Whether it is your first date or a date night with a long time partner, the prices for going out can make you feel like tossing the whole idea to the sidelines. Dinner and a movie…there goes $100! Cheap seats at the “game” and some beers and hot dogs…well, let’s just say that there are no cheap seats or hot dogs. Even a night in can see high costs for a delivery or takeout meal and a pay-per-view event. That leaves many with the question of how to make date night affordable or even if it is possible.
The good news is that you can afford date night, and I have a bunch of sneaky tricks and tips to ensure that you eat cheap, have fun and still have some cash in the bank the next day. And before you sigh and think, “Listen, we’ve done the discount movie passes and the cheap menu deals” just give me a bit more time. In the list of tips that follow, we’ll learn how to make date night affordable, but also how to make it original and truly enjoyable.
If your idea of a great night out is nothing more than dinner and a movie, I’ll tell you how to keep the costs totally under control. However, if you want to shake things up, you’ll find a lot of useful information in the details that follow.
A Simple Path to Making Date Night Affordable
So, you’ve heard of Groupon, right? Did you know that they specialize in amazingly affordable date night deals on a regular basis? For example, in late 2017 and early 2018 they made a special date night package available that included two movie tickets and a $100 restaurant gift card (via restaurant.com) for less than $40. This is a tremendous savings, and a savvy shopper could have purchased several to use during the next 90 days or so – and to give as gifts!
This is why I strongly urge anyone who wants to dine out at a favorite restaurant and take in a discount movie to turn to Groupon as a primary resource when looking to make date night affordable.
Now, are they good only for those packages? No. The site is an amazing resource for any number of activities and dining options in your specific area. For instance, in my corner of the world I can find everything from tastings at local breweries and distilleries to couples massage packages. There are deep discounts to Broadway tickets and sporting events, and specialty deals from some top tier restaurants.
Doing this, I can eat cheap at an upscale place, and do something far more original than taking us out to a discount movie. Yet, I can also stockpile affordable date nights with my Groupon vouchers.
So, step one for those who wish to make date night affordable is always to scout around and see what deals Groupon has. Who knows? You could find a trapeze school deal for the two of you and a dinner on a riverboat or famous deli nearby, or you could do some laser tag and sip cocktails and nibble appetizers from a rooftop eatery, you can even find food and art events, brunches, food and culture walks, or any number of other fun date ideas at a fraction of the usual price.
Don’t forget that Ebates is a Groupon portal, too and that means you can get around 5% or more in cash back savings, further reducing the costs of your date nights.
Of course, if you are like me, a date night has a lot to do with food. I always want to eat cheap (i.e. affordably), but I don’t love skimping and settling for less than stellar restaurants. Because of that, I’ve made a habit of noting when the casual dining chains make their special deals available. You can do this by liking them on social media or signing up at their websites. My favorites to pair with a discount movie pass (more on that in a moment) include:
- BJs Restaurant and Brewhouse has their impressive Meal and a Movie deal. This has to appear at the top of the list because it is another way to make date night affordable while dining out in a nicer eatery. For around $20, you can get a large deep dish pizza and a single movie ticket. Plus, they have a rewards program!
- Olive Garden and their Unlimited Soup, Salad and Breadsticks lets you get your fill of fairly healthy salad and soup for less than $8 per person; keeping things light if you have an active adventure to enjoy after your meal.
- PF Chang’s Happy Hour. Now, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of this chain, but their weekday happy hour (running from 3 to 6 PM) costs only $6 per person and offers a lot of lighter and even unique fare along with drinks, and is the perfect way to start a date night.
- Chili’s 2 for $22 offer. This is not an offer that is always available, but it does give you a full entrée, appetizer and dessert. Applebee’s has a nearly identical offer. Chili’s also has a higher priced “3 for Me” which lets you choose an appetizers, entrée and dessert for $10 per person.
- Happy hours at Benihana, Chili’s, TGI Friday’s, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse and Morton’s Steakhouse are all good deals and offer small plates and affordable drinks. Choose well and you get out the door for $20 or less.
