10 Budget-Friendly Date Ideas


Looking for some budget-friendly dates that don’t break the bank? When we want to spend some good ol’ quality time with our favorite person, the last thing we need is for cost to prohibit such intentional quality-time canoodling. Thus, we give you a list of 10 budget-friendly dates that are easy on the wallet and big on the heart.

1. Take a Scenic Drive

Everyone has that magical road-less-traveled near their house—the one where it looks enchanting, but you’ve never actually had a good reason to travel down it. Who cares! Strap on those seatbelts and go for a drive! Must-have: a good roadtrip playlist and a list of great questions

My husband and I often do a “Sunday Drive” and it’s great for opening up fun convos.

-Sasha, YNAB Support

2. Start a No-Frills Tradition

You might associate date night with dressing up, dining out, and a three-course meal, but let’s reclaim the time for what it’s meant to be: time together! Go out for fast food, get donuts, or have a standing outing complete with gas station coffee—any of those options will do the trick just fine.

My husband and I were b-r-o-k-e our first Valentine’s together so we went to In-N-Out :hamburger: We’ve continued this tradition since 2010 and it’s one of our favorites! No need to dress up or make a reservation, and bonus—we can both eat for less than $15.

-Terra, YNAB Support

3. Have a Movie Marathon Endura-Date

In college, we had a word for long, sustained dates. The weekends away—the 24 hour adventure: the enduradate. No matter where you are in your relationship, these extended stretches are a feast of togetherness.

For this enduradate idea, set up a movie marathon with their series of choice. Rearrange the living room, stock up on movie theater snacks (milk duds, licorice, and buttery salted popcorn make my short list), and cozy in for a lazy stretch of binge watching.

Ideally, it’s movies that you already know well. So you can…y’know…be Valentiney during the movie.

-Ben M., Video Content Creator at YNAB

4. Sunset Sip and Saunter

The golden hour is a real-life look-better filter for us all, and you can capture the moment with a walk as the day turns to night. Hold hands. Hold mittens. Sling your arms over each other. With the other hand, why not pack a hot drink of choice to sip and saunter.

5. Pack a Picnic and Take a Bike Ride

Fill a backpack with blanket and picnic spread and head out for a ride! Pick a pretty spot or a picturesque grassy field and feast.

But it’s winter!

Ever had a winter picnic? It’s actually kinda fun. Swap the sandwiches for soup and pack a thermos of a hot drink. There’s a bit less lounging about after the meal, but it’s a memory you won’t forget! 

6. Special Treat at the Store

You might question my grammar in the title above but let me tell you “Special Treat” is a noun unto itself. Here’s how it works:

  • Give yourself a dollar amount: $5, $10, $20.
  • You both go to the grocery store, dollar store, fancy store what-have-you.
  • Pick out something for yourself. A special treat. Not for each other, for yourself.
  • Buy it and enjoy!

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been dating for 15 days or married for 15 years. Special Treat is fun and delightful anytime, anywhere.

7. Get Creative and Create!

You’ve got a muse—and how convenient, it’s the love of your life. Lean into your creative genes and make something! Pick your medium of choice: art, design, cooking, a story, and go to town!

My husband once designed and 3-D printed a coffee mug holder for the shower for me as a gift. It was such a neat gift and was less than $20!

Dela, YNAB Support

8. Look at the Lights at Night

Whether you’re near a Dark Sky park or can stare at the twinkling city lights, there’s something effortlessly magical about sitting, staring, and cozying up next to your date, partner, or favorite human. While you’re at it creating the ambiance, why not fall in love at the same time (or all over again?). Come prepared with The 36 Questions That Lead to Love

I climbed up a hill with a sweetheart once to look at the city at night. It was extra special—I brought a candle and she was thrilled (never underestimate the small flicker of a candle). This works for winter too. Bring blankets and a hot chocolate if it’s cold. What an excuse to get close too. :wink: And the frozen walk back to the car is hilarious and fun.

-Dylan, YNAB Product Design Manager

9. Become Cookie Claus 

Baking and flirting go hand-in-hand in the kitchen. Whip up a batch of sweet treats and drive around together dropping them on the doorsteps of your friends and family! This is great for the social butterfly couples looking for a socially distant way to connect with their circle.

10. Cook a Fancy Dinner at Home

Every Valentine’s day for the last few years has been a surf-and-turf extravaganza for my husband and I. I’m not really one to spend $100+ on a restaurant meal but I’m more than happy to spring for an epic spread from Costco and cook at home

It’s become somewhat of a tradition to wander into Costco a few days before Valentine’s Day and cruise around the store picking up steaks, a bottle of wine, chocolate-covered strawberries, and I make a stop by the fresh seafood counter. I think my favorite part is each year I’ve run into couples in their 70s and 80s doing the same thing.

The last few Valentine’s Days, I’ve managed to convince my husband to cook. We do something nicer than a normal meal, but feel like we’re saving money as we’re not going out. Last year it was steak, fancy potatoes, salad, and dessert from a local French bakery.

-Emma, YNAB Ops Team

Love your partner but don’t love managing money together? Learn how to get on the same page with your money and feel your relationship bloom. Check out our resources on budgeting with a partner!