Budget Dating Without Being Cheap
January 11, 2008 2:31 PM   Subscribe

I am currently off work until my mental health improves and will shortly have one of my welfare payments suspended (I made some some from selling my half of a jointly owned house, but I'll need all of it to get a small apartment) so I will not have the money I used to for going to cinema or pub or restaurant. My girlfriend/ partner will be similarly impoverished but we don't just want to stay in and watch TV every night. So I was wondering if the group mind here could come up with suggestions for activities that don't cost a lot of money. I would like to be able to treat my partner to nice things but I won't be able to do that much, so I wondered what people here thought would be cheap things to do without seeming cheap, if that makes sense.

Cheap things we do at the moment include :-
* renting DVD's - £2 each time - and watching them while eating some microwave popcorn (49p for a bag - bargain!)
* going to a coffee shop and making one coffee last (rather than going to a pub where you would keep drinking all night)
* looking through charity shops for cheap videos to watch.
* going to McDonalds for breakfast (hardly high-class dining but still a treat to us).
* going out to the 24-hour supermarkets for a look round (OK this is more of a treat for her than me but she does like it for the sake of getting out the house).
* once in a while playing Trivial Pursuits or Monopoly

Things I imagine other people (but not us) doing and enjoying include going for walks (even to the chip shop), making home-made meals together, flying a kite, going for a walk along the beach, going to a free museum etc.

If you are in a relationship already I would love to read about low-cost things you enjoy with your partners - often the best things need not cost a lot of money. Alternatively even if you have never had a partner I could still learn from your suggestions of what low-cost things you would like to be doing or things you would enjoy if only you had someone to share them with. I am an easy-going guy happy to tag along with most things so I guess I am looking for things a woman would enjoy but which I would still also like.

I already posted this on www.SA Scotland.co.uk and got a few helpful responses, and on ShyUnited.com where the answers were less helpful - including "Look for a job" "Go dumpster diving" "Look for coins people have lost at fairground rides" and "hunt the streets for cans/ bottles where you can get a deposit back"!

My girlfriend has OCD and handwashing issues so I doubt she would be up for looking through the trash in dumpsters with me as an idea of a romantic evening :-) She also has M.E. and often has little energy, for example she can't go on long walks, so the ideas would need to be fairly sedentary. Although we are in a long-term relationship we do still like our "date nights" though. However things that can be done in the house are fine too since we spend most of our time there.

Any and all suggestions from the nice people here would be most welcome
posted by AuroraSky to Human Relations (33 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
I know your girl is OCD and low-energy, but I think fingerpainting with washable paint might be a fun activity for all involved.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:36 PM on January 11, 2008

Public library. Most have areas where you can sit and read together.
posted by uaudio at 2:37 PM on January 11, 2008

Are you near a university? Theater and music departments often have free or very cheap performances.

Museums sometimes have free-to-the-public days.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:38 PM on January 11, 2008

-Many bookstores (at least in the US) allow browsing and even have cafe seating where you can read magazines over a cup of tea
-Making soup
posted by availablelight at 2:39 PM on January 11, 2008


And trying new (Cheap!) recipes together can be quite fun and will add a bit of variety to your diet.

If public transport is cheap where you live, sometimes getting on a bus and going somewhere new can be nice--just make sure you know when you can get back on the bus and go home! (I live in NYC so this is particularly fun for me).

Visit an animal shelter and play with the animals or volunteer somewhere else where it's fun and you can quit when you get tired.

Try some food or drink or whatever that looks horrible (I'm thinking coca-cola blak) and enjoy how horrible it is and bond over that.

Write letters to your relatives who are very old or very young. They love getting mail.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:42 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Where are you in Britain? I am sure we can find some cool events for you and yours to attend that won't cost anything.
posted by parmanparman at 2:43 PM on January 11, 2008

2nding libraries. Public libraries here at least (Canada) have DVDs and CDs that you can take out for free for a limited amount of time. You can even get TV series. As well sometimes they have free talks you could go to or are also a nice place to wander in/read at together.
posted by beautifulcheese at 2:44 PM on January 11, 2008

Oh, and I don't know about pub culture there and if this would work, but can you get a cheaper non-alcoholic drink and just hang out there with others? I do that at cool bars because sodas cost about a dollar (that's something like .0002 pounds).
posted by sondrialiac at 2:45 PM on January 11, 2008

Also, sometimes bookstores have Scrabble/game nights. And I've seen coffeeshops that have board games lying around. And I know you've played board games, but maybe it would be added fun to do it outside the house.

Universities often have cheap or free movie nights, too. (Again, I know you watch movies already, but out of the house might be a treat.)
posted by Airhen at 2:46 PM on January 11, 2008

Audiobooks from the public library + cooking, or art, or other activity that involves the hands.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:53 PM on January 11, 2008

Are there any cheap tourist/backpacker guides for your area? They might have suggestions you might otherwise miss.
posted by ejaned8 at 2:56 PM on January 11, 2008

Feed the ducks! Keep the bits and bobs for your bread and then fek off down to the park or shore at the weekend and feed the ducks. This is especially entertaining if there are seagulls or other rat-birds around as you are trying to use teamwork to make sure the cute fluffy ducks get bread, but none of the rat-birds, and shouting "get away from that you bastard!" and so on. This has kept us entertained for way too long.

