Whether you’ve been married for decades or want to impress a new love interest, taking your partner out for a romantic day or night date is a great way to keep the spark alive — or start a new one. But date nights can be pricey, with the traditional “dinner and a movie” date now costing upwards of $100 in some parts of the country. Fortunately, there are many ways to impress your date without spending a lot of cash. Use these cheap date night ideas to bring on the romance — without bringing on the debt.
Have a Beach (or Backyard) Bonfire
Nothing says romance quite like cuddling close by a fire — and the experience won’t cost you much. A bundle of firewood typically costs less than $10, and some local beaches are equipped with fire pits that you can use for free. Or if you don’t live by a beach, you can build a fire right in your own backyard.
Take Advantage of a Free Museum Day
Some museums have free admission year-round, and others will host a free museum day once a month. Check online listings for your local museums to find places you can have a cultural date with your significant other without spending a dime.
Giving back is a great way to spend the day. No matter what your passion is, you can likely find an opportunity that matches it, from feeding the homeless to walking dogs at a local animal shelter.
Turn Your Bathroom Into a Mini Spa
Light some candles, fill up a bubble bath and treat your partner to a massage.
Go To a Minor League Sports Game
Pro sports game tickets can be expensive, but you can score tickets to see a minor league game on the cheap. Check out MiLB.com to find a minor league baseball game near you.
Spend a Night Under the Stars
Stargazing is a romantic activity that’s totally free. Find a place where you can see the stars, set up a blanket and see how many constellations you can spot. Impress your date with the SkyView Lite app, a free smartphone app that allows you to identify galaxies, stars, constellations and satellites by simply pointing your device at the sky.
Have a Wine and Cheese Night
There’s arguably no better pairing than wine and cheese, and you can find affordable options for both at your local grocery store or liquor store. Look for bottles that are on sale to get good quality wine for less.
Prepare Now: 10 Awkward Money Scenarios To Avoid on a Date
Go On a Walk or Hike
Explore a new hiking trail or simply go for a walk around your neighborhood. Not only is this a fun way to spend time together, but it’s also a great way to stay active.
Attend a Free Concert
During the summer, many parks and outdoor venues host free concerts of all genres. And even during other months, some venues will host free nights for up-and-coming talent. Check local guides to find out where and when you can take advantage of these free live music events.
Have a Romantic Picnic in a Park
Pack some wine and snacks, set up a blanket and a few pillows, and you have the makings of a very romantic outing in the park — for much less than you’d spend on a restaurant meal.
Test Your Knowledge at a Trivia Night
Many local bars host weekly trivia nights that are typically free to partake in. It’s a good way to test your date’s knowledge and show off your own.
Bring the Movies to Your Living Room
One of the best parts of going to the movies is the snacks — but you don’t need to go to the theater to get them. Pop some popcorn, load up on candy and pick up a Redbox movie — or watch one on a streaming service you already pay for — to host a cozy movie night at home.
Shoot Some Pool
Have some friendly competition on your next date night by playing a round of pool at a local pool hall or dive bar. Pool table rentals are usually available at a nominal fee — and if you’re at a dive bar, the drinks will be cheap.
Take a Winery or Brewery Tour
Local wineries and breweries often offer free or inexpensive tours, which usually end with a sampling. If you don’t have a winery or brewery nearby, check out some local wine shops. Many host tastings for free or for low fees.
Play a Round of Mini Golf
Mini golf is a fun way to pass the day or night, and it won’t cost you much. Adult tickets cost around $6 to $7, and you can even get tickets for less at some places at certain times of day.
Head To a Karaoke Bar -- To Sing or Just Watch
If you and your partner are the outgoing types, hitting up a local karaoke bar to belt it out could be a great way to spend the night. But even if you’re introverts, watching other people sing their hearts out is sure to be entertaining.
Peruse the Local Farmers Market
Browse the stalls at a local farmers market to stock up on supplies to cook a home-cooked meal — or just to try all the free samples.
Rent a Canoe or Paddle Boat
If you’ve seen “The Notebook,” you know that a canoe ride can be extremely romantic. But you don’t need to be Ryan Gosling to take your date out for a sweet ride around the lake. Many parks offer canoe and paddle boat rentals for very reasonable prices.
Watch the Sunrise or Sunset
This date idea might be a little cheesy, but it’s a classic date idea for a reason. Finding a quiet spot to watch the sunrise or sunset is sure to give your date warm, fuzzy feelings.
Eat Takeout by Candlelight
Elevate a takeout meal by setting the table, turning off the lights and eating by candlelight.
Go On a Bike Ride
Take your bikes out for a spin, or for even more romance, consider renting a tandem bike for the day.
Attend a Reading
Bookstores and libraries will often invite authors to come in to do live readings of their books — and they’re usually free. Check to see if your significant other’s favorite author will be making any local appearances to impress them with a thoughtful date.
Check Out Your Local Art Scene
From art galleries to crafts fairs, there are plenty of ways to explore the works of local artists — many times without having to pay an admission fee. If you can’t find local art, consider it a cue to make your own by hosting an at-home painting night.
Have a Pizza-Making Contest
Buy premade dough and a variety of sauces and toppings to have a pizza-making contest at home. Each of you can channel your inner “Top Chef” by creating a personal pizza with your toppings of choice. Pop it in the oven, and whichever combo tastes better “wins.” (But you both get to eat pizza, so really everyone wins with this date idea.)
Go Out For Ice Cream or Dessert
A three-course meal can be expensive, but you can save a ton by skipping courses one and two and going straight to dessert. Take your partner out for ice cream or maybe dessert at a fancy restaurant, and your date is sure to be a sweet one.
Click through to check out free things to do in every state.
More on Money