30 Romantic and Affordable Date Night Ideas

Dating doesn’t need to be expensive, and our list of date ideas that don't break the bank will reassure you of that.

By Jennifer Prince

30 Romantic Affordable Date Night Ideas
Photo by Pexels

Whether you’re going on your first date or your hundredth, it’s important to make time for each other and go out every once in a while. Being able to talk, laugh, and spend time together is essential as you build and strengthen your relationship. However, the cost associated with going out to do something often can be draining on the budget — but it doesn’t have to be!

Planning a fun date can be simple and affords you and your partner the opportunity to get creative. Plus, with an upcoming wedding (or recently celebrated), making memories and not breaking the bank go hand in hand. Even better, any of these ideas make for the perfect experiences and cash funds to add to your registry!

So, if you’ve been wondering about inexpensive and free date ideas, follow along!

1. Try a New Food Truck

Hey, you have to eat anyway. Whether you go for Sunday brunch or Tuesday night dinner, plan to try somewhere new. Some cities even have food truck parks with multiple vendors to choose from, so you can each get something from a different vendor and share.

2. Go to the Farmers’ Market

Heading to the local farmers’ market is one of those fun date ideas that can turn into a second date. Scour the stands for ingredients to make a meal, and then plan a time to have an at-home date to cook and eat together.

3. Write Each Other Love Letters

Admittedly, this is a date idea for those together for a while. However, writing a love letter can be revealing and intimate. If you need ideas on how to begin, describe what you enjoy about each other and how you picture your future together.

4. Have a Book Club Session

Do you both enjoy reading? Choose a book, read it separately, and then come together to discuss it. Or you can read the book together, taking turns out loud. As a bonus, buy the books from a used site to save even more.

5. Visit an Animal Shelter

Cats or dogs? It doesn’t matter when you visit your local shelter. Either ask the shelter where they need help or simply go in and pay attention to the animals after checking in with the front desk. The furbabies will love the extra scrubs behind the ears.

6. Play Board Games

Plan on staying in for a game night. Challenge each other to something mind-bending like chess, or channel your inner child and play Life or Operation if you have those lying around. If you’re looking for simple date ideas, this is it!

john-benitez- zNgspEPHCI-unsplash Photo Credit // John Benitez

7. Build a Blanket Fort

It may seem crazy, but building a living room fort is a fabulous way to get cozy together. Gather all of the pillows and blankets you can find and watch a movie on your phone or have a picnic inside your newly constructed fort.

8. Attend a Karaoke Night

One of the best things about karaoke is that you can belt out your favorite tunes, and it doesn’t matter how you sound. Choose your favorite song and cheer each other on. You can even select a duet so you don’t have to go onstage alone.

9. Enjoy a Hike

Have you been asking about date ideas near me? Well, check out your local hiking trails or visit a state park. Choose a rigorous path up a mountain, or traverse a flatter, paved rails-to-trails system.

10. Go for Ice Cream

Heading out for ice cream is a fun way to eat dessert and chat for a while. Plus, it’s a spontaneous activity that you can do on a whim. However, you can also plan an ice cream night at your local handmade scoop shop.

11. Craft a DIY Project

Whether it’s for your wedding day or your new home, plan an inexpensive DIY project that you can do together. You can also turn a DIY night into a friendly competition to see who can make the best gingerbread house or fresh floral arrangement.

12. Walk Through a Botanical Garden

See if you have a local botanical garden that’s free, even if it’s on the smaller side. Community gardens are often nearby, especially if you live somewhere near New York City’s Central Park. Try and identify flowers and plants while you’re there.

jonas-denil-vHwWmuWgoRw-unsplash Photo Credit // Jonas Denil

13. Head to Happy Hour

Eating and drinking on a date can be pricey. So check with your local bars and restaurants to see if they have any happy hour specials. Often light bites and drinks are cheaper during this time, and you get to try something new.

14. Go Stargazing on a Clear Night

On a cloudless night, go to a local park, rooftop, or open space to look up at the stars. Stargazing is one of the most romantic date ideas. Additionally, download an app or borrow a book so you can identify constellations in the sky.

15. Build Ice Cream Sundaes

If you don’t feel like going out for ice cream, stay in. Get fixings for ice cream sundaes, and make your own at home. See who can make the prettiest creation or build a sundae for two. Or see if you can make one for each other and guess what the other would want.

16. Go People Watching

Human beings are so interesting! From how folks express themselves through fashion or their mannerisms, people-watching is a fun (and free!) way to spend your time. Whether you live in NYC or in a small town, there are people to see.

17. Laugh at a Comedy Club

Deep chuckles are good for the soul — and your relationship! See if there are any free or inexpensive comedy shows nearby and laugh at the comedian’s jokes. Afterward, discuss which parts you found funniest.

18. Play Video Games

Even if you aren’t into gaming, your partner may be. Offer to learn an easy game and play at home. This is also a great date night idea if you both love gaming and have to be apart, as you can play together online.

19. Try a New Coffee Shop

You may already have a favorite place to get morning brews but try to go somewhere different instead. Try your staple drink, or be adventurous and try a specialty latte. Who knows? You may even find a new coffeehouse to patronize regularly.

toa-heftiba-6bKpHAun4d8-unsplash Photo Credit // Toa Heftiba

20. Go Window Shopping

Gazing at shop displays is one of those cute date ideas that doesn’t have to cost a penny. Walk along your main street area or the local shopping mall and talk about what you’d buy if you could.

21. Attend a Live Music Night

See if any local bands are putting on a complimentary show or if any artists are playing for free at a coffee shop or park. Snuggle as you listen to tunes and familiarize yourself with new music.

22. Take a Trip Down Memory Lane

Did you grow up together and still live near home? Drive by your old high school or the house where you grew up. Talk about things you’ve learned since those early days, or tell stories from your youth.

23. Play Mini Golf

Are you still asking what are date activities near me? Try miniature golf, which is one of the most popular cheap date ideas. See if you have a course near you or plan a day trip to visit a town nearby to play.

24. Binge Watch During Movie Night

If you and your partner have a favorite movie genre, skip the movie theaters and drive-in movies and stay in. Either select films from a streaming service like Netflix or get out the DVD player for nostalgia’s sake.

25. Plan a Double Date

Grab your best couple friends and go on a double date, which will be twice the fun! Let each couple plan part of the activity and then split the costs. Whether you go out to eat or stay in and play games, this is one of the best cheap date ideas.

26. Skate at Your Local Rink

Go roller skating — or ice skating if the season is right — and spend time perfecting your technique. Hold hands or the side of the rink if needed, and prepare for special memories with your significant other.

27. Have a Picnic

Make a charcuterie board or simply grab dinner to-go and head to a lovely spot for a picnic. Turn this into a year-round activity by planning a winter picnic indoors or on a rooftop under the stars.

nicole-herrero-rWWLpxSefp8-unsplash Photo Credit // Nicole Herrero

28. Explore on a Bike Ride

If you don’t have bikes, your city may have rentals or a bike share program. Find out where the best trails are — flat or mountain, depending on your skill level — and exercise while having a great time.

29. Borrow a Kayak

Even if you don’t own kayaks, you may be able to rent them inexpensively or borrow a set. Head to a local lake for a leisurely time of exploration, or float down the river on a sunny day.

30. Listen to a Podcast

Do you have a favorite podcast that you both listen to or have you heard a great episode you want your partner to experience? Go for a drive, or snuggle up on the couch and listen to it.

No matter what you decide to do, spending time together is essential for relationships. Let Zola’s ideas encourage you to plan dates that don’t have to cost a lot or cause stress on your finances and have fun while doing so.

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