Dating creatively isn’t easy, but at least college-age kids understand the financial difficulties added to the stress. Here are 5 ways to impress your date without spending an arm and a leg.

1. Season Tickets/Annual Passes

Most areas have theme parks, zoos, and other sorts of amusement parks for all ages, but they tend to get a little pricey when you buy a day pass. You and your roommate can go in on a $40-$60 pass, and take turns using it. Most of the time, these come with 2 or more guest passes, or at least guest discount tickets, so it is a great way to bring your date someplace different without spending a ton of money. This is good for a first date because if you’re nervous, or not really feeling each other, you’ll have plenty of things to distract you.

2. Learn to Cook

It make seem like an easy way out of an expensive dinner, but cooking for someone else is a really good way to show them you’re put in quite an effort. If your normal date budget is around $40 for dinner, you can easily make something delicious for a much smaller price tag. Skip the Mac & Cheese, and check out the easy, budget-friendly dinner ideas below, or look for tips online. Places such as Eating Well on a Budget tend to help a lot. Be sure to rent a movie from iTunes, Redbox, Netflix, or Blockbuster Boxes to entertain you both after the meal is over.

  • Roasted Chicken With Pesto Pasta and Frozen Veggies – buy frozen veggies, fresh chicken, packaged pesto, and fancy pasta. If you’re still learning, consider getting pre-prepared chicken from the grocery butcher.
  • Japanese Stir Fry – Veggies, chopped pork or steak, soy sauce, and ramen noodles (without the seasoning) is all you need to make fancy Japanese Stir Fry.
  • Mexican Rice Bowls – It’s as simple as it sounds. Layer rice with beans, seasoned Pollo or Carne Asada, peppers, onions, corn, cheese, salsa, and Voila! Perfect Mexican Rice bowls.

3. Homemade Cocktails

It is so much cheaper to make your own cocktails at home than it is to head out to get a nice drink with your man or lady. It may seem like a big investment upfront, but it will be worth it in the end, and then you’ll have great drinks to serve with your fancy dinners. You can start with something simple, such as a Mimosa, Bellini, or Vodka Press, but it’s best to make it seem like your intention isn’t to get the visiting party drunk. Here are a few great cocktail recipes you can try with no more than 4 ingredients.

Jack Rose – Applejack Brandy, Fresh Lime Juice, Pomegranate Grenadine
Espresso Martini – Espresso, Vanilla Vodka, and Kahlua (You can also add Godiva liqueur or Bailey’s for a sweeter drink.)
Cosmopolitan –Vodka, Cranberry Juice, Triple Sec, Fresh Lime Juice

Shake and Serve!

4. Picnic Hikes

We’re talking wicker pic-a-nic baskets and checkered tablecloths here. Picnics are the best way to explore your college town romantically without spending much money. Simply stock up on a few essentials – water, cheese, wine, fruit, and cookies, and head out for the day. You can simply have a quiet picnic in your local park, or take things a step further with a fun and energizing hike. Hikes tend to be a little more private, since most college kids aren’t spending their Saturdays in the mountains, so you and your date can really play and flirt openly. Grab a backpack, fill with the essentials, and surprise your date when you whip out a full picnic at the end of the trail, with beautiful views all around you.

5. Champagne at Sunset

This is the ultimate date. Save it for after you get to know each other just a little bit, so that you’re comfortable in silence. Grab two plastic cups and a bottle of sparkly (or two splits) from your local liquor store, pack it in a bag and head out to a stunning spot 20-30 minutes before sunset. You can head to the roof of your buddy’s house, a viewpoint, or simply walk down to the coast if you have that option. You and your date can bask in the beauty of the setting sun and feel a little silly with champagne. Just remember, sunset normally only lasts a few minutes!

[Photo credit: proimos on Flickr]