When you’re trying to stick to a budget but also want to treat your special someone to a date, you might feel stuck. After all, date nights can be expensive. Even if you don’t have anything more than dinner and a movie planned, you could end up paying close to $100! But don’t worry—there are plenty of ways to spend one-on-one time together in a budget-friendly way. Here are 40 cheap date ideas to get you started.
10 Cheap Date Ideas to Get Started
Let’s get one thing straight: Cheap doesn’t equal boring. If anything, it means you get to be a little more creative with how you plan the date. Plus, you get to think up exciting, out-of-the-box ideas and put in that extra effort. Here are 10 cheap date ideas to try out any day of the week.
- Browse at a bookstore. If you find books you both like, put them on hold for pickup at your local library.
- Listen to your throwback records, vintage tapes or mix CDs. Pick the ones that were important to you while you two were dating. Or if you’re still dating, share music that was important to each of you earlier in life.
- Go out to breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day, and it’s a much cheaper date than going out to dinner. There’s no rule out there saying you can’t have a date in the morning. So go ahead! Plus, who can pass up the chance to eat pancakes, eggs and bacon? Simple answer: No one—no one worth dating anyway . . .
- Watch the sunset or sunrise. C’mon—it doesn’t get more romantic than that!
- Celebrate the year you met, got married or started dating. Watch a popular movie or listen to music from that year and try to recreate the style of the time. If the year was 1983, we’re sorry for the fashion options. But take heart—you’ll have some of the most iconic movies and music to choose from!
- Take a dance lesson. There are tons of dance studios that offer a casual dance instruction with a time afterward to practice your moves. This is a great way to perfect your salsa, ballroom or disco dance moves together.
- Hit up a sports game. All right, going to watch the pros play isn’t going to be cheap (unless you can score a great discount). But don’t worry. You can still be a fan in the stands! Take in a local college or high school sports game, and chat with your date about your glory days as a volleyball champ . . . at your super small school. (You can leave that part out if you want to.)
- Volunteer together. Use your time to serve at a homeless shelter or elderly ministry. It’s amazing how helping others can bring the two of you together.
- Test drive an expensive car. But don’t buy it! (Duh.)
- Go to an open mic night. You never know what kind of talent you’ll get to hear!
10 Cheap Date Ideas for the Outdoors
Whether it’s hot outside or there’s a crisp chill in the air, you can still take advantage of some cheap date ideas. Get out there and enjoy the great outdoors! It’s healthy, it’s refreshing, and best of all, it’s cheap.
- Enjoy a hike. Hiking in the fresh air under a sunny sky? You just can’t beat it! Be sure to remember how far you’ve walked so you aren’t making your date hike 20 miles (unless that’s on purpose). We speak from experience.
- Go for a run together. Maybe not a great first date idea (you know, the sweat and all), but if you’re both looking to get fit or are already runners, this can be a great way to bond.
- Camp at a state park. Need a little getaway from the kids? Take advantage of camping out for a night or two.
- Drive to see the autumn leaves. There isn’t much out there that can compare to the colors of trees in the fall. But some trees in the country just show off more than others do at that time of year. Find out where the leaves are changing color and take a scenic drive.
- Go berry or apple picking. Berry picking in the summer or apple picking in the fall is a blast. You can enjoy some quality time with each other and time away from electronic devices (amen!)—and you’ll leave with some delicious fresh fruit. Win-win!
- Visit a public garden. We know your date’s pretty and all, but so is a garden. So take her there.
- Grab a cup of coffee and stroll around a town square or downtown area. Nothing beats coffee and conversation! Throw in a stroll around some nice scenery, and you’ve got a match made in heaven.
- Concert in the park. Sometimes they’re free, and sometimes you have to pay a small ticket price. Either way, it’s worth it to take in some nice tunes under the stars.
- Walk a nature trail. Soak in the company of your significant other while soaking in the beauty of nature!
- Feed Ducks at a pond. It's the little things in life, isn't it? Skip the bread here (it's not super great for the ducks) and treat them to some leftover corn, lettuce or oats.
10 Cheap Date Ideas for Staying In
There are plenty of fun dates you can have without ever stepping out your front door. And sometimes after a long week, who even wants to leave the house anyway?
- Cook a special or fancy dinner together. Cooking dinner with your special someone is a great way to spend some quality time together. Try out a new recipe or find some ingredients you don’t normally buy.
- Eat takeout by candlelight. Eating this way is a real treat. Don’t believe us? Give it a try. You’ll see the light.
- Have a picnic on the floor. You don’t need good weather to have a picnic. Have one on the floor of your living room!
- Make drinks and sip them on your patio. Whatever your beverage of choice, serving it up at home is going to be a lot cheaper than buying it out and about.
- Stargaze from your backyard. If you don’t live in the heart of a city, you might be able to see a good number of stars in the sky. Grab a blanket, look up, and be amazed. You can’t beat that ambiance!
