I've got some sexy, inexpensive date ideas — you know, the type of cheap, inexpensive date ideas that don't scream “cheap” to your date?
Most marriage and relationship experts suggest making date night a weekly ritual in order to keep the spark alive in your relationship, to encourage communication, as well as to continually add to your bond by remaining apart of each other’s current lives.
But going to dinner and the movies each week could easily add $100 to your monthly budget (with a babysitter), and most of the other traditional dating venues are just as expensive.
I’d like to offer some fun and inexpensive date ideas as alternatives that will help keep date night in your budget (in other words, money should not be the reason to ax date night with your partner or spouse — frugal dating is where it's at!).
What Can You Do for a Cheap Date Night?
I devoured stumbled upon an episode of The Bachelorette the other day. It was one of the hometown date nights, where the last remaining contestants get to go to the bachelorette's hometown to meet her family + get an idea of her history.
It got me thinking about how this type of date night is applicable to just about everyone (well, except if you both grew up in the same town together).
For example, my husband grew up in a town in Texas, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. There's ample opportunity for us to have some cheap + interesting date nights that will also reveal more about who we are and how we got that way.
Not only that, but it can make for some really cheap date nights (without skimping on meaning). Several of these are great cheap first date ideas, as well!
Let me give you guidance for how to kickoff your own hometown date night, just like they do on The Bachelorette (minus the whole weekly, mood-killing, voting-someone-off-the-show ordeal).
Hometown Date #1: Go through Old Photographs at Your Parents'
Paul's parents periodically host a family get together where they cook a delicious meal on a Sunday and everyone comes over for a few hours. One of these times, his parents pulled out old photo books. No one had ever seen these photos (at least not the spouses or kids), and so it was super fun to go through these memories and hear the brothers and their sister talk about the back story.
I even got to see a photo of Paul's infamous high school sweetheart, whom I've heard about but didn't have a visual on!
Your Turn: The next time you'll be in your hometown, call your parents ahead of time and ask them if they have any photo albums they can bring out to show your loved one. Chances are, they'll enjoy the memories as well. Videos? Even better.
Hometown Date #2: A Place You've Always Wanted to Go
Paul and I both have these places that we wanted to desperately go to as kids but either weren't allowed to or it cost too much. For me, it was Assateague Island near Ocean City Maryland (OCMD). We used to visit there every summer for a week, but never made it to see the ponies on the island. So when my sister got married last year in OCMD, I told Paul the story. He immediately agreed we had to have that on our short itinerary (we had flown in just for the weekend), and we made it happen!
For Paul, it was fully experiencing the annual Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. So last year we actually scored free packages for tickets, food, drinks, and rides and had such a wonderful time together.
Check, and check!
Your Turn: Share with your spouse (plus listen to them) about places or experiences you always wanted to do as a kid but weren't able to for whatever the reason. On your next hometown trip, make it a priority to experience this together. Your 10-year-old selves will get a kick.
Hometown Date #3: The Make-Out Place
You know…where all the couples used to go when you were in high school? Maybe you never actually got to experience this place yourself, so taking your loved one would be even more momentous in your mind.
Your Turn: Buffer in an extra 10-15 minutes onto the back of one of these other hometown dates to drive out to the make-out place. And, well, have some fun. You might want to bring back memories for some of your high school friends/acquaintances on Facebook by posting an update like, “took the husband to XXX Point.” Don't forget a winking emoticon.
Hometown Date #4: Your Alma Mater
Check out a game at your old high school, roam around the track, or do anything else that's allowed (you might have to get a visitor badge). You'll remember stories and people you haven't thought of in years, and can color in some history for your loved one. Even better if you received an award and it's still hanging up in a glass case somewhere!
Your Turn: Call your alma mater ahead of time and ask them if there's a way you can show your spouse around some of the grounds. Ask them what the procedures are, such as if you'll need a visitor's badge or to check in anywhere. If there's a strict policy against this, ask them when the next home game will be for a sports team and gain access that way.
Hometown Date #5: The Food Joint
Notice that didn't say “A Food Joint?” That's because we're not talking about A food joint. We're talking about THE food joint. For me, that's Harry's Hot Dogs. You can't come to my hometown and not eat one of these infamous dogs. Personally, I make it a cheese dog with everything on it but mustard. My sister likes hers with everything + extra sauce.
The fun thing is that now when Paul and I head home to PA, he doesn't consider it a trip without hitting this place up.
