10 Ideas for Cheap Date Nights that Don’t Feel Cheap

by | Jan 29, 2019 | Marriage, Uncategorized | 21 comments

Cheap and Easy date Night Ideas

How do you plan a great date night when you’re on a tight budget?

Marriage comes in stages, and for many people there is a long stage where money is tight. But that doesn’t mean you stop having fun together–not at all! Today it’s Rebecca and Joanna on the blog, two millennials still in that starting-out phase of life to chime in with some of their favorite cheap date night ideas.

Let’s go!


This post is brought to you by Hive, an awesome board game we love and are thrilled to be partnered with! All opinions are our own. Enjoy!


Ideas to help you strengthen your friendship

Date night is meant to bring you closer together! So let’s look at a few ideas that will help your friendship grow without breaking the bank!

1. Bring a board game to a pub or games loft

See if there are restaurants, pubs, or games lofts where you can bring one of your favorite games and enjoy with a cup of coffee or an appy to share.

Sheila and Keith have done this a number of times recently, specifically with the game Hive. Hive is sponsoring this post, and we absolutely love their game so here’s a quick run-down of what it’s all about.

Playing Hive for 2 Players at Local Pub Night

Sheila and Keith playing Hive at a local pub night

In the basic Hive game, you have 5 types of pieces:
  • The Queen Bee, who can move one space;
  • Beetles, who can move one space, but who can ALSO climb on top of other pieces
  • Spiders, who can move exactly three;
  • Grasshoppers, who can jump over any number of pieces in a straight line;
  • And ants, who can travel around the outside of the hive and go anywhere.

Hive Game for 2 Players: How the pieces move

It’s like chess, and easy to pick up on! If you want to get a more in-depth review, check out the post Sheila did on the Hive game here.

2. Explore nature

When Joanna and her husband go on a date, they’re usually going on a hike. It’s free to do, you can pack some snacks and even some hot drinks in a thermos if it’s cold. It’s great to escape from the hustle of everyday life and just enjoy some time in the outdoors. Many cities have free architecture walking tour guides available, if that’s your jam. There’s also always a nature hike. When we (Joanna and Josiah) lived in Saskatoon, we would walk through our favorite neighborhood and dream about the home we’d want to own someday. Dreaming together made making conversation with my introverted husband easier.

3. Get active!

Grab a basketball and play some one-on-one in a local basketball court. Or grab some tennis rackets and play tennis! But go outside, breathe the fresh air, and have some fun for no cost at all (or minimal if you have to pay to use the court!) Have a competition at a local playground to see who can traverse obstacles the fastest and then recreate your playground kid days by checking out the swing situation. We (Joanna and Josiah) have done this on a number of occasions and it’s always a lot of ridiculous fun.

4. Recreate special memories

Take a walk by the river beside the restaurant of your first date. Do you live in the city where you got married? Take a picnic to where you took your wedding pictures! Bonus marks if you recreate some of them.

Look back on what has special meaning to your story, and revisit those times or places. Pull out photo albums, go through journals you kept when you were first getting to know each other, something to help you go through memory lane and stir up that feeling of nostalgia.

Food-related ideas

But what if you really do want to go out to eat? It’s a treat to go out to eat and it’s really fun to have food you wouldn’t make if you were at home.

5. Get the best you can with the budget you have

Often our approach to a low-budget date is to get the MOST we can with the limited funds we have. Have $35 for dinner? We go to a mid-tier restaurant to get huge portion sizes of food that’s a 3 out of 5.

What Connor and I (Rebecca) enjoy doing, though, is often figuring out, “What’s the BEST we can get with that $35?” We have a cheap meal at home but then maybe go for gourmet coffee and French baked goods at a store around the corner. Often we don’t even use the whole budget, but we feel like we’ve gotten more out of it.

I believe there’s something to be said for quality over quantity when it comes to food. Often date nights revolve around eating, so why not make eating an experience? If you’re willing to make something cheap at home you can often find something amazing to share that takes your date night from feeling on a budget to quite extravagant, even if you spend less money in the end!

