No matter how long you’ve been in your current relationship, I bet you’ve gone on a few (dozen… or hundred) dates with this person. Some have probably been super fancy and impressive. I’m here to tell you that not all dates can come straight from a Hallmark movie. When you’re on a budget or just don’t want to give into lifestyle inflation, cheap date night ideas are a must.
Why we still have date nights and how we make date nights cheap
Dan and I have been together for a DECADE. We still have two date nights planned every week. YEP! Every. Week. We also fully understand that some weeks are crazier than others and two date nights just won’t work. These dates are at home and absolutely free. It is our time to reconnect and just be adults.
Wednesdays are game nights. We pick a game from our stash and pop some popcorn. Fridays are movie nights. We check out a new title from the library every week or watch a movie we already own/stream from Amazon or Disney+. Movie nights involve popcorn again and a cheap bottle of Aldi wine that we put into our grocery budget.
We never pay for a regular babysitter. We’ve been very lucky to have neighbors that have become honorary grandma and grandpa to our Little Guy. They come over when we have a date night planned and we order them a pizza to be delivered. Our parents live a few hours away and will come up for a whole weekend. We take advantage of their presence!
Try exchanging babysitting with a friend! Watch their kids one weekend and they can come over the next.
Let’s get real…
Can every couple do two dates a week? Probably not. That’s just what works for us! We don’t go out very often because we hate spending exorbitant amounts of money on dinner out and whatever we do afterward. “Traditional” dates just aren’t for us.
We are doing a no-spend 2020. So no eating out, no movies, no crazy date nights… This list of cheap date night ideas is crucial to us actually getting out of the house. As much as I love just staying home in my comfy pants, I also enjoying getting out.
Cheap (or free) Date Night Ideas
There are always volunteer events happening on any given weekend. Organizations set up events on Facebook and will put a call out for volunteers. If you can’t find any volunteer events that fit your schedule, visit VolunteerMatch.org. There you will find exactly what you’re looking for.
Bonus: you’re giving back to your community AND growing closer together at the same time!
It doesn’t matter if you are a city dweller or live in a small town: every downtown area has something quirky about it! It can be a treasure trove of cheap date night ideas!
Find a free place to park (on most weekends when there are no festivals or concerts, most parking in our city is free) and start walking. Make a game out of what you spot! Who can find the most coffee shop, wall murals, museums, etc first?
Check your city calendar before you go. 1) To make sure there are no events when you have to pay for parking, but also 2) to see if there are any free events like concerts in the park that you can drop by.
Go to the Museum
I love a good museum… but I also love not so great (and borderline creepy museums – I’m lookin’ at you Colby, KS!). Did you know that many museums have days when admission is FREE?
In our city, the first Friday of every month means that there is free admission to every museum downtown. The cost to get in to these places is normally $8-$20. No thanks! But I will certainly make it a point to go when it is free.
More local and historical museums normally don’t cost a thing to visit on any day of the week. Check out Tripadvisor to see which museums are the best (or the weirdest!).
Outdoor concerts are a wonderful, cheap date night idea. Most often there is free parking and free seating. Just bring a blanket, a drink, maybe some snacks, and relax! Check out your city’s calendar for dates.
Cheer on the Racers
Does your community host 5Ks, marathons, or triathlons? Even if you don’t know anyone racing, it is fun to root for and encourage others! Get on the sidelines of the event and cheer your hearts out.
Most craft fairs offer free admission and it is always free to look around! If you do purchase anything while at the fair (which I suggest you do!), you’ll be buying from a local maker and supporting their business. Our favorite craft fair finds are always the food and the soap.
“Shop” at the Library
Grab a coffee (or bring a thermos from home) and head to the local library. I always think of browsing the rows upon rows of books like it is shopping. I never purchase books now, so the thrill of finding a new book to read is always there! Libraries will sometimes have a small sale section where you can purchase a used book and the proceeds go directly to the library system. Books at ours are only $0.50 a piece.
Take a Hike
The city is nice and all, but there is something about getting out into nature that resets your spirit. Unplug for a few hours and drive out of town. Find a local hiking trail and spend the day exploring. Make sure you stay hydrated and bring a first aid kit.
Spending a night outside and on the ground is cheap. Most park campsites are not expensive. The most we ever paid was $27 a night in Yellowstone National Park. You can find my National Park camping check-list HERE.
While, sure, you could go to the planetarium, but that sounds kinda pricey. Set up lawn chairs or spread out a blanket in your backyard and look up. There are apps that tell you what to look for in the night sky.
If you’re like us, then you already pay for a gym membership. So put it to good use! Go to the gym and workout together. Even if you don’t have a gym membership, you can workout at home or outside. Stream a YouTube workout video. We love Yoga by Adrienne!
