A boy lying on the grass

Great Dates for Couples on a Tight Budget

Wallet a little thin this Valentine season? That shouldn’t mean you cancel all dates until things begin to look up in the finance department. The solution is to get creative, to find reasonable and fun alternatives that require only pocket change and the right attitude—or with any luck, some that are absolutely free.

A boy lying on the grass

9 ideas to get your creativity going

Volunteer together

Find a local charity that meets the needs of some area of life you are passionate about, such as a soup kitchen or pet shelter. Volunteer for the day—together!

Free day

Most art galleries and museums have a free day or hours each month or have gone to a “pay as you wish” policy. Here’s an example: Los Angeles County Museum of Art is free after 3pm Monday-Friday for L.A. County residents; also free on the second Tuesday of each month. Also in Los Angeles, The Getty Center is always free. Check those in your area.


Just hear me out. Karaoke is guaranteed to be a fun night, even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Let your hair down, spring for a few drinks and have a ball.


When is the last time you lay down on a blanket and stared at the stars? Grab some hot chocolate, warm blankets, and your best gal or guy, then try to find your favorite constellations. If you need some guidance, you can download apps like Star Tracker (Google/Apple).

Wine or beer tour

Most local breweries and winery tours are free, or only a few bucks—and so much fun. You’ll learn some stuff you didn’t know, get to taste a variety of drinks and have a great time.


Seriously. Whether it’s in a park, downtown or along a waterfront, walking is such a good way to open up and just have a great talk. Actually, you won’t find a better activity to get to know one another. And you’ll get a little exercise to boot.


If you live in Colorado as I do, you already know the meaning of hiking! There is no end to the number of hikes available—all for free. All you really have to pay for is gas to get there and a few snacks and bottles of water for the journey. Don’t know of any hiking trails near you? Do this: Google the name of your city and state plus the word “tourist.” You’ll be amazed by how many things there are to do, some of which you may not even be aware of.

Photography tour

Grab your digital cameras or camera phones and take off. Just wander around and take pictures—of each other, surroundings and so on. Open your eyes to really see and record all of the beauty that surrounds you.

Hit the books

Whether a glorious central library downtown, a cozy regional branch or bookstore, spend a few hours browsing. Talk about your favorite books. Browse the art and photography books and point out what each of you likes. You can be as corny or intellectual as you like. Grab a coffee then sit to chat.

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8 replies
  1. Lynn says:

    We each pick a dish or course and make it for the other. We set the table with China and a table cloth. He’ll pick a appetizer, like fondue. I’ll make an amazing pasta dish or stir fry. He’ll make a brownie pudding. A simple bottle of wine and all for less than dessert out.

  2. Lynnette says:

    If you live near a university, their sporting events can sometimes be a cheap date. We live near University of Tennessee. While their football games are too expensive (unless friends give us tickets!), they always have a spring exhibition game that is free (many of the large universities do). UT Basketball games, on the other hand, cost significantly less than football and sometimes they’ll have a promotion where you get in free by donating canned goods or a book. Baseball and softball games don’t cost very much either.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      What a great idea, Lynnette. Thank you for sharing that with us! I’d be delighted if you stepped over to our NEW Tips site, tips.everydaycheapskate.com to upload this tip! You could win a CASH prize … really! The current contest runs through 2-14-90 … Good luck! Mary

  3. Betty Thomas says:

    My husband and I started date nights at home when all the kids were still in the house. The main reason was financial. We couldn’t dinners nights out and we certainly couldn’t afford a babysitter for 5 kids. We would put the kids to bed and then we’d grill something and open a bottle of wine. Sometimes we would watch a movie and other times we’d dance in the living room. Whatever we did back then continued to this day. Now we are empty nesters and weekly date nights are still the plan. Now we can afford a luxury evening out or couple massages but we still pick a night at home together 98% of the time. Pretty good at 41 years later!

  4. Sue in MN says:

    Stay at Home – lovely date for young parents – send the kids to a friend or grandparent for the evening (better yet, overnight) and make a romantic kid-free meal, followed by your favorite couple/romantic activities. If you send them to a friend, return the favor by taking their children a different evening. We do this monthly for our kids, working parents of 2 toddlers. Sometimes they just nap or watch a movie (uninterrupted) or rune errands followed by a coffee/dessert date.
    Coffee & Dessert – Have a nice dinner at home, followed by a trip to a pastry or dessert bar.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Awesome ideas and testimonial, Sue! I love the part about trading babysitting. Between dinner out and paying a babysitter, the cost is prohibitive. You’ve really told us how to cut the cost of both!

      • Liza says:

        Mary, We have been fans of yours since your first little newsletters. You are a big part of how we were able to put 5 kids through college (and almost a PhD for one still a student) without any debt. Yes, no debt! And that on a one-salary income. We appreciate you, so were sorry to see you promoting alcoholic beverages which are an unnecessary expense for many of us, not to mention as addictive for some as over-spending can be. It’s one of the leading contributors to various illnesses, to abuse and divorce–all of which result in financial burdens to a family. And beer is fattening– which can mean gym fees and diet program fees– we know how expensive that can be! Like spending money, alcohol can make us feel special and soften troubles, but then there is too often the piper to pay. And a child lost forever- due to a driver who had too much to drink– that is an “expense” you never get over.

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