Yet, you can also eat cheap if you are willing to visit the different discount gift card websites. This is a great way to pay a lot less to dine out at your favorite spots, and if you shop just after the holidays, you will find the greatest assortment as many people opt to cash in on the gift cards they received. I have written about the use of discount gift cards in the past, but did not put a lot of focus on the food gift cards.
Though I did say that many people get cards they’d never use (such as the vegetarian who was given a gift card to Outback), I didn’t really emphasize the kinds of deals you can snag when buying restaurant gift cards.
Just consider, they don’t expire (and if there are expiry dates they are usually far into the future), and that means you can stock up when you have funds available and set the cards aside to use for regular, affordable dates. The sites I suggest you visit include:
And always check the mall as there are often kiosks where you can buy an unwanted gift card at around 75% of the value. If you are looking to eat entirely for free, I recommend you read my earlier story about how to “Save Money Eating for Free”. You will have to time your date to coincide with one of the many annual free food days, but if you do it right, you could find yourself enjoying free popcorn, pizza, desserts and more.
Beyond the Dining
While you can also use my Groupon suggestion to get a discount movie pass or two, I also recommend that you consider investing in a MoviePass. This is a $9.95 per month subscription service that allows you to use the pass once a day and pay nothing further for the movie ticket. You can honestly go to the movies every single day of the month and it will end up costing you the $9.95 subscription fee. That means that every single movie night you share with a date is a BOGO deal.
NOTE: They also have an affiliate program, and my readers know what a big fan of referral and affiliate programs I am. When you take advantage of this opportunity and use it with your blogging activities, you can often get enough in returns to make the pass free!
This beats out the challenges of trying to track the ongoing BOGO deals from websites like ATOM (though I urge you to sign up for alerts as they have amazing movie events and discount offers all of the time), or watching your credit card for special offers. For example, Chase Pay and Visa Pay are often a way to get a BOGO movie deal, but you have to know which vendors are making this offer available.
Make Date Night Affordable with Creativity
Of course, I did promise that I would share a number of alternative ways to make date night affordable beyond finding ways to eat cheap and enjoy a discount movie ticket or two. So, let’s look at my brief list of creative and affordable date night ideas:
- Watch for trivia nights at local bars and restaurants. This is a lot of fun and you usually have nothing more than a cover charge and discounted food and drinks. Some events actually have finger foods or a pre-event happy hour with small plates and discounted drinks. It is a great way to get to know someone or just get out for a night of fun. Many areas have themed trivia events, too. Approximate cost: $20-$30
- Accept a mystery shopping job at a restaurant. Want to dine out for free and get your date in on the mystery shopping gig? Accept some work from a mystery shopping company to help them evaluate a local restaurant. You are probably going to get reimbursed for your meal (i.e. 50% off) and have fun playing the role of “couple on a date” when you are actually on assignment!
- Break out the cameras (or cell phone camera) and go for a photo walk. It won’t matter if you are in a city or rural area, there is plenty to photograph. Go online and search for photo challenge ideas and even set the stakes for a winner. For example, the one who manages to get the best shots is the one who pays for dinner or selects the movie on the next date. Hint: This costs nothing and ensures there is a follow up date!
- Hit the planetarium. Chances are that you are within an hour’s drive of an active planetarium. If so, most do regular events and you may want to reserve two seats for one of the most enjoyable date nights imaginable. Though many think of indoor star gazing as dull, it is amazingly informative and fun. You can find programs that teach navigation, constellations or do funky light shows to great music, and often for almost nothing.
- Play pool at a dive. Almost every town has that bar or pub that is not busy and not popular, but which is entirely safe and relatively clean. Typically, that bar also has a pool table or two that remains unoccupied for most of the weeknights. Old bowling alleys are great for such bars, too. You can head to the bar, get some cheap beers and play pool for free. This can be a great way to get to know your partner or just get out for a night of low-key fun without much expense.
- Stay in and stream for free using your library’s resources. Challenge one another to a cook off and let your library card supply you with free music, free movies and even free books on tape.
You now have many ways to eat cheap, find a discount movie pass, and make date night much more affordable. When it doesn’t bust the bank account it can make it much easier to make it a regular thing. With the tips here, you can start to have weekly date nights, get out more, enjoy new experiences and just have a lot more fun than you might be having now.