Dating is often expensive. This is especially true for those first few exciting dates when the thought of your dwindling bank account completely flies from your mind in the face of romantic prospects.
If you want to avoid a rough thump down to Earth at the ATM the morning after a night with someone great you met on Hinge, though, there are plenty of options out there for budget dates.
These budget date ideas are great for couples, and some are excellent as cheap first dates or money-saving second dates too.
You can mix them in with more lavish evenings if you want to moderate your spending, or, if you’re like me, you can go wild for one single week after payday and then be like ‘Uh… can we stay in and watch a movie?’ before scrabbling for ways to branch out.
Yeah well, my bad financial habits have built this list of cheap date ideas so you’re gaining from them when it comes down to it!
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What Can Couples Do Without Spending Money?
Hey, get your mind out of the gutter! That’s not what I meant! Though of course, you can’t put a price on an intimate evening for two.
If you’re broke and you want to do something fun outside of the bedroom, though, or you know, before it, then don’t despair. There are plenty of things couples can do without spending money.
Plenty of fun date night ideas are cheap or even free! First, a few totally free date ideas and super low-cost date ideas.
Ideas For Free Date Nights
Take A Walk
I really like to push treating your own hometown like somewhere you’re visiting, it’s a great way to avoid boredom both personally and with your beau.
There are a few ways to do this, from looking up restaurant reviews, shows, and local attractions online and making a weekend itinerary just like you would for a few days away, to getting a Sightseeing Pass and hitting all those tourist attractions you’ve always felt yourself above as a local.
The cheapest and easiest option though? Just take a walk!
This can be exploring a new neighborhood or trying to look at your own through a new set of eyes. The details are up to you.
There are even a bunch of apps out there with free walking tours of cities (or at least free trials) so you can learn about where you live as you wander hand in hand through the streets at dusk!
Do A Puzzle
Don’t roll your eyes at me! I know puzzles sound very ‘we’re worried grandad has given up on life, but they’re actually a really good form of analog entertainment that gives you something to talk about but leaves space for conversation.
Especially in the winter, getting cozy with a puzzle, some snacks, and either a hot drink or a boozy beverage can be a really great bonding experience.
It can also be a really frustrating experience if you go for something like this 1,000-piece beach puzzle that is not only double-sided but also mostly sea and sand (this would be a… multi-evening date), festive if you like that kinda thing, or I guess… funny? I think that’s what these pooping puppies are supposed to be anyway.
Make Big Plans
This one might not be for everyone. If you just met on Field you probably won’t be making expensive long-term plans, and if you’re hard up for the foreseeable future it might just be a bit depressing.
Personally, though, I find planning future trips and adventures to be really fun.
You can plan routes, look at sites you might want to visit, and compile lists of restaurants you just have to go to.
Basically, you get to have fun imagining together. And hopefully, at some point, you can actually put the plan into action.
Play Board Games
Wow, Steve, I hear you say, you really love board games! And in part, you might be correct. I mean, I quite like board games.
But I’m also very aware of the utility of board games when you’re broke and trying to have a decent time!
I’m not talking about getting the latest indie board or card game here either, I’m talking about borrowing a Scrabble set with three tiles missing from your roommate and playing a tournament with your partner that gets heated.
I mean, you two will get real good at Scrabble! And at shit-talking. It’s invigorating, I promise.
And of course, it doesn’t have to be Scrabble. Though I draw the line at Monopoly.
I may have been known to flip a Monopoly board. It’s just luck! And capitalism! Making me mad just thinking about it!
Work Out Together
Okay, obviously this one is dependent on the kind of exercise you like to do and how to fit you are relative to one another but in my opinion, it is very hard not to have fun doing a Jane Fonda workout video at the very least.
Get those sweatbands on and get moving. At the very least you’ll have a laugh, or maybe get zen with a bit of yoga.
Unless you’re both big gym bunnies it probably won’t be the most efficient workout you’ve ever managed, but doing it together will make it worth it all the same.
Start A Mini Book Club
Doesn’t matter whether you’re into Russian literature, The Iliad, or rereading The Princess Diaries together.
The joy of a mini book club is that it’s a long-term thing. You can chat about the book once or twice a week, give one another reading challenges, and enjoy comfy time tucked up doing the actual reading together.
I would advise having two copies of the book, however, pretty hard to read at exactly the same rate with your heads squished together.