Some other goodies from my childhood that are very unique to the area I grew up in? Amish-made Whoopie Pies (I like the pumpkin flavored ones better than the original, which are chocolate), and/or Philly Cheese Steaks (we tried both Pat's and Geno's, and decided Pat's King of Steaks was for us) for my area in PA.
For my husband, one of the first times we came back to his hometown we went to eat at a Tex-Mex place called Mamasita's. It's what he thinks of when placing a taste for his hometown.
Your Turn: What is your hometown known for (food-wise)? If there's nothing major that comes to mind, think about where everyone goes to hang out to get out of the house (with food), then go there.
It doesn't matter which of the hometown dates you choose from above. The only thing that matters is that you learn more about one another through the experience. Oh yeah, and that you don't spend a ton of money doing so.
I mean, this site is called Frugal Confessions for a reason, right?
Pssst: looking for at home date night ideas for married couples? I've got 7 for you.
59 Cheap Date Ideas – What are Some Cheap Date Ideas?
Not heading to your hometown anytime soon?
No worries, I've got tons more cheap date ideas for you:
- Eat Dinner in Your Yard: After we got back from our 5-year anniversary trip to Cozumel, I realized something that was missing in our lives — eating outdoors. For my next date night (my husband and I switch on planning date nights each week), I cooked us some fish tacos, had a table set up outside, and lit a few tiki torches around it. Talk about setting the mood!
- Snacks on the Beach: I can't tell you how many times I've simply packed up a blanket, a cooler with a few snacks and drinks, and headed to the beach for an afternoon with my love!
- Complete an Escape Room, at Home: For a fraction of the cost of going to an Escape Room, you guys can solve one from a box. Here's an Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment to check out.
- Power Outage Date Night: The Dating Divas have come up with a really cool Power Outage Date Night (complete with free date night printables). Basically, lights and phones are OFF, romance is ON.
- Go Antiquing: Map out a cluster of antique shops and window shop on a Sunday afternoon. This is delightful!
- Search for Beer/Wine/Spirits Tasting: Find a vineyard, distributor, or restaurant that has wine or beer tasting, and you will be in for a treat. This sophisticated pastime typically is quite cheap, and even free in some cases. Create a memento by taking a pad of paper or journal with you so that you can keep track of the wines you taste and how you like them.
- Go to Free Zoo and Museum Days: Most zoos and museums have at least one day a month that is free of charge (it may be in the middle of the week, in which case you can meet one another straight from work). Take advantage of this day. Instead of trying to cram in the entire museum or zoo, focus on one wing at a time over several months/several free days.
- Listen to a Reading/Book Signing: Check out ads at your local library, coffee store, and bookstore to find out when a favorite author is in town. Ahead of time, read parts of one of their book out loud to one another (borrow from the library if you don't already own one).
- Pick Fruit from a Farm and Bake a Pie Together: Cooking classes are super trendy right now and a lot of fun for dates. However, they are super expensive! Instead, locate a farm to pick and purchase fruits together, and then take your bounty home to use in a recipe you've picked out ahead of time. For us, we pick strawberries together each year at a farm about 45 minutes away. Then, I bake my grandmother's Strawberry Shortcake recipe! The end result is wonderful, and the intimate time in the kitchen will be worth it.
- Meet at a Coffee or Tea Shop: On a rainy Saturday or lazy Sunday afternoon meet up with one another at a coffee/tea shop and order your favorites. You can print out free conversation starters for couples, read each other tidbits from your books and newspapers, listen to the Serial Podcast together (one earbud for each of you!), or even bring along a board game to play.
- Outdoor Movie: Many cities and towns sponsor outdoor movies for free. If this is not the case, locate an outdoor movie theater (hint: scroll down once you get to this website). Bring your own snacks, pop the seat back, and tune into a fun night. Or create your own outdoor movie night at home: a projector and some Hallmark Hall of Fame movies are a winning combination
- Dessert and Coffee: Who says you have to go out for dinner? Meet your partner for a piece of cheesecake, cupcake, or a shared ice-cream sundae and some coffee in the afternoon, or go out to your local cupcake boutique/cheesecake/chocolate factory after a homemade meal. Paul and I recently did this; we met each other after work at the Chocolate Bar, and had a magnificent piece of pumpkin cheesecake, followed by some great conversation.
- College Theater Productions: Don’t have the money to shell out for the theater or symphony? Try your local college or university. You can call the school directly, or look for flyers and pamphlets around campus.
