Fun & Unusual Date Night Ideas (At Home or Out) on a Budget

Fun & Unusual Date Night Ideas (At Home or Out) on a Budget

Wellness Mama®
Simple Answers for Healthier Families
When my husband and I were newly married, we didn’t have much disposable income, but it didn’t matter because our favorite thing to do was just spend time together (and still is!). Of course, life and kids happened and while it is wonderful, it does make it a little tougher to spend quality time alone.
We’ve been working on ways to rekindle that early dating spontaneity and to find fun, creative, and even unusual date ideas to try (and not just on Valentine’s Day or other special occasions!).
Experts say that weekly date nights help couples have more intimate and lasting relationships. I’m lucky to have a romantic and adventurous husband (he’s Italian) who helps break the “dinner and a movie” routine and try new things.
Maybe one of these ideas will sound like something you’d like to try!
Pre-kids, when we wanted to go on a date, we would just go. Usually it was something free or very inexpensive because we were on such a tight budget, but even a walk at the park or a picnic was great.
As any parent of young children can probably appreciate, these days, going on a date is more of a ten-step process:
This of course isn’t to say that it isn’t worth it to get out kid-free once in a while, but if staying in for a date is more practical, the good news is there are still ways to make it special (and without doing the same old thing).
The cost to go on a date has changed a lot too over the years!
It used to cost $0-$25 to go out with my husband because we would go for a walk or hike, or to a free event at a local outdoor theater. If we were really splurging, we would go to a bar for drinks, dinner, and a movie.
Now, a babysitter usually costs at least $40+ for an evening, a nice-ish dinner is easily $50+, and if we went to a movie that is another $22. $112 for a basic dinner and a movie seems like a lot, especially since it can be hard to find healthy, real food options when eating out, and my husband prefers to watch movies at home.
At-Home Date Night Ideas

