Tired of emptying your wallet on a girl you barely know? Try these budget-friendly alternatives.
Erin Stevens 1 / 16
Is there anything worse than taking a girl out to dinner on a first date, glancing at the wine list and realizing you’re about to shell out $50 before you’ve even ordered anything to eat? And even worse: figuring out within 15 minutes that the chick isn’t remotely your type. A great first date doesn’t have to break the bank—we’ll prove it. From farm-fresh cuisine to embracing your inner animal lover, here are 15 awesome (and unique) date ideas that will cost you less than $50.
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The Date: Wine and Cheese Picnic
<strong>Estimated Cost: $35</strong>
Head to the supermarket and pick up small blocks of cheddar, gruyere and brie. Then throw a cheap bottle of wine, a blanket, some plates and plastic cups into a tote (we certainly don’t expect you to have a picnic basket....but you'll score bonus points with your date if you do) and choose a romantic setting like a local park. This is exactly the kind of date we consider a high return on investment. It requires virtually no effort, and in return, she’ll be blown away by your thoughtfulness and creativity.
The Date: Drinks at a Speakeasy or Cocktail Bar
<strong>Estimated Cost: $45</strong>
There’s something inherently sexy and mysterious about a speakeasy, which makes it perfect for a first date. Find a place with funky cocktails and a mixologist, grab a seat at the bar and watch the process of how the cocktails are made—the bartenders use some pretty interesting techniques you might be able to implement the next time you make your own cocktails. Try ordering three unusual drinks you’d never typically choose, and share them—each drink should run you under $15.
The Date: Indoor Rock Climbing
<strong>Estimated Cost: $30-$45</strong>
Hoping to get physical on the first date? Take her to an indoor climbing wall. You’ll form an instant bond over the challenge, and it never hurts to see what she looks like in spandex as you watch her shimmy up the wall. To find a location near you, <a href="http://www.indoorclimbing.com/worldgyms.html" target="_blank">IndoorClimbing.com</a> has a great directory of indoor gyms all over the country.
The Date: Play with Puppies
<strong>Estimated Cost: Free</strong>
Here’s a universal fact about women: they love puppies. So if you take her on a first date to a pet store or a dog park, she’ll melt in the palm of your hands. You’ll also show her how “sweet and sensitive” you are—without spending a dime. And if you really hit it off? Grab a cup of coffee afterward and see if she has plans for next weekend.
The Date: Afternoon at a Museum
<strong>Estimated Cost: Varies</strong>
Brush up on your cultural awareness together. A little known fact about museums? Most offer free admission at least one day (or night) a week—others have a “suggested entrance fee,” which usually isn’t more than $20. Bonus: You’ll probably find it refreshing to have something to talk about other than the usual mundane first date topics.
The Date: Trivia at a Local Pub
<strong>Estimated Cost: $20</strong>
Do a bit of research to find a dive bar in your area that offers a trivia night and happy hour—many bars will even take care of your tab for the evening if you win. If you’re not ready to take her out alone yet, it’s sometimes more fun (and competitive) to invite another couple to join. Come up with a ridiculous team name and put your game face on.
The Date: Food Truck Crawl
<strong>Estimated Cost: $40</strong>
Food trucks are popping up everywhere you turn, and they’re not just located in big cities any more. Find out what trucks are around your area and consult Yelp for the must-order items at each place. Then prepare a custom menu for what you and your lady might want to share at each truck.
The Date: Karaoke
<strong>Estimated Cost: $25</strong>
Sure, getting up and singing in front of strangers is embarrassing—but toss back a few beers at the bar beforehand and you’ll forget how offensive your voices are. Let your date pick out a song for the two of you to sing together. Plus, once you get it over with, you can sit in the corner and make fun of everyone else who can’t carry a tune.
The Date: A Minor League Baseball Game
<strong>Estimated Cost: $50</strong>
Skip the nosebleed section at a Major League stadium and get her tickets to a Minor League game instead, where you’ll be able to get great seats for a quarter of the price. Tickets are cheaper than you could imagine, which will leave you plenty of extra cash to spend on food and drinks. <a href="http://www.milb.com/milb/tickets/" target="_blank">This website</a> will help you find tickets to watch the team that plays in your area.
The Date: Farmer’s Market
<strong>Estimated Cost: Varies</strong>
You can experience the farm-to-table trend outside of a fancy restaurant by going to a local farmer’s market in the area. Get inspired by whatever produce is in season, bring a few items back to your place, and make a dish together. If your idea of cooking is throwing a steak on the George Foreman, try a simple recipe like a stir fry or salad with grilled chicken. It’ll taste better knowing you’ve supported local farmers (and also because you cooked it together).
The Date: Roller Skating
<strong>Estimated Cost: $20 - $30</strong>
Remember how fun those roller rink parties were as a kid? Bring your chick roller skating and you’ll feel like goofy 12-year-olds all over again. You can skate for a few hours, so the cost of renting skates is incredibly reasonable. Look for a rink that has late-night skating just for adults, and better yet? One that has a bar.
The Date: Stand-Up Comedy Show
<strong>Estimated Cost: $20-30; varies for cover fee</strong>
Laughing triggers the release of endorphins (also known as the “feel-good” chemical)—so seeing a comedy show is the perfect way to break the ice. Plus, the entrance fee is usually pretty cheap, or free with a two-drink minimum. Do a bit of research ahead of time to find out who’s performing. Comedians like the ones you’ll see on Comedy Central or late night talk shows are frequently booked at even the most hole-in-the-wall venues.
The Date: Take a Yoga Class
<strong>Estimated Cost: $10-20; varies</strong>
If you know she’s a yogi, put your man-pride aside and take her to a yoga class for your first date. She’ll appreciate the fact that you’re willing to get into compromising positions—and you can encourage her to make fun of your poor performance after. Places like <a href="http://yogatothepeople.com/" target="_blank">Yoga to the People</a> offer yoga classes that are free (as long as you make a small donation), and other studios have promotions that offer your first class for a discounted rate. Hit a juice bar afterwards for a refreshing smoothie.
The Date: Tour a Brewery
<strong>Estimated Cost: $5 - $15</strong>
Local breweries typically offer free tours of their facilities—plus, they’ll give you super-cheap samples of their beers when it’s all over. If you can’t find a brewery near you, wineries also offer free tours and budget-friendly tastings afterward. You’ll feel more knowledgeable about what you’re drinking, and it’s a fun boozy experience to take the edge off of a first date.
The Date: Take a Music Lesson
<strong>Estimated Cost: $20-30; varies</strong>
MTV's Rock Band might be as far as your musical talent goes, but who cares. Taking a music lesson at a local music shop or school is a perfect way to goof off, and unleash your inner rock stars together. An instrument like the drums won’t take all attention away from getting to know each other, but it’ll still be great as an awkward first-date buffer.