15 Date Night Ideas That Don’t Break the Bank!

15 Date Night Ideas

When Michael and I first started out, money didn’t come easy. He wasn’t earning all that much at the time, and I was picking up jobs here and there. The budget was tight with little room to maneuver. If I remember correctly, our spending allowance (after bills, groceries, mortgage, tithes, and car payment) was about $10.00 each–possibly $20.00 at the most. Divide that by 7 days and we had about 2-3 dollars of spending money each day.

A woman at work approached me about buying raffle tickets that her boyfriend was selling. “They’re only $3.00 each,” she said, like it was nothing to her, “and it’s for a good cause.”

Whether the cause was good or it wasn’t, $3.00 was too costly to me. It seemed like everywhere we turned people were asking for $3.00 here and $4.00 there. I had to say no, because I couldn’t afford it.

She didn’t take that well. I know because she brought it up again about three months later, reminding me how I didn’t support her boyfriend like I should have.

As difficult as it was, I’m grateful for that time in my life because I understand what it’s like to pinch pennies. I saved up loose change for months hoping to buy a new sheet set at Walmart. I counted out 75 pennies for bus fare because I didn’t have any quarters to spare. I cut my own bangs (quite badly I’ll add) because I couldn’t afford a new hair cut. Times were tough, but they were good!

And so for those who are on a tight budget, and others who prefer to save than to spend I’d like to offer you fifteen date night (or day) ideas that won’t break the bank. Some of these are weather depending of course, but here’s the good news: spring is just around the corner!ย 

1. Go on a picnic. Take dinner outside in the spring. Grab a blanket, pack up your dinner and head out to the park.

2. Play restaurant with another couple. Plan ahead with a friend and swap favors. Make dinner for a couple you know and serve them by candlelight. Make it a special night for them. Then have your friends take their turn the next week.

3. Drive out to the lake. Hop in the car after dinner and drive out to the lake for an evening. Walk hand in hand on the beach. Experience the beauty of a dark starry night.

4. Go to a carnival.ย Share a bag of popcorn, hop on a couple of rides and and enjoy each others company! This can be pricey if you don’t watch how you spend, but it can be affordable if you’re simply grabbing an ice cream and taking in one ride or two.

5. Play a Board Game.ย If you buy a new board game, it’s a one time purchase that might cost you a bit the first time, but you’ll have it for years to come. One idea a reader shared is checking out thrift stores for games, but make sure you check inside the box for the pieces. ๐Ÿ™‚

6. Go out for dessert. You don’t have to go out for dinner in order to have a night out–unless you want to of course. You can enjoy each others company at a coffee shop enjoying a tea and dessert for a fraction of the cost.

7. Browse a used bookstore. Spend an hour at a used bookstore, then take your books to the park and relax–together.

8. Go see a great speaker. People are always coming through town to speak at this church or that one. Keep an eye out for them and attend when you can.

9. Relax by the fire. Depending on the weather, you can either get cozy inside with a cup of hot chocolate or enjoy a bonfire outside.

10. Go bowling. This can be an affordable way to spend a night out. It’s actually a lot of fun, especially if you double date with some friends. Call and ask about specials. We have $6.00 nights and $10.00 nights!

11. Drive about 15 minutes out of town to star gaze. We’ve done this a few times, and it’s always a night to remember. We go just far enough to where the lights of the city are dim so we can see the stars at their brightest. This is especially awesome during a meteor shower!

12. Watch fireworks. Go early enough so that you get a great spot. We try to get right under them if we can, but it means getting our spot about two hours before they start. It’s definitely worth the extra effort we take.

13. Walk in the forest. Enjoy a walk hand-in-hand through the riverbanks. This is a peaceful way to enjoy each others company.

14. Get Cooking. Plan a menu and cook something together. Try a new recipe that you haven’t cooked before.

15. Sing like a star.ย If you have a Playstation, you might want to try a night of SingStar. It’s competitive Karaoke, and it’s fun! If you don’t have a Playstation, you can still sing like a star with an old Karaoke machine or an acoustic guitar.


You are loved by an almighty God,

Darlene Schacht


  • Lori Alexander

    My daughter just got married a month ago and they are going to have a rough time financially for the next six years as her husband goes to dental and ortho school. Thankfully, they don’t mind living simple lives. Their favorite thing to do is have couples over and play card and board games. They love shooting baskets and being outside. I think the simple pleasures of life are the better ones any ways! And, don’t we all start out struggling financially when we first get married!

    • Darlene Schacht

      Yeah, just trying to buy your first house is a huge investment. And things like school, is yet another. They sound like a cute couple! We used to play a lot of cards with other couples back in the day.

  • Teresa Arsenault

    Great ideas. I’ve got a couple more.

    Go to the mall or a card shop; browse the romantic cards; pick one for your spouse and give it to him. Read your cards in the store; thank each other for the lovely thoughts and put the cards back; leave the store with the money still in your pockets.

    And our personal favorite: Buy two packages of Love Hearts candies, one for each of you. Go for a walk, talking about your plans and dreams for the future or reminiscing about your first dates. When you come across a candy with a message you want to convey, give it to your spouse. This is very romantic, fun and costs less than a dollar.