- Witness Rare or Annual Migrations/Nestings: Whether it is the turtle nesting season in Florida/Texas, the bat migration, or the monarch migration, take the time to borrow some binoculars and experience these timeless acts in nature as a couple.
- Placard Walk Through History: Drive to the historic district of a nearby city or town, park, and grab a map from the local tourist place. Walk around the area locating placards and read them out loud. You will learn the historical significance of buildings, walkways, and moments in time that you normally would just drive past.
- Karaoke: True, there are not karaoke stations around every corner like in Japan, but you can certainly find them (bars sometimes host one karaoke night a month). This is a really fun activity, and certainly will help break down any barriers you may have.
- Movie Tourism: Find out if any movies have been filmed around the area where you live or even a few hours from where you live. Rent the movie and watch it as a prelude to finding the various locations on a walk/bike/car trip. Take turns taking pictures of one another as you act out the various scenes.
- Dollar Movie Theater: You will be watching older movies, but it beats watching them on your small television at home! Do a google search for “dollar movie theaters”; I found one right on Westheimer called Windchimes Dollar Cinema 8 where tickets are $1.50 each.
- S'Mores in the Backyard: For one of our date nights, I set up a nice sitting area around our outdoor fire pit with two chairs and a small plastic table. I put everything we needed for s'mores, and after our 1.5-year-old went to sleep, I invited my husband out for a fire and yummy dessert! That was inexpensive, and memorable.
- Graffiti Crawl: Lots of graffiti is ugly, and poorly executed. But you know what I recently found out? There's also lots of beautiful pieces of art-as-graffiti (such as here in Houston). Take the time to map out 4-5 different pieces of graffiti art to drive by, or get out and take some awesome photos together.
- Hike to Nature's Show: Do you live remotely close to a waterfall, ravine, canyon, river, or any other of nature's beauties? Take your partner on a hike to explore and discover the outdoor treasure together.
- Chase a Food Truck: Check out RoamingHunger.com, which pinpoints the specific food trucks that are coming to locations near you, and the times they'll be there.
- Teach Your Partner Stick Shift: One of my favorite dating memories was when a boyfriend of mine took me out on a (really) back road, and taught me how to drive stick shift.
- Spin Tales: Grab a box of story dice, and use them to create a story between the two of you. Careful — this can cause eruptions of giggles and snort-laughing! Great for coffee shop dates, cuddling up around a fire, or for some pillow talk.
- Attend a Free Intro Yoga Class: Lots of yoga studios have a 1 or 2-week free pass for people who are not members. Grab two of these, a pair of mats, and two towels and take a yoga class together. Turn this into an at-home yoga date with DoYogawithMe.com, or Yoga with Adriene videos.
- Donuts with Your Spouse: Surprise your spouse with a box of donuts at work in the afternoon, mid-morning, or even for lunch.
- Tour a Factory: There are hundreds of factory tours that are free or cheap, across the U.S. (use this site to find ones near you). You'll both learn something new, plus many give away free samples at the end.
- Spouse Speed Dating: The Dating Divas have set up a really fun date night for you both — speed dating your spouse. You'll definitely uncover details of each other's lives you didn't know before!
- Go for a Swing at Your Local Park: One of my most cherished memories of dating my spouse was when we weren't married. We were in Oklahoma together, and after dinner went for a walk down to the swings in the local park. Yes — we swung, and it was lovely! Not only that, but it had rained earlier, and there were tons of bullfrogs out croaking and hopping about. To this day, we call this our Bullfrog Walk and think on it fondly.
- Compete in Pub Trivia Night: Lots of pubs have trivia nights. It's free to participate in (you just pay for your drinks and any food you get). What fun you can have competing against other teams of couples!
- Tailgate at a Local High School's Football Game: It's MUCH cheaper to go to a high school football game, and you can even pack your own food and tailgate, if you'd like!
- Go on a Haunted Ghost Tour: Either buy a local ghost book, or get one out from the library. Make a map of at least 3 different locations you want to drive by or visit. Read the tales out loud on the way there.
- Go to the Gym for an Evening Session: Our gym offers 90 minutes of free babysitting, so you better believe every so often we take our little one, drop him off, and spend 90 minutes together working out, stretching, and talking. Sometimes, we just hang out at the cafe!
- Play at the Arcade: Does your local movie theater have an arcade section? Find an arcade area at another business — way cheaper than going to a barcade — and show up with $10 in quarters. Have at it!
- French-Fry-Sauce Tasting Contest: Each of you gets $15.00 to shop for ingredients to make the best french fry dipping sauce you can. Then, you taste test afterwards and vote on whose is the best! You never know — you could create a family-treasured recipe for generations to come.
