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13 cheap first date ideas

Dating as a student can be tricky. Your loan budget won’t cover wining and dining, but there are still a few ways to impress without breaking the bank!

Everyone loves a uni romance, but the chances are your Student Loan budget won’t stretch to a table for two at the Ritz.

We couldn’t quite think of 50 first dates, but we did come up with a solid 13 ways to make a good impression on your date, without the trauma of parting with too much cash.

Of course, there are loads more ideas for budding romantic cheapskates Romeos and Juliets, so please share your own tips in the comments section!

Cheap student date ideas

  1. Dine out with a discount

    Let’s face it – gone are the days when you’d be embarrassed about taking someone out for dinner as part of a deal. What’s more attractive than someone who knows how to look after their money, right?

    There are loads of great tips for saving on eating out (here are 16 of our favourites), and there’s almost always a good restaurant deal to be snapped up (we have reams of dining out deals for you to check out, too).

    Most restaurant deals and discounts are tailored for two diners, so they work out perfect for a date. 2 for 1 meals or 50% off your food bill isn’t unusual either!

    Drinks are typically where your money goes, so keep an eye on prices. Otherwise, a great option is to look for a restaurant that offers BYOB (bring your own bottle). A nice bottle of wine from the supermarket will cost a fraction of the price and look just as good.

    Be sure to check the menu for any offers and set meals that could save you lots of money. Be wary of ‘all you can eat’ deals, though, as you’ll be determined to get your money’s worth and risk walking out of a restaurant bulging at the seams. Not a good look.

  2. Pub with perks

    Pubs are obviously a great first date spot – they’re laid back, have a good atmosphere (which will help cover up any awkward silences) and the flow of alcohol should settle any nerves you might have.

    And before you ask, when we say ‘perks’, we don’t mean making out by the public toilets.

    We mean bringing something extra to the pub date – a game of pool, a pub quiz or even a board game can bring some giggles to the table and prevent you from nervously drinking so much that you end the date with your head down the toilet.

  1. Pimped up picnic

    Show off your sandwich making skills with this one! Spoil your date by splashing out on a budget bottle of wine – or cheap bottled cider if you’re really pushing the boat out. It’s a student favourite, after all!

    The beauty of picnics is that they don’t have to be elaborate or expensive to impress. Just seeing that you’ve taken the effort to pack up a few things to dine al fresco is romantic enough, honest!

    This one’s probably best kept for the summer, although a winter picnic can go down well as long as you dress appropriately and bring a flask of something hot!

  2. Bowling (him/her over)

    Not an obvious choice for ‘cheap dates’, but you can get some great deals on bowling if you’re a student. Some places even offer it for as little as £1.50 a game!

    Bowling is great for a first date as it gives you something to talk about and takes some of the pressure off by allowing you to laugh at each other strutting your stuff. It also works as a good double/triple/quadruple date with friends if you’d prefer.

    Plus you can ‘accidentally’ reach for the same ball and lock eyes over that shiny sphere… before you take the ball, bowl a strike and increase your lead to 100 points.

  3. A romantic stroll

    Perhaps a bit too obvious? Think again! This is obviously a very cheap option for penny savers, but can be really romantic if you do it right (weather permitting, of course).

    Walking through the park holding hands can be a great chance to ask questions and get to know each other a bit better, and if you’re feeling spicy you can even stop off for an ice-cream or a takeaway coffee to keep your hands warm.

    For those of you a little keener on walking or fitness, maybe plan a hike or a bike ride.

    P.S. He’ll kill us for mentioning this, but the Save the Student founder, Owen, once took a girl for a walk around the park for their first date. They’re now married, so it must’ve worked!

  4. Be a tourist for the day

    This might sound like a weird one, but it can actually feel quite nice (romantic, even) to be a tourist for the day in your own city.

    It’s likely that there are loads of things near where you live that you’ve never done, just because it feels a bit weird being a tourist in your own town. Now is your chance!

    Try Googling ‘free tourist attractions in [insert city name here]’ to see what pops up, or just have a look on local tourism websites for some inspiration.

  5. Fun, free events

    Keep an eye out for events going on in your local area. You can normally look these up in Time Out magazine, your local papers/Facebook pages or by checking out noticeboards in your area.

    Or, again, try Googling ‘What’s on in [enter city name here] this weekend’ and a few ideas should pop up.

    For example, a food festival or street fair would be a great shout! They’re usually cheap (if not free) to attend and can be a nice way to spend the day.

  6. Visit an exhibition

    cheap date exhibition
    We’re lucky enough in the UK to enjoy free admission to national museums and galleries, so take advantage of this!

    A walk around an exhibition can inspire great conversation and open your eyes to the wider world… or, at the very least, make you look a bit cultured and help with any awkward silences.

  7. See a romantic film (or not)

    You don’t need to see a romcom for the cinema to be a romantic first date spot – just cuddling up in the dark to watch a film is cosy enough.

    There are loads of tricks to getting cheap cinema tickets, including 2 for 1 tickets for a whole year for under £2! If you don’t want to look cheap in front of your date, you can always pick up the tickets in advance (sneaky!).

    During the summer months, there may be some open-air cinemas near you – that will get you five stars on the romantic side of things!

    Remember that the cinema snack counter is where your money fritters away, so why not ‘surprise’ your date with a little cinema picnic from the supermarket (they won’t even suspect you’re cutting corners, you’ll just look really thoughtful).

  8. Car boot sales

    We’re including this lil gem as we have first-hand experience of this working a treat (you’re welcome).

    There’s likely to be a car boot sale near you at weekends, and they can actually be really good fun to walk around and snoop at all the weird stuff people try to flog.

    You can even treat your date by picking them up a novelty gift or two! What’s sexier than a bargain?

  9. Staying in (the new going out)

    Why go out at all? One of our personal favourite date ideas (which also happens to be one of the cheapest options) is to stay in, cook up a storm and watch a (free/cheap) film on the sofa.

    A home-cooked meal can be a much nicer gesture than spending £50 in a restaurant (and this can be your chance to show off your skillz in the kitchen). You could even bake a cake together or do brunch!

    Check out our selection of cheap and easy recipes that will impress!

  10. Go to an open mic

    There’s nothing better than free entertainment!

    Whether it’s comedy, poetry or obscure indie bands you’re into, there’s an open my mic for almost everything.

    The only risk with open mics is that it’s Russian roulette when it comes to the quality of the acts. But even if they’re bad, it’ll give you something to laugh about and bond over afterwards!

  11. Think outside the box

    If none of these options feel right, it’s time for you to get creative! Have a good think about what your date likes to do in their spare time, and tailor the day to suit that.

    Do they like sport? Take them to a sports bar or a football match (even if you hate football). Are they outdoorsy? Take them on a hike or to an indoor climbing centre.

    Sometimes the activities that seem the least date-appropriate are the most romantic since they’re the most imaginative!

The important thing is to think about what they enjoy, not what you feel like doing. Putting your date’s interests or wants before yours is the ultimate romantic gesture, and it won’t go unnoticed!

If you’re planning on going out all day, here are 43 fun activities you can do to get to know each other better!