Dating is expensive. Wining and dining, paying for dating apps and other hidden expenses can take a hit on your wallet. If you’re not minding your spending, you may end up on a date at Taco Bell.
The good news? There are plenty of ways to paint the town red with potential mates during the summer months without going broke. Here are some of our favorite ways to date on the cheap without skimping on the fun.
1. Go on a mission date
No, we’re not talking about a tour of Junipero Serra’s Catholic historic missions in California. A mission date is when you pick a fun focus for your outing and roll with it. For instance, find the best ice cream in your respective ‘hoods, go on a local tour of book shops or hunt for the best $3 taco in town.
2. People watch
This may be good for a third or fourth date. Simply grab some coffee on a date and then find a park bench to sit and talk while you scope out the scene. This is a good, pressure-free way to get to know each other better.
3. Find free entertainment
You don’t have to attend an epic music festival like Coachella to have a blast. City-sponsored movies and concerts in the park, street festivals and free museum days are a plenty in the summer. My partner and I love going to art openings. We can chat it up with interesting folks, and catch up with fellow art scene people. Plus, there’s usually free booze and snacks to boot.
You can find listings of such activities by scouring the arts and entertainment section of your favorite online publication. While this may be a tad easier if you live in a bustling city, you can also find free local activities on your city’s website.
If you need other ideas, we've got 50 things you can get for free this summer.
4. Take advantage of your library perks
OK, so the library may not be the first thing that pops up when you think of things to do when you’re trying to woo someone. But your library isn’t just a place to check out books. Libraries are resource centers where you can access loads of free entertainment and even attend interesting lectures.
Your local branch can hook you up with movie streaming services, and sometimes even passes to museums. The Los Angeles Public Library, for example, offers a free movie streaming service to its card-carrying members. It’s an inexpensive way to cozy up with your date for a movie night in.
5. Be shutterbugs together
Got a bit of a shutterbug in you? All you need is a bit of imagination and a smartphone. You’ll then be tottering off with your date for a fun outing snapping pics. I’ve had photographer friends take photos of cool patterns and textures for design projects, or scour sites such as Atlas Obscura for new terrain to explore.
6. Host a chaos cooking party (for two)
As they say, the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach. If you’re like me and hate buying a bunch of ingredients for a single meal, shop in your pantry instead. See what kind of dishes you can cobble together from existing foodstuffs in your kitchen.
Have leftover brown rice from last night’s Chinese takeout? Mix it with some eggs and onions, and you’ve got fried rice. Or, if you have some more exotic ingredients – I have a variety of Indian spices and chickpea flour in my cupboards – you can concoct a unique dish.
7. Picnic in the park
Head over to the local sandwich shop or combine the delicacies from your chaos cooking party into a picnic lunch. Dust off the large blanket that’s been sitting in your closet and enjoy some quality time outdoors. It’s a romantic way to languish on a summer day without having to pay for a pricey meal at a fancy restaurant.
8. Go on a rummage hunt
Not only do you get to bond with someone over cool deals, but you’re also getting some of your shopping done. Whether it’s looking for pieces for an art project, inexpensive frames to spruce up your apartment or vinyl to add to your record collection, scouring thrift shops, swap meets and yard sales makes for a super inexpensive date. Here are some tips on how to score big savings at the thrift store.
9. Play hooky
While you may not want to go all out and do it Ferris Bueller style and call in sick, you could both schedule a weekday off. You can take advantage of happy hours and lunch instead of dinner. There will also be fewer crowds wherever you decide to venture. Plus, there’s the added thrill of having fun while everyone else is at work.
10. Pick your summertime fun
Besides helping you save, these low-cost activities can also help you suss out whether your date is cool with your frugal ways. Plus, they can flex their money-saving muscles as well. And, don’t forget: set a budget for love.
This article originally appeared on Chime.