Whether you’re planning a date with a new prospect or hoping to reconnect with your long term partner, money can’t buy you love. No, really, it can’t (because things are a little tight right now and you’ve got a rent check to write and the looming recession and…). Fortunately, there are quite a few budget-friendly ways to woo the object of your affection. Here, a roundup of the very best cheap date ideas for a romantic experience with no risk of buyer’s remorse.
42 Cheap Date Ideas (Because Love Don’t Cost a Thing)
1. Check Out a Comedy Night
Research, like this 2015 study published in Personal Relationships, has found that shared laughter can both ignite romance and keep the spark alive. Fortunately, you don’t have to spring for pricey tickets to a headlining act to enjoy the science-backed benefits of humor—just take your date to an open mic night at a comedy club so y’all can yuk it up without breaking the bank.
2. Hop on a Tandem Bicycle
Rent a tandem bike and take it for a spin around town with your boo to explore the local sites. You’ll both reap the rewards of an endorphin-boosting workout and, besides, a bicycle built for two is totally a recipe for romance. (Seriously, Nat King Cole says so.)
3. Go Out for a BYOB Dinner
Dinner at a restaurant is a classic and often prohibitively expensive date idea but hear us out: There’s a good chance you can cut the cost in half by finding a local BYOB joint. In fact, the restaurant industry marks up alcohol like nobody’s business (30 percent above retail cost, on average), so you might be surprised to discover that romantic ambiance and the luxury of someone else’s cooking is well within your budget if you bring an affordable bottle of vino from home (or skip the booze entirely).
4. See a Psychic
If you’re wondering where you and your sweetie will be in the next five years (and aren’t we all?), head to the local psychic for a glimpse into your future with your better half in tow. You’re guaranteed a fun date experience—provided you take the reading with a grain of salt, that is.
5. Try Indoor Rock Climbing
You don’t have to be a risk-taker to enjoy the thrill of scaling the wall at an indoor rock climbing gym. Your chosen company will see what you’re made of (and vice versa) and the resulting adrenaline rush will surely spice things up during the wind-down phase of the date.
6. Go Hiking
Head to a nearby nature preserve or state park for a hike. The combination of fresh air and exercise is a known mood-lifter, and the activity is conducive to conversation, too—just be sure to pack some snacks, ‘cause hanger is the enemy of romance.
7. Go to an Arcade
The friendly competition found in video games can really spice things up, but we suggest you pick a date-worthy venue for the entertainment. Take your SO to an arcade where you can get your game on in an atmosphere that’s decidedly livelier than your living room.
8. Go Thrifting Together
There’s room in every budget for a little thrifting, and a seriously fun shopping experience can be had at a used clothing store. Try on enough vintage looks and quirky get-ups together and you might end up taking home something you truly love.
9. Go to the Library
Is it just us, or do libraries make the perfect setting for a love story?
10. Craft Together
Team up with your SO and tackle a craft project together. You’ll both enjoy the creative activity and bonding time, and there’s nothing more rewarding than having made something yourself. (Psst…If you’re in need of inspiration, check out these adult crafts and DIY ideas.)
Research has shown that volunteering makes people happier; make a date of it and you’ll both benefit from the shared experience and the rush of feel-good hormones it brings.
12. Check Out a Museum
Take advantage of a free or donation-only day so you and your sweetie can soak up some culture on the cheap. (Most museums have them and sometimes there’s even wine!)
13. See a Drive-in Movie
Movie night at home hardly qualifies as a date and going to the movie theaters just means two hours spent not talking to each other. The solution? Head to a drive-in movie for a novel viewing experience that’s conducive to cuddling and conversation.
14. Make It a Trivia Night
Find a local bar that’s hosting a trivia night so you can impress each other with general knowledge whilst enjoying a frosty beer (i.e., the only expense you have to account for, since participation is typically free, and nobody will tell if you bring your own bar nuts).
15. Go to a Flea Market
Quirky handmade goods, rare records, precious heirlooms…you can find it all at a flea market. Bring a date to browse one with you and you’ll both learn a little bit more about each other’s interests and style.
16. Go Swimming
This one is decidedly more appealing during the warmer months, but swimming can be a fun activity for two at any time of year—provided you find a heated, indoor pool, that is.
17. Head to a Coffeehouse
Depending on where you live, you might not have to travel too far to find a cool cafe that serves up more than what’s on the drink menu (think: live music, movie nights, etc.). Bonus points for leaning into the 90s nostalgia by wearing your favorite plaid shirt and a pair of Doc Martens.
18. Check Out the Botanic Gardens
As with museums, many botanic gardens have pay-what-you-wish days…and what could be more romantic than time spent smelling the roses and admiring the foliage with a special someone?
