50 Cheap Date Ideas

A lighter wallet is no excuse to turn date night into a luxury — check out these 50 budget-friendly date ideas.

By Diana Vilibert

July 21, 2011 4:27 PM
Share
couple sitting together overlooking field of snow
Digital Vision/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Get on thin ice. Depending on the weather, head to an indoor or outdoor ice-skating rink — it's the perfect excuse to hold hands, "accidentally" fall on top of each other, and grab a cup of hot chocolate and cozy up to each other to keep warm.

Can you believe they dated?
Look back at more than 15 years of celebrity couples!
dartboard
Chris Fertnig/iStock
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Skip the pricey wine bar and grab a few beers at your local dive bar. Make sure you pick a place with a pool table or dartboard set up, and challenge him to a few games. Loser owes the winner a song on the jukebox.
junk at a garage sale
Image Source/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

He may hate to shop, but he'll end up thanking you if you drag him to a flea market. There's something for everyone and plenty of things you never knew existed — you might even discover he has a hobby or weird collection you didn't know about!
couple getting massages
Jacob Wackerhausen/iStockphoto
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Settle in for a night of pampering: No pricey spa required. Use your empty wallets as an excuse to stay in — and up — all night. Run a bubble bath and then treat each other to full-body massages. Sleep in the next day.
iStockphoto
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Get an adrenaline rush at the roller-skating rink. As long as you don't mind being the oldest people there who aren't chaperoning their children, it's a great way to have fun and let loose with each other. Top it off with a bowl of ice cream when you get home.
Tim McCaig/iStockphoto
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Play house: Dress up in your most serious grownup outfit and leave your tiny apartment to visit some open houses. Spend the day arguing over where you would put the love seat, discussing the difference between eggshell and ecru paint, and giggling over strangers' hideous decorating choices.
Digital Vision/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Does he drive you up a wall sometimes? He probably feels the same way about you, so put on your sneakers and head to an indoor rock-climbing gym. Challenge him to a race to the top and relieve sore muscles with a hot shower together afterward. Just try not to gloat too much about beating him.
Digital Vision/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Celebrate the first snow of winter with a day of sledding. Pick a hilly spot in your town and use garbage can lids as makeshift sleds. Wear a bike helmet to up the dorky fun factor, and celebrate living through the experience with a cup of hot cocoa.
Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Spend the day picking fruit at a local farm, either one-on-one or with a few couples you know — the more the merrier. Once you've picked all the apples you can carry back to the car, get creative in the kitchen and think up some recipes with the fruit you picked. Judge each other's creations, Top Chef style.

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Plan a trip. You might need to save up for awhile, but that doesn't mean you can't daydream. Plan your dream vacation with each other — it might be the incentive you need to start putting your loose change in the piggy bank.
iStockphoto
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Challenge your guy to a little friendly competition and surprise him by taking him to a rifle range. After each round, compare your targets — loser buys the next round of bullets; winner gets gloating privileges.

50 Cheap Date Ideas

The easiest way to booze it up on the cheap? Take a tour of a winery or brewery, and pick up some wine facts for your next dinner party while getting tipsy.
Digital Vision/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Dying to see a musical or play but can't afford the tickets? Call around to see if you can buy tickets to the dress rehearsal instead — you'll pay a fraction of the price for the same experience.
Jim Lopes/iStock
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Spice up your movie-night routine by finding a drive-in movie theater. Stop at the supermarket on your way to load up on your favorite snacks, and bring blankets and pillows to make the car extra cozy. Let him pick the movie — you'll get points for being easygoing, even though you know you'll probably miss most of the movie.
Robert Kohlhuber/iStockphoto
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Wherever you live, chances are there are local bands dying for an audience. Check out MySpace for bands in your area and go to a show. Alternate with your guy on who gets to pick the band so that you both get a chance to enjoy your favorite music genres, and save cash on booze by bringing a flask.
Paul Bradbury/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Head to the bookstore and walk through the aisles together, showing each other your favorite books, bonding over the books you both hated, and flipping through a Kama Sutra book for ideas for later.
Spike Mafford/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Bowl him over at the bowling alley. Psych him out by reminding him of how many gross people wore his shoes before him, and don't forget to program his sugary-sweet nickname ("Muffin Face") onto the computerized scoreboard instead of his real name.
Tay Jnr/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Show him your rugged side and build something together. Ask him to help you build something like a coffee table or dresser for your place — he'll be psyched that you asked him, just as long as you can bite your tongue when the table he puts together falls apart the moment you set your cup of coffee down.
Digital Vision/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Appeal to his inner child (it shouldn't be too hard to tap into) and buy tickets for a carnival. Embrace the cheesiness — share cotton candy, let him try to win you a prize, and ride the Ferris wheel until you get nauseous. It's a great way to get to know each other if you've just started dating and will serve as a reminder of how much fun you can have together if you've been dating for awhile.