We decided long ago that we would make weekly date nights a priority, but also that many of these date nights would happen at home after the kids were in bed (cheaper, easier, and not a problem if we fall asleep by 10 PM).
Over the years, I’ve developed a list of some of our favorite at-home date ideas. We’ve found that even if we are just spending uninterrupted time together after the kids go to bed but are intentionally not on our phones or laptops, we have a great time and can rekindle some of that fun, quality time spontaneity and romance of our early dating and married years.
The whole lots-of-babies-in-8-years has made me a big fan of getting a massage. Pregnancy, nursing, and now carrying around toddlers are a big demand on the body and every mom could use a good massage. Unfortunately, a good 60-minute massage can cost at least $80 in most locations.
While there are some great massage devices to use at home (this is my favorite), a much more romantic way is to try an at-home massage course.
This Melt Massage for Couples course is taught by a husband and wife team in a really easy-to-learn format. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, now that we both actually know how to give a good massage!
You might think my husband would have to con me into this one, but watching a sporting event is one date night we both enjoy equally. We share favorite baseball and football teams and have weekly dates to watch games.
For big anniversaries or birthdays, I’ll try to work out getting actual tickets to a game so we can go together.
If you don’t already have a chessboard and set, you can pick up an inexpensive one and learn to play together. It’s fun and great for your mind, and also a great game to teach your kids!
We built a fire pit in our backyard and some of our favorite at-home dates involve sitting by the fire, sipping wine, and just talking. Lights aren’t just for Christmas … hang a string or make these homemade tiki-torches to create a romantic and cozy backyard atmosphere.
We enjoy watching documentaries together and often this leads to good conversation about a controversial topic. Some great documentaries that are available on Netflix or Amazon to stream online are:
There are literally hundreds of options depending on what type of documentaries you like.
Sitting on the couch tonight? Try one of these free personality tests you can take online, either just for fun, or to learn something about each other:
These require a babysitter or leaving home unless you happen to live on a lot of land, but spending time outdoors and disconnected from technology is a great way to reconnect. Look up local parks and try a new spot you haven’t yet explored!
Not a groundbreaking date idea, but still relaxing and cheap! We don’t watch much TV, but over the years there have been a few series that we’ve really enjoyed and that gave us an excuse for regular date nights at home. We definitely pair this idea with a nice glass of our favorite wine.
Another activity that I probably enjoy more than my husband does, but cooking together can be a lot of fun, especially when trying new recipes (I might know where you can find some…) or cuisines. Pick a recipe to make together. If you have the time, pick a movie that corresponds to the cuisines and enjoy dinner and a movie. Make an Italian meal and watch an Italian movie together, or try your hand at sushi-making and watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Dinner is the typical date meal, but no need to leave out the others! Breakfast is a healthier (and cheaper) meal to eat out. Head to a diner or local restaurant for an early morning date, and reserve the rest of the day for some good couple time. It can also be easier to get babysitters on a Saturday morning or let your kids play at a friend’s house.
This is my husband’s favorite type of date, and it fits well with our decision to stick to experiences instead of material gifts. I’ve enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone on some of our more adventurous dates. One memorable year we went scuba diving, but there are tons of possibilities! Visit an indoor rock climbing gym, go kayaking (another one of ours), race go-karts, try ice skating (not my favorite!), or if you are really brave … go to a karaoke bar and sing your heart out!
This is a recurring date theme for us. Going out can be difficult with little ones, so plan a fun date themed around ethnic foods and enjoy it at home once the kids are in bed. Make your own sushi and eat on the floor. Make healthy Mexican food and watch a movie in Spanish. Make fondue and eat by candlelight. Whatever you choose, set the mood with music and decorations to make it fun! Even if you don’t go for ethnic foods, enjoy a late-night date at home and cook for each other! This is also a budget-friendly way to keep the romance alive.
This certainly isn’t for everyone, but it usually promises to be a bonding experience and is really healthy for you too. Always fun as a family, but if you can sneak away for a night, go camping as a couple. The alone time around the campfire will give you a chance to really catch up, and the potential for unforeseen circumstances (wild animals, rain, etc.) makes it an adventure.
This is a great way to get closer as a couple. Once we tried it, I wished we’d started right away as a newly married couple. Focus on a cause you both believe in and volunteer together. This is something great to do with kids too. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, raise money for a cause, or pick a service project at your church. It might make you grateful for what you have and will certainly be some quality time with your love! Another advantage … spreading the love doesn’t cost a thing!
We often forget about the things that others come to our town to see. Go to a play at the community theater or check out the comedy club. Find an arboretum or botanical garden and walk around. Hit the batting cages or mini golf or even just browse the bookstore together and talk over a cup of coffee. If it is in season, visit an orchard or pick-your-own farm or take a tour of a local brewery or vineyard.
Exercise can be fun as a couple! Pick a new sport to learn: tennis, racquetball, basketball, or swimming… just pick something you enjoy. For an activity, go miniature golfing, paint pottery together, take dance or painting lessons, or go bike riding or canoeing. These are often the best times to talk and you get the chance to develop a new hobby or skill.
Feel a little funny staring into each other’s eyes? Painting a portrait is the perfect excuse! Reconnect in an unusual way by reviving or learning a new skill. Lots of laughs will be had, I promise! It’s ok to just have fun with it, but I also recommend an online class from Udemy if you really want to learn some new skills.
Seriously … all parents know it’s harder than it sounds! Once the kids are in bed (and repeatedly threatened asked to return to bed), choose to de-stress by ignoring everything else that needs to be done. (Ignore electronics, too… hide them if you have to!)
Dim the lights, light some beeswax candles, turn on some relaxing music, and just hang out together. Talk, laugh, cuddle, explore each other… just like the old days!
Making time to spend as a couple can be much more challenging than it should be, especially with kids. Make the decision to make your relationship a priority. Take the time to brainstorm new date ideas and make them happen… no need to wait for a time like Valentine’s Day to have an excuse to spend time together!
What was your best (or worst) date ever? Would you try any of the date ideas above?
Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder and CEO of Wellness Mama and Co-Founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a wife and mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.
Gina B

We did an archery course on my birthday this year. This Saturday we’re hoping to try cross country skiing which I’ve never tried before. Hopefully it’s not too cold ?
Betty

