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So you’re in your twenties, think you got swag, and want to ask that cute girl or guy out on a date. But there’s just one problem, you’re pretty much broke.

Well, have no fear my friends! My wife and I have gone roughly 182 dates since we’ve been married (once a week for 3.5 years) and at least 50 more while we were dating. Since most of those were either while we were in college or just starting out our jobs, we have had lots of experience in the realm of cheap, fun dates.(Warning: if you read this you will no longer be able to use the excuse “I don’t have any money” when your grandma asks you why you are still single at Thanksgiving dinner this year.)

1. Hike and a picnic:

This was Anna and I’s first date, and continues to be my personal favorite. Key ingredients for a successful hike: proper shoes (hiking boots or Jesus sandals aka Chaco’s/Teva’s), a delectable picnic, and a hammock (Eno’s are great). The key ingredient here is the hammock. Sure, you could have a good time walking around in the woods and eating a PB&J together, but the real magic happens when you bust out the hammock at the end of the hike. Can you say Snuggle-Fest-2015? (disclaimer for all parents and pastors out there: “Guys, keep it G for Jesus”)

2. Cook-Out tray and a movie at the $2 theater:

I have a friend who may or may not purchase a Cook-out tray, set it outside of the emergency door of the movie theater, go buy his ticket, enter the theater, walk to the emergency door at the end of the hall, retrieve said Cook-out tray, and then enjoy his movie and big double burger at the same time. I’m not saying I recommend this, but I’m not saying I don’t.

3. The zoo:

Who doesn’t like looking at cute animals trapped in artificial habitats? I know I do. And so do most people. Get out there and go get-em tiger. (you see what I did there…)

4. Putt-Putt:

Weird blue water fountains, dilapidated animal statues, and rickety wooden bridges. The sketchier the place, the more fun the date will be (minus the guy with the sweet mullet behind the counter hitting on your hunny girl as you pick up your rainbow-colored golf balls).

5. Redbox and a frozen pizza:

Anna and I’s go-to date night. No $15 ticket prices, no crusty theater seats, and best of all no anti-snuggling arm rests to stand in the way of you and your boo-boo. A DiGiorno and a good Rom-Com (yes, they do exist) and you’re on your way to a good date.

6. Canoe trip:

Ah, nature. Anna and I have spent a few dates down at Lake Johnson renting a canoe or kayak. Pick a nice sunny day, throw some LaCroix in a cooler (our favorite is grapefruit), add some trail mix, and off you go. Peaceful, romantic, and way too much fun. Plus you both will look really cool in your neon, poofy, ’90’s life vests.

7. Rose gardens:

I know this generation, because I’m one of them. We’ve probably all seen more roses on Instagram than we have in real life (sad but true). Leave the phones behind and spend an afternoon moseying around a rose garden and soak it all in. It’s good for the soul and it’s free.

8. College football/basketball game

For college students, this is one of the easiest (and most fun) ways to spend an afternoon together. You’re both spending a gazillion dollars on tuition, might as well get your monies worth and go to a game. The cheering of the crowd, the energy of the marching band, and the $6 slices of greasy pizza. Glory.

9. Church and Chipotle:

Chances are if you’re reading this blog, you have already scoped out every single potential mate at church. If you have one that’s on your radar, why not invite them to Chipotle after church? And you’ll be sure to let them know you really care when the Chipotle employee asks if they want guacamole on their burrito, and you smoothly turn your head and calmly tell them in your sexiest voice, “Yea, I know it’s extra. But it’s ok, this is on me.”

Done. Locked down. Finished. You’ve pretty much just married them with this statement.

Well done.

I’m proud of you.

10. Food truck rodeo:

Food trucks rodeos are eclectic, fun, and can be relatively cheap. Not to mention you can scope out a few different options, get just ONE item from each truck and share it. For some of you, sharing a Korean bbq taco may be the closest you get to a kiss on this date. So enjoy it.

11. Museums and hot dog stand:

Science museums. History museums. Art museums. Doesn’t matter. Well, ok it does kinda matter. Find out what their interested in and spend an afternoon showing them that you care about what their interested in. And nothing says “I care about you” like a post-museum visit to the Sabret hot-dog stand outside. And remember, NO CHILI (unless perhaps things didn’t go so well and you need a way to end the evening early).

12. Art crawl:

Many cities nowadays offer a semi-regular art crawl. Over here in Raleigh they have one on the first Friday of every month. Tons of restaurants, bars, and galleries open their doors and showcase local artists. We like to grab a frosty local beverage and walk around and pretend like we know what the heck we’re looking at. (side note: lots of art is weird and I don’t understand it)

13. Goodberrys (or other frozen custard/ice cream shop):

If you live in Raleigh, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t live in Raleigh, just move here.

Tip: Find out your dates favorite flavor and instead of ordering individually, just order the next size up of the one they want. If you’re not sure where I’m headed with this, see ‘Food truck rodeo’ date idea above.

14. Berry picking:

One of my favorite dates from way back in the day was when Anna and I went with a group of her friends to go blueberry picking. We walked around the beautiful fields holding hands, laughing, and eating more berries than we put in our basket. Blue mouths, full bellies, and happy hearts.

Last but not least…

15. ”Homework help” aka “study buddy” aka “I can’t physically do my homework because I’m using my writing hand to hold your hand”:

It’s a great excuse to spend more time together when you know you should be studying or doing homework, but inevitably you don’t get any done. Instead you spend 3 hours holding hands pretending to get work done while your heart is about to literally beat out of your chest and the last thing your brain could cognitively do is a calculus homework problem.


Have other great date ideas for under $15? I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment below!

+ Get more: Dating Fun for Couples: 400 creative dating ideas for you to try.

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