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The 50 Best Free Date Ideas When You Want Romance On A Budget

Dating can be great, but when you’re struggling to pay your bills it can be stressful, here are the best free date ideas to make dating amazingly fun.

free date ideas

Coming up with free date ideas certainly puts a limit on your options, but don’t get discouraged. Dating on a budget is completely possible. You don’t need to impress a date with flowers and fancy dinners. In fact, putting thought and effort into creative date ideas shows your ability to be both romantic and practical. And as the adage goes, sometimes, the best things in the world are totally free!

Free date ideas may not be what you see as romantic in movies, but they can be some of the most fun. And not worrying about your card being declined will make you feel a whole lot more relaxed on the date, which is the point, right?

[Read: 13 things every girl wishes for on a perfect date]

A date shouldn’t be about how much money you can spend, but how good of a time you have. Money is important in life, but it doesn’t have to manage your dating life.

Let’s be honest, these days, you can buy a lot of things with money. But when you think about it, the best memories and gestures you always remember on a date aren’t because someone lavished you with something exorbitantly expensive, but because of the warm gestures and little details they put into planning the date.

[Read: How to have a great first date – 15 things you need to do that’ll impress your date every time]

The best free date ideas that are sure to impress your date

Whether you’re sharing a weekly date night with your partner, or are going on a first date with someone you barely know, these free date ideas are memorable, fun, and financial worry-free.

#1 Go for a walk. Get outside and get some exercise. Walk through your neighborhood, a park, or anywhere else. Even go for a hike if you’re both up for it. Just remember to stay hydrated and wear SPF.

#2 Go on a picnic. Use food you already have, make a salad, some sandwiches, and bring some sparkling apple cider. Lay down a blanket on the grass and enjoy your food in nature. Just remember to clean up after yourselves. [Read: The 20 best and worst venues for romantic picnic ideas]

#3 Research local events. Colleges, towns, and cities often put on free concerts, movie screenings, and more at local parks. Research what’s going on in your area and pick something you’re both interested in.

#4 Try camping. Whether you’re a camping expert or amateur, a day camping trip is one of the best free date ideas that’ll help both of you bond better. Make some s’mores, set up a tent, or just lay some sleeping bags in the back of the car.

#5 Be kids again. Act like the floor is lava and make your way from the front door to the bedroom without touching the floor. This is a lot more fun than it sounds.

#6 Movie night. Going to the movies is wildly overpriced, but streaming a movie at home with the lights down with microwave popcorn and sweets is a free date idea that’s just as atmospheric without the price tag. [Read: 30 fun things for couples to do at home with zero boredom involved]

#7 Go to a museum. Museums and art galleries are often free to enter. Explore culture and history together. Learn something new.

#8 Volunteer. Volunteer together at a soup kitchen, organize donations, or even volunteer at an animal shelter. Scooping litter boxes may not be romantic but it will bond you.

#9 Go for a bike ride. Exercise is a great way to come together. You get to enjoy the fresh air and get healthy, but can also add a bit of competition to the mix.

#10 Babysit or petsit. Have a friend that needs a night out? Offer to babysit their child or pet together. This free date ideas is seriously way more fun than it sounds!

#11 Play board games. Play new games like Cards Against Humanity or go old school with Scrabble and Monopoly. [Read: 15 really fun conversation games that’ll leave both of you laughing hard]

#12 Be competitive. For a free date idea with a competitive twist, pick a sport and go to your local park and compete. Try basketball, tennis, or anything else you enjoy. Be sure to have a prize for the winner.

#13 Cooking competition. Set a timer and get cooking. See who can make the best meal in 30 minutes or less. Use the same ingredients and see who comes up with the best meal. Or have a simple grilled cheese cook-off.

