Cheap date night ideas that won't make you look like a cheap date

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We all know how quickly a restaurant bill can add up. You order a couple appetizers, then come the entrees, maybe you agree to a second glass of wine and then your server asks if you're interested in dessert. Well of course you're interested in triple chocolate mousse cake drizzled with raspberry coulis, so what are you going to say? No?

While nice dinners are great for a once-in-awhile treat, watching your date sweat over the bill is not. Keep these date ideas in mind when staying in just isn't going to cut it, and spending a lot isn't an option.

Pack a picnic

There's no upcharge and no tip when you're buying the food and preparing it yourself. Head to your local grocery store and pick up some cheeses, cold cuts, crackers, fruits and a bottle of wine. You'll need forks, knives, napkins, a blanket and a bottle opener from home, and then you and your other half can pick your favorite spot to dine outdoors.

Go on a hike

Not only does hiking boost those feel-good endorphins, but it's also a great free activity for you and your special someone. If you live near a hiking area, choose a trail you've never been on before for something new to explore. If hiking isn't an option near you, pick a new running path or go on a bike ride together.

Visit a museum

Choose something hands-on and educational like a science museum, go stargazing at a planetarium or check out a new exhibit at an art museum. Museum ticket prices in major cities tend to average about $25, but depending on the city you live in or near, the museums might have free admission. For the museums that do have an admission fee, be sure to check their websites for free days offered to in-state residents.

Find a book bar

A bar that has craft cocktails and shelves filled with literary classics? This is the perfect date for couples who have an appreciation for literature and don't want the hustle and bustle of a busy sports bar. Book bars are great for having games like Scrabble and checkers on their shelves and tabletops. Enjoy a game before you hunker down with a good book and your favorite drink.

Make a farmers market dinner

Frequenting restaurants can easily put you over your date budget for the month. Rather than going out next time you have a date night planned, visit your local farmer's market or grocery and pick out a bunch of ingredients for your favorite meal. Take the goods back home and enjoy a night of cooking together. Pop open a cheap bottle of wine, light some candles and turn the music up for restaurant-like ambiance.

Volunteer together

On average, Americans spend over $160 a month on dates. Volunteering is a way to mitigate dating costs and is said to have the benefit of making people happier. Giving your time and talent to a cause or to your community can make for an even more meaningful experience when you spend that time with your partner. Pick a charity or organization that is special to both of you, or choose a cause that is totally new. Productions

Catch a new release at an indie theater

1948 was the first year that the average cost for a movie ticket was recorded. Two tickets that year would have cost $0.72, at $0.36 each. Today, the average is $9 per ticket, and at night, those prices can cost over $15 each. To keep costs low, choose a matinee at an independent movie theater rather than a nighttime showing at a theater chain.

Go to the beach

If you're lucky enough to live near a beach, this could be quite the romantic afternoon for two. Let the salty air and sea breeze whisk away stress and just take in the sun rays with your date. Before you leave home, pack some water, snacks, a couple towels and some sunscreen for proper beach safety.

Have a game night

Why go out when you can stay in? Instead of watching your favorite show together like you do every weekend, change things up by setting your coffee table up for the ultimate game night. Pick your favorites, set out some snacks and just wait to see which of you will get more competitive over the cards you've been dealt in War or the properties you own in Monopoly. It's also easy to turn this into a double date with the best games for dinner parties.

Buy nosebleeds at a sporting event

Sitting courtside or in club seating for games might be exhilarating, but the price tag is not economical when you're trying to save money. Cut out costs without cutting back on fun by buying tickets in the nosebleed section. Fans up there are rowdy, you can still enjoy a cold beer and a pretzel, and if your team loses, well at least you didn't break the bank to watch it happen.

Go to an adult arcade

Order drinks, get some tokens and show your competitive side during date night at an arcade bar. It's certainly a throwback to your childhood with games like Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, air hockey and Skee-Ball, but now you can drink cocktails and beer instead of pop. Just like when you were a kid, you pay for each token you get, so go in with a budget and only get as many tokens as the budget will allow.

Take a brewery tour

Instead of sitting at a bar drinking beer, go watch how beer is made at a local brewery. Typical brewery tours will include multiple sample tastings, so you'll get to enjoy the flavors as you learn. Stay afterward to order a glass of your favorite sample. The average cost for a brewery tour is $10 per person.

Attend a local reading

This is another date for the literary-inclined. Check out local libraries or bars that are hosting poetry slams or short fiction readings. Maybe it'll spark some inspiration, or maybe it'll just be something different to experience together. Research what your town has to offer - oftentimes readings are free.

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Go bowling or mini-golfing

Prices vary based on location for bowling and mini-golf, but on average, bowling shoes cost about $5 to rent per person, and then each game might cost about $5 per person. Note that some lanes charge per lane per hour, so the cost will be a bit more. For mini-golf, expect to pay anywhere from about $9 to $12 per person per 18-hole course.

Order in and start a new show

When you order food in, you cut out the cost of upcharged beverages and a tip - two things that drive a restaurant bill up the more you order. Instead, order food to carry out, pick it up to avoid a delivery fee and use what you already have on your bar cart to create your own cocktails.

Try a weekday concert

While bigger cities might have steeper ticket prices, you can still nab some cheap seats if you go during the week rather than a weekend, especially if you opt for a lesser-known band at a small venue. Smaller venues give you the advantage of a more intimate setting, too. Make sure to watch for when tour dates get posted so you can snag some savings on cheap seats right away.

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Go fruit picking

Expressing your love with a bushel and a peck might be a bit cheesy, but picking seasonal fruits like apples, blueberries or cherries is a cute way to spend the day doing something different than grabbing lunch or going to the movies. Typically, you pay by weight, so unless you're baking a hundred pies, it can be an affordable way to spend time and pick up some healthy snacks.

Attend a comedy show or a trivia night

Do some searching around for inexpensive comedy shows in a city near you. Just because a show isn't Iliza Shlesinger or John Mulaney, which cost about $70 to $90 per ticket, doesn't mean it won't be entertaining. It may even give you plenty to laugh about on the car ride home. If you'd rather be a bit more involved in something, visit a dive bar that advertises a trivia night and see who knows the most fun facts.


Revisit an old favorite

Sometimes, all you need for a little romance is a reminder of when the two of you were still new. Scroll or flip through old photos and blindly pick one, then relive whatever date you were on in the picture. If you happen to pick one that was a splurge, like an expensive steakhouse, modify it by making the steak at home.

Stop by the zoo

Watching animals graze while you eat corn dogs and Dippin' Dots might feel like a bit of a childhood throwback, but it's certainly an activity that will switch up the monotony of everyday life. If you're lucky, you might live in a city that has free admission to the zoo, otherwise, you can look at paying around $14 to $28 for admission. Even still, this is cheaper than your bill might be at the most romantic restaurants throughout the U.S.

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