- Play board games. You can branch out with some strategy games like Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride, or just play timeless classics like Monopoly and Clue. Loser does the dishes!
- Get dessert to go from your favorite restaurant. You can save around $30–40 just by eating at home for dinner and then picking up dessert to go (and you don’t have to pay a tip).
- Use Redbox coupons for a movie night at home. We know, everyone wants to see the latest and greatest blockbuster movies the first week they’re out. But that’s overrated. Save $30–40 by not going to the movies and not hitting up the concession counter. Instead, rent a DVD at Redbox and pick up snacks at the dollar store. Boom!
- Take a trip down memory lane. Get out old photos or family home movies, and spend some time reminiscing.
- Make milkshakes, floats or fancy ice cream sundaes at home. Instead of going out and dropping 10–15 bucks at your favorite ice cream joint, just make your own at home. You can even grab a variety of toppings or mix-ins and still come out cheaper than you would at the ice cream shop.
10 Cheap Date Ideas for Double-Dates
Double dates get a bad rap. It’s totally possible (and fun) for two couples to hang out on a double date without it being the least bit corny. Here are 10 double-date ideas for your budget:
- Sing karaoke. Nothing brings you closer more than embarrassment.
- Play miniature golf. Look for coupons on apps like Groupon and Living Social.
- Do a taste test. Pick up the same kind of food from three places to compare them. Think of things like cookies, cakes or brownies. Or do a blind taste test with flavored jelly beans.
- Go bowling. Try to find “beat the clock” nights. The earlier you bowl, the less you’ll pay.
- Rent canoes. It’s the perfect way to get lost in a good conversation.
- Dress up and go out to eat on a dollar menu. Put on your best duds and get ready to dine like a (Burger) King and (Dairy) Queen.
- Go to a drive-in movie theater. Drive-ins are usually much cheaper than the regular movie theater. You might even be able to pay one price for the whole carload!
- Eat ice cream in the park. Pick up a tub of ice cream, plastic spoons and bowls at the grocery store, and head to the park.
- Borrow or rent bikes to do some sight-seeing. The best way to see a city? On wheels, of course—bicycle wheels, that is. You’ll get some exercise, take in the fresh air, and cover more ground than you would if you were walking.
- Turn your double date into a challenge! We’re borrowing this idea from the always creative Rachel Cruze. The producers of The Rachel Cruze Show challenged each other (and their spouses) to see if they could enjoy a date for less than $50—including childcare!
Check out this clip from The Rachel Cruze Show to see how creative they got!
How to Save on Babysitting
Look at you! You’re ready to go with your cheap date ideas when suddenly a voice from the other room cries out, “I’m thirsty!”
Why do you handle money the way you do? Break bad money habits for good.
Ah-ha! You just remembered you’re a parent—which means you have children. You’ll need someone to watch those children when you and your spouse head out for your awesome (but totally budget-friendly) date night.
So, what’s a responsible, budget-conscious parent to do? We’ve got you covered.
Use a baby monitor.
Yes, it’s a thing—a beautiful thing. Put the kids to sleep, grab the baby monitor, and enjoy your date at home! If your kids are older, you won’t need the monitor. Just make sure you don’t leave the house while they’re asleep. That’s a free parenting tip for you right there.
This is a nice way to enjoy dates, even when you can’t get out of the house. The baby monitor method is especially great if you don’t have family who live close by, can’t find a sitter, or just don’t want to pay for one. (Hey, we’ve all been there.)
Swap babysitting with friends.
You want to go on a date, but guess what? So do your other parent friends. Kids are fantastic, but everybody wants—and deserves—a break. Tell your friends you’ll watch their kids while they go out if they’ll do the same for you in return. You can swap babysitting services, still enjoy your dates, and get a babysitter for free. Everyone’s budget loves that!
If you live near your family, the babysitting rays of sunshine have beamed upon you. Don’t abuse it, but definitely use it! Call Papa and Nana and ask them if they can watch the kids this weekend while the two of you try out some cheap date ideas.
If you don’t live close to family, consider asking for help when they come to town for a visit. Sure, you want to spend time with them. But you know who they really came to see—their grandbabies. So let them play with the kids while you two step out for some bonding time. All you need is a few hours to test out your new and creative date ideas.
It’s Time to Budget for Your Cheap Date Ideas
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a memorable date. It’s like The Beatles sang, “I don’t care too much for money; money can’t buy me love.” So take a hint from them and learn how to fall in love with the beauty of some cheap date ideas.
But don’t forget—even though these dates are “cheap,” they only work when you stick to your budget. Once you know exactly how much you can spend, you’ll be able to enjoy your date guilt-free! Use our budgeting tool, EveryDollar, to create your budget in less than 10 minutes. P.S. It’s cheap too . . . actually, it’s free.