How to Date on a Budget (Without Sacrificing Romance)

We’ve all been there. You want to take that special someone out for a romantic evening. You like them enough that you want to bring them to that super fancy restaurant where every dish is way too tiny for what it costs and reservations need to be made months in advance but it would put far too big a dent in your bank account. We’ve got you covered. Here are our suggestions for romantic activities that don’t require the equivalent of a month’s rent.

Make Ice Cream Together.

Even if the age-old battle between chocolate or vanilla wages on between you and your significant other, you can both appreciate the novelty of making your own ice cream at home. Ice cream is actually really simple to make, with just 3-4 base ingredients plus whatever extras you want. Simply mix milk, cream, sugar, and eggs (optional), heat to 170 degrees then chill and churn with an ice cream machine, a mixer, or by hand. Then add any extras (chocolate chips, peanut butter, etc.).

Making this together adds an extra level of intimacy to a home-cooked meal, and after all the fun work you can enjoy together! Bon appetite!

Make S’mores.

Similar to the last suggestion, making s’mores adds a cozier element for colder weather dates. Ideally, you can roast your marshmallows over an indoor or outdoor fireplace, but it works as well on a barbeque grill (or even on a stovetop)! Nothing takes an evening from zero to romance faster than firelight, and this activity gives you the bonus of a tasty dessert! After you clean up and remove any flammable materials from around your heat source, roast your marshmallows and add graham crackers and chocolate for a simple and sweet treat! Bonus: sitting outside on a cool night is a perfect excuse to bundle up and get close to each other.

Borrow a Dog for a Day.

Yes, this is a real thing. If you don’t have a pet of your own, you and your special someone can rent a dog for a day from a shelter or other non-profit organization. There are also apps, like Bark N Borrow or Uber Puppies, that allow you to rent a dog for a certain amount of time. What is more fun than taking a dog on a date with you for the afternoon? Whether you’re going to play at home in your apartment or go out for a walk in the park, you’ll find yourself moving at a different pace. It’s a special experience that the two of you can share and talk about for a long time afterward.

Eat Your Way Through a Cookie Taste Test

Another inexpensive and fun date is to do a cookie taste test. Here’s how it works: pick the five best bakeries/grocery stores near you and buy one cookie (or more depending on the size of your sweet tooth). Lay out a picnic blanket in your local park (or in your living room) where you can share and compare the cookies. You’ll learn more about your date by comparing which cookies you each liked and why, plus you’ll always know where to go to get them something sweet on your way home from work!

Get Lost in a Maze.

There are a surprising number of hedge mazes in the world. Take an afternoon off and explore one with your significant other. You can compete against each other for a challenge, or work together as a team. Either way, it’ll help you build your relationship in a unique way as you both put your memory to the ultimate test. At the end, take some time to assess the challenges and successes you had throughout the process.

Bonus All-Day Itinerary: Take a Train Ride to a Historic Town Near You.

If you’re planning an all-day date, take the train to a local historic site that you’ve always heard about but never had the chance to visit. The destination is less important than the train ride itself, during which you can take time to really get to know your date. While it’s hard to image for commuters, trains might just be the most romantic place. In “Casino Royale,” James Bond fell in love with Vesper on a train, and Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint fell in love in “North by Northwest” on a train. So take a chance, take a ride and enjoy some time together while watching the world go by.