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Keep up on the specials. For a break on your dinner bill, check out sites like Restaurant.com for the restaurant deals in your area. And check out the websites of your favorite bars — they might have drink specials on certain nights, like a free pizza with every drink.

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Ask him about his fantasy cars and he'll probably talk your ear off. Head over to a local car dealership and test-drive the most expensive car they'll let you take out of the parking lot. Take turns at the wheel but resist the urge to nitpick each other's driving skills.
Mel Yates/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Indulge your sweet tooth with your sweetie — visit a chocolate or cookie factory. Do a quick Google search to see if there are any in your area and give one a call to see if it does tours. If it only does group tours, make it a group date and invite a few other couples.
Shaun Lowe/iStockphoto
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Get spooked at a haunted house. Check out Hauntedhouse.com for listings in your state. Start off the night by watching a scary movie before you go, and then try not to laugh when he launches a foot into the air at every corner.
G Studio/iStockphoto
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Get out those matching aprons and fire up the skillet for a night of cooking — for both of you. Learn how to cook each other's favorite meal and then do it together. Whether you end up with a delicious steak and tuna casserole for two or speed-dialing for Chinese takeout, you're guaranteed to enjoy the process.
Christopher Robbins/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Forget eating dinner parked in front of a Mad Men marathon until you and your boyfriend are tired of looking at each other. Invite another couple over that you don't know well for a potluck dinner. Ask them to bring the appetizer and dessert, and work on the main course with your guy. At least one of the dishes should come out edible, and you can bond with your new friends over your shared culinary failure.
Klaas Lingbeek Van Kranen/iStockphoto
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Tap into your animal instincts by visiting a petting zoo. Bring some bread to feed the animals and spend a few hours debating him on why getting a pet monkey is a bad idea. When you get home, jump in the shower with him to scrub off the zoo smell.

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Play 20 Questions. Whether you've been together for three weeks or three years, there are probably things you don't know about each other. Each of you should write down 20 questions about the other — make sure they're open-ended so you don't get boring one-word answers — and fire away. Take turns answering the questions and get to know each other a little better than you already do.
Alexey Tkachenko/iStockphoto
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Take a pottery class together and decorate your apartment in misshapen vases and funky-looking coffee mugs. Resist the urge to make your guy recreate the scene from Ghost every time you walk into class.
George Doyle/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Have pretentious conversations about art at a local show. You'll find them going on all year at community centers, schools, and libraries — you might even find a great piece of art to add to your home.
Christopher Robbins/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Take a hike. Spend the day hiking and taking pictures together. When you're ready to recover, add some extra romance to the evening — lie across the hood of the car and look at the stars.
Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

If you're tired of a quiet dinner at home disintegrating into chips and dip on the couch with no conversation between the two of you except for requests to change the channel, grab a blanket and some food and have an indoor picnic. The best part of staying inside? No ants in your food — plus, you're free to get busy right then and there.
Michele Westmorland/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Take a class together. Sign up to learn something neither of you knows how to do. Community schools generally offer a lot of options for classes you can take in eight-week sessions, from cooking to karate.
Manchan/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Put on your walking shoes and head to the museum. Almost all museums have one day a week where you can get in for free or for a small suggested donation. Pick the exhibits you each want to see beforehand, and spend some time at each of them together.
Digital Vision
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Celebrate something special with a trip to a bed and breakfast. A one-night stay in the colder months won't break the bank, so you can put that extra cash toward a room with a hot tub or breakfast in bed. If you're in for a long car ride, grab a book on tape from the local library.