6. Check out the restaurants in ethnic neighborhoods in your city

Want a date night with amazing food and atmosphere? Look for restaurants that are really authentic. They’re often cheaper than your mainstream options, and they have better food, too! Plus, these restaurants are often owned by local families instead of larger chains, so you’re supporting your neighbors at the same time–it’s a win-win!

One of the reasons date night gets bland is that we stop pushing ourselves or trying new things. We settle into a comfortable routine. So try some new places, some new types of food, and see what you like!

7. Go for appetizers or dessert instead of dinner

Dinner is expensive. So why not just have it at home? Instead, go somewhere and get some great appetizers to share, and then go home for dinner! Or have your dinner and then go out for that amazing cheesecake you just can’t rationalize getting after you’ve just bought a whole meal.

You get the same atmosphere, you still get out of the house, but it’s much more budget friendly.

Cheap and Easy Budget Friendly Date Night Ideas

8. Try breakfast or brunch instead

Skip the Friday night dinner for a Saturday morning brunch! The food is great, the prices are half of what the dinner menu is, and you get to start your weekend off on the right foot by having some fun together. I (Joanna) love going out for breakfast – and it’s a really nice way to start a Saturday morning intentionally. Plus, I figure I wasn’t going to make Eggs Benedict at home, so I’m still getting something out of the ordinary.

Some ideas to help you grow together

Date night doesn’t just need to mean you go out to eat. It’s about connecting; doing something together. Here are some ideas of ways you can spend quality time together in ways that can also nourish your spirit.

9. Babysit for a friend together

Pet-sitting counts, too! Joanna and Josiah are wonderful and will take care of Connor and my dog, Winston, when we need them to in a pinch. They get to laugh at their daughter lunging after the tiny dog, they get outside to go for walks, and also can know that they’re helping out a friend together! (Joanna here – our baby LOVES Winston so it’s a total win for us too! Though when we lived on a farm poor Winston was nearly scared to death by a horse and then tried to out-macho an alpaca… the little guy is still recovering.)

Connor and I love babysitting our little God-daughter together. There’s something really special about working together to make another person’s life easier, even if it just means taking care of a toddler for an evening or two!

If you and your spouse are looking to have kids in the future but haven’t yet, I cannot recommend this “date night” enough! It starts some really important conversations, you get to see the other taking care of a child, and you start to be able to picture yourself as a parent. It’s a really wonderful experience.

(And of course, if you want to get a pet, these kinds of pet-sitting date nights can really help you figure out if it’s actually something you want!)

10. Plan a great scavenger date night with friends!

Date night doesn’t just need to be about you and your spouse–it can also be about pouring into another friend’s marriage. We love the photo scavenger date night idea, and how much more fun if you make it a competition between the couples? Or make it women versus men, maybe! Then end with a picnic or a potluck and see who won!

Your marriage is important, and it’s so important to take time to make it a priority. And if you can use that time to also feed into a friend’s marriage, that’s even better.

What are some of your favorite cheap date night ideas? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear your tips!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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21 Comments

  1. Becky

    There’s some great ideas here! Most of the time these days, our “date night” is playing a board game at home, since we do have young kids. We’re fortunate to have willing free babysitters in local grandparents, but since the closest pair is still a 25 minute drive from us, it takes a little more planning! The breakfast date sounds fun, though, I love breakfast food!

    Reply
  2. Prov. 5:18-19

    We sure often split a meal. Not only do we save money, we are less stuffed and more comfortable for other activities later. We’re moved shot to be able to split a dessert as well. Just be sure to tip a if you’d bought 2 meals. It’s not thier fault your eating in the cheap. And it’s just as much work, if not more, for them.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great ideas!

      Reply
  3. LaToya

    Free dance classes. I recently called a local dance studio to see if they had ballroom dancing. To my surprise I was able to get 4 free classes for hubby and I.

    We can’t afford to keep paying for private lessons right now plus hubby hates dancing but we have a few fun, free date nights.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love that!

      Reply
  4. L

    We sometimes take in free outdoor concerts in summer.
    Similar to going for a walk, we go for drives in our area. We grab some cheap drinks and look at houses, fall colors or Christmas lights etc

    Reply
  5. Emily

    These are great ideas when you don’t have little kids in the picture! Now our kids are bigger, we can leave the older ones in charge – we even went away overnight without a sitter! (oldest is 18) – but when they were little the biggest obstacle to date night was the cost of babysitting.

