I'm sure I'm not just speaking for myself when I say that I can't afford to go out to a nice place to eat every week. Frankly, it wouldn't even be wise for me to do that every month, and I cringe a little every time I buy a meal for over $10. So what does that mean in my dating life? Absolutely nothing.
I've rounded up five of my best tips for meaningful dating on the cheap. I hope they can help you out!
1. Take advantage of the little things.
Seize little opportunities! Run errands together, study together (but actually study, it really is nice to just have them with you while studying), get your SO a pack of socks because he resorts to wearing no-show socks with sneakers when laundry day starts creeping up (true story), or just remember little things about each other. It all really means a lot.
This picture, for example, was taken just minutes before my last exam before Christmas break last year. A week or so prior, I had told my boyfriend that I love bruschetta and he was a little hesitant, but he filed the fact away. Then he got up super early before my 8am exam, told me to meet him outside before I left for the test, and he presented me with a bruschetta breakfast.
I actually walked into my exam smiling... and I'm sure it only costed about $5-6!
2. Create meaningful traditions.
This is especially easy around holidays, but don't limit yourself. Friday night binge sessions, monthly hikes, seasonal visits to grandparents, and even making dinner most weeknights could all turn into little traditions. The key here is that it should truly be something that the two of you enjoy instead of just another thing on a to-do list.
3. Use what you've got.
Anyone have craft supplies lying around? Random food items you could probably whip into a meal, food scraps or seeds you've been meaning to plant, clothes you've been meaning to decide whether to donate, and blankets you could turn into a fort can all be made into a little date.
Pro tip: This site allows you to select what ingredients you have at home and it'll spit out a recipe that you can make with them. You're welcome.
4. Cook, cook, cook!
Cooking is almost always cheaper than eating out. My boyfriend and I have actually gotten to be pretty good cooks, and we make meals together several times a week. It definitely takes practice, but with experience, this is a super cool thing to be able to do.
Cooking is awesome for couples because you get to spend time together cooking. You can actually learn a lot about people by the way that they handle themselves in the kitchen: so much so, in fact, that my boyfriend and I decided that when we cook together, we can absolutely not work on making the same dish at the same time. One of us will be in charge of a side, one the main course, and so on. Even so, it's still a good time.
This picture was actually what we made this past Valentine's Day: garlic and herb salmon, scalloped potatoes, and lemon and pepper asparagus. And yes, it was BOMB and just a fraction of what it would have costed at a restaurant.
5. Use the great outdoors.
You wanna know what's free? Going outside.
This is really only nice sometimes, so you should soak up as much outside as you can while the weather calls for it. This includes everything from taking nature walks to see flowers in the spring and leaves in the fall, to wading in creeks and going on picnics in the summer, to seeing Christmas lights in a nearby neighborhood in the winter. Bonus points if you know how to geocache, fish (unlike us) or bird watch (also unlike us)!
6. Be attentive.
There's no science to dating on a budget, nor is it always the most predictable thing. For example, I took this picture after a grocery store run. We found this bell pepper that looked like a mini pumpkin and my boyfriend decided to carve him, and I named him Summer Jack. Of course, we didn't anticipate walking out of the grocery store with a pumpkin-shaped bell pepper, but now we have a silly little memory that'll surely make its way into conversation around every Halloween.
Keep your eyes open for free community or university events, funky little knick knacks, and opportunities that pop up out of the blue. Those sorts of things can happen anywhere, and at any time. Try to miss as few of these opportunities as possible!
Like I said before, you don't need tons of money to woo your partner.