19 Meaningful Date Ideas for Couples on a Budget

If anyone can give you creative date ideas on a budget, it’s Cole and I. In honor of our 6-year anniversary, I am sharing some of our best date ideas with you and yours.

On a fall night, in a car that lasted 2 weeks into our relationship, Cole mustered the courage to ask me out when we were 16 and 17 years old. Just 3 months later, in my boisterous black truck, I was the one telling him that I had fallen in love with him.

We were literally babies.

Fast-forward to today, we outlasted 4+ years of long-distancing, plenty of health ailments, and simply changing as people during our formative years.

This past week, Cole and I celebrated our 6-year dating anniversary. Woof.

Throughout our entire relationship, we have always looked for new and exciting ways to spend time with each other. We’re a young couple with little money that’s survived A LOT. We know how to make the most of what we have, and we prioritize our limited time together.

Since it has been 6 years, we have done QUITE a bit over the course of our relationship. So, for this post, I thought it would be fun to delve deep into the archive of our dating history, and give you some inspiration for your dating life.

Before I jump into the list, I want to give Cole a little *shout out* for always going with my spontaneous ideas. I am not someone who could have lasted in a dull relationship, so I am so appreciative of his willingness to adventure with me.

Please, enjoy our 19 Meaningful Date Ideas for Couples on a Budget.

(1) Mine & Yours Dates

As a couple, take turns selecting a Saturday that you will plan with activities that mean something to you. This is a fun way to get to know each other better; to show the things you enjoy unapologetically. Plus, it’s something special to plan and look forward to.

Cole and Ace’s Story:

I had the idea to do this when we were still in high school, so towards the beginning of our relationship. For my day, I took him to play soccer with me, something I did religiously growing up, and we went to my favorite food establishments. I ended the day lovingly forcing him to watch Les Misérables with me.

For Cole’s day, we went to the zoo, something he really enjoyed growing up, and went to his favorite pizza place for lunch. There must have been baseball in there at some point.

(2) Surprise Your Partner with a Visit

For any long-distance relationships (LDR), you know this one, and if you don’t, you should plan this immediately. Plan something special that will surprise your partner, whether they live far away and you stay the weekend or you simply surprise them with dinner after work.

Cole and Ace’s Story:

Being that we’ve been in an LDR for years, Cole and I have done this for each other a lot. I’ve gotten in cahoots with his roommate to know when I could come, and Cole has literally just showed up in my apartment.

One time, he waltzed into my apartment while I was running errands. He FaceTimed me from my bedroom, and I proceeded to RUN home.

(3) If You Can’t Go to the Destination, Bring It Home

If there is a place you both have dreamed of going but simply can’t make the time or don’t have the money, consider re-creating it at home. If it’s a restaurant, string some lights and pretend there’s a menu. If it’s a scenic spot, print some pictures and lay out some camp gear on your living room floor.

Cole and Ace’s Story:

Cole and I wanted to visit Cherry Springs in PA, one of the best places in the US to view the night sky, for years. About 3 years ago, I decided to bring the experience home by placing hundreds of glow-in-the-dark stars on my basement ceiling. I even made constellation configurations for proper star-gazing from the basement floor.

To my father’s dismay, they still remain on the basement ceiling.

(4) Truth or Truth?

If you’re looking to spend an evening at home but want to do something different or personal, play a round of truth or truth. Both of you can write questions on slips of paper, crumple them up, and place them in a bowl to be picked one by one.

Create general questions that you or your partner could answer. Go back and forth grabbing a question from the bowl, and go until there are none left.

Sometimes it’s nice to simply reset and get to know each other better.

Cole and Ace’s Story:

Cole and I did this exact process during what I believe was my sophomore year of college. With a little mental math, that means we were dating for about 3 years at that point. At a time that felt like we knew each other really well, we still learned new things.

Our questions were all over the place. Here are some examples I just fished from the depths of my college junk drawer:

  • If you found $10,000, what would you splurge on?

  • What was your first impression of me?

  • What fictional world would you live in?

  • What is your biggest fear for the near future?

(5) Plan a Micro-Vacation

Whether it’s at a hotel just one town over or a spontaneous Saturday road trip with an unknown destination, planning a random weekend vacation can be a fun, inexpensive thing to look forward to.

The point is not the extravagance; it’s the “event” that you look forward to that makes it exciting.

Cole and Ace’s Story:

Since Cole and I have been in an LDR for years now, this has become a nice escape. I remember visiting Cole when he was living in Virginia, and I basically made it a vacation in a random Quality Inn.

Was it luxurious? Absolutely not. BUT we had so much fun just being with each other. I guess this could be one of those times where you figure out if you actually like your boyfriend. 😂

Here's a little trip we took to a state park full of waterfalls and random strangers:

(6) Have a Taste Testing Date (wings, cookies, etc.)