- Pudding or Play Doh Pictionary: My husband and I played a round of pudding Pictionary with our 2-year old, and we also played a round of Play Doh Pictionary on a date night. Honestly, I laughed so hard during it that I snorted! Hadn't done that in years.
- Take a Ferry Ride: There's a ferry ride about an hour from Houston (also, you can take the free ship channel tour), and it's absolutely lovely. When I went on it last, we saw dolphins! Not to mention pelicans and lots of seagulls.
- Take a Church Couple's Class: We go to an amazing church, and one thing they offered married couples was a 6-week evening class to better your marriage. Not only did they offer childcare for it, but for just $25 for the full six weeks, we also got catered food! What an amazing opportunity that was (that also served for our date nights for six weeks in a row). Check out your own church for opportunities, as well as local churches.
- Write Down Your Couple's Story: Go to a local coffee shop one evening a week, several weeks in a row, to complete a couple's project — to write down your couple's story. Buy a beautiful diary for the occasion and a nice pen (acid-free would be best, so that this lasts the generations). How did the two of you meet? What were each of you first drawn to? What obstacles did you face in coming together and how did you get around them? Don't leave out the juicy details!
- Buy two Bingo Daubers and Go to Bingo Night: I hadn't gone to bingo night since I was a teenager…but I went just two years ago and I have to say, it was entertaining (psst: the people watching is pretty fun, as well)! You can get two bingo daubers and treat the two of you to some cheap concession stand foods.
- Go to a Revolving Sushi Bar: These are so cool — and the nice thing about them that helps with the cost? You pay by the sushi. So, you just pull off the sushi you want, eat them, and hang out together while watching a revolving sushi belt the rest of the time. Perfect date night!
- Babysit Someone Else's Kids, Together: I know, I know — on the surface, this doesn't seem like a cool date night. But if you DON'T have kids? It's actually really fun. Not only that, but you get to see your partner/spouse in an entirely different way. (Pssst: you're also doing all of us parents a service by helping a couple get some much-needed alone time together. Kudos to you!).
- Play HORSE at Your Local Outdoor Basketball Court: When was the last two you just shot some hoops? Play a round (or 10) or HORSE, and talk to each other.
- Go on a Bookstore Reading Date: Go to a bookstore (used or new, or even a library), find your absolute most cherished childhood bedtime story, and each of you take turns reading them to each other. Show the pictures (hint: you'll likely end up purchasing them because you forgot how great they really were!). For me, this was The Monster at the End of the Book, and Could Be Worse. My husband, Paul, had never heard of either of these!
- Become a Mall Rat: Well, for an evening, anyway. Things to do at a mall besides spend tons of money? For starters, many jewelry stores will actually shine your jewelry for free. Also, some malls have massage chairs that are $1/minute. You can get some food at the food court without spending a fortune, and walking around is always fun!
- Go to a Fancy Hotel's Happy Hour: Head into the city and hit up a hotel bar's happy hour. You'll likely get to drink and talk in the background of some really gorgeous decorations, or even on a river/bayou depending on location (at a reasonable price).
- Go to an Outdoor Market: Whenever we go to an outdoor market, we learn so much! About local produce, new foods that are available, new DIY projects, etc. It's fun to browse around, and we usually end up buying a few things as well. Fun to sample also — like cheeses and homemade lotions!
- Look for Local Film Festivals: We actually scored $20 tickets to see two movies sat a local film festival, PLUS, free s'mores bar social afterwards. Totally worth the night out!
- Head to a Chili Cook-Off: You can find some great cook-offs with reasonably priced tickets. It's a wonderful way to putz around together, eat samples to your heart's content, and get outside for an afternoon.
- Search for Opening Parties: If you can find an opening night or opening party for a restaurant/hotel/store/etc. then you might just score a fun night out for very cheap. These events are meant to get the word out about an establishment opening up, and to let potential future customers sample the goods. Search in your local area on Facebook or Google.
- Go Pokémon Go Hunting: Download the Pokémon Go app (for iPhone and for Android) on your smart phone. Head out with your partner for a long walk, and see how many Pokémon you can catch!
- Subscribe to a Date Box: Did you know there are date box subscriptions that cost between $7.99-$40.00+ that you can subscribe to? It's a once-a-month date night sent straight to your door, with everything you need to have spark some romance with your partner. My husband and I have personally reviewed several date box subscription services here.