  • brandi

    Having a very tight budget early in our marriage, and 4 children- we had a tough time finding date ideas that were fun and cost efficient – we are also athletically inclined and things like “eating dinner” which we did together all the time didn’t seem like a good use of precious time or money. One of our favorite activities was to participate in free volleyball gym time our church would host every other week- if your church does not have that type of thing- some community centers or township gyms offer those types of programs– its a fun and healthy way to do something different with your spouse!

  • Sharron Hagen

    Love these ideas, now that some of our kiddos are old enough to stay with the younger ones, we can do many of these activities! We don’t have family close by, and few friends that are brave enough to handle seven children. We spent the first 10 years trying to stay up after the children went to bed and getting evening chores done just to talk to each other, about anything!

  • Brittany pruitt

    One of our favorite things to do… when the kids go to bed, we throw an air mattress in the bed of our truck with pillows and blankets, enjoy the night sky, cuddle and laugh and dream about the future… The kids are safe, we’re alone, and the with the right weather, it’s pretty magical!

  • Sunshine

    Bowling is not cheap (just cost us $40) and neither is going to a carnival if you want to ride the rides. the rest of these ideas are great though!!

    • Darlene Schacht

      That does seem pricey. I checked with our bowling alley today because you got me thinking… We can bowl for two hours for $6.00 if we go at 4-6 and if we go later – 8:30-11pm it’s $10.00 ea. including shoe rental. Those are weekday specials.

  • Denise Parris

    When we first got married my husband and I were on a very tight budget. We have done just about everyone of these things as a date night. Believe me, they were the best times of our lives. The simpleness of just going down to the waterfront and walking along the beach and watching the sunset was so romantic. I really miss those days! Time to rekindle the romance! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mary Sacher

    My husband and I have been married a bit over 25 years now. We are far better off than when we were first married…but we still refer to ourselves as “poor but happy”. We have never had cable, dish, etc, nor have we ever taken more than one small vacation a year. We eat out rarely and then our treat might be a take-and bake pizza. Our frugal lifestyle helped us pay off our house 15 years early. Our cheap date nights were always of the sort you mentioned. We also played A LOT!!! of Uno and other card games.
    When netflix came along we were overjoyed; although we have gotten rid of the TV totally and don’t miss it a lick. We spend time in the barn [we farm on a small scale ] enjoying the fruits of our labor, sitting in a lawn chair watching the birds or just the sky. Young couples have a hard time – we did – but you have to focus on each other and your marriage; remove all influences that will lead to excessive spending. And if that means some people than you have to be strong and do that too

  • Chuck McKnight

    Great list! My wife and I enjoy many of these things.

    Regarding #5, we love board games, but we like to save money on their upfront cost as well. Thrift stores often have a large selection of board games for around $4 each, and they’re a great way to discover some fun but lesser-known games.

    The one caveat with thrift store gaming is that you’ll want to open the box and count the pieces. It’s pretty disappointing to buy a game, take it home, read the instructions, and get it all set up, only then to find out that something is missing.

  • Nina Yahnke

    Let me start by saying that I love your articles! I especially loved this one. My husband and I have been married almost two years and it’s been difficult. We saved on wedding costs by eloping and then throwing a potluck reception at our church. We had many dates where we just went grocery shopping, the occasional movie, the dollar menu, and gift cards I’d won on quibids. However, some of our most memorable dates were when we packed a cooler for a picnic, went to the lake and fished. Other times, we would just walk through flower gardens. Money has been tight for us from the start, I had just recently been healed of cervical cancer, so I have a lot of medical debt. My husband is a welder who was getting laid off every winter. To top it off, we felt the call of missions so we went to Honduras for a short term mission and helped kids at an orphanage. We might not have much, but they have even less. We spent about $20 american and bought a HUGE pinata and candy that would have been over $90 here. When you have little, you notice there are others even less fortunate than you. I’m sorry my comment is all over the place! Thanks for your great articles!

  • Demaroge

    Thrift stores are great places to find board games and other interesting activities; especially if you use a little imagination. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Elissa P

    My husband and I have been married for over 11 years and our favorite ‘date night’ chose is to watch old reruns of movies and go sightseeing with the children Saturday afternoons.

    Thank you for your list and I will have to try a few of them.

    Peace to you.

  • Tricia Pitts

    We have 4 children ages 13-21, three of them are boys so money is always tight. One of our favorite date nights is to go out to eat- sharing a meal. Then heading to the park and watching a movie on our phone with Netflix. Or renting a red box movie, spreading out a blanket and watching the movie with the lap top.

