Dating on a Budget – Part 2

In this follow-up to Dating on a Budget – Part 1, Ian shares his perspective on price-conscious passion.


Dates are a blast. I’m a romantic and a sucker for thrills with a significant other. Some of my favorite memories with Jane are the trips we’ve taken and places we’ve explored together. Others include spur of the moment dinners or surprise gifts, for occasion or not.

But travel ain’t cheap. Neither are fancy meals. And regardless of how many brownie points I accumulate they don’t earn interest and or get me any closer to FIRE. So how do I save on the things I enjoy with the one I love?

Get Dirty

Really dirty. Outside, in real dirt. One of the most thoughtful (read: cunning) gifts I ever gave Jane was a pair of L.L. Bean Boots. They’re fashionable (value from frequent use), they’ll last ages (value from enduring utility), and they make it easier for me to convince Jane to hit the trails for a hike or wander through winter snow (value from additional entertainment choice). The boots might have been a splurge of a gift, but they were also an investment that’s paid off well. The best thing about the outdoors is that it’s free.

If you don’t have any nearby hikes you should probably move. Kidding! (Sorta…) But don’t fret, there’s always the good ‘ol fashioned stroll. It seems few people take the time for a good weather saunter here in NYC, but it’s become a highlight of my days when I can sneak Jane from her office to enjoy the summer sun. We’ll walk around Union Square or Washington Square Park, soak up the rays, and watch people go by. It’s far more fun to surround ourselves with the life and vitality of the city than any movie date we’ve had.

“But I live in the ‘burbs! There’s nowhere nice to stroll or hike,” you may say. All good, friend. It’s time to get creative.

Couple sitting at the foothills of mountains.

Get Creative in the Bedroom

Or living room, or kitchen, or any other room in your home. The point is that you can make something with your loved one and it can be one of the most fun activities you’ll have with the lights on. Jane and I cook meals together, and it’s a thrill when we, as Jane puts it, “act as a unit.” Whether we sit down with a big bowl of filling and stacks of wraps to make dumplings, dance around the stove while pots bubble and pans sizzle, or chop veggies and mix up fresh salad dressing while we sip sangria and munch on chips, it’s all more fun together; and at a fraction of the cost we might pay elsewhere. Bonus points when we get to learn new recipes and hone useful skills!

Other crafts and projects can also be more fun when tackled as a team. Forget hiring someone to repaint that room—DIY! Save on the cost of labor and have a weekend where you play with paint and accomplish something big together. Try your hands at an herb garden if you’re lucky enough to have a back yard. Or maybe start a blog together if you’re so inclined…

The point is that shared goals are great bonding experiences, and plenty can be found from the comfort of your own home. But what happens when you run out of steam on your own?

Invite Other Couples

Instead of going out to bars to meet up with friends, Jane and I have taken to hosting dinner parties once a month. Everyone contributes a dish or drinks and we cook up the main course ourselves. Last week I made almond-crusted tilapia at under $4 a serving and it was delicious! Jane made her signature Dank Salad™, our friends brought booze and appetizers, and not a person left hungry. Our conversations lasted hours and we were far more cozy than would have been possible at a club or bar, and for significantly less money.

Since this post is about the economics of dating in particular, I’m going to take the liberty to give a little more general advice here. With any relationship, be it friendly or romantic, success is much more likely when both parties have similar priorities. Jane and I are #blessed in that regard (heh). But it’s a reality which has reshaped some of our friendships. Three years ago, if someone asked if we wanted to go out to a bar or club we’d be dressed and out the door before getting off the phone. (Kidding—who makes phone calls?) Nowadays there’s a lot more reluctance and internal debate before we pull that trigger. Friends who share our desire to hang out, enjoy a peaceful and pleasant evening at home, and trade frequent crazy nights for cost savings have become more prominent in our social lives by virtue of the fact that they’re just more likely to be on the same wavelength. Our weekends have and will continue to evolve and chill out. Yet our social lives really won’t diminish, all because of those shared priorities.

What this leads to is cheaper and more meaningful socializing. And, at least in our case, socializing keeps our relationship fun and fresh. As a bonus, on the occasions when we do decide to go out on the town, it’s way more special and exciting.

Do It Together

No matter what you do, it’s better together. And often cheaper. Get outside and explore your local world. Find common goals you can pursue with your significant other that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Even better if they lead to extra income as a side hustle or act as an investment, as with home improvement. When you need to mix things up, spend some time with friends who know the best nights don’t have to be spent blackout or breaking the bank.

All in all there are many ways to date frugally without being cheap. What are some of the most enjoyable low-cost dates you’ve had?



  1. Love getting outdoors and dirty (haha no pun) on dates. If you’re an outdoors person, why not take a first or second date on a hike? At least you’ll know if they like hiking…

    1. Author

      Totally agree! An appreciation for the outdoors is important to me, even though I was duped into thinking Jane would be down for more than just glamping… Still, I drag her out into nature when I get the chance since she knew early on it was a big part of who I am.

  2. I love the dinner party idea! You should do a post about it, with pics. We did that a few times and it definitely was NOT as cheap as $4 tilapia.

    Some things Luxband and I like to do are activities-based. Like last summer we ran a lot together. We ran to Coney Island, up along the West Side highway and the Central Park loop. Fun (debatable), free, and good for you!

    1. Author

      We’ll definitely do a dinner party post! I love food, both the creation and consumption, so any excuse for more works for me.

      A big aspect of our savings for the meal was getting the tilapia frozen in bulk. Never quite the same as fresh, but I tend to think that matters more for heartier fish and meats.

      And thanks for the push to try out running as a date activity. Maybe if I promise wine at the end it’ll actually work 😄

  3. My husband and I get out and do a lot of activities together. Just going for a hike somewhere new or doing something that moves our bodies is a great way to stay healthy, keep mentally inspired and explore the world together. Traveling and discovering new places (even close to home) is the best – and often very inexpensive! We do a lot of photography adventures together too which is fun! Helps to see things with new eyes.

    1. Author

      That’s great! It really helps to be able to share multiple aspects of the experience with your partner, like going beyond the adventure and being able to work together on the photography. Jane’s always been a great sport in helping out when I’ve got an itch to go out on a photo adventure. I love to have not only her company, but her interest and assistance, as well.

  4. Great tips! I love doing all of these things. Lately we’ve been doing “sushi Saturdays.” We’ll invite another couple or family (we have an 8 year old) over and make platter after platter of sushi. So fun. I make the sushi rice and salad/sides. My husband is in charge of assembling the sushi and/or instructing others in the art of sushi making.

    1. Author

      That’s super cool! I love the instructional aspect of your Sushi Saturdays. At a previous job we had “Lunch and Learns” every other week in which one person from our team would teach a skill or hobby they had to the whole group. Maybe that could be done with friends and family, too, to make our little parties more engaging and interesting.

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