#14 Go to the beach. In most states, the beach is free. Go for a swim, walk along the shore, search for shells and sea glass, or play volleyball. [Read: 21 interesting questions for a few relationship to build the bond early]

#15 Teach each other something. Teach your date some chords on the guitar. Teach them some photography techniques. Have them teach you how to bake something or fold origami. Learning new things together bonds you through patience.

#16 Draw each other. Whether you’re a decent artist or not, this is sure to be a fun, free date idea. Take your time to do a real recreation or do something funny and abstract.

#17 Window shopping. Walk through the town center, the mall, or anywhere else and just talk about what you see. You can do this at a fancy jewelry store, a car dealership, or an antique shop. [Read: 20 interesting things for couples to do to get out of the relationship routine]

#18 People watching. This is one of my favorite free date ideas and pastime too! Just sitting on a bench in a park or in the mall and watching people interact with each other. See how many people are glued to their phones. Imagine what their names are, what they do for a living, and what they’re talking about.

#19 Taste test. Cook for each other, blindfold each other and see if you can guess the concoction. If neither of you is a good cook, you can do the same with snacks.

#20 Take online quizzes. Go to Buzzfeed and take endless online quizzes. See if you’re compatible. See what sort of pasta you are. See which ‘90s hunk you’re most like and have fun.

#21 Go to an open house. Not only do open houses usually have a decent selection of finger foods, but you can pretend to be a married couple looking to buy!

#22 Find local factory tours. Research local factories in your area and see if they offer free tours. You can check out FactoryToursUSA to see what there is in your location. You can call and find as many don’t advertise this but they usually offer free samples too.

#23 Clean out your closets together. This may be one of the better free date ideas for an established couple, but hey, if you want to clean out your closet with someone you just met, don’t let me stop you. Try on some embarrassing outfits. See what you should toss, donate, or maybe sell for some extra cash for your next date. [Read: 23 quarantine approved activities to have fun while staying safe]

#24 Do a photoshoot. Head to a cool local spot and do a photoshoot. Take cool artsy shots of each other and set a timer for some couple shots. You could leave this date with your new favorite photo.

#25 Set a world record. Look up some attainable world records to set and try to set one together. Just be sure to record it if you want it to be official.

#26 Explore without GPS. Take a drive without your GPS. Just follow the road or something that seems interesting. You can always turn it on if you actually get lost.

#27 Do a scavenger hunt. You can find some remade ideas online or make your own. Set up a list of things you have to do or see in your area and accomplish them together. It can be anything from finding two Starbucks to using a public restroom or finding a penny. This is also a great double date idea so you can compete. [Read: The best double date ideas and why every couple needs to have double dates]

#28 Build a sandcastle or a snowman. Depending on the weather and where you live, you can do either one. Make it a competition and ask strangers to judge or send photos of your masterpieces to friends so they can vote.

#29 Go somewhere haunted. Almost every town has some haunted street, house, or location. Search one near you and head there with your date. You’d be surprised how much adrenaline this free date idea can induce, even if you don’t believe in ghosts.

#30 Have a spa night. Give each other massages, do face masks, play some calming music, and see where that deep relaxation takes you. [Read: 13 sensual massage moves and techniques that’ll leave anyone wanting a lot more!]

#31 Go to a library.  I know this date idea seems dull, but hear me out. When was the last time you went to an actual library? Check out the kid’s section and see if they have your favorite childhood book. Do they still have VCR tapes to rent? Maybe even do a quiet scavenger hunt there.

#32 Go to a thrift store. Check out your local thrift store. You don’t have to buy anything, just see what they have to offer. I’m sure you’ll discover plenty of fun and bizarre things together. Even do a hilarious photo montage in the dressing room.

#33 Build a fort. Get comfy at home and build a fort, like you did as kids. Toss some blankets over chairs, put the couch cushions on the floor and watch a movie. [Read: 25 really romantic ideas that will definitely make your lover melt!]

#34 Bury a time capsule. This would be hard to do for a first date unless you went to dinner and you could include the receipt, I guess, but if you’re a committed couple, this is so fun.

