Love On A Budget: Cheap Date Ideas For Minimum Wage Earners (And Penny Pinchers)

Eloisa Jane Mariano is a first-year bachelor of public relations student at Humber College.

Ever wanted to go on a cute date with your significant other and realized you have pretty much no money? Or wanted to go out and do something fun with your friends, and screamed in horror when you looked into your wallet? Personally for myself, I always want every date with my boyfriend, Michael, to be special and different each time. Unfortunately, I can’t afford fancy dinners or trips that are deserving of him. I also don’t want him to be completely bored and spend hours deciding what we should do. So if you’re in the same situation where you either earn minimum wage or have a bit of a budget, what can you do to ensure a memorable and fun time with your special someone or best friend? Here are 10 fun (and cheap) date ideas that your significant other is sure to love.

  • Cooking: Not only does this put your teamwork skills to the test, but it also takes care of dinner (or breakfast… or lunch) too! Grocery shopping is usually cheaper than buying a three-course meal at a fancy restaurant, especially when you probably own most of the ingredients anyway. You can make grocery shopping fun by creating a scavenger hunt out of it, and either agree to split the bill or the “loser” of the scavenger hunt covers the bill (or washes the dishes). Another fun idea is to create a make-believe cooking show and document the production of your meal as well as the results!
  • Watching Old Cartoons or Movies: Contrary to the whole “Netflix and chill” notion, the idea of staying in and watching movies all day actually makes for a great date. This is especially true when it’s raining outside or you both had a tiring day at work. Watching each other’s favourite childhood cartoon or movie can bring back waves of nostalgia, and who better to share that with than your significant other? Disney marathon anyone?
  • Adventure Time: While you won’t be travelling to distant lands, you can be sure that the fun will never end when you go on mini trips in your town or city. Be tourists together and visit the great attractions and parks. Beaches and parks are free, and picnics are super easy to assemble! Show your loved one a whole new world with all your favourite places (or with places you haven’t been to before!)

  • Skating: Skating allows you to literally fall for each other, but know that you’ll have that someone to help you get back up on your feet. This has always been my go-to first date idea because it gives you an excuse to hold hands. This is even cuter if you are both horrible skaters, because it gives you more of a reason to hold onto each other. Enjoy the simplicity and magic behind hand holding and have fun trying not to fall!
  • Play House in Ikea: Ikea is probably the best date to go on if you’re both silly and have an open mind. Michael and I went to Ikea for breakfast (only $1 for a plate with eggs, sausage and potato cubes) and then marvelled at all that Ikea had to offer. They have showrooms with all their furniture.. perfect settings to play house in. After, we enjoyed hot dogs (75 cents each) and $1 ice cream cones.
     
  • Just Dance Party: This is a great idea for those who already own the game and console, and it’s a date idea that you can use every now and then. I get so competitive for this; it’s a little embarrassing but relationships are all about being yourself with someone who loves your little quirks right? Dancing is so much fun, and creating a little friendly competition always adds more excitement.
  • Build something: Building things together is another test of your teamwork abilities, and it’s always nice knowing that the two of you created something pretty cool! Winter seems to be the best time to build things such as snowmen, snow forts and gingerbread houses!
  • Arts and Crafts: Get creative with your loved one and hit the Dollar Store! Michael and I love making cards for our family and friends, and all the materials needed are found right at our local dollar store! Another craft that you can learn together is the art of origami, which only requires paper, your hands and patience. You can also find tons of DIY projects that cost less than $5 on Pinterest!

  • Museum: If you’ve read my previous post, I’ve mentioned about the Royal Ontario Museum. The ROM is free to post-secondary students every Tuesday with a valid student ID card. The museum has tons of interesting things to look at, and makes for a great date filled with appreciation for art and history. I would recommend eating beforehand as the prices in there tend to be on the pricey side!
  • Hiking and Biking: If the both of you have a love for nature and physical activity, then a visit to your local park for a day of hiking or biking would be perfect! Earl Bales Park has been a big part of my life, as I’ve had many of my family parties there as a child. I remember my cousins and I would go hiking, and nothing beat all the wonderful things we saw— from the animals to the amazing view of the gardens! There is also a pathway around the park for anyone with bikes or rollerblades to go through. Definitely bring some spare change for the ice cream truck when it stops by! At the end of the day, you can sit on the ski lift hill and enjoy a beautiful sunset together.

Remember it’s not the money you spent, but the time you spend that really counts! Having a memorable date doesn’t require loads of money, but perhaps an open mind, a craving for adventure and some creativity! Even if you’re single, give these ideas a try with your friends or even on your own! (who said taking yourself out is a bad thing?) Let me know in the comments below if you try any of these dates out! What are your go-to places for dates? 

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