Expectations are high but your cash flow—not so much. The romantic rendezvous that play out on movie screens aren’t exactly conducive to a college student’s budget, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a great impression your first date.
Instead of sending a last-minute “Gotta cancel” Facebook message—she’s your Chemistry lab partner this whole semester—or using the emergency credit card and splurging on five-star dining, it’s time to improvise. Plus, who ever said making a memorable first impression requires an overflowing bank account?
Set the mood for a memorable date with these low-cost ideas that could even boost your chances of scoring date number two.
Plan a Themed Dinner at Home.
Capture the ambiance of a candlelit restaurant inside your dorm or apartment by preparing an extravagant meal that follows a specific motif. For example, choose a type of cuisine like Mexican, and then create a sensory experience around that culture.
Organize a make-it-yourself taco station with all the fixings, decorate the table with vibrant colors, and tune your Pandora playlist to Latin inspired music. This elevated take on a home-cooked dinner is both frugal and effective for winning over a new sweetheart.
Have an Old-Fashioned Picnic
Head to a local park or private grassy area on campus and pull out all the stops for a classic old-fashioned picnic, complete with picnic basket, flowers, drinks and food. Plan a dinner picnic, which makes for the perfect transition into a romantic evening of stargazing with a side of chocolate covered strawberries to top the night off.
Explore a New Hobby Together
If you already have a hobby you love, use the first date as a way to introduce your potential new significant other to it. Better yet, try something new, like rock climbing, which was voted as the second best indoor hobby in 2016—meaning, it’s perfect for a date any time of year. The best part about this date idea is that trying something new together are more satisfied. Keep this in mind as you move out of the honeymoon phase, which occurs after about one year.
Visit an Art Museum or Gallery.
Immerse yourselves in high-culture and peruse the collections on display through local art exhibits—or even a student juried showcase around your campus. This date is geared toward urban settings, given the proximity to museums, galleries and street fairs. However, most colleges also have exhibition spaces, featuring a broad range of artistic media that anyone with a university ID can frequent.
In addition, museums typically offer discounts for students in various metropolitan centers nationwide.
Devise a Photo Scavenger Hunt
Grab your smartphones and head out to capture yourselves with landmarks around your campus and the surrounding vicinity. This couple’s scavenger hunt is not only silly, but it gives you a chance to visit all the “must-see before you graduate” spots on campus or in town.
Find a list of about 10–12 places (or things, if there aren’t many landmarks around your school) and then scour the area, snapping pictures as you go. Photo-worthy images might include a student protest in the quad, a tailgate before the football game and other collegiate clichés. Search “Top places to see on [school name] campus” to find a list or just create your own.
You don’t need to break out the emergency credit card or bail on the date altogether if you realize your bank account isn’t exactly where you’d like it to be. Instead, be resourceful and let your date see that you wanted them to have a great time with these fun and cheap first date ideas.
Written by Jessica Thiefels, Guest Blogger for Relationup.
Jessica has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a lifestyle blogger and full-time freelance writer. She’s written for CollegeRaptor, Lifehack.org, Reader’s Digest and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07.