Have A Movie Night
I used to have a weekly movie night with my roommates. We would all put a couple of slips of paper with the name of a movie on it, folded up, into a jar at the beginning of the month.
Then we’d pull one weekly and have to watch whatever was pulled out.
This works well as a couple too, allowing you to skip the hour of deciding on a genre, scrolling through all the streaming services to see what’s there, and eventually compromising on something kinda okay.
If you’re really short on money, make sure all the choices are available on a streaming service you already have (or even better, one you can grab a free trial for).
This can be as expensive or as cheap as you make it. But baking together is always cute, right? It’s a classic rom-com montage in fact. One of you will get flour on your nose, probably.
What you already have in can dictate what you manage to bake. If you’re really low on cash, just grab some choc chips and steal an egg from your roommate and make cookies.
Otherwise, go as wild as you like! The decorating can be fun too. You can even make it into a bit of a competition, Great British Baking Show style!
Go Camping (…in the Garden)
You can, of course, go camping at the cheap. You just need gas money really, as long as you have the kit.
But to keep things even cheaper (and avoid the gas money issue, or taking any time off work or other commitments), why not just camp in the yard?
Or if the weather’s bad, the living room! That way you can eat the food you already have in, and avoid all extra costs.
And if you don’t already have a tent, you can get a real budget option (which will nonetheless be usable time and again) and just take your duvet and a couple of yoga mats out there with you.
You’re still sleeping under the stars! And… close to the wild. Tell ghost stories. Have a midnight feast. And if it gets cold? Just go inside and get in your real bed.
Visit A Museum
While not all museums are free, a lot are either cheap, pay what you can, or at no cost at all.
This is especially true of small local museums, and museums based at colleges and universities.
Take a look at what your hometown has to offer – you might be surprised!
I’ve been to some pretty weird and wonderful medical museums and zoological rooms at colleges. And while they aren’t exactly romantic, they are interesting.
Take A Course Together
Whether it’s a Youtube course on how to draw Simpsons characters, an online cooking class, or something more cerebral like an intro to philosophy, being study buddies can not only be a great date but also a longer bonding experience.
You’ll have something to chat about on other dates, can get a bit competitive if you want to, and will end up with a new skill!
It’s a win, win, win. I mean, not sure what you’ll do with a drawing of The Simpsons or the philosophy, but we all have our passions.
Cheap Date Night Ideas
If you’ve got a few coins rattling around your piggy bank and want to spend them on having fun with your date, or you’re making okay money but saving for something big, then you might want to try out some of these cheap date night ideas.
Some of them are great for first dates, while others can become weekly staples that will keep any couple amused without depleting those funds too badly.
Have A Picnic (Indoors or Outdoors)
A picnic can be many things. In fact, it’s such a rich dating topic I’ve written a whole post on picnic dates!
Get To Know Your Wine
Or beer, or tipple, of choice! Personally, I love Firstleaf Wine Club for trying new bottles.
It’s relatively cheap, as long as you don’t drink too fast, with six bottles for under 40 bucks. And you can learn what you like over time, getting more interesting bottles every month.
It’s kind of a hobby you can build on, talking about the wine with your partner and working out what works and what doesn’t.
You can even cook food pairings to go with each bottle of wine if that takes your fancy!
Basically, really getting to know and appreciate your wine, beer, or even cocktails means you can slowly build up your taste and also slowly build up your store if you’re into liquor.
Rather than blowing a whole load of money on getting wasted, you’ll spend half as much on really enjoying your drinks.
Well, that’s the theory, obviously, it doesn’t always work once you realize how delicious the wine is.
Go To An Art Gallery
Most medium to large towns has a decent art gallery.
Why not check out your local one, and maybe do a few sketches together while you’re there?
Even if you’re low on money you can wander around for hours giving one another your very intelligent readings on the paintings, and maybe buy a couple of postcards in the gift shop to remember your date.
This is a really good early or first date, as although you have to keep it down you can talk in a gallery, and there’s plenty to stimulate conversation.
Plus your self-guided tour can be as long or short as you like, meaning that if it’s not going well you can nope out of there after an hour or so of pretending to be really into the art.
Go See A Show Or A Preview
I’m going to be real with you – if you go and see a local improv group do a preview show or watch an Amdram Fiddler on the Roof, it may not be the best entertainment you have ever seen.