19. Go Gallery Hopping
If schedules didn’t align for a free day at the museum, just go gallery hopping instead. In most cities, there’s no cover charge to browse art galleries—and if you’re lucky, they might even be serving free wine.
20. Binge-Watch a Show Together
To make this feel more like a date, as opposed to just an ordinary Sunday, we suggest changing out of sweats and serving food and drinks that fit the theme of the show. (The Watcher comes to mind as a candidate.)
21. Enjoy Dinner Al Fresco
There’s no need to cough up a considerable chunk of change at a restaurant just to enjoy dinner out. Instead, prepare a fancy meal at home and serve the spread outside (patio, backyard, etc.) for a dining experience that feels every bit as special, and even more intimate.
22. Go Roller Skating
Get ye to the roller rink (or local park) for a totally affordable—and possibly free, if you have your own skates—retro activity that basically guarantees hand-holding will take place.
23. Have a Bake-Off
Compete against your SO for the title of Star Baker on an at-home date that’s sure to heat things up and deliver some pretty sweet results.
24. Hit up Happy Hour
Shoot some pool, throw back a few cheap drinks and fill up on budget-friendly bar food. Yep, there are happy hour deals to be had at your local watering hole, so schedule your rendez-vous for the right time of day and cash in.
25. Play Some Mini-golf
Inexpensive and always fun, a round of putt-putt makes for an excellent afternoon date—provided your chosen company isn’t subpar, that is.
26. Go to the Batting Cages
You don’t need to be ready for the major leagues to enjoy time spent in the batting cages with your partner—namely because it’s the only place where you can strike out repeatedly and still have decent prospects for romance.
27. Take a Ferry Ride
Board a ferry with your date and you’ll both be treated to some fresh air and an undeniably romantic scenic ride at a modest public transit price.
28. Go to a Matinee
Movie tickets are annoyingly expensive, but if you opt for a matinee showing you and your date can cozy up at the theaters for a much better price (and even justify the overpriced bucket of deliciously buttery popcorn).
29. See Shakespeare in the Park
Shakespeare in the Park isn’t available everywhere, but if you’re lucky enough to live in a city that hosts the outdoor festival, you should absolutely take advantage of the opportunity to see a top-notch theatrical performance for free.
30. Go to a Bathhouse
Spend a few hours languishing in the wading pools, saunas and steam rooms of a local bathhouse with your SO and you’ll both enjoy a relaxing spa day for pennies on the dollar.
31. Have a Sunset Picnic
A picnic in the park is always pleasant, but a bottle of wine and a beautiful view of the sunset can up the romance factor tenfold.
32. Tour Model Homes
You might not be looking to buy at the moment, but there’s nothing stopping you from critiquing the decor of every model home in town—and with your better half in tow, we promise it’ll be a blast.
33. Go Stargazing
Take your date to a spot that’s free of light pollution, so you can appreciate the beauty of the night sky together. Just be sure to bring a blanket in case the ground beneath is damp, ‘cause a wet bum can seriously kill the mood.
34. Go to a Reading
Leave your phones at home and head to a local bookstore to catch a slam poetry performance, an impassioned delivery of an excerpt from someone’s memoir, or any spoken-word for that matter. (Hint: No matter what’s on the program, it’s guaranteed to be better than side-by-side scrolling of your Insta feeds.)
35. Tour a Brewery
For some 21+ fun, skip the dive bar and bring your date to a microbrewery instead, so you can learn about all things beer while enjoying some complimentary cold ones along the way.
36. Go Window Shopping
Take a trip to the fanciest shopping strip in town to look at all the pretty things and dream a little dream together. (No judgment if you drop a few hints while you’re at it.)
37. Visit a Sculpture Garden
Enjoy the outdoors while admiring works of art in the open air of a picturesque sculpture garden. From bronzes to plant sculptures and trippy sidewalk art, you’re sure to encounter some conversation starters on your stroll.
38. Take a Joyride
A carefree drive with no destination is oh-so romantic—especially if you collaborate on a playlist beforehand and, above all, steer clear of rush hour traffic.
39. Go to a Free Concert
In case you missed it, research has shown that listening to music releases feel-good chemicals in the brain that promote feelings of closeness. In other words, if you and your love interest share the same taste in music, a free concert is a foolproof and cost-effective way to connect.
40. Start a Scrapbook
Bond over shared memories from the honeymoon phase of your relationship with a hands-on activity that promises to spark creativity and bring back that loving feeling in the blink of an eye.
41. Visit the Beach
The calm and quiet of the beach during off-season is perfect for intimate conversation—just take a hard pass on anyone who lists such walks as a favorite activity on their dating profile, ‘cause their company might not be so stimulating.
42. Try a Food Truck
Take a stroll downtown with your SO and try a new food truck along the way for cheap eats and a casual dining experience that beats the stuffy atmosphere of a restaurant by far.