 Make a time capsule of things that are important to you now; like photos, maybe your favorite shirt your partner shrunk in the dryer, and a destroyed dog toy your furbaby loved. Agree to dig it up in 5, 10, or even 20 years.

#35 Run errands. I know this free date idea can seem dumb, but I actually think this can calm your nerves for a date and help you really get to see how you mesh together on a daily basis. Go drop stuff at the post office, pick up groceries, or finally return that awful Christmas present.

Do you like each other when you’re doing mundane activities? Does being with them make boring stuff like this more fun? [Read: How to get closer to someone – 15 traits that bring people closer]

#36 Get free paint samples and make a feature wall. Many hardware stores offer a free small can of paint. Go pick a color, come home, and paint a feature wall together.

#37 Try out the massage chairs at the mall. Head to your local electronics store and relax in the massage chairs. Try out the memory foam bed, mess with the fancy stereo on display and live like pretend kings for an afternoon.

#38 Do a photoshoot challenge. This is so fun! Head to a local bodega, a craft supply store, or anywhere bizarre and take some amazing posed photos. Go to the fake flower section and pose in the plants. Take photos of each other in the cold beverage section of a convenience store and see where your creativity takes you. [Read: How to be funny and make people love your company]

#39 Show each other funny videos. Show each other your favorite YouTube videos. This could be a recent love or the ones you cried laughing at in middle school.

#40 Go searching with a metal detector. This is only free if you own a metal detector or can borrow one from a friend. You may be asking them to dig up bottle caps, but offer them half your discovery and it’ll be a fun, free date idea that’ll also be memorable!

#41 Do a puzzle. I know this seems so mundane, but this is a calm activity for those who prefer a relaxing night. It also gives you an opportunity to talk and get to know each other while working together. [Read: How to get someone to open up to you so you both can really connect]

#42 Go sledding. If you have snow in your area or can drive to the mountains, go sledding. This is way more fun than you remember it being and if you wipe out and happen to catch it on camera, your date could be on the news!

#43 Carve your initials into something. Carve your initials into a tree or park bench, so that you can come back and remember how happy you were on this day.

#44 Find local yard sales. Check out local garage or yard sales in your area and see what sort of weird stuff people are trying to sell. You may not go into the date planning to spend money, but you never know what treasure you’ll discover. You’ll also get to see your date’s haggling skills.

#45 Go to the mall. A mall date was the coolest back in middle school. Getting free samples at the food court, trying on clothes you can’t afford, and giggling through Spencer’s gifts doesn’t have to be a memory. Relive those glory days now. [Read: How long should a date last? Your guide to timing it right]

#46 Do some gardening. Again, this is one of those free date ideas for those who don’t mind getting a little dirty. Prune some bushes, pull some weeds, and even plant some flowers or start a garden together. Creating something like this together will feel so productive and rewarding.

#47 Rearrange your furniture. Remember what it was like to rearrange your bedroom as a kid? It felt like a whole new space. Do that with your date. Rearrange your bedroom or living room, and see what suits your space best.

#48 Videochat. This isn’t the most exciting but there are tons of things you can do on a videochat date that are always free. [Read: The best virtual date ideas to really get to know each other]

#49 Look at your old photos. Relive the old days by going through your albums, your school yearbooks, or your Facebook. Share the stories behind the pictures and get to know each other.

#50 Plan a fantasy date night. You may not have the funds to do something extravagant but that doesn’t mean you can’t dream. Pour some wine and plan your dream date together. Would you fly to Italy? Would you go to the fanciest restaurant in town?

[Read: 25 couple activities that’ll make you feel loved and closer than ever]

Free date ideas don’t have to be bad date ideas, in fact, they can be some of the most fun and memorable dates of your life!

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Samantha Ann
My name is Samantha Ann. I am 28 years old. It was always my dream to become an advice columnist, so after years of off and online dating and eventually finding...