When I was in college, most of my friends didn’t have much extra cash. As such, I remember hearing about some creative date ideas. For example, ride the MAX (Portland light rail) to the airport and wander around, people-watching and looking at the shops. Or, keeping it on campus, spread out a blanket and take your cafeteria food to go for an impromptu picnic. Some couples would go to the library or a local bookstore and each find a favorite book to discuss with their date.
Necessity (and lack of capital) was the mother of invention as poor college students found creative ways to spend time with each other. By the number of marriage invitations on the community bulletin board each spring, their strategies apparently worked!
It seems that creative, low-key dates are making a comeback among Gen Z, including this one involving a popular grocery store:
“Garnering nearly two billion views on TikTok, “Trader Joe’s Date Night” is the newest viral trend for Gen Z. Kicking it old-school with Rock! Paper! Scissors! (or ro-sham-bo) couples are shopping the aisles of Trader Joe’s, throwing down over who will get to choose each course for dinner. The trend began in March 2022 and has exploded as the hashtags #traderjoesdatenight and #traderjoesdatenightchallenge are popping up by the hundreds.”
Couples compete over the choice of drink, appetizer, entree, side and dessert. Personally, I love the fun and creativity of this date idea. You need to eat anyway, so why not purchase dinner at an affordable grocery store and have some laughs doing it?
Thinking outside the box
In my over-a-decade of dating (now that I’m married), I know how easy it is to choose the usual date night ideas — dinner and a movie, coffee, or streaming a TV show — especially when going out is so expensive. But shaking things up can show you a different side of the person you’re dating. Here are a few affordable creative date (or group) ideas:
Thrift a gift. With a price limit of $5, part ways in a thrift store and buy the other person a gift. After presenting the gifts to one another, explain why you chose the item you did.
Study buddy. Is there something you both want to learn more about — logic, photography, how to play the bass (or catch a bass)? Check out books from the library or find YouTube videos to study on your own time. Then create check-in times to discuss or practice what you’re learning.
Game night surprise. This idea works well as a group date or group gathering. Have each person bring his or her favorite game and favorite snack/dessert/appetizer. Not only will you have a fun game night, but you’ll enjoy good food while learning about people’s interests.
Walk and talk. This is a classic cheap date. Choose a fun place to explore on foot. A cool downtown area or a popular public walking path. Sometimes side-by-side conversation can change things up from the usual across-the-table perspective.
Vintage activity. Look for deals at your local roller-skating rink, putt-putt golf course, drive-in movie theater, or bowling alley. These activities may cost more, but it can be a lot of fun to relive your childhoods.
Serve together. One of my college friends often did grocery store runs with her now-husband to gather supplies for the youth group where they both served. She says that those outings revealed her boyfriend’s character and drew her toward him as he tackled the task with diligence and made her feel special as his partner in crime.
Take in a free event. Whether it’s live music at the park, a free lecture at the library, or a coffee tasting at a local coffee shop, a free event can provide you with lots to talk about while building camaraderie.
Whether you’re in a relationship or interested in starting one up, you don’t have to spend a fortune or settle for an uninspired date night. Take a cue from Gen Z and look for creative ways to take advantage of the many low-cost opportunities surrounding you. What date ideas would you add to the list?
Copyright 2022 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.