17 Budget-Friendly Date Ideas

Remember what dating looked like pre-pandemic? We thought nothing of heading to the movies or a theater production. Fancy dinner at an upscale restaurant? Check! Gifts of jewelry or long-stemmed roses? Sure! An overnight stay at a quaint B&B? We were living the dream!

These days, the price of everything has gone up, and this kind of dating is beyond what many of us can afford now.

But having a budget doesn’t mean hitting the pause button on your dating life. With a little creativity, there are great ways to date your special someone without money worries putting a damper on things.

Let’s redefine dating

When it comes to budget-friendly dating ideas, it helps to creatively reframe what a “date” looks like. I personally like to ask these four questions:

  • Are we spending time together?
  • Are we having fun?
  • Are we getting to know more about each other?
  • Are we creating memories?

For this post, I’ve compiled a list of low-cost or free date ideas that answer “yes” to all four questions. I’ve even grouped them by activity level and travel distance, so you and your significant other can find a budget-friendly date idea that appeals to you both!

Active and outdoorsy

1. Spend time enjoying Mother Nature

Go on a hike, walk a nature trail, or take a bike ride – the activity level is up to you. Head to nearby mountains, the beach, a state park, or nature preserve or some low-cost (or free!) fun.

Some cities even have park infrastructures with large green spaces, so you don’t necessarily have to travel far to spend time together in the outdoors.

2. Make it a day on the water

Whether you go swimming, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, or water skiing is up to you. Beaches, lakes, and rivers are beautiful places to visit, and some destinations offer water equipment rentals for reasonable rates.

Just don’t forget to put sunscreen on each other’s backs!

3. Get sporty

If you’re both competitive, challenge each other on the basketball court, mini-golf course, or paintball field. Or you can skip the competition and go ice skating or rollerblading together.

Do you both work out regularly? Head to the gym or go for a couples run!

4. U-pick fruit harvesting

Many farms and orchards offer u-pick options to visitors who want to score fresh, in-season produce. Berries, apples, peaches, and pumpkins are popular u-pick crops.

Just remember that some places charge quite a bit, so do your research ahead of time to find the best prices.

Urban explorers

5. Experience your city like tourists

How many of us live in tourist destination cities, but we’re too busy with normal life to see the iconic sights? Make a date to be tourists out on the town and avoid the spendy attractions. My husband and I like to explore art galleries and browse neighborhood shopping districts – and we’re always on the lookout for public art displays.

And don’t forget to take Instagram-worthy photos in front of well-known landmarks!

6. Take advantage of seasonal events

Plan to visit the local farmer’s markets, street fairs, and carnivals held throughout the year. During the warmer months, many cities offer free concerts or outdoor movie nights, ensuring there’s always something fun to do.

7. Look for low-cost or free admission days

Many zoos, museums, aquariums, and planetariums have days when admission costs are either reduced or free. The crowds tend to be large on those days, but the savings might be worth the extra company!

8. Attend a literary event

Whether you’re both bookworms or you appreciate a bookish atmosphere, attending a book signing or poetry reading can be a great way to spend an evening together.

You’ll often find literary events hosted at public libraries, independent bookstores, and coffee shops. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, you might even participate in a poetry slam!

9. Volunteer

Animal shelters, food pantries, and soup kitchens can always use extra hands. If you and your S.O. want to make a difference for certain causes, see if you can volunteer for a shift together at a local organization.

10. Try an iconic food

Is there a food your region is known for that one of you has never tried? Or something in your city that gets rave reviews that people are willing to stand in line for? Find out what the fuss is all about and share your impressions.

11. Learn together

Sign up for a class to learn something neither of you knows how to do. It might be salsa dancing, cooking, pottery, yoga, whatever. The point is to share a new experience together and make memories!


12. De-stress

Practicing self-care is a great way to relax and recharge together. Depending on what stage your relationship is at, your home spa session might include foot rubs, back massages, yoga, or a quiet 10-minute meditation. Plus, if you don’t want to splurge on expensive spa products or services, you can find recipes online and make your own.

13. The great (backyard) outdoors

Homeowners can take advantage of any backyard space by creating a cozy setup that’s perfect for a romantic evening. For example, you might spend a few hours stargazing, relaxing by a fire pit, or roasting marshmallows. You might even pitch a tent and set up your own DIY glamping experience at home!

14. Game night

Hosting a game night is always memorable, and when it’s just the two of you, it provides a great opportunity to create memories. Whether you decide on a game of Monopoly, trivia, or a PG-13 version of Twister is up to you!

15. Get artsy

Let your inner artists come out to play together. Check your local community college for low-cost art classes, attend a Paint & Sip, or buy your own supplies. There are loads of online ideas for arts and crafts projects, so you can take turns picking the next one!

16. Play home chef

Whether you’re already skilled in the kitchen or you’re both novices who want to learn, you can find countless cooking videos online that walk you through recipes step-by-step.

Cooking together comes with the added bonus of enjoying a romantic meal afterward!

17. Netflix and chill

It’s become a popular euphemism for a reason. Streaming a movie or binge-watching a popular TV series takes you on a journey together, and you never have to leave your couch. It took us getting snowed in, but I finally convinced my husband to watch the Harry Potter movies with me – and he liked them!

Start planning your next budget-friendly date

When you use imagination, the sky’s the limit for uncovering ways to enjoy each other’s company without straining finances.

Do you have a favorite budget-friendly dating idea? Share it with us on Facebook, Instagram, or X (Twitter)!

About the Author

Bree Ewers has contributed to Advance America since 2023. Writing from her home office in Portland, Oregon, she shares a relatable perspective on the financial triumphs and challenges many readers face.

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