Take a Class
Our community center offers various classes throughout the year. Each class fee is relatively inexpensive. Check out your local community calendar for classes and fees.
Listen to a Podcast
I’ve developed an appreciation for podcasts over the last year or so. Our favorites include Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me! And Stuff You Should Know. Both are pretty hilarious at times and you can learn something too. There are even podcasts now that tell stories and are narrated by different characters.
Dinner and a Vacation
Cook dinner at home and plan your dream vacation. Dinner can be themed to where you’d love to visit. Spaghetti and meatballs for Italy. Jerk chicken for the Caribbean. You get the idea.
This can be as expensive as you want it to be. However, we have been able to go on a full, week-long vacation for only a couple hundred bucks (with our kid!). We used cash back and hotel rewards from our credit card to pay for almost everything. If you’re into cash back credit cards, this is something you should consider doing (instead of buying more stuff).
Movies from the Big Screen
Snuggle up on the couch with a bowl of homemade popcorn and watch a movie. We check out one movie a week from our local library. They always have just-released titles available and it’s FREE! With popcorn costing about $0.50 for a big bowl and a $0 movie, that’s a cheap date night!
Dan and I love board games. We have made it a point to play a game once a week with each other. Our game stash includes Scrabble, Ticket to Ride, 7 Wonders, Pandemic, Hive, and about a dozen more. If you don’t own any board games, ask a friend to borrow one or two. Heck, invite them over for a double-date game night!
Read more >>> How to Entertain on a Budget
Well, a pretty tame dance party. Play some tunes on your phone and turn it up. Dance however the music moves you.
Fancy Dinner Date
A nice steak dinner out is not cheap. What is a cheap date idea is when you cook that steak at home. Whatever your favorite restaurant meal is, try and cook it up at home.
The Great British Bake Off (at home)
I love a good pastry! Challenge your spouse to a bake off inspired by the show The Great British Bake Off. You can choose to watch a few episodes on Netflix first. Then go all in and find a recipe online to try.
Check out my Pinterest board for some Bake Off inspiration.
Breakfast in Bed
This is probably not doable if you have little toddlers running around begging for bites of whatever you’re eating… But if the kids aren’t beggars, then this can be a wonderful weekly or monthly tradition! Just make sure you’ve agreed who will do the cooking.
Each month choose a new country to try a recipe from. With a quick Google search of “countries with the best food” it came up with: Italy, France, Mexico, Spain, India. Other countries with distinct dishes are Morocco, Ethiopia, USA, China, Japan… the list can go on. If you’re doing this on a limited budget (like we are) check the recipe ingredients before you have your heart set on it! Some dishes call for expensive ingredients. Try finding a recipe that calls for ingredients you already have. Allrecipes.com is a great resource.
I’m sure that I am not the only adult here that still loves hiding in a fort for no good reason. Build a fort, or just a really comfy pile of pillows and blankets, and camp out all night in your living room. Watch a movie, have a few drinks, and the rest is up to you!
You slaved over scrapbooks and online photo books for a reason, right? Pull out all those memory-filled books and take a trip to the past. Talk about everything you remember from your wedding, vacation, or whatever pictures you’re looking at.
No matter how terrible you might be at mini golf, it is still a cheap date idea. This is our go-to vacation activity because it is low cost and takes a while to complete. Go to happy hour beforehand to make things extra difficult (make sure to Uber if you drink).
Bowling is can be as cheap as you make it. Most games and shoe rentals are under $10. Just remember your socks…
Our local teams for both baseball and hockey have inexpensive tickets for most of their games. We often get them for free through my husband’s employer or from the Val-Pack we get in the mail every month. For the past two months, they have sent out four free tickets to Saturday night hockey games. Score! Check gas stations and local grocery stores for discount coupons for game day tickets.
Everything has a story. Unique items can be found at just about every antique store out there. Talk a stroll through your local antique stores and make up stories for the craziest items you find.
The $5 Thrift Challenge
Go to your favorite thrift store and set a limit of $5 each to spend. Whoever can find the best item for $5 or less wins! PS: You don’t actually have to buy these items if you don’t want more stuff in your house 🙂
Be a Tourist in Your Own Town
Pull up your Tripadvisor app and see what attractions near you are the top rated. Go visit the spots that are not only highly rated, but also free!
DIY Spa Day
Find your favorite facemasks, light some candles, and drink wine. Give yourselves a spa day (or night). Surprisingly, my husband was totally okay with this idea! I even purchased more facemasks!
High schools actually put on really wonderful musicals every year. Admission is cheap or free. I’m sure you’ll be impressed with all the talent on stage.
This is on our list of things to do this year! It’s a cheap date idea. Plus, if we can’t get time alone we can always bring our Little Guy along. Find out more at Geocaching.com.
What are some of your favorite cheap date night ideas?