Forget ‘Netflix And Chill’: 7 Affordable Yet Actually Romantic Date Ideas

Is there anything more awkward than being in line at the grocery store, reaching for your wallet, and realizing that you left it at home? You have to awkwardly hold up the line while you fish change out of your pockets and your purse to try to pay for at least the ramen, because that’s the cheapest thing in your cart.

That’s essentially how I feel dating in college. No one has money, and so you end up living off of the ramen of the dating world. And that’s just not fair. Although ramen is great when you’re too lazy to cook but too poor to order a pizza, it isn’t the ONLY thing you want to eat!

But what if you could get FREE food? Or in this case, FREE dating?!

Here are a handful of free/very cheap date ideas for the college kids to take advantage of, that most definitely aren’t “Netflix and Chill”:

1. The penny date

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s seen this idea floating around on social media. Get in the car, and pick a number between 1 and 20. Then you flip the penny every time you get to an intersection. You turn left for heads, and right for tails. You do that until you’re designated amount of flips is all used up, and then you make a date where you are.

2. Star gazing

This is a date to take advantage of BEFORE it starts getting really cold. Right now, it’s the perfect weather: not freezing enough to be miserable, but chilly enough to promote cuddling. Pack a blanket and some hot cocoa, and lay outside together to look at stars. Bonus: Star gaze from atop a batting cage. It is colder, but it’s more exciting, so the adrenaline rush will warm you up a bit.

3. Pumpkin carving

I know this one doesn’t work year round but buying pumpkins isn’t THAT expensive, and it will supply a few hours of fun. Plus, even if the date was a dud, you still have an awesome jack-o-lantern to make up for the wasted time.

4. Cook or bake together

Making cookies is inexpensive and delicious. Bonus points if you’re adventurous enough to try to cook an entire meal. Doing it together makes it less of a task, and you can figure out if you’re good at working together (if not, now’s a great time to dump ‘em).

5. Rock climbing

Most college towns have a rock climbing gym with a student discount. I know mine has a climbing gym down the street, where they offer half-off to students. They also have a climbing wall in the student health center. This is an inexpensive way to get active, but it doesn’t really feel like exercising! And since you can’t do it alone, grab an athletic man and get to it!

6. Organize an outdoor group activity

Grab a bunch of friends, and have everyone pitch in to buy the few supplies needed to play outdoor activities. Play messy twister, have a shaving cream war, get in a water balloon fight…the list goes on! If it’s fun, flirty, and messy (wink, wink)!

7. Picture Scavenger Hunt

This one is perfect to play with just two people, but it’s infinitely more fun to play with a few couples. Pick a public place, like a grocery store or library, or somewhere on campus. Make a list of scavenger hunt items that match the location (you can find tons of ideas for lists on Pinterest). Split into couples, and race to find all the items. The requirement is that you have to take a picture with each item! If it’s just the two of you, set some sort of time limit so it stays exciting, and have fun trying to get creative with the pictures. Best selfie with a raw fish, wins!

There are so many ways to keep your dating life alive and fun when you’re in college! Just because you’re dirt poor doesn’t mean you should be boring and your lips barren. There’s absolutely no reason for you to hang your head in shame when Grandma asks you if you’ve found yourself a beau when you go home to visit for Thanksgiving. Get out there and get creative!

Featured image via Ankur Kumar on Pexels


  1. So cute! Such good ideas- I’m making my boyfriend do all of these things with me, and then once we’re done I’m making all my friends do it again with me

  2. To be honest I’ve never really timed it. I try to shut the grill off 30 minutes before I head into the stadium, and even in the heat of August it is cooled down within that timezone. I want to say it’d be fine around 15? minutes, but I just do21;8n&7#t know.


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