There’s no other way to say it really. But you know what? That’s not the point. It’ll probably be at a cheap bar (or you can sneak something in) and you’ll be out among people, in a room with an atmosphere, supporting local art.
Or you know, local ‘art’. Whatever. It’ll be fun! Look out for opening nights of art shows too, they often have free wine and chips!
Look, I’ve told you I did an English degree guys, I have not always been the successful online dating blogger you see before you (you read before you? Whatever).
I’ve eaten some free chips in my time. And free peanuts. Oh, and free pizza.
If you go to talks and things sometimes they have free pizza! Uh… anyway… back to dating…
Go To A Concert
Seeing live music can vary massively in price.
Sure, if you want to go see the new Take That tour (yes, I’m 30, I don’t know about pop music, bite me… maybe this should be a K-Pop reference??) then you’ll be forking out a hundred bucks a ticket.
Seeing a smaller, local band can be far, far cheaper though. And even for bigger artists, you’re likely to get a good deal using Ticket Network.
Cook Some Favorites
Takeout is great, and going out to eat is arguably even better, but both can eat up that paycheck pretty quickly.
Instead, why not make an at-home version of a takeout favorite? Whether you fancy up packet ramen or make a jalfrezi from scratch, you should be able to have fun both cooking and eating a DIY approximation of what you would usually order for date night.
And if you REALLY can’t cook? Get an oven pizza, put it in a box, and ring your own doorbell to deliver it. Just like the real thing!
A DIY Spa evening can be as cheap or as expensive as the products you choose. As long as you have a bathtub and some candles, you can get your spa on!
Either treat your significant other to a bubble bath, candles, a smoothie or a glass of wine and maybe a face mask or take part in a spa night together!
Get all the weird and wonderful face masks and creams you can afford and hop in a shared bath if it’s big enough.
Honestly, just bath salts and/or bubbles really up the fun and romance factor, and both are really cheap and available at the grocery or drugstore.
But if you really want to push the boat out, you can get all kinds of lotions and potions (particularly for guys who may not be open to treating themselves and their skin) from Allies of Skin.
Alternatively, if he enjoys the basic DIY spa why not get him some fancy stuff once you’re a li’l more flush with cash?
Become A Gamer Couple
Well, you don’t have to build your whole identity around it I guess, but staying in and playing video games has always been a cheap date option.
Of course, buying all the games can add up but you can fix that issue by subscribing to Game Fly and renting games rather than buying.
In fact, you can even get a free 30-day trial on the site, so you can try out this gamer couple lifestyle before you fully commit. Or enjoy a cheap month after you’ve over-indulged on fancy dates and meals out!
Money Saving Dating Tips
These are just a few ideas for cheap date options. There are plenty more things you could do, depending on where you are and what you have to hand.
As a rule of thumb, you should be making the best of everything you have at home as well as anything you can beg, borrow or steal (wait, not the last one. Don’t steal things).
If you don’t have board games, ask some friends who might. If you don’t have a tent, make a blanket fort to sleep in. If you live close to somewhere beautiful, go on a hike or to the beach and take a picnic lunch.
The most important thing when you’re low on money but still want to have fun is not to panic and just cancel plans.
If you explain to your date that you’re not exactly flush with cash right now then they’ll probably totally understand.
Maybe they’ll say, ‘I’ll get this one or maybe they’ll have some budget date ideas of their own.
I mean what’s wrong with a movie at home? Classic date! There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Some quick tips:
- Make do with everything you can at home
- Think about your local area, where have you not been or not been in a while?
- What subscription services do you already pay for? Are they date-worthy? This goes for Netflix, sure, but also your weekly meal box. Cook together!
- Don’t be embarrassed about being on a tight budget. If your date turns up their nose at the idea of a cheap day together, do you really wanna be seeing them? Cos that sounds really expensive. And they sound pretty judgemental.
Final Thoughts On Budget Date Night Ideas
Anything can be a date if you enjoy doing it together! Don’t overthink dates, especially at first. Just find out what the person you’re seeing enjoys, and find a way to incorporate that.
Does she like dogs? Borrow your friend’s puppy for a walk. Does he like to swim? Take him to that wild swimming spot no one knows about.
If you guys get on, you’re going to have fun no matter what you’re doing. Well, up to a point. Watch out for snakes in that swimming hole, I guess.