Come up with some sort of craft that you guys would like to do together. Ideally as unlikely or unsuitable as possible, perhaps quilting or scrapbooking, and then then give it your own twist. Next time we are broke we are going to make a quilt out of all of our old concert and other "memorial" t-shirts.

Get into bulk cooking. Again, it's slightly unusual, being (online at least) the territory of christian stay-at-home-moms (Google OAMC). This is fun, saves you actually a boatload of time, and shopping for it and cooking together becomes something that can feel really rewarding. The money you save is also insane, and this is also really rewarding, it can almost get competitive.

Will have a little think and come back if I come up with anything else. We had a number of years where we were both broke students and needed to entertain ourselves on a budget.
posted by Iteki at 3:00 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Of course, as soon as I post, I remember something else. Geocaching is free, somone else has already done the hard work, by finding fun or pretty spots and hiding something there for you. Bring along something to put in the cache for the next person to come along. If you can spare the expense, get yourself a GPS second hand, but I have always done it with just a regular map (sometimes using the hints provided too).
posted by Iteki at 3:02 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I was broke and poor in London, my boyfriend and I would buy the fattest Sunday newspaper, head to an Irish pub (ones playing traditional music), and while away hours reading the newspaper, doing crossword puzzles, chatting away, listening to the music in front of a roaring warm fire. No reason why you'd have to drink alcohol at the pub - a coffee or non-alcoholic drink would suffice. They won't kick you out just because you won't order a pint.

Other ways to cheaply entertain ourselves - sit on the tube or on the bus, people watch, and make up stories about them.

I would imagine any of the local newspapers / entertainment magazines would have a huge listing of free events.
posted by HeyAllie at 3:04 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Join some sort of group, for example if you are in Scotland there are likely traditional dancing groups etc although they may require beer money.

Learn an instrument together, I recommend the ukulele, they are cheap as chips at the moment (about 20 dollars new), easy to start getting sounds out of, kinda trendy right now and my experience with meeting ukulele players is that they are the least pretentious musicians you will meet. It's kinda hard to take yourself seriously when you play the uke.

Be sure to get a hold of your local free rag, the back section most likely has local events, many of them free, some of them really good fun.

Do you have a bus-ticket? Decide to go to the terminus of each line near you and see what's there, it's really easy to get into just "being where you are". Maybe make it a photo-project?

Read aloud to each other. Take a chapter each or whatever. It's really luxurious to be read to, and you can chat about the book as you go. We did this with the LOTR books and it worked really well.

Regarding movies, meet up with some buddies and have a little film club of your own. The movie to be shown should be secret till you get there (avoids people skipping due to having seen it). You have to put out a little cash for popcorn and some veggies-and-dip or whatever, but if you are 6 buddies it spreads out pretty well.
posted by Iteki at 3:20 PM on January 11, 2008

Camping, Hiking, Cooking, Baking, and new addictive games, like backgammon!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:26 PM on January 11, 2008

If you like reading and books, definitely check out the events calendars of local bookstores and public libraries for author readings and other events. Actually, even if you don't like reading check them out anyway, because as someone mentioned some libraries have free film screenings. Look for puzzles, more boardgames and card games at the charity shops (checkers, Taboo, Uno are some that I like). Go to yard/garage sales just to look and once in a while get a great bargain. Sometimes it's fun to invite another couple or a friend over for a game night or a movie night. An idea perhaps for another time of year - if your community has farmer's markets those are fun to walk around and sample and can save you a bit on some of your food shopping. Sign up for movie pass and concert ticket giveaways when you see them in the paper or online.

It sound like you are in Glasglow. I hope someone will add on specific suggestions for free/cheap things to do there.
posted by PY at 3:36 PM on January 11, 2008

* renting DVD's - £2 each time - and watching them while eating some microwave popcorn (49p for a bag - bargain!)

If you want to avoid the library, use the numerous free trials you can get from DVD rental services such as Tesco DVD Rental, Blockbuster, and such. Once you have to pay I know Tesco starts from about £8 a month. Well worth it as you queue up lots of films you might not otherwise watch (or pay £2 a shot on) and end up watching a lot more interesting movies.

In the house, of course, the Internet is a real savior, as is stuff like Radio 4. On the Internet there's tons you can do together, like play games, or have "gross out contests." That's where you've got to go find the grossest picture and see who wins (my SO and I seriously play this - I always win - 2 chicks 1 cup to the rescue).