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Look into the future: Go together for a psychic reading. Practice your poker faces and spend the rest of the night talking about how funny — or eerily accurate — the reading was.
Brian McClister/iStock
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Score major points and head to a baseball game with your guy. Tickets can be as cheap as $5 a person, but bring extra cash for some beer, hot dogs, and a giant foam finger.
Adam Taylor/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Check the theater offerings at local colleges and high schools. Schools usually have a spring and a fall show, and it's a great way to see a version of your favorite plays and musicals for a fraction of the cost.
Anthony Rosenberg/iStockphoto
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

One man's junk is another couple's treasure. Grab your guy and see what you can dig up at local garage sales. Up your chances of scoring something great by going to the ritziest neighborhood in your area.
Stockdisc/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Rent bikes — a tandem one, if you're adventurous — and go for a long ride through the park. Pack a few sandwiches and plenty of water for a picnic, or just grab hot dogs from a stand when you're ready for a break.

50 Cheap Date Ideas

See the stars without braving the cold by getting tickets to the planetarium. Sneak in a thin blanket and cozy up. For extra privacy, go during off-peak times — call ahead to see when those are.
Nick Daly/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Bummed that you can't afford a weeklong vacation with your man? Put things in perspective and volunteer together for a cause you both care about. TiVo Gossip Girl and sign up to work at a soup kitchen once a week, or cuddle up with lovable cats and dogs at your local animal shelter.

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Want some quiet time? Exercise your creative talents by drawing each other. All you need are two pieces of paper, some art supplies, and a bottle of wine for a quiet, romantic night in. Go as artistic or as fun as you wish.
Andersen Ross/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Get physical. Get free day passes to a gym whose membership you could never afford and have him spot you. Challenge him to a fitness competition, bribe him into taking a spin class with you, and take advantage of the gym's sauna or pool, if it has one.
Digital Vision/Getty Images
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

You can knit holiday sweaters like nobody's business. Your man is a Guitar Hero rock star. It's great to have separate hobbies, but it's also fun to share. Pick a weekend to teach each other your hobbies, and serenade him with a guitar solo while he knits you a pair of mittens.
A.L. 'WHITEY' SCHAFER/COLUMBIA/The Kobal Collection
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

While you're waiting for your Netflix delivery, stop at your local library and rent a few movies. Toss a coin to see whose pick you'll watch first, and promise not to interrupt with bored sighs, eye-rolling, or snoring sound effects during each other's choices.

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Travel back in time and reminisce. If you or your guy still live close to where you grew up, give each other a tour of your childhoods. Grab a camera and take pictures of your all-grown-up selves as you visit each landmark.

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Can't get away for a vacation? Sightsee in your own city. If you've lived in your area for a long time, chances are you never got around to seeing a lot of the tourist attractions. So grab your guy and pretend to be tourists for a weekend. Stop at a used bookstore or look online for travel guides for your city, put together an itinerary, and don't forget to take pictures!

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Grab a cup of coffee and check out a local coffee shop's open mic night. You might luck out with a great show, or you may find a mixed bag of angsty guitar solos and bad poetry — either way, you'll have something to talk (or laugh) about on the way home.

50 Cheap Date Ideas

You probably live within driving distance of a college or university. Log on to the school's website and check out the scheduled events — often, schools will open large events, like lectures and panels, to the public. Check back often — your guy's favorite movie director might be appearing at a screening at the school's drama department, or you might find a panel of your favorite authors speaking to the English majors.
Brent Holland/iStockphoto
Back Next

50 Cheap Date Ideas

Share a few laughs at a comedy club amateur night. Admission usually costs two drinks per person, and you're in for a hilarious night — whether you're laughing with the comedian or at him.
Restart Slideshow

Related Links