20 cheap date ideas to ignite the spark on a budget

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cheap date ideas

Think of the last time you really connected with someone. It is quite possible that when you think of recent meaningful connections, some of your best moments happened during fairly simple activities—coffee with a friend, grocery shopping with your roommate, or a shared project with a coworker. So, why can’t the same be true for dating? Before you ruin your budget in an attempt to impress your crush or bring the spark back into your long-term relationship, consider our creative and cheap date ideas. 

While a five-star dinner at your city’s schmanciest restaurant or box seats at a famous theatre would certainly be unique experiences, these luxuries aren’t essential to creating a great date.

Creative date ideas can add a wonderful element to your social life and don’t have to break the bank. Plus, you shouldn’t feel bad about considering how to figure dating into your budget: a recent study found that folks find financial responsibility important, even more so than physical attractiveness!

Essential ingredients

What is the purpose of a date? When it comes to going on a date with someone new, most people report that they go out to have fun and to get to know the other person better.

So, before you whip out your wallet, consider what goes into a pleasant connection. What are the ingredients for a shared experience that will leave you and your partner feeling energized, positive, and (hopefully) eager to meet up again? 


Laughing is critical to having a great date and helping us building connection. It helps us relax, communicate better, and open up more. The endorphins released when we laugh are key to helping us feel good about our exchanges with others.


Therapist Daniel Dashaw writes that “a deficit in fun and novelty is toxic” to romantic relationships. Similarly, sharing a novel experience when you’re first getting to know someone can ease pressure and provide a common, fun experience.


Sharing (especially food) is an intimate gesture associated with cooperation, trust, and relationship building. So, instead of shelling out for a whole meal, consider the benefits of sharing a desert with your honey.

The best news about these essential ingredients is that none of them come with a price tag. Consider our cheap date ideas to help you integrate these key elements into your next meetup.

Cheap Date Ideas

After getting to know more about your partner’s likes, dislikes, and hobbies, you can consider some cheap date ideas that will facilitate connection. Remember: communication is both key and free. While practicing some new dance moves together might make for a giddy afternoon for one couple, for a pair of Netflix-enthusiasts, it might sound plain uncomfortable. 

Before you dream up an elaborate picnic menu or home theatre contraption, stop and consider the goal of your date. Are you trying to get to know someone new? Do you want to share a good laugh with your long term partner? Do you want to create a memory or have an exhilarating adventure? Answering these questions can help you plan a cost-effective and fun date.

Once you’ve figured out the goal of your date and your partner’s quirks, review some of our cheap date ideas to get your creative juices flowing.  

  1. Bust out a bottle of wine and share an evening answering the famed 36 Questions that Lead to Love
  2. Enjoy a blast from the past playing your favorite rainy-day childhood games like MadLibs and other hilarious drawing games
  3. Surprise your date with an elaborate picnic menu at a local park
  4. Construct a whimsical home theatre for a comedy show marathon
  5. Dress up and head to your local Costco and share a romantic dinner of free samples and evening trying out gadgets
  6. Learn to sing or play a new song together on an instrument
  7. Download PokémonGO and catch ‘em all (romantically)
  8. Play masterchef together with a recipe online  
  9. Take to Pinterest and find a DIY project that you can attempt (and inevitably fail at) with objects you can find around the house. 
  10. Document your Pinterest project failure and share a mini photoshoot to document the experience
  11. Stay in and play a hilarious drinking game together or with friends
  12. Challenge each other to an afternoon of exercise and include prizes (and punishments) for abs, squats, running, and resistance contests
  13. Share seasonal traditions—carve a pumpkin, play carnaval, decorate your apartment together for winter holidays, or make a traditional food together
  14. Learn a new skill together via Youtube videos—learn some new dance moves, try a yoga class, or try to learn a new language 
  15. Take advantage of local attractions—museums, community pool, local theatres, Walmart, IKEA, trails, etc. 
  16. Find an activity to share on discount sites like Groupon
  17. Research activities in your area that come with a free trial class (dance, yoga, rock climbing, aerial silks, exercise, art classes, etc.) and go to one together
  18. Hike to a new spot together
  19. Head to your local animal shelter and snuggle puppies or kittens
  20. Buy eccentric and cheap outfits at your local thrift shop and stroll around your city in them afterwards

A great date that fosters meaningful connection and fun doesn’t have to break the bank. With a bit of creativity, you can come up with cheap date ideas for a fun and memorable experience with your partner without affecting your personal financial goals like investing and saving! 

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