    I love the “trade off with friends for childcare” idea.

    The other thing that worked for us when we were in the middle of the “crazy years” was to feed the kids, put them to bed, and then have “date night at home”. Candles, maybe wine, often the same chili I’d fed the kids earlier (chili can simmer forever!), and a meal just the two of us.

    Reply
    • Joanna Sawatsky

      Yes – our dates have changed with our little one. But because she goes to bed early still, we have an evening together to enjoy, so we end up spending more quality time together as a couple often than we did when we were childless and in school.

      To that end board games have been great – we’re genuinely loving Hive right now because it requires zero set up or take down.

      But we’ve also found that “family time” is really lovely. We go for shorter walks than we once did now that we have a baby in tow, but intentional time as a family can also be a great way to connect with your spouse.

      I love the late supper together idea! We may have to steal it 😉

      Reply
  6. Rachel

    We do quite a bit of window shopping as part of our date nights. 🙂

    Reply
  7. Mom-of-Littles

    We LOVE LOVE LOVE our DateBox subscription! We get a curated in-home date delivered to our door!
    Other ideas, especially if paying for a babysitter is out of the question: Fancy dinner at home—Feed the kids a simple dinner, then after bedtime make a restaurant quality dinner together. You can splurge on ingredients and still be saving money versus going out. Have a game night tournament—Play one round of several games, and then see who wins the most! Pop some popcorn and watch a documentary—They’re usually much more conversation inspiring than a regular movie. Build a blanket fort—Act like kids and make your own den for the night in the living room! Play games or eat snacks with only flashlights for lighting.
    I’d also suggest finding another couple to swap babysitting nights. Or better yet: If you’re out of this season of life, remember what it was like and offer to babysit for a younger couple!! Being hundreds of miles from family who would babysit for free, this would be such a gift for our marriage and for our kids to see love from their church family!

    Reply
  8. Phil

    I got the less than $4 winner right here: Wednesday night is date night for me and Grace. We drop the kids at youth and we have 1.5 hours. Our church is in the middle of know where so choices are limited. Its dark, its cold, and we got no money. Seriously I cant beleive I am going to share this. Here in the states for $3.18 you can get 2 icecream sundae’s and a large soft drink off the dollar menu you can both share the drink and refill at where? Mcdonalds lol. Sorry folks. It dont get any cheaper than that unless you are outdoors bringing your own food. I know this idea could have alot of pitfalls and is DEFINITLEY NOT SEXY, however at this point 90% of Mcdonalds have been gone over and they have a relaxing area you can hang with your wife and we arrive well after dinner rush. We bring our marriage books, devotionals, and even the bible. Sometimes we are working on grocery list or other things. It is not a rockem sockem date but I will call it a maintenance date like we talk about maintenance sex! We started weekly date night last March I beleive. At first it was exciting. Now it is just meaningful to me period. I dont really like Mceedees and we only been there a hand full of times since last March and we dont eat there or go there anytime else. We all know its not about what you do anyway. Its about connecting with your spouse. For us its a bit of a joke at this point. But you know what? I’M LOVIN IT! LOL.

    Reply
    • KellyK(@RNCCRN9706)

      Yes Phil you are right! I live in a very low-income, poverty stricken town and they just remodeled our McDonalds back in October to make it look more like a cafe than a fast-food restaurant. They even have charging ports for phones, laptops, etc. I see people hanging out there all the time when I hit the drive-thru for an iced coffee.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I totally love McDonald’s when we’re on the road! they let me buy a cheap drink and sit there and power up and use the internet for hours.

        Reply
  9. Kate

    As a currently single lady i can’t wait to have date nights with my future husband. My dream for now is to watch documentaries together with snacks. They are a great conversation starters because you can choose any topic to watch and have a discussion on it. For now i watch them with my fellow single girlfriends and and boy does it get your brain thinking and your mouths talking. We get passionate and heated. I LOVE it! I enjoy board games too, so i’ll defiantly incorporate that into my future. *sigh* marriage can’t come fast enough for me. I’m ready man. 🙂

    Reply
  10. Susie

    We like to get neighborhood friends together, and instead of a pot luck dinner we go house to house. One person makes and serves apps at their house. Then we move on to main dish house. Then a dessert house. We switch up who has the main dish, or sometimes 2 couples will make a main dish together if we have enough people. Moving to new locations makes it feel more exciting then just going to a friends for a dinner party.

