According to Bloomberg, “spending at U.S. restaurants surged over the past three months by the most on record, making it both a bright spot for the economy and a risk if appetites for eating out return to normal.”
They go on to say that “sales at food-service and drinking establishments rose 1.3 percent in July to $61.6 billion,” which “…brought the three-month annualized gain to 25.3 percent, the fastest pace in figures going back to 1992.”
We are spending like crazy at restaurants right now.
So whether you’re going out on a date with someone new or keeping things fresh with your spouse, going on date night doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Here are 20 unique date ideas that don’t cost a fortune.
1. Go to a museum
Our local art museum is fantastic and costs $0.00 to get in. Not only does this date make you look smart, but by spending nothing to get in, you have a little extra cash in the budget to find a cheap dinner.
2. Netflix movie night
Everyone binge-watches TV shows. I do it too, but I relate it to binge-eating potato chips.
It gives you something to do, then after a certain period of time, you realize how much of it you’ve actually done without even knowing it.
Get your brain working a little harder and head over to instantwatcher.com and look under the Rotten Tomatoes Fresh Picks section to find a film that will make you think.
3. Play a video game
I can’t tell you how many different video games we’ve picked up and played. It’s addictive.
I’ve collected quite a few game systems over the years, and it’s fun to dust off my Nintendo 64 once in a while to play some old-school Mario Kart with my wife.
If you don’t have an old game system, you can get any number of them on eBay (with games and controllers) for less than it costs to go out to dinner.
Even better, you can buy retro systems like the NES Classic or Super NES Classic.
4. Get ONE drink out
We just started doing this actually. Instead of going out to a bar or restaurant and ordering drinks, appetizers, and dinner, we’ll go to a bar and get only ONE drink each, get the check and go home.
Once home, we’ve had our fill of ‘getting out’ and can do whatever we want. This is a perfect compromise for couples who like to both stay home and go out once in a while.
5. Make a five-ingredient dinner together
One of our favorite things to do is find inexpensive vegetarian meals. We’re both vegetarian, so it’s fun to get creative with it.
One suggestion is to Google something like “5 ingredient vegetarian recipes” or “3 ingredient pasta”.
It’s incredible the type of stuff you’ll find that only require a few ingredients, thus making it cheaper.
Once you get the stuff (assuming you don’t already have it in the pantry) you can cook together while jammin’ to some tunes on Spotify.
6. Go for a drive
This one can actually be pretty fun. Hop in the car with absolutely zero intention of going anywhere specific and just start driving.
You’ll find yourselves having time for good conversation, and you may end up discovering a new party of town while you’re at it. Just make sure you have a GPS (and maybe some pepper spray, depending on where you live).
7. Have friends over
Sure you have to clean your house and probably make an appetizer, but have some friends over and ask them all to bring an appetizer or main dish, their choice of alcohol, and some type of game.
Seriously – everyone wants to get out of their house once in, and nobody likes to clean, so they’ll be more than happy to do this.
You’ll spend next to nothing, yet get to eat a variety of food and drink all kinds of booze. Oh, and you get to see your friends.
8. Build a fire pit
If you don’t have a fire pit, you absolutely have to get one. This might be the most important idea on the list. You can either bite the bullet and buy one from Home Depot (like I did), or if you’re savvy enough, build one.
DIY Network has detailed instructions on how to build an in-ground fire pit (the best and safest) if you’re up for it. Regardless of what you decide, having a fire pit is unlike anything else.
You can sit out there with your date or with a ton of friends (just don’t go lone-wolf by the fire pit).
It really doesn’t matter what time of year it is, who’s over, or what else is going on – everyone wants to sit around a fire pit.
It’s warm, generates fantastic conversation, and you can roast marshmallows in it. Do this.
9. Do a puzzle
This is even better if you have a bottle of wine. Get the most massive, most complicated puzzle you can possibly find and pair it with an alcohol of your choosing.
You’ll find yourself going through different phases of emotion throughout the night – such as anger, happiness, frustration, love, hatred, excitement, and maybe even exhaustion.
Building a puzzle brings out everyone’s competitive spirits, plus it’s perfect for your mind.
There are actually real health benefits to stargazing. It’s wholly relaxing, yet it forces you to focus.
In fact, some organizations have used stargazing to help cure addictions and mood disorders. There are even resorts that focus on stargazing tourism!
