Remember when “Netflix and chill” meant just marathoning Law & Order episodes over a few beers and pizza? It was a golden age — one where those of us with tight budgets could invite crushes over to hang out without the pressure of calling it a date (or insinuating we just wanted a hookup). If cuddling up on the couch led to more, we weren’t complaining, but it wasn’t expected. Now the phrase “Netflix and chill” is so weighted, frugal daters are forced to come up with new cheap date ideas.
Don’t worry — we’re here to help. With help from our legion of experts and some brainstorming of our own, we’ve coming up with date night ideas perfect for anyone who’s not a millionaire (and they’re so unique and fun that you should try them out even if you are).
1. Host craft night. Forget about macrame and glitter — create something epic together like a personalized cornhole set or even a new bookshelf. You’ll share the pride of your finished project, and you’ll get some sweet items out of the deal!
2. Paintings and picnics. Nicole Marie Harris, CEO/Co-founder of One Last Frog says when it comes to date night ideas, you need look no further than your local museum. “Many museums have free admission, so you can gain an amazing date and culture for free of charge. Bonus points if you bring a picnic basket and blanket for grassy areas outside of most museums for a sweet picnic.”
3. Cook with a kit. Rebecca Lewis, in-house RD at HelloFresh says, "Cooking together is a great way to add romance to a relationship, without breaking the bank. Meal kit companies like HelloFresh are helping demystify cooking and taking the guesswork out of date night.” The kits ship right to your door with all the ingredients and instructions you need, and you get heaping servings without paying restaurant prices!
4. Play a pickup game. Your nearest park or indoor sports center has plenty of opportunities for free and cheap date ideas. Challenge your date to a one-on-one basketball game, or get to know each other as you toss a football or baseball around. Just make sure you don’t get TOO competitive. The goal is to have fun and learn more about each other — winning the game is just a bonus! Looking for even more active date ideas? Check out these dates that double as workouts!
5. Float on. "Go for a swim date at a free local pool or hotels that offer deals,” suggests Elizabeth Avery, Founder of Solo Trekker 4 U. “In DC, even in upscale Georgetown, there is a free public pool. I also discovered that one of the top hotels offered $5 pool visits during slow times in the summer.”
6. Trek together. “I'm a tour guide in San Francisco,” says Dylan Gallagher Orange Sky Co., “and for cheap date ideas, we walk. It could be through the stairwells of Russian Hill, in the back alleys of Chinatown or to a local hangout such as Dolores Park. The important part is spending time with the person you enjoy, not spending money.” Take a trek through your own city or hop over to a nearby town to explore together.
7. Hit the ice. “Ice-skating rinks create an easy pretext to link arms or hold hands,” says LOV CEO CJ Carter “Hot chocolate, romantic pop music, and the sounds of skates definitely create a romantic atmosphere.” Even in the summertime, there are indoor rinks with low rates!
8. Batter-up. Gabriela Yu of TRAVO recommended a cute date idea that’s sure to hit it out of the park — a day at the batting cages. “It’s a super fun date for athletes and non-athletes alike! And it’s a more active and cheaper alternative to going to see a baseball game.”
9. Dine creatively. Dinner isn’t one the most creative things to do on a date, unless of course the venue itself is unique. Sign up for alerts from sites like LivingSocial to find deals on interesting spots like food festivals or pop-up shops.
10. Tune in. Dating & Relationship Coach Rosalind Sedacca is full of cute date ideas. We especially love this one: “Attend an outdoor concert at a venue that encourages blankets and chairs. The prices are far lower and you can pack a picnic, bring drinks, and spend time together an hour before the concert starts.”
11. Buy an Entertainment Book. “Found at the local tourist center, entertainment books are filled with hundreds of coupons for local businesses offering deals on dining, activities, travel and more,” says Woroch. “You can find two-for-one or half off discounts on bowling, miniature golf and restaurant meals. All of which make for a great date on the cheap!”
12. Share your silly side. “One of the things my husband and I love to do in the summer is purchase Silly String from the Dollar Store and have a Silly String fight, says Whitney L. Smith of Pumps&Circumstance. “It's so ridiculously fun. We usually head to a park or some grassy area and just let ourselves hang like kids for the day. We've also got our friends involved and had husbands vs wives. It's not only cheap, but it's a great way to sneak in some exercise.”
13. Build a blanket fort. Have all your other cute date ideas been rained out? Grab some pillows and blankets and build your own fort. String some Christmas lights inside for a little ambiance, then grab some board games, a bottle of wine and some snacks and “camp out” in your living room!
14. Take a test drive. Maybe you can't afford that Mercedes Benz truck that you constantly see in your Instagram feed but you sure can drive one, says Lisa Concepcion, founder of LoveQuest Marketing. “Simply go to a car dealership of your choice and say you are in the market for a new car and wanted to get the feel of one you have your eye on. It's fun and you can take turns driving. Plus you can live out a fantasy story putting you in a mindset of what you want!”
15. Make a difference. “Volunteering together on something like a Habitat for Humanity building project is a great cheap date idea,” says Patty Newbold, author of AssumeLove.com.
“You're almost guaranteed to share a sense of satisfaction as you complete the work. And if both of you are tops at teamwork or perseverance or kindness — or leadership, zest, or humility — it's bound to work out well. If one of you really excels at creativity and none of these others, choose a volunteer project like painting a preschool or playground.”
16. Go to a midweek movie. “If your date prefers the big screen, plan your date on Tuesday evening when most movie theaters offer discount movie tickets and deals on concessions,” says consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch.
17. Host your own wine tasting. “If you and your date enjoy wine tasting, skip the pricey vino tours and plan one at home,” suggests Andrea Woroch. “Pick up an array of bottles from stores like Trader Joe’s or Costco where you can enjoy lower prices, then research foods to pair with your choices. Make sure your selections are new and enjoy sipping and describing the various notes in each taste.”
18. Learn at the library. Want to learn the basics of gardening? How about conversational French? Your local library offers plenty of adult classes for free. Scope them out for an endless supply of cheap date ideas!
19. Forage together. "Foraging (hunting mushrooms & gathering plants) might actually be one of the original dates," says Alan Muskat, CEO of No Taste Like Home. “Like an the Easter egg hunt, it’s great fun. And then you can make a romantic dinner together with what you found. And believe it or not, certain mushrooms have even been shown to trigger spontaneous female orgasms!"
20. Flea market scavenger hunt. You never know what you’ll find at your local flea market. Head there with $5 in your pocket and see who can buy the weirdest item. Or create two Bingo boards beforehand and fill them with items. Each time you spot one, cross off that box. Whoever loses buys lunch!
Looking for even more date ideas? Check out our lists of unique summer dates and fun winter dates! We even have date night ideas inspired by The Bachelor. And if you want unique date ideas delivered right to your inbox, scroll down to sign up for the ASTROGLIDE Newsletter!
All images are for illustrative purposes.