Having a significant other is the best—you have someone who’ll compliment you but also be brutally honest with you, someone to zip up the back of your dress, someone to binge-watch Netflix with (your cat doesn’t count), and someone to laugh at other people with. But let’s be real: my boyfriend and I are both in uni and we can barely afford to use the bathroom at a Michelin-starred restaurant, let alone eat in one.
Wanting to shower your s/o in expensive gifts and dinners and holidays when in reality you can’t even buy them a scented candle is awful. Luckily, I consider myself a master of the art of Cheapskate Dating™, so here’s a comprehensive list of my go-to date night ideas that won’t force you to eat ramen for dinner for the next 2 weeks.
I never get tired of wandering around NGV on a rainy day, especially since it’s free entry into their permanent collection—and if you’re lucky, you can sometimes catch a free temporary exhibit (their current temporary exhibit, Triennial, has free admission!). Melbourne Museum and ACMI also have free entry.
Something I love about Melbourne is that there’s no shortage of artistic talent. On any given day there are dozens of open art galleries that cost you nothing to have a look through. Some of my favourites are the Ian Potter Gallery, Seventh Gallery, and the State Library of Victoria.
1,000 Steps (Kokoda Track)
If you don’t mind your date seeing you sweaty and out of breath, the 1,000 steps is a beautiful hike in the the Dandenongs. It’s 5km uphill, but totally worth it (and not as painful as it sounds!)
This one’s obvious, but exploring a new beach on a warm day is one of my favourite things to do. Beaches along the Peninsula (St. Andrews, Blairgowrie back beach, Sorrento back beach, Mt. Martha) are stunning, even in winter.
Free dance classes
There are tons of free dance classes in Melbourne if you’re looking for a fun way to fill in a weeknight. Free beginners salsa classes are held in the CBD at 6pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Watch the sunset together
Yeah, this is a cheesy one. But if you know me at all, you’ll know how much I love watching the sunrise and sunset everyday (okay—maybe just the sunset. I’m not a morning person). Here’s a list of a few of the best places to watch the sunset from in Melbourne.
Melbourne Walking Tours
Melbourne offers free walking tours around the city, exploring laneways and street art and different monuments around the city.
One of my favourite places in Melbourne are the Royal Botanical Gardens. They’re a beautiful place to have a picnic and watch the sun set or rise over Melbourne. It’s also the site of Sidney Myer Music Bowl, my favourite concert venue and home to one of my favourite events of the year, Carols by Candlelight.
Speaking of Sidney Myer Music Bowl, the venue collaborates with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra each summer and plays host to free concerts each week.
$15 and under
Cooking dinner together is a cheap alternative to going to a fancy restaurant and a fun way to spend some time together. It’s not hard to find an simple recipe for steak and potatoes or lasagne or chicken—at the very least, throw some pasta in a pot and call it a day. Or make brunch together, because who can afford a $20 smashed avo?
Eureka Skydeck is the highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere with amazing views of the whole city. Entry is only $15.50 for students. Pro tip: go in the evening so you can catch the sunset.
This is one of my favourites. Concession tickets for Lunar Drive-In are only $11 each; every Tuesday is Discount Night, which means $10 tickets and free classic video games. They also have a super cute old-timey café with cheap food and drinks.
Food Truck Park
The Food Truck Park in Preston (there’s also one in Coburg) is an awesome place to go when you don’t want to splurge on an expensive restaurant and want more options than just one menu. Check their website for what the food theme of the weekend is—to save you a click, this coming weekend is cheese & wine and next weekend is chocolate. Come armed with cash and an empty stomach. Note—although it’s free entry, be prepared to line up to get in!
Bounce, a warehouse full of trampolines and trampoline-based activities, is another one where you can’t be afraid to have your date seeing you sweating and exhausted. It’s only $11.70 for student entry, which gets you an hour of bouncing time.
Studley Park Boathouse
Recreate That Scene™ from The Notebook by hiring a rowboat with your date. It’s $26 for 2 people for half an hour (that’s only $13 each, in case math isn’t your strong suit). There’s also an adorable café there if you’re feeling extra boujee and can spare another $20.
This glow-in-the-dark mini golf venue in the Docklands is $15 for adults—and only $5 for a rematch! Wear a white outfit to really stand out.
Board Games at 29th Apartment
29th Apartment is a bar in St. Kilda that encourages you to sit down with a few friends and whip out the Cluedo or Cards Against Humanity or Jenga. Throughout the week they have a $15 pizza and drink deal and if you go on Wednesdays you can snag unlimited pizza plus a drink for $10.
If you actually made it to the end of this list and still can’t find something that tickles your fancy, hop on Groupon or Scoopon and find a cheap date that’s more up your alley.