Spending quality time with your significant other is essential in keeping your relationship strong and healthy, but the cost of a night out on the town adds up fast. Thankfully, the best date night ideas involve a whole lot of creativity and zero cash. If you’re with the right person, it truly is the thought that counts.
Memories are made by special gestures that show your partner how much you care, and money shouldn’t have anything to do with that. Everyone knows you can’t buy love, so use these fun date night ideas to plan a romantic evening for free. There are lots of creative ways to say “I love you” without spending a dime.
1. Attend Movie Screenings
Movie nights are even more fun when you don’t have to pay for them. Use sites like AdvanceScreenings.com and Gofobo.com to search for free movie previews by ZIP code. You and your date will get to see the movie before the general public, giving you a fun little secret to share.
2. Have a Picnic Under the Stars
One of the most classically cute date ideas, picnics aren’t just a daytime event. Load up a picnic basket, grab a blanket and head to a local park to dine under the stars together. If you shop for ingredients and prepare the food together, the adorable factor of this date will be off the charts.
3. Go to a Gallery Opening
Art galleries in cities across the country join forces to host special monthly art walks — e.g., first Friday or third Thursday events — that are free to the public. Many even serve wine and light snacks, offering a unique opportunity to enjoy an elegant, cultural evening without opening your wallet once.
4. Have a Formal At-Home Dinner
Surprise your partner by making their favorite home-cooked meal, but make it extra special by serving it on your best dinnerware. Create the perfect ambiance by dimming the lights, putting on romantic background music and lighting a few candles. Instruct your partner to arrive in formal attire, because dressing up makes everything more fun. Free romantic dates are a great way to save — money affects relationships in surprising ways.
5. Go to a Writer’s Talk
Reading a great book is fun, but attending an event to hear the author talk about it is one of the best date night ideas for literature lovers. Keep an eye out for these free events at bookstores in your area and when you find one that looks interesting, make a date of it.
6. Get Free Films
You might not realize it, but your library card grants you access to a huge collection of movies. Use this to borrow your partner’s favorite film, a cult classic one of you hasn’t seen, or a popular film you both missed in theaters. Find a specialty popcorn recipe that matches the movie’s themes.
7. Find Talent Showcases
Tomorrow’s stars have yet to be discovered, so you can still catch their act for free at open mic nights. Check the schedule at local coffeehouses, bookstores and comedy clubs and find one to take your date. If someone on the lineup makes it big, you’ll both be able to say you saw them first.
8. Have a Game Night
You probably have several board games stashed in the back of your closet, so bust them out and challenge your special someone to an evening of Clue, Monopoly or Twister. Nostalgic and fun, date night ideas like this allow you to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company without running up a tab.
9. Stroll Into the Sunset
One of the most timelessly cute date ideas, watching the sun go down together is always romantic, and it can actually save you money, too. Wander hand-in-hand with your partner on a walk around the neighborhood and admire the beauty of mother nature. The sunset might be visible to the rest of the world, but this moment is all your own.
10. Go to a Free Concert
Enjoying live music together doesn’t have to mean spending an arm or a leg on concert tickets. Check your community calendar for free local festivals and events with musical performances. If the two of you don’t already have a special song, make it your mission to find one by the end of the night.
11. Enjoy a Night at the Museum
Enjoy a cultural date without a pretentious price tag. Many museums offer complimentary admission to local residents on certain evenings, so conduct a little research and find a free ticket. There’s something romantic about being in a museum at night, plus exploring new things with your partner is always fun.
12. Hit Up Trivia Night at a Local Bar
There’s a very good chance several bars in your city host weekly trivia nights, so join in the fun with your significant other. You don’t have to pay to participate — although you might decide to buy an appetizer or a couple drinks — and teaming up together will make your bond even stronger.
13. Binge-Watch Something
It’s not the most original of date night ideas, but a Netflix and chill evening can be very romantic with the right person. Put on your pajamas and find a new series together or re-watch a favorite, starting with episode one. Complete your cozy night in with a homemade pizza.
14. Learn Something New
Expanding your knowledge together is one of the most fun date night ideas, and it will help you grow as a couple. Find something you’re both interested in and research ways to learn it without opening your wallet. This might involve attending a free evening workshop at Home Depot or enjoying a free Spanish lesson on YouTube.
15. Plan a Romantic Vacation
Going on a romantic vacation definitely costs money, but planning one doesn’t. Stay in for the evening and decide where to embark on your next travel adventure. Even if a trip isn’t in your near future, learning where each of you would travel if money were no object is fun and helps you learn more about the other person. A trip might come sooner than you think — the right travel tricks will get you a romantic vacation for less money.
16. Have a Photo Shoot
Gather funny props around your home — parts of Halloween costumes, ridiculous T-shirts and items that should go in the donation bin — and style each other’s look for a hilarious photo shoot. It’d be wrong to keep these photos to yourselves, so be sure to post them on social media to show the world how much free fun you’re having.
17. Enjoy a Night of People Watching
People watching can easily make for hours of entertainment, so make a date of it. Find a bench in a buzzy part of town and let the fun begin. Work together to create stories about passersby, which will set the foundation for plenty of inside jokes the two of you will be referencing months from now.
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18. Write Each Other a Poem
It’s a bit cheesy, but writing poetry for one another is the ultimate in cute date ideas. The lines don’t have to rhyme or really be any good at all, as long as they make the two of you smile. Be sure to handwrite your poems so they can serve as precious keepsakes.
19. Go Indoor Camping
Traditional camping requires a lot of equipment that can get expensive fast, but bringing the adventure indoors is free. Construct a blanket fort, turn the fireplace on, make s’mores and tell ghost stories. Bonus points for turning off all electronic devices and pretending you’re actually spending the evening in a desolate spot. The next morning, plan an affordable outdoor camping trip.
20. Bake a Favorite Dessert Together
Have a sugary sweet evening in by treating yourselves to a seriously delectable dessert baked by the two of you. Scour the cabinets to see what you have and enter the ingredients into a recipe search engine to find out what you can make. Calories don’t count when the dessert was made for free.
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21. Plan a Surprise for Your Partner
The best date night ideas come from the heart. Surprise your special someone with a — pleasantly — unexpected activity. For example, push your living room furniture to the side and give her a night of dancing. Or, memorize the starting lineup of his favorite team and watch the game with him.
Donna Freedman contributed to the reporting for this article.