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Budgeting

45 Cheap Date Ideas You’ll Actually Want to Go On

Is inflation taking a bite out of your date night budget? When run-of-the-mill date nights with dinner and a movie can set you back $100 (not including the babysitter), it can be tough to fit regular date nights into the budget. But don’t worry, because there are plenty of ways to spend a fun and romantic date night together in a budget-friendly way. Here are 45 cheap date ideas to try out, and some are even totally free!

11 Cheap Date Ideas to Get Started

Cheap doesn’t have to equal boring. If anything, it means you get to be a little more creative with planning the date. Plus, you get to think up exciting, out-of-the-box ideas and put in that extra effort. Here are 11 cheap date ideas to try out any day of the week.

  1. Browse at a bookstore. If you and your date both find books you want to read, put them on hold for pickup at your local library (and read them for free!).
  2. Listen to your throwback records, vintage tapes or mix CDs. Pick the albums that were special to you while you were dating. Or if you’re currently dating, share the music that was important to each of you earlier in life.
  3. Go out to breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day, and it’s a 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 doesn’t love bacon, eggs and pancakes?
  4. Watch the sunset or sunrise. It’s sweet and simple and romantic. And best of all, it’s free!
  5. Celebrate the year you met, got married or started dating. Watch a popular movie or listen to music from that year and recreate the styles of the time. If the year was 1983, I’m sorry for the fashion options, but you’ll have some of the most iconic movies and music to choose from!
  6. Take a dance lesson. There are tons of dance studios that offer casual dance instruction and an open dance floor to practice your moves afterward. This is a great way to perfect your salsa, ballroom or disco dance moves together.
  7. Enjoy a sporting event. 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 game, and chat with your date about your own sporty glory days.
  8. Volunteer together. Use your time to serve at a homeless shelter or elderly ministry. It’s amazing how helping others can bring you closer together.
  9. Run errands together. How is running errands romantic, you ask? You leave your kids at home with a sitter. Yep! You’ll be surprised how much fun you have strolling the aisles of Target or picking up groceries—just the two of you.
  10. Test-drive an expensive car. Enjoy that new-car smell without paying the hefty price tag.
  11. Go to an open mic night. You never know what kind of talent you’ll get to hear!

12 Cheap Date Ideas for the Outdoors

It doesn’t matter if it’s hot outside or if there’s a crisp chill in the air. You can always take advantage of some cheap date ideas in the great outdoors! It’s healthy, refreshing and cheap.

  1. Enjoy a hike. Hiking in the fresh air under a sunny sky? You just can’t beat it. Whether you take a quick stroll through a nature preserve or a more athletic trek through the mountains, you’ll enjoy beautiful views and special time together. (My husband, Winston, is more into the great outdoors than I am, but I love our walks together outside.)
  2. Go for a run together. This may not a great first date idea (you know, the sweat and all), but if you’re both looking to get fit or already runners, this can be a great way to connect.
  3. Camp at a state park. Need a little getaway from the kids? Take advantage of camping out for a night or two.
  4. Drive to see the autumn leaves. There’s not much out there that compares to trees changing color in the fall. But some parts of 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.
  5. 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—and you’ll leave with some delicious fresh fruit. It’s a win-win!
  6. Visit a public garden. Go on a date to a pretty garden and take some pictures together for some sweet memories.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 hear some great music under the stars.
  9. Walk a nature trail (or just around the neighborhood). Soak in the company of your significant other while soaking in the beauty of nature. It’s a fun date night idea that you can do anywhere.
  10. Feed ducks at a pond. It's the little things in life, isn't it? Skip the bread (it's not super great for the ducks) and treat them to some leftover corn, lettuce or oats.
  11. Visit a garden center. Just being around greenery and flowers can lift anyone’s mood. And coming home with a new planter to take care of together? Even better.
  12. Hang with farm animals. Do you love llamas? Maybe fainting goats are your favorite. Either way, you can probably pet and feed them during a visit to a local farm.

12 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, staying in might be just what the two of you need.