Instead of going out for the standard dinner date, consider planning a date where you taste test a variety of foods. Hit up every local pizza joint or buy all the brands of peanut butter from the grocery store.

Cole and Ace’s Story:

Cole and I have been known to frequent the local Quaker Steak & Lube for a healthy portion of chicken wings. Every time we go, we try a new flavor. It has become a delicious tradition.

(7) Complete a Project Together

Give yourself a challenge and try to create something together. It doesn’t have to be a full-out home reno; think: completing a puzzle, making a custom cornhole game, writing a song, or creating a time capsule.

It’s nice to simply spend time together, but sometimes it’s good to get up and create. Sharing the experience can often bring you closer to each other.

Cole and Ace’s Story:

Cole has been my partner-in-crime for many projects I’ve been inspired to complete. I think the most recent one was painting a shelf that my parents no longer wanted.

When I move into my first home, I’ll be able to take it with me. Now it’s not just a shelf but a memory of painting during a pandemic.

(8) Get Out and Get Active

Disclaimer: I’m not suggesting you start a workout routine with your significant other. If that sounds appealing to you, wonderful. If this sounds horrible, you are why I wrote the disclaimer.

It can be a lot of fun to randomly do something active with your partner. Maybe this looks like a hike for you or maybe it looks like playing pick-up basketball. Don’t be intimidated; go for it.

Cole and Ace’s Story:

Cole is an athlete, and even if he wasn’t playing an organized sport, he would still train like an athlete. The gist: his workout time is his.

However, there have been a few times here and there that I’ve gone to the field with him to have a pass or to do my own little workout while he does his. It’s silly because he’s so out of my league, but we have fun whenever I tag along.

(9) Swap Movie Lists

Create a list of must-see movies that you think your guy or gal should see. If you don’t know if they’ve seen the movie, ask and adjust based on their response. Once the two of you have created your lists, as the title suggests, swap them.

You can watch the movies together when you hang out or, if you’re long distance, you can watch it together via Netflix Party (I think the name changed to Teleparty… but same gist).

Cole and Ace’s Story:

Last summer, when I was living in New York and he was living in Philly, we decided to swap movie lists including 5 classic movies that we thought the other should see. I was travelling on planes a lot, so it was a cute thing to pass the time, stay connected, and talk about.

Need some gift inspiration for your special person? Check out my 22 Heartfelt Gift Ideas from the Ace Sisters!

(10) Have a Late-Night Bonfire

On the surface, this doesn’t seem very unique. It’s a bonfire.

BUT here’s what is: blankets, beers, Reese’s for a twist on the normal s’mores and throw in some questions from (4) Truth or Truth?

(11) Go to a Bookstore

Grab some coffee and make your way over to your local bookstore. You don’t need to have a book in mind; just settle into the stacks and enjoy some leisure reading.

Obviously, this is something you can enjoy on your own, but this is one of those things where it’s just nice to be in the presence of your person.

Cole and Ace’s Story:

Cole and I have been known to frequent the local Barnes & Noble to get some reading time in. While he often reads one book for an hour, I find myself grabbing tutorial books that I pass through quickly.

Lol, definitely a reflection of our personalities.

(12) Hop on a Groupon

Cole and Ace’s Story:

On a whim, I decided to purchase a Groupon for the Borgata in Atlantic City, NJ. The deal included a one-night stay with a dinner voucher to Bobby Flay Steak and tickets to an evening comedy show.

It was a spontaneous trip over the holidays last year, and we had a great time. We literally saved hundreds of dollars on what the trip would have cost, and I even won some money, too!

(13) Create Random Celebrations

What do I mean by “random celebrations”? Think: a fancy dinner date or a fancy at home dinner date with strung lights and a freshly made 3 course meal. No special occasion required; it is simply a celebration of another day.

It’s fun to keep each other on your toes with special dates out of nowhere. If you’re feeling tired of typical hangouts or your monotonous weekly schedule, this is another idea that gives you something to look forward to.

(14) Seek Out Local Events

Sometimes date inspiration is lying right in front of you…or right down the street.

Check your local town’s website for upcoming events in the area. You can literally google “things to do near me”.

Cole and Ace’s Story:

Cole and I have attended some awesome events and, frankly, some major busts. BUT every event we’ve tried carries a memory for us.

One time, Cole and I attended a semi-local “Festival of Trees” during the holiday season. We thought we were walking into a space full of Christmas trees diversely decorated. We did not realize that space was a small elementary school gym with a lunch-line buffet in the ancient cafeteria.

We lasted about 10 minutes and decided to pass on the food. It was for the best.

(15) Attend a Farmer’s Market and Make Dinner

There’s something so wholesome about going to a