Love these ideas and found we have done almost all of them with the exception of sushi. Katie, your articles are always fun and interesting–love your natural approach to life and have adopted many of your ideas. We are of retirement age so child care is no longer an issue, but many of these ideas would span the generations and find the simpler the better: an easy walk up to the orchard above our home, checking out deer, wild turkey, fox or even red-tailed hawks (my favorite) at dusk. Also love 2-wheeler rides to the same orchard. Walks at the nearby Finger Lakes (our town of Geneva NY hosts one), we also like to take our bikes down to the visitors center and ride the full length (4 miles) stopping to sit on a bench, enjoying the free concerts the town offers during the summer, or taking our favorite book along. We often pick up a fish sandwich (Dougs Fish Fry To Go is in our area) and take it to the canal. How about reading books together? We gave up TV years ago, you can do this by merely cutting the cable connection–painless, because of the stuff that was routinely coming into our home that we would normally never allow and TV is such a time sucker. We always have a book on hand ranging from Louis L’Amour, my husband’s favorite, to Randy Alcorn, just finished his Safely Home, oh my goodness, so well written and different from the other things we have enjoyed together. We love historic fiction, biographies, non-fiction testimonies, and now have a wide range of tastes and authors we know by name. You can load books on your Kindle when you travel, share books with the entire family at the table after meals and during car rides or as an incentive for getting our 4 children ready early for the school bus when they were all home. We do home improvement projects together–my husband is more of chain saw carpenter, so close supervision is always a good idea when he is working inside the home. Another all-ages idea is calling friends and go visiting. Can’t tell you what wonderful responses we have gotten from that one. People are thrilled you would bother and wish they had thought of it first. I often take a desert that I would not want the two of us to be fully responsible for at home, or homemade soup ready to heat. Gives you opportunity to get to know people you normally only have time for a “hi” when you run into them. How about Sunday evening bond fires and cooking your supper over a wood fire. A simple popcorn feast over the camp fire turns a boring evening into an event. Far too long, but you get the idea. Scheduling fun has become a very important part of every day/week for these two cancer-fighting warriors, and we find doing so has done a wonderful thing for our working as a team. Thanks Katie for your wonderful website and blog.
Hélène

My fav date is simply a seafood dinner, a movie and discussing it afterward over ice cream, then heading home together 😉 Just getting away and talking or sitting uninterruptedly for 6 hrs is heavenly.
Nathan

You suggested eating sushi. Do you guys eat rice or do you make sushi with a rice substitute?
Wellness Mama

We eat rice on occasion. I wrote about it here: http://tmp.wellnessmama.com/2123/white-rice-healthy/. Also, here is a rice-free sushi recipe: http://tmp.wellnessmama.com/2118/rice-free-sushi/
Hélène

Spread nori with softened cream cheese mixed with s&p and canned salmon, sprinkle with minced onions or scallions and lay on thin carrot, celery, cucumber, avocado sticks, whatever. Roll up and slice. Sprinkle with an organic tamari, dip in wasabi, serve wih pickled ginger. Never miss the rice. Rich n satiating, unlike rice sushi.
Eleanor

You can also use quinoa or brown rice to excellent result.
My friend loaned us a tipi and we like to hang out near the fire over a glass of something. Bike rides are nice too.
Wendy Cartright

These are super fun date ideas! I have found that my husband and I fall into a routine and we either don’t go on a date for a long time, or we just order pizza and call it a date. There’s nothing wrong with ordering pizza and watching a movie, but I think it’s time to liven it up a bit. I really liked your idea to do an activity together. I think it would be really fun to do archery together. It’s something neither of us have done before.
Dijana

A few days ago we decided to skip going to a concert and instead use that money for multiple small dates. Thank you for these great suggestions, they will be added our date list for sure :).
Tacey

Great ideas! My husband and I love volunteering together, we do door-to-door Bible education work and landscaping at our local Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses several times a week. Seeing him help others reminds me of why I love him so much and keeps things in focus. 🙂
Michelle

😉 <3
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