, it may just work for you too.
Old school date idea: a picnic!
Invest in some reasonable bubbly, set aside some time to make some nice picnic food (homemade hommus for instance- huge brownie points, great taste and embarrassingly easy) and choose a venue based on weather and scenery. The Botanic Gardens is obvious if you’re in Sydney or Canberra, but there are heaps of other amazing options. The point at Balmain East for one, or the park in Kirribilli or even lap up the luxury of Lavendar Bay. Sunset works too. Take a comfy rug, a basket of goodies and go somewhere picturesque. Simple.
Go for a romantic date night walk
Fresh air, sunshine and greenery all around can make you feel like you’re in a lost fantasy world and a little light exercise will have you feeling alive. Set a goal to keep things interesting; hunt for wild blackberries or keep a lookout for a particular species of bird, just like you’re explorers on a new continent. Perhaps you can do as I did with my partner – hunt hipsters and have a competition who can spot more!
Personally, I think a walk is a great idea for a date night, provided both people are forewarned and no one is wearing heels. Contact your local council to get a walking map that includes local attractions. You could even combine it with a picnic, and get to know each other and your town in the meantime.
Lawn bowls for you trendy daters
Choose your candidate for this one, but lawn bowls is a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon and a very reasonably priced date. There is club-priced beer, there is sun, there is the competitive game that will appeal to most Australians. Choose a bowling green with a great view, like the one in North Sydney. Much like playing pool there is opportunity to educate the less experienced of the two of you on how to bowl properly, this is a perfect excuse to entwine yourselves all for the purpose of… learning a great game of course…
Art after hours
Museums during the day might not be the best option for an impressive date, but at night they could be perfection. Start with a glass of champagne at the bar, then wander around the late opening exhibits, duck into an old French movie or check out the latest talk being held all for free. In summer, you can have a late supper picnic, and really kick those brownie points into triple digits.
Amateur theatre can be truly dreadful. The same goes with open-mic nights or amateur poetry gatherings, but it’s all part of the appeal.
Find out what is on in your local area and pull up a pew. It doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad, it’s always great to see people having a go. They’re making themselves vulnerable onstage, and you’re on a date, so there are a lot of similarities. It could also be reassuring to see someone more uncomfortable than yourselves and a good laugh can help break the ice.
Have a movie night for date night
Challenge each other to bring a film to a themed movie night. Categories could be ‘worst movie ever made’, or ‘best classic movie’. It’s light-hearted, and neatly avoids the potential for an argument over whether Bruce Willis or Samuel Jackson is the better actor.
You could even take it one step further and instead of just sitting down on the couch to watch movies, why not set your living area up differently? Perhaps you could put the TV on the patio and watch a movie over a nice home cooked dinner. You could even make a theme, if you are watching a French film – go with French food!
Go to the Farmers Markets for a practical date
A lovely way to spend a weekend morning (even without a date) is to check out your local grower’s markets. Spend the day wandering around the markets, discussing what you’d like to eat. You can buy delicious food straight from the producer, and then head home and cook up a meal for your date.
Show some team spirit and go for a sporting date
If your partner is a mad sports fan, why not go and see a local rugby match or perhaps a game of cricket at the local park. Generally you’ll only pay a nominal fee for anything held at the stadiums or free entry for the local sports ground. Maybe pack a thermos of hot chocolate during winter or in summer fresh lemonade and have something to drink whilst cheering on the team.
Sweet tooth hunting
This one incorporates my two favourite things; 1 – a challenge and 2 – sugar. Organise to go on a date with your partner and hunt down the BEST cupcake in the city. Walk from store to store, hunting down a special treat. Gives you a chance to walk around, enjoy each other’s company and also walk off some of those cupcakes.
You might not want to get into your swimsuit this early on in the relationship (or in this weather, brr!) but fish and chips on the beach at sunset is romantic in any weather. Go for a stroll, pick up shells and marvel at nature’s creations.
This one, the boys will love! On a child’s budget, go to your local games arcade and play 2-player games with and against each other. There is something very fun about kicking the virtual-butt of a guy you fancy! Gamers, try and pick a game you haven’t played before- it is no fun for a novice to take on a master.
This new phenomenon combines traditional orienteering with modern technology and the result is free fun. Players hunt for treasures hidden by other players in locations all over Australia. Pick a cache you’d like to find off the website, www.geocaching.com.au, and then you and your date hunt for it using your GPS receivers (usually in smart phones). Make sure you take a treat to leave behind for the next player and don’t get too obsessive about finding it. Remember now, the goal isn’t actually the cache, it’s having a great time with your date. Oh, and saving money.
What not to do on a date
A coffee is fine if you’re just getting to know each other, but eventually a nice dinner should be on the cards. Sticking just to coffees makes it pretty impersonal. It doesn’t have to be posh or with a wine list as long as my arm; just somewhere where the food is hot and tasty, the atmosphere buzzing and the service welcoming even if that means it’s your own home.
I think dinner specials (like Table For Two or Living Social) are the bees knees, but save it for a later date. Don’t wince at the prices, don’t try and skip dessert to cut costs. If you like them, you should be comfy with saving a bit of money towards a nice dinner. And chances are, in this day and age, they’ll split it with you or shout you the next one.