[I’m currently at the beach doing my own type of date (with children – hah), but in my stead, please enjoy this fantastic post by Elliott Bailey. Founder of DateNightWingman.com and lover of keeping the excitement going in relationships. Without killing your wallet!]
Budgets buy freedom. Budgets do not buy fancy date nights (not in the short term anyway). This simple fact is one of the hardest parts about adjusting your personal spending to make it sustainable. After all, you still want to have a great time connecting with your partner in a meaningful way.
Learning to do date nights on a budget certainly takes effort (like most things) but there are heaps of creative date ideas that are a lot of fun! Here are 5 of the best:
#1. The Chalk Run ($3.00)
This is the cheapest non-free date idea you will ever do! You are going to be leaving her a trail of chalk arrows to follow on the pavement that lead to a small present. Kind of like a scavenger hunt. It is really simple to set up:
- Grab a small present (like a block of chocolate) and wrap it nicely
- Head to a nearby park and hide it somewhere out of sight
- Walk from the hiding spot back to the car/house along an interesting path leaving chalk arrows along the way. Mix it up a little with romantic notes like ‘Love you babe’ or a smiley face
- Tell your partner that you will be going out for a date night but do not give them any details
- Arrive at the start of your chalk trail and just pretend like you are going for a walk. The trick is to just keep going and see if she notices the trail! When she finally does (which could take a hint or two) she will be a little surprised and intrigued which is what makes this date totally memorable!
- Finally when you arrive at your hidden present make an un-subtle hint that she should start looking around for something and share the reward
If your budget stretches to the lofty heights of $20 you could finish off the date day with a street vendor style meal in the park!
#2. Geocaching ($10.00/Free)
In a nutshell, Geocaching is like a treasure hunt you do on your phone. Best of all, someone else has already done the work for you! Here is how it works:
- Someone has hidden a box of treasure (little toys usually) somewhere cool and loaded the location onto the Geocaching website
- You grab the app on your phone and look up nearby caches. They are everywhere – city, country, suburbs
- On the date day, drive to the general area and grab your phone (aka compass!)
- Follow the directions on the app until you find where the Cache is hidden. This is the best part – searching!
- Lastly, swap out one of the mementos in the box with one you brought along so you have a keepsake of the date.
This is a great date since the hunting and searching gives you enough small talk to get the conversation flowing. It is also a heap of fun when you finally find the treasure together!
#3. Ready, Steady, Cook! ($20.00)
Everybody eats. But eating out every date night can cost a lot of $$ and end up being two people just staring at each other trying to make conversation. This date fixes both of these by making the food prep the date itself! Even if you do not like cooking you can still throw vegetables at each other…
Basically one of you will be making the main meal and the other dessert. The fun part is that you each choose the ingredients that other has to use!
Here’s how to make it fun:
- Let her know that it is going to be a ‘date night in’ but you will both be heading to the supermarket first
- When you get there flip a coin for who will be making mains and who will do dessert
- You then split up and have a $10 budget each to find some ingredients. Be nice and get things that do not require too much creativity (unless of course rhubarb is your thing…) You can make this even more fun by sneaking around the store trying to keep what you are buying for each other a secret!
- When you get home do the ‘big reveal’ and tell talk about why you choose what you did. This is not mandatory but just helps to get the conversation going which is really what this date is all about
- From here it is pretty straight forward – cooking, throwing food at each other, playing music really loud and dancing, throwing more food at each other… you get the picture
You can make up and ‘house rules’ you like as well as using anything in the cupboard/fridge to make it easier too.
#4. DIY Awesomeness ($10.00-$40.00)
My wife used to always want to do ‘house stuff’ – you know, renovate the backyard, paint the kitchen table, or put photos in frames and arrange them on the wall. My response was usually ‘Sure babe’ + <internal grown>.
That was until I realised that doing house DIY stuff is just another way to hang out. Almost overnight my whole experience changed and I’d be asking her to do stuff. Give it a go on 1 or 2 projects and see what you think. It really can be a fun date night.
Top DIY home dates:
- Coffee table made of books – a pile of hardcover books, a chopping board, and some glue, and you can have a totally hipster coffee table! This can be customised to fit most home decors – we put music sheets on top of ours, but you could just as easily paint it or stick photos on top, etc.
