Date night ideas for $20 or less


Zulfiqar Ahmed

There’s Fun In Store, downtown DeKalb, has a wide variety of games to choose from (Zulfiqar Ahmed | Northern Star)

By Grace Barone

Dating in college can be difficult for a variety of reasons. One obstacle college students may face is having a lack of funds. It’s hard having a job while being a full-time student and with the price of almost everything getting hiked up recently, going on a date could get a little pricey. If you just scored a date with your crush and are looking for more affordable options, here are some $20-or-less date ideas.   


Having a picnic with your date can be a cheaper option than going to a restaurant. Packing a few sandwiches and snacks and finding a quiet intimate spot to eat sets the mood without breaking the bank. 

You won’t have to deal with a noisy restaurant or run the risk of going to a restaurant where neither of you like the food. Going to the grocery store together can be an easy way to get to know your date and their food preferences and give you ideas of what they like if you plan on going on future dates. 

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, or if it’s too dark outside for an enjoyable picnic experience, there’s no shame in the dollar menu at a fast-food spot. You can have a makeshift picnic in the car while going back and forth showing each other your favorite songs. 


After or in place of a picnic, stargazing can be a romantic and free option. While DeKalb does have some light pollution, if you catch a clear cloud-free night, a lot of stars can still be visible. 

If you have a car, drive north down Annie Glidden as you don’t have to go far before you hit the wide-open fields. There’s much less light and you’ll be able to see more stars. 

Buy a $1 lottery ticket

A unique idea for a cheap date is going in on a $1 lottery ticket together. It can go one of two ways. You can either win some money and spend the winnings on the date. If you don’t win anything, head somewhere else like a thrift store or an estate sale and talk about what the two of you would do if you won the jackpot. It could be a great conversation starter and can help you get to know your date more. Would they save it? Spend it? On what?

Lord Stanley’s and the Annex

If you’re both over 21, Lord Stanley’s and the Annex, 142 East Lincoln Highway, has a deal on two pitchers of beer and a pizza for only $20. After thinking about what it would be like to be a millionaire, if you tried your luck on a lottery ticket, it could be fun getting back into reality and relishing in the fact that right now, you two are just two college kids having a fun night in a small-town bar. 

Game night 

If staying in is more your style, buy a board game together at There’s Fun In Store, 229 East Lincoln Highway. This game shop has a wide variety of board games. If you’re looking for a game that isn’t typical like Monopoly or Scrabble, There’s Fun in Store has some different escape room games that are under $20. Getting to see if you would be able to escape with your date can be an interesting bonding experience. 

You don’t need to spend a bunch of money on a date for it to be a good one. Thinking of something more personal and doing things that actually get the conversation rolling will work out in your favor. Don’t let the lack of money in your bank account deter you from taking someone out. Not to mention, do you really want to be spending your entire paycheck on someone you might never see again? Enjoy the little things and focus on the time you’re spending together.