Cheap Date Ideas: 10 Ways To Keep Your Relationship Alive When You Can’t Afford To Drive

By Carly Moran··  5 min read
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With average gas prices skyrocketing to $5 a gallon across the nation, some couples may be finding it difficult to plan affordable dates, or to even go out at all. Road trips are out of the question, and some “affordable luxuries” are now just luxuries. What’s a girl to do?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself these past few months. What started as wincing whenever I eyed the pump soon became giving up Starbucks and limiting my shopping to one new clothing piece per paycheck. 

As I’ve struggled to set financial boundaries with myself, I’ve also had to reconsider financial boundaries with my boyfriend. Nice dinners dates are now limited to anniversaries and holidays, and gifts can no longer be given “just because.” As college students, we already have limited budgets. This has only been exacerbated by inflation and the gas crisis.

This problem has forced us to become resourceful, much like dating during the pandemic. I figured millions of couples are struggling with the same issue across the nation, so I decided to share my top date ideas that won’t break your bank (or empty your tank).

1. Look at the Night Sky

Stargazing would have to be my favorite idea on this list, because it’s how my boyfriend and I met. There’s something to be said about the intimacy of the dark sky, jeweled like diamonds, paired with being alone. If you don’t live in a location where it’s easy to see the stars, whether that’s due to light pollution or no open fields, then cloud gazing is also a great option.


2. Game Night

Remember that old Wii you used to play with five years ago? Check your parents’ basement: it might still be down there. Having a game night, whether it’s digital or with cards, can be a great way to encourage friendly competition, and often without spending a dime. Most people have Game of Life or a deck of cards on hand, so why not throw away Solitaire and give Go Fish a try?

friends best game ever

3. Movie Premiere

I don’t know a single person who doesn’t love popcorn. This date night is easily customizable for all budgets: you can opt for takeout, or just eat food at home. Couples can rent a movie, or find one that’s already free to stream. Spice up the evening with blankets and dimmed lights for a movie night you won’t forget.


4. Cook Together

Rather than paying exorbitant fees for DoorDash or a restaurant, why not make your own dinner together? Italian is a personal favorite, but anything from burgers to sushi could be made at home. Plus, if one partner has an allergen, it can be much easier to account for that: no killing the mood with having to send something back. Turn up the romance with a playlist that is equal parts sweet and lively... you may just wind up dancing in the kitchen while waiting for dinner to be done.

breatkast at tiffanys exploding pot

5. Explore the Great Outdoors

Chances are, there is a trail within 10 miles of your home. Hiking can be a great way to bond and have quiet time to talk and put the chaotic world on pause. If one of you has a dog, it’s a great way to give Fido exercise as well. For more of a cardio burn, biking or swimming at the local lake can also prove to be fun.


6. Spa Day

A spa day at home can range from free to expensive depending on what you do. Some ways to keep it low cost include DIY face masks and nails. You can even give each other massages. Make a smoothie together, with half of the ingredients being your favorite fruits, and the other half being his. For laughs, try having him do your makeup afterwards. It might surprise you how well he does.

sheet mask eat cucumber

7. Staycation

Many people have had to reconsider taking vacations because of the increasing gas and jet fuel prices. Instead of staying blue about missing the beach, try recreating a resort experience. Check into a local hotel, and bring your own cheap wine and bathrobes. Get a small dinner out, and return to your room for a cozy night in. This idea can be combined with a few others, like the Spa Day or Movie Night.


8. Reminisce Together

Looking at old photos, journal entries, and home videos are a great way to experience the thrill of an emotional rollercoaster. Childhood stories are not only a way to bond, but are also a key look into understanding what made your boyfriend or husband into who he is today. You can even invite your parents over, if they’re local. I cannot guarantee any success with in-laws, however.

up adventure book old

9. Gym Buddies

If you already have a gym membership, make sure you’re not neglecting it. They’re a big cost, but can be worth it if actually used. Many also have a guest pass, which one of you can use for a workout session together. Of course, going to the gym isn’t required. You can go for a walk around the neighborhood, or follow a HIIT video at home. Whatever you do, just get moving. It has been proven that couples who exercise together, stay together. Plus, big biceps certainly don’t hurt.


10. Make Errands a Date

Running errands together is not only a way to kill two birds with one stone, it’s also a way to prove you’re compatible. Having similar budgets, as well as being able to compromise on purchases, is a vital part of a healthy relationship. Plus, being able to romanticize the day-to-day is necessary as the honeymoon phase wears off.

grocery shopping date

Closing Thoughts

While gas prices will hopefully begin to return to normal sometime this summer, it’s wise to plan accordingly in all facets of life. Dating is one area that can especially empty wallets, but it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your love life. Instead, it’s about being creative. Don’t let the spark go out; keep the wheels turning and your hearts whirring with these simple date ideas.

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© 2022