If you have digital cameras, then photography is another option, especially if you turn it into a bit of contest with uploading them to Flickr and seeing who can get the most comments / views / whatever. Oh, and blogging. No matter how dull (or exciting) your life is, someone will want to read about it. I read quite a few! :) I actually prefer the dull ordinary everyday ones..
posted by wackybrit at 3:36 PM on January 11, 2008

oops Glasgow.
posted by PY at 3:36 PM on January 11, 2008

Genealogy!! It's free, and fun! When hubby and I were broke, we visited some local cemeteries and found a few graves that were interesting, so we took down the names and dates and went to the library to research those individuals. They weren't any relation to us, but it was like solving a mystery. I imagine actually doing family research would be so much more rewarding.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:44 PM on January 11, 2008

Do you have a good local community theatre? If you are at all interested in live theatre, local amateur groups are almost always eager for people who are willing to help out backstage or do front-of-house; in exchange, you would get to see some interesting shows (the amateur theatre in my community is vibrant and talented, but there's always a shortage of volunteers to do the non-acting stuff). I have met some very cool people and seen some excellent plays as a result of such volunteer work.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:47 PM on January 11, 2008

My friends and I used to get together for "craft night." And by "craft," I don't mean serious crafts like knitting. I mean the kind of arts and crafts projects that you do in elementary school, which turn out to be surprisingly fun when you're a grownup. For instance, there's making crayon shaving hearts. Tie dying is fun and can be done pretty cheaply, especially if you already have some white t-shirts hanging around or can buy them cheap at thrift shops. Freezer paper stencils are similarly cheap if you have the t-shirts. Marble Magnets are probably the granddaddy of goofy craft night crafts, but they require some materials so I don't know if they're cheap enough.
posted by craichead at 3:52 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

* renting DVD's - £2 each time - and watching them while eating some microwave popcorn (49p for a bag - bargain!)

I don't know how it is in the UK but in America if you get a cheap air popper or just learn how to do it on the stove popcorn becomes essentially free, and you can put actual flavor on it instead of poison.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:16 PM on January 11, 2008

In trying to google up a free/cheap events guide for Glasgow, I came across the Glasgow User Manual, which has a post about the January Reshuffle, which looks like an anarchist-sponsored family-friendly line-up of mostly free events. Another site turned up the Celtic Connections music festival, which looks like it has some free events.

I've found, in looking for free things in San Francisco, that it takes some digging around for sites -- free events generally don't have as much money to advertise. This Google search might help you get started digging.
posted by occhiblu at 4:45 PM on January 11, 2008

I would like to be able to treat my partner to nice things ... I wondered what people here thought would be cheap things to do without seeming cheap, if that makes sense.

Nthing cooking. Not just cooking, mind, but really spending some time and effort trying complicated recipes, new techniques, etc. This needn't be expensive, particularly if you focus mostly on vegetarian recipes. Not that you have to, but veg are always gonna be cheaper than cuts of animal, so your options are much broader. You can kill a lot of time on a single recipe, if there's a goodly amount of prep work, and at the end of your labors there's a (hopefully) tasty reward!

Speaking of food and cooking, if you can score an allotment and try your thumbs at gardening, there's an awesome inexpensive hobby that yields all kinds of rewards. I find it quite salutary for one's mental health, too.
posted by mumkin at 4:59 PM on January 11, 2008

Response by poster: Wow I am so pleased with the fast responses to my question. Those articles over at The Simple Dollar could have been written just for me, and there are lots of suggestions from the MeFites here that will give me plenty to think about. Thanks to everyone who has replied.
posted by AuroraSky at 5:13 PM on January 11, 2008

Mancala. My husband and I were addicted to it, back before we had TV. It's free -- you just need some pebbles and some dirt, really.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:14 PM on January 11, 2008

I like to check out local history books from the library and then visit the places mentioned.
posted by Melsky at 8:31 AM on January 12, 2008

Best answer: Meetups.
posted by mynameismandab at 9:19 PM on January 12, 2008

Nthing cooking.

My SO and I hung six poster board panels in the kitchen. We went out and purchased a box of crayons (a kit of 120.. I think we may have overdone it). We like to draw pictures on it together and talk. The total cost was something around ten dollars.

We also attempted (though unsuccessfully at this point) a photography project. There is a web community that asks its members to submit a day in their lives by taking photos and posting them to the site. We took a lot of walks and went grocery shopping.

He is designing a photo journal blog for us to use.

One night he surprised me by drawing me a bath (with bubbles), a book, and white wine.

I plan on surprising him with a fort made out of bedsheets and blankets, sticking a lamp in it, and packing a picnic.

The humane society/animal shelter idea sounds awesome. I think I might propose the idea to him today.
posted by fiasco at 10:16 AM on January 14, 2008

My boyfriend and I have a LOT of games, including Risk, Scrabble, and Munchkin. I like to make a night out of it, bake cookies or something, and invite other people over too.

Something we get a huge kick out of (we don't drink at pubs either) is karaoke. Hours of entertainment for the price of a Sprite. More fun with a huge group, of course.

He used to play the violin as a kid, and still has an old one, so sometimes I make him pull it out and just dick around for a while. (We invested some money a while back in pedals, but that's not really necessary unless you really worship the Floyd.)

(On that note, while I would never advise breaking the law, LSD is cheap.)

Does anyone still go out and make up stories about freaks you see on public transport? That's fun sometimes.
posted by herbaliser at 2:49 PM on January 14, 2008

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