  • John Cosgrove

    Darlene, one of the highlights of burning time is to be productive, handing out gospel tracts at the mall or anywhere you interact with people always reaps great rewards and blessings. Redeem the time

  • Lisa Webb

    These are wonderful! I do agree about the carnival too. We went to a local fair in July and the rides were $5+ a pop, games were at least $3 and popcorn was $4. A couple more that I can think of. 1. Go to a restaurant that has half price appetizers after 9pm or during a special time, split two of them, get water and enjoy. 2. Go on a hike! There are many places that you can go for an hour hike! 3. Go play putt-putt. 4. Go to an animal exhibit or the zoo. Some of those can be costly, but some, even petting zoos, can be only a few dollars. 5. Go for a walk downtown, or even for a downtown crawl. Sometimes they will have free music, you can peruse the store windows, talk, hold hands and listen to the bands. 6. Learn something together. A lot of times the local library will have beginner art classes, computer classes, etc. You can sign up and go together and learn something! 7. Learn a language together. My local library has access to a free website that has 100 lessons for over 50 different languages. That way, you can begin to speak simple phrases that only yall understand. Kind of like a love language ๐Ÿ™‚ 8. Serve together. Me and my husband serve at the local homeless shelter through our church, and I cannot tell you what a blessing it is to serve with the one you love! Hope those help!

  • Chris Brown

    My husband and I have always loved to attend “free or low cost” events around town. Where we live, there are concerts in parks, churches, and at the newer outdoor shopping malls. We have been to art/flower shows at a local cathedral, opening ceremonies for the baseball College World Series (ok we live in Omaha), parades, fairs, high school plays,& farmers markets. Watch your local paper, check your community websites & local news, for things to do. Then occasionally we will splurge and buy a little something at the free events such as a drink, popcorn, etc, but many of these you are able to carry your own water bottle or snacks. Have fun and explore where you live! (ps we also keep an eye open for things in the surrounding small towns, it is worth an hour drive for summer festivals, inexpensive rodeos, street dances, concerts, etc) Enjoy!

  • Janet

    I enjoy cooking and baking for my hubby so a special date night for us is at home. After dessert we pick a show from ON Demand within our cable features and cuddle up together. It is a wonderful and comfortable evening. All of our children as this time are out of the home permanently or at college so that makes it quite easy to really enjoy a quiet date night at home ๐Ÿ™‚ One of the many perks of being empty-nesters. We love it!!

  • Ruth

    One of the things my sweetie and I do is walk around the local flea market. It costs us $2 to get our car in. After that it is nothing. We poke around the different booths. We laugh at the 80s clothes and wonder if we ever wore that. We share memories about childhood when we find a vintage kitchen tool.
    It is especially nice in the winter when it is too cold to be outside.

  • Michelle

    My now-husband and I were friends before we dated. After our first date, I was ready to tell him that I didn’t I didn’t want to move forward in a romantic fashion, but just as friends. I called him to see if we could meet somewhere to “talk”. He asked to meet me at Barnes & Noble and when I arrived, he told me to spend 15 minutes picking out 3 books, each of which would relate (in subject, cover photo, title, or some other way) to something about me that he did not yet know. After 15 minutes apart we met in the bookstore coffee shop and over hot chocolate we took turns showing the books we picked and sharing things about ourselves with each other that the other did not yet know. (we then returned the books to the shelves) We talked forever and, that night, he won me over forever. It is still the best (and probably the cheapest) date we have ever been on. We now constantly talk about how we should try it again (and how hard it would be to come up with 3 things the other doesn’t know about us, now that we are married). Maybe next months’ “date night” will be back to Barnes & Noble.

    • Tina

      That’s so cute, I love that story. Especially because when my husband & I were dating Barnes & Noble was our favorite date place. We used to look at all the travel books & talk about places we would want to visit or devour the home books and discuss what we want in our house, etc. Once in a while we would buy a coffee but that’s about it. We would literally spend hours there without spending a dime.

  • Debbie

    My parents were very cute together and broke when we were children. 3 kids by the 4th wedding anniversary! Since getting out without out us was a major obstacle, they would make dinner, pack it up and take us all to the drive-inn (1 flat cost per car), put out a blanket next to the car for us kids to lay on, eat and watch the movie and they would sit in the car and have a “date”. LOL Some of my favorite memories growing up. We watched airplanes take off a lot too with a picnic meal.

  • Cliff Mominee

    One way that our family has saved money is to buy a family membership at our local zoo. The initial cost was $50 for a year long pass, but that is free admission for as many visits as we want. Our daughter loves it, and it is great exercise (our zoo is very hilly). They have great events at the zoo that are free (Boo at the Zoo on Halloween and Christmas Lights among many others) and we get discounts on other events like summer camps for our daughter (she got to feed a pet monkey and hold an alligator and the new Red Panda). Educational, fun, and lasting memories.

  • shaina

    Got a few things with some of these ideas, first if we are tight on money why would I drive and waste my gas.

  • KW

    One of my favorite date night memories with my husband is when i made our dining room look like Italy by using a red sheet as a table cloth, candle light, hand written menu, tirimisu And some sort of italian food. We had a great night at no extra cost ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for reminding me of This great night Darlene!

  • Brian

    Love the fresh ideas. My wife and I have enjoyed many of these ideas in our first few years together. One we love not in this list is what we call a “Lowe’s date”. Basically we go to Lowe’s and pick styles, colors and materials for all the things we would eventually like in our dream house(ie flooring, cabinets, appliances, roofing). We also do this with furniture stores.