In case you've forgotten... money doesn't buy happiness (or romance), but it does pay for your education. So going out on dates when you're on a college budget (which potentially means you have a lot of debt... yikes) should be strategic. Why not find ways to make the rest of life cost less since school just won't let you off the hook?
That's not to say your dating life should suffer just because you're budgeting, because you deserve all the love. Instead, it means there's a wiser way to be romantic without breaking the bank more than you need to. Plus, there are few things more attractive than dating someone who takes the time to plan a romantic evening for/with you, whether it costs money or not.
So here are 17 free date ideas that won't leave you feeling guilty for spending, nor bad for not doing so. It's a win-win.
1. Go on a hike.
It's really such a simple date idea that often goes overlooked. Not only does it get you active so you don't get stuck in the rut of constantly lounging around together, it also makes for a very climactic experience. Start at the bottom with excitement, get to the top and take in the view (you two have officially peaked), then end up back at the bottom feeling proud you made it through. It's a romantic experience that costs absolutely NOTHING.
2. Get tickets to a free concert.
Of course, this won't be a Jonas Brothers or Lizzo concert, but hearing local bands play covers or original music and discovering new music together — good or bad — is a really fun activity. Best case scenario you absolutely love the music and can dance and sway to the tunes, worst case scenario, the music stinks and you can laugh about it later. Either way it's an experience you and your lover will undoubtedly enjoy together. I mean, it's music... what could go wrong?
3. Visit a museum.
Many museums have free admission on certain days and at specific times. Look into scheduling for museums near you and plan when would work best for you to go based on admission fees. If the museum you are dying to get to doesn't have free days/times, ask if they have student discounts. Often times they will! Just flash your student ID and you can get in for a few bucks — a great backup plan if the free time slots didn't work out for you and you're still interested in going.
4. Volunteer together.
This one is EVERYTHING. Anytime I see a movie or TV show when a couple meets while volunteering I think, "that has to be me one day." There is truly nothing more romantic than seeing the person you love (or the person you're getting to know) give their heart and time to other people selflessly. I mean... is there anything more attractive than that? Seriously.
5. Go camping.
Two things you'll need? A tent and a car (depending on where you're going). Drive to a campsite and get all set up, then spend the day exploring only to come back and cuddle under the stars. Romance isn't dead, my friends. No car to drive to a "fancy" campsite? A backyard will do.
6. Have a picnic in the park.
Chances are you have food already. Between the two of you, your pantries and fridges (hopefully you have more than Ramen) can combine to create a wonderful picnic basket for the two of you to enjoy in a nearby park. Sit down somewhere together, enjoy your meal, and chat.
7. Cook dinner and dine at home.
Similar to the above, get creative together and whip up dinner from the food you already have at home. Yes, this can even be done in a communal kitchen if you're living in a dorm without your own oven or stove. Not sure what you can make using the food in your fridge? Head to MyFridgeFood.com and check off all the items you have, then hit "Find Recipes" for ideas on what to make together.
8. Have a movie marathon.
Make a list of a few of each of your favorite movies and watch them all! Between Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and any other subscriptions you probably have, you'll surely be able to have a movie marathon together. It's as easy as microwaving several bags of popcorn, adding extra butter (A MUST), and hitting play.
9. Compete in an at-home bake off.
Use what you have and bake up the craziest concoctions you can think of. Try each of the creations and determine whose turned out the best. Can't agree? Call in some judges (friends), but kindly tell them they have to leave after because this is DATE TIME.
10. Do a spa night.
Baths, massages, face masks, hair masks, the works. Your S/O might not make time for self-care without you, but trust me, they LOVE IT (even if they won't admit it).
11. Binge-watch a new TV show together.
You know that show you've been talking about watching together? Grab some extra pillows and blankets, make yourself a cozy little spot in front of the TV, snuggle up, and turn it on.
12. Plan a beach day or go sledding (depending on where you live!).
As fall and winter near these dates will definitely change. Live somewhere hot all-year-round? Head to the beach! In a cold region? Plan a snow day with sledding, snowmen, and snowball fights.
13. Go stargazing.
Think free, no commute, romantic, and can last as long as you want it to — now that's a perfect date. Obviously, this date is a little extra weather dependent, so consider this when planning. Take a blanket out, maybe some drinks and snacks, and gaze up at the stars together.
14. Head to the zoo.
Like museums, zoos often have specific days and times when you can get general admission for free. Look into zoos near you to find the schedules and if it works for you, go see the lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! Also like museum entry fees, there's typically some sort of student discount in case you need a backup plan.
15. Host a game night with other couples.
Let your competitive side out and split up into teams. Have each couple bring their favorite games and play until a sore loser spoils it all, then laugh about it later. Might I suggest Cards Against Humanity, What Do You Meme?, or Hedbanz?
16. Walk around a city nearby that you've never explored.
The chances you've been to every city and town around you are slim to none, so why not explore someplace new that doesn't require buying a bus, train, or plane ticket? Walk around, take in the sites, and enjoy exploring new places in each other's company.
17. Create your own scavenger hunt and do it together.
If you have the extra time to put in the added creativity, this one could be a blast. Want to make it a group ordeal? Invite some other couples to join and get going!
Follow Swoon on Instagram.