  1. Cook a special meal 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 sample some ingredients you don’t normally buy.
  2. Eat takeout by candlelight. Eating this way can make eating at home feel like a fancy experience. Put on some nice instrumental music and give it a try.
  3. Have a picnic on the floor. You don’t need good weather to have a picnic. Turn on a YouTube fireplace on the TV, spread a blanket out on the living room floor, and have a cozy picnic!
  4. Make drinks and sip them on your patio. Have your own happy hour at home and sip your drinks in the backyard or on the patio. It’ll be a lot cheaper than buying drinks out.
  5. Stargaze from your backyard. As long as you don’t live in the heart of a city, you’re likely to see stars in the sky on a clear night. Grab a blanket, look up, and be amazed. You can’t beat that natural ambience.
  6. Play board games. You can branch out with some strategy games or some timeless classics, like Monopoly and Clue. And for something a little less brainy, checkers is always a good go-to.
  7. Get dessert to go from your favorite restaurant. You can save around $30–40 on date nights (and not have to pay a tip) just by making dinner at home and picking up dessert to go.
  8. Rent the newest release for a movie night at home. I know, it’s exciting to see the latest and greatest blockbuster on the big screen, but between tickets and snacks, the cost can add up real quick. You’ll save at least $30–40 by not going to the movies or hitting up the concession counter. Instead, rent that flick through Amazon Prime or YouTube and pick up snacks at the dollar store.
  9. Take a trip down memory lane. Get out old photos or family home movies and spend some time reminiscing.
  10. Plan a vacation you’re not taking (yet). Okay, I admit it. Sitting around with your laptop and planning a vacation that you have no intention of going on right now is actually a lot of fun. And who knows? If you keep saving money on dates, you could be taking that dream vacation sooner than you think.
  11. Make milkshakes, floats or fancy ice cream sundaes at home. Instead of going out and dropping $10–15 at your favorite ice cream shop, make your own treats 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 (and you’ll probably have extras, so you can do this again a different day).
  12. Binge-watch a new show. All right, maybe this sounds like a regular old Tuesday night at your house. But finally watching that show you’ve been meaning to catch can be a lot of fun. And if you watch it on one of the streaming services you already pay for, then it’s basically free! (But don’t forget the snacks!)

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 awkward. Here are 10 double-date ideas that won’t hurt your budget.

  1. Sing karaoke. Oh boy, talk about a date that takes you out of your comfort zone! Try singing a duet for a super fun (or at least super entertaining) date-night experience.
  2. Play miniature golf. Look for deals on coupon apps, like Groupon and LivingSocial, to save some money.
  3. Do a taste test. Pick up the same kind of food from three places to compare them. Think of small, inexpensive things, like cookies, cakes or brownies. Or do a blind taste test with flavored jellybeans.
  4. Go bowling. Try to find “beat the clock” nights. The earlier you bowl, the less you’ll pay.
  5. Rent canoes. It’s a great way to spend time in nature, squeeze in a little exercise, and get lost in a good conversation.
  6. Dress up and go out to eat on a value menu. Put on your best duds and get ready to dine like a (Burger) King and (Dairy) Queen.
  7. Go to a drive-in movie theater. Drive-ins are usually more affordable than a regular movie theater—plus, they sometimes have double features. You might even be able to pay one price for the whole carload!
  8. Eat ice cream in the park. Pick up a tub of ice cream, bowls and plastic spoons at the grocery store, then head to the park.
  9. Borrow or rent bikes to do some sight-seeing. The best way to see a city? Take a bike ride! You’ll get some exercise and fresh air, and you’ll cover more ground than you would if you were walking.
  10. Turn your double date into a challenge! 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! Try this out with your friends.

How to Save on Babysitting

Hopefully those ideas got you excited about some fun date nights. Just don’t forget: If you’re a parent, you’ll need someone to watch your children when you and your spouse head out for your super fun (and totally budget-friendly) date night.

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So, what’s a responsible, budget-conscious parent to do? I’ve got you covered.

Swap Babysitting With Friends

You want to go on a date, and so do your other parent friends! Listen, I adore my kids, but everybody wants—and deserves—a break now and then. Tell your friends you’ll watch their kids while they go out if they’ll do the same for you. You can swap babysitting services, still enjoy your dates, and get a babysitter for free. Talk about budget-friendly!

Ask Family

If you live near your family, you can count your babysitting blessings. Don’t abuse it, but don’t be afraid to use it! Call the grandparents and ask them if they can watch the kids this weekend while you and your spouse try out some cheap date ideas.

If you don’t live close to family, think about asking them for help when they come to town for a visit. Sure, you want to spend time with them, but there’s a good chance they’d enjoy some alone time with their grandkids. So why not let them play with the kids while you two head out for some bonding time? All you need is a few hours to test out your new and creative date ideas.

How to Budget for Your Cheap Date Ideas

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have memorable and fun date nights. Instead, you can learn how to enjoy the quality time and creativity that comes along with these cheap date ideas. Just add a date night budget line to your monthly budget and stick to it each month.

And if you need a budgeting tool, try out my favorite budgeting app, EveryDollar. It's free, so you can save your money for your cheap date nights. Download EveryDollar today and get ready for budget-friendly dates!

Rachel Cruze

About the author

Rachel Cruze

Rachel Cruze is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, financial expert, and host of The Rachel Cruze Show. Rachel writes and speaks on personal finances, budgeting, investing and money trends. As a co-host of The Ramsey Show, America’s second-largest talk radio show, Rachel reaches 18 million weekly listeners with her personal finance advice. She has appeared on Good Morning America and Fox News and has been featured in publications such as Time, Real Simple and Women’s Health magazines. Through her shows, books, syndicated columns and speaking events, Rachel shares fun, practical ways to take control of your money and create a life you love. Learn More.

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