You can spend all kinds of money on a fancy telescope, or you can grab a blanket and lay out in the backyard with your date and try to find Orion’s Belt.
We often do this in the summer when the skies are clear, and the weather is nice.
11. See a high school sports game
This typically costs a few bucks and can really be a lot of fun.
Dress warm, get good seats and drink some hot chocolate while watching your former high school play its heart out as you re-live your glory days of being there.
If you get REALLY into it, check out a site like MaxPreps where you can follow your favorite high school team.
12. Go bowling
Everyone loves bowling, and I’m sure there’s an alley in your area.
GoBowling.com has a database of nearly every bowling alley in America, so if you don’t know of one, you should be able to find one close using that site.
Bowling can be super competitive, or entirely relaxed. It also has health benefits like muscle toning and weight loss.
13. Play a board or card game
You can actually find some pretty sweet board games these days. One game that my wife and I love is Monopoly Deal. It’s a fast-paced, Monopoly card game.
We find ourselves getting pretty competitive over this game. You can even take this a step further and make it a social game night if you’re having people over. Play a trivia game, or if you have three hours to kill, play Axis & Allies.
Hands down, our favorite group card game is Cards Against Humanity. You’ll thank me later.
14. Take a class
Local community colleges typically offer a ton of evening classes for adults that aren’t seeking any kind of degree. You’ll find exciting ones out there, and maybe even learn a thing or two.
If you’re looking for something a little more romantic, take a wine and painting class where you literally drink wine and paint a picture, or take a cooking class.
I’ve found that many restaurants and cooking stores offered classes on the weekends just by searching “local cooking classes.”
15. Work out
Go to a yoga class together. It’ll cost you $20-30 on average for two of you, and you’ll get a great workout.
You could also join a local recreation league and play indoor soccer, basketball, or volleyball on the same team.
Plus, they say couples who sweat together, stay together. Just make sure it’s something fun and unique that you both enjoy.
For us, going to the gym and running on a treadmill just sounds awful. We took up boxing instead.
16. Go ice skating
This one sounds cliche, but ice skating can be very beneficial to your health. You’ll work on balance, and you’ll get an aerobic workout without putting a ton of pressure on your joints.
Bonnie Schiedel of Best Health Mag wrote an excellent article about some of the fitness benefits of ice skating, as well as things to consider before you go.
17. See a local band
We have a bunch of local bars and coffee shops that feature live music on the weekend in our area.
This is an excellent opportunity to get out of the house, support a local band, find some cool new music, and of course – people watch.
(In fact, maybe ‘people watching’ could be a date night in itself!). Eventful.com lets you search local concerts by zip code.
18. Brew your own beer
If you enjoy craft beer like me, I highly recommend this one. You can buy a home kit online, but if there’s a local brewery that offers tours and the option to brew your own beer, you should definitely try it.
You won’t actually take your beer home with you that night, as the beer has to ferment, but it offers a fun date night, and I’m sure you’ll get free samples.
19. Learn to play chess
If you don’t already know how to play chess, you can learn on a site like Chesscademy. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, pick up a cheap chess board and spend the night trying to outsmart one another. Besides, learning to play chess can increase your IQ.
20. Get a room
This one isn’t always a cheap date option, but if you use credit card points or find a great deal through a site like TripAdvisor, it could be. Sometimes you can get so stuck in your routine of doing the same things that dates can lose their luster.
Staying at a nice hotel for just one night can be a game-changer when it comes to otherwise stale date nights. Get creative and find a fresh new hole-in-the-wall restaurant to eat at, or just take a walk in a city you don’t usually see.
If you can swing a multiple-day getaway, another option is to find a local camping ground or a remote place where you can rent a cabin.
Depending on how much you want to ‘rough it,’ this could be the combination of the ultimate relaxation and date night, as you’re really out of your normal routine.
You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy restaurant or pay for Uber to take you to the city just have a date with your significant other. The two of you (or a group of you) can enjoy plenty of options for a cheap date night if you are willing to get creative.
What types of cheap and unique date nights have you come up with? Please share them in the comments below!
Chris is the founder of Money Mozart, a blog about personal finance. He discusses frugality, minimalism, and achieving financial independence by living well below your means. He’s also an avid craft beer lover and an aspiring minimalist.
Last update on 2019-12-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API