Planning a fun first date doesn’t have to be expensive, and despite conventional wisdom, most women don’t want you to shell out tons of cash on the first date, either. In fact, one Match.com survey found that 58 percent of women prefer casual, inexpensive dates (like coffee or a free concert) over pricer alternatives. To help you save your shekels, we’ve put together a list of 12 girl-approved, budget-friendly ideas that provide the perfect balance of fun and getting-to-know-you opportunities that make a first date a home run.
Hit an Arcade
There are a ton of adult arcades and pinball joints popping up across the country and we suggest that you hunt one down. There’s no better way to learn about a prospective GF than seeing how she navigates Donkey Kong two beers deep. Yes, that’s right. Many of these big kid arcades serve booze. If she seems laid back and fun, this date is sure to please. Plus, it’s hard for things to get too awkward when there’s a room full of games to distract you.
Estimated cost per person: $20 - $10 on games, $10 on booze
Try Water Sports
During the warmer months, ask that cute chick you’ve been eyeing to hit up a local lake or beach for some water sports. Canoeing and kayaking are great for less athletic chicks, while stand-up paddleboarding and white water rafting are perfect options for adventurous ladies. If you opt for a guided tour, many of them come with a free lunch or barbecue, which will provide some getting-to-know-you time during your date.
Estimated cost per person: $5 to $40, depending on activity
Find a Free or Discounted Class
Whether you and your date are into DIY projects, fitness, or cooking, there’s a class for that. Check out Lululemon or you local fitness store for complimentary yoga classes and running events, hit up Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, or Groupon for free and discounted cooking classes, or Home Depot for a home improvement course. If the class goes well continue the date at a coffee shop or bar for some one-on-one recap time.
Estimated cost per person: $10 - $50
Ride Around Town & Grab a Bite
If your area has a bike share program spend the afternoon cruising with your crush for a few hours. Show that you’ve put some thought into your rendezvous by looking for a bike port near a cool eatery or bar. Once you’ve parked your rides grab a lite bite and share laughs over your matching helmet hair.
Estimated cost per person: $30
Check Out a Museum or Zoo
If you’re worried about running out of talking points during your date head to a local museum or zoo. Not only do they provide plenty of things to “ooh” and “ahh” at, these locations provide you with a great opportunity to show off your smarts (Google some fun facts about the exhibits or the animals before you go), they’re pretty affordable, and sometimes, even free! Have a Bank of America credit card? You can score free admission to more than 150 cultural hubs nationwide on the first full weekend of every month through their Museums on Us program.
Estimated cost per person: $0 - $15
Take a Factory Tour
Have a potato chip factory or winery in your area? Spend an hour or so lunching and learning at one of their free or low-cost tours. Learning something new together can help spur great conversation.
Estimated cost per person: $0 - $20
Track Down a Trivia Night
Is she a movie buff, pop culture queen, or sports fanatic? Head to a local trivia night to give her a chance to show off her know-all. Not only is entry typically free, you may even score some free drinks or food.
Estimated cost per person: $0, plus cost of drinks
Go Apple or Berry Picking
There’s something really relaxing about being out in an orchard and there’re lots of opportunities for flirtatious fun since the apples can be out of reach. (Piggyback, anyone?) The best part is, the fun doesn’t have to end at the orchard. After you’ve picked your bounty, head home and cook up a fall-themed dish. In the summer months, look for a farm that has berry picking. You’ll nab some super snackable loot that also fares well in homemade desserts and salads.
Total estimated cost: $20 - $50, depending on how much you pick and what you decide to make with it
Check Out a Cat Café
So long as your potential boo doesn’t have allergies, a cat café makes for a unique and cuddly first date. A cat café is exactly what it sounds like, a place where you can pop in for an hour or so, mingle with some cute kitties (who often come from rescue organizations), order a coffee or a snack, and even take home a pet if there’s a special little guy you’re vibing with. Some locations even show movies and have special events. While the concept is just recently gaining popularity in The States, these themed eateries have been in Asia since the ‘90s.
Estimated cost per person: Up to $30, depends on local entry/event fees and food of choice
Play Mini Golf & Grab Ice Cream
A little bit of competition can be a real aphrodisiac if the date is going well, but it can also be relaxed and platonic if you find that the attraction just isn’t there. No matter how you look at it, it’s a win.
Estimated cost per person: $13
If you’ve lived in your current city or town for a while now, you’ve likely forgotten about all of the great local gems that attract folks to your area in the first place. Do a little Googling and see what attractions you can uncover. This is the type of date that shows you put care and thought into planning, and that is something chicks totally dig.
Estimated cost per person: $0 - $50, varies by activity
Find a Free Concert
Depending on where you live, free concerts could range from a local high school acapella group or amateur piano recital, to a regional orchestra or a college steel drum group. Whatever it is, she’ll be sure to appreciate that you went out of your way to find something fun and different to enjoy together. Finish off the night at an ice cream or coffee shop, so you can spend some additional time chatting her up and deciding if you want to ask her out again.
Estimated cost per person: $0 to $5