    Reply
  11. KellyK(@RNCCRN9706)

    Sheila,

    Ok, I know you are in sunny and WARM Florida right now,. Today, here in NE Ohio, we are in the middle of a Polar Vortex. Temps are -1 deg F(-18C) and with the wind chill factor its -24 degF(-31C). So, how can one get outdoors without suffering from frostbite! LOL

    Enjoy the warmth!

    Reply
  12. KellyK

    So, the place where I met my husband of almost 20 years burned down about 8 years ago. In its place now is a Dollar General :/ The restaurant where we went on our first date is now a Dunkin Donuts and Mexican restaurant.

    We have many wineries along the shores of Lake Erie here in NE Ohio. So, we will go out and have a small glass of wine from a bottle and have them re-cork it to take home. Might have a small cheese and cracker plate but never a full meal. We don’t do it very often. Maybe twice a year.

    Reply
  13. Gwen

    My husband and I enjoy:
    1. Play tourist in our own city/county or nearby county. We go to the tourist info page online and find free/cheap things to do. Pretend we are tourists to make it an adventure.
    2. Photo treasure hunt. Get a list of places/things to find around town and take a picture of it when we find it. It’s free, and we have some fun memories to look back on later.
    3. Go fishing together. Nature is beautiful and calming. We typically catch and release.
    4. Window shopping together. Discuss pros and cons of buying something expensive in a year (car, large appliance, etc.) even if we aren’t planning on making that purchase. Great conversation, real budget talks, and we can’t impulse buy anything.
    5. Go to open houses and/or model homes. Discuss what we like/don’t like as if we are in the market. It is one of our favorite activities.
    Note for items 4 & 5: We tell the realtor/salesperson we are looking to buy in two years or so to remove pressure. Most leave us alone after that.
    If they don’t leave us alone:
    • Some will ask why 2 years? We say that’s when we can afford it.
    • Open a line of credit? We tell them we don’t want to go into debt and stay firm with that answer. If they’re obnoxious about it, I ask them to let us browse alone as we’re not buying anything today anyway.
    • We also have a code we use if one of us is uncomfortable and wants to leave – “We’re going to have to wait until payday to see if that is in budget.” We both know that means it’s time to leave and we stop answering questions (most salespeople do not question that except to suggest a line of credit).

    Reply
  14. Blessed Wife

    A few of my favorites:

    Dinner in bed– This one is great because my husband often works late. I feed our three small children, put them down for the night, and stage our bed. Fold down the sheets and spread a tablecloth over, bring out the fancy serving trays and fill them with grapes, finger veggies, sushi rolls or marinated shrimp, cheeses and honey, chocolate dipped strawberries, and chilled sparkling grape juice. Then when he gets in we can have a very sensual dinner!

    Picnics– For our anniversary one year I set up a bug tent on the property we bought to build our house on. I packed a picnic supper (and some blankets and candles to make the car comfortable after dinner😉), hired a sitter, and drove him out there. We had a beautiful evening on the site that will one day be our home, and parked like teenagers afterward, which was something we’d never done!

    Browsing the bookstore– It only costs money if you buy something!😂 It helps us learn more about each other’s tastes and interests, and we often learn something new about other subjects too. Plus we met in the bookstore cafe, so it’s nostalgic for us!

    Reply
  15. Dave Gerard

    Love your web site !

    Reply
  16. Gen

    A cheap date night idea with kids (we have 4 girls between 6 yrs and 11yrs) is to grab some food. Either bring something from home or grab a $5 pizza or some fast food. Go to a local park, eat dinner, let the kids play and run around while you 2 hangout and visit. Walk around the park area too holding hands. You can watch the kids while you enjoy the outdoors and each other’s company. Kids are entertained and you don’t have to worry about childcare.

    Reply

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