- Map board – this is a cork notice board with a world map glued on top that’s marked at every place you’ve been! It also makes a great conversation starter when you have friends around.
- Paper fridge – all you need is an old book, some spray glue and a (older) fridge! You have to get past that strange feeling that you shouldn’t be plastering paper all over a fridge, but once you do it’s a really fun date. We had planned to cover ours in varnish to make it last longer but never got there and it seems to be holding up pretty well!
- Wooden stump chair/table – this one’s really easy once you have the stump. Just plane it back and seal it for a really useful outdoor piece of furniture! To get the stump, check the local firewood suppliers or grab one off a friend who has a property in the country.
- Pinterest! Simply search for ‘DIY home date’ and a bunch of other fun stuff will come up.
#5. Invent a New You! (cost of drinks)
Once you’ve been together for a while you will have been out for drinks endlessly. This can get a little boring since you run out of things to talk about. You can make it fresh by coming as a different person for the night!
It’s pretty straight forward really – you both plan a night by yourselves to meet a ‘friend’ for a drink. When you get there, go and ‘pick up’ your partner who will now have a different name, job, back story, life goals, sexual interests, hobbies etc… If you’re cool enough to bust out a different accent it totally adds to the awesomeness.
This makes for a really fun date because keeping the performance brings back all those novelty feelings you had when you first met! Furthermore, trying to keep a straight face when you’re talking about your long standing passion for competitive hot dog eating is a real art! You can make it even better Googling your new hobby and finding some cool stories to share on the night.
Try ’em out and let us know what you think! What type of fun dates have you gone on?
About the author: My wife and I use to go on epic dates. Live theatre, $130 dinners, big presents – you name it! Then we both started businesses and had to shrink our budget. Gone were the nice dinners. Gone were the $300 weekends. Gone was my feeling of male pride that I wasn’t able to pay for everything! We needed to find date night ideas that were affordable but still fun – we have put the best of these online at DateNightWingman.com.
PS: Here are 8 more fun (and frugal) date ideas we’ve blogged about before.
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#5. Invent a New You! (cost of drinks)
LMAO. This is like the beginning scene of 4 Christmases. Not that great of a movie but that first scene is pretty funny. Whatever floats your boat I guess….
That one was my favorite too :) The wife every now and then will go a whole night speaking in a British accent which I just love! But then she gets mad at me when I want her to continue doing it forever and she won’t – hah.
For sure – totally flogged the idea from their!
I love geocaching. The thrill of the hunt is where it’s at, it’s like a modern day adventure using tech.
It’s fun for sure… Same with metal detecting too! Though in that case you get to *keep* whatever you find :) Which could be nothing but bottle caps or – if you’re lucky – old coins or jewelry! I meant to hit up the beaches in the evenings but didn’t get to it on our trip – boo….
First I have to thank @estabrooksm, who added me to his list, “estabrooksm/personal-finance,” and also @BrokeMillennial, whose tweet I saw there just now, for leading me to your fun post today, J$. Thank you, folks!
This is certainly a helpful article–for those in a position to use it. I like the “teamwork” your ideas encourage. But it’s been years since I’ve been married, and even more years since I’ve had a “date.” So now that you’ve got my attention on dating, how about some fun advice for all us singles on frugal ways to GET a date?!! Haha. Remember those days? Okay, now back to business . . . :D
I see you’ve been tweeting with Match.com – that’s a good start I hear :)
Not just for me–I thought your suggestions about cheap fun dates might help to get all those “first daters” off on the right foot. I posted here to get you thinking of a follow-up piece aimed at helping singles to GET that first date:) Something a notch above, “Hey, what say we get together some time and go somewhere and save money together?”
Just think Richard – asking a random you’ve met online to go hiking in the middle of no-where isn’t creepy at all…
Great ideas! I love that most of these turn ways to save money into a date. All the diy stuff haha. I should try that on my husband. Let’s go on a date and make furniture together!!!!!! Or maybe I shouldn’t tell him what we’re doing.
It was the powertools that really sold me!
Haha #5 is awesome. My wife will probably laugh at me when I pitch that later on.
You should just sneak it in there and see if she plays along :)
Geocaching love! I’ve been doing it since before smart phones, so I actually have an old school GPS handheld. It doesn’t give directions or topography or anything, just straight lines and distances after it takes 3 minutes to triangulate. The husband calls it the dork machine.
Bad ass :)
Well these are awesomely fun ideas! I’m recently engaged, and tomorrow will mark 4 years being together! Maybe we can bust some of these out ;-).
Especially that “be a different person” is a fun one. I was just discussing with my partner not too long ago that when we met, we were such different people. I wonder what it would be like to meet now?
Great post! Hope vacation is awesome!
You should try going back in time and playing your old selves actually, haha… I bet that would be even more entertaining – esp if you poke fun of yourselves :)
I used to try to get my husband (boyfriend at the time) to do the cooking idea with me, but he would always choose frozen pizza and beer and then practically pee his pants laughing when I told him he was not keeping with the spirit of the game. The other ideas sound like a lot of fun though! I’m a big fan of good cheap fun!
Fun ideas! I especially love the grocery store challenge. Shopping and then cooking together is always fun, and I love the added spontaneity.
Oh, I love DIY! Whenever we have a free time, we usually do movie marathon and going to the park.
Seems like I have to send this list to my man :D
I’d like to try the #4. It seems that this new activity will bring out our creativity and offer a whole new level of dating and getting to know my wife more. I am so excited and am thinking now which DIY project we’ll be doing.
Love it Jayson! It’s also a great way to find a whole new set of negotiating styles together…. ;)
I love the chalk run idea! Trying to think of a place nearby to go hide something…
And preferably one that not too many people frequent or they might play along, yeah? That’s the only flaw in that one I saw, haha… Or make it more trivia like so only they would know the answers before finding the next clue :)
I love the Ready, Set, Cook date. I love having dates at home, where I can cook my own food for a much cheaper price.
yeaaaaaahhh…. date night in!
It makes me so happy to hear geocaching still exists! I loved finding them in my hometown in high school, even without a GSP. I’ll have to find some in Nashville once the heat dies down :)
Ooooh I love Nashville… haven’t been there in years, but man – what great food/music!!
#5 sounds like it was from that episode of “Girls” on HBO. Good ideas.
Hah – true.
I’ve always wanted to try yarn-bombing as a frugal date, but can’t get my husband on board with the crocheting part of it. :) Instead we go the DIY night route a lot or the brownies-and-Netflix-after-the-kids-are-asleep thing. Highly creative.
OMG had never heard of that before!!! Had to Google and the pics are hilarious, haha… Love that!!
I know, right?! It’s so cool looking! But yes, it would take a lot of prep work and a lot of yarn to really make the right impact.
The cooking one is a good idea. My GF and I cook a lot, but that adds a new twist to it!
I’m heaps keen to try it again with Amanda but this time bring along nerf guns and shoot each other in the back why sneaking around!
Dude… Geocaching? Yes please! I’ve never heard of this before but it looks AWESOME. Totally going to try that. I also agree with #5 being hilarious yet awesome – it’s like role playing… take it as far as you need to.
2 cheap date ideas I’ll add:
Going to a museum. You don’t even have to know a thing about art, but museums are typically free and you get to see tons of things that other people have created using their imaginations and hands (sometimes). Love doing this.
Doing a puzzle together. They cost like $5 at Target and can be a total mindf@$%. Especially when you mix alcohol in. It’s fun, challenging, and corny – 3 ingredients to make a fun, cheap date at home.
Haha…. have never heard “mindf*ck” next to “puzzle” before, but you’re definitely correct there ;) They’re super fun/hard some times! Museums are dope too. Especially those on old coins, but that might just be me ;)
Hubby and I are fans of date night in bed which sounds WAY sexier than it actually is, but it just consists of us watching Netflix in bed with a bottle of wine and some popcorn. So the cost of the evening is about $10, and it’s a great way for us to chill out and enjoy our own space. It’s tough to have these with a 9 year old with ADHD in the house, but when we can get them in, we love it.
Yes, I’ll agree on that!
I just wanted to mention that geocaching is completely free. It’s only $10 for a three month “premium” membership, which you totally don’t need. The website and app are completely free. The premium membership simply “unlocks” like twice as many caches for you to find. But trust me – you don’t need it. You’ll never find all the free ones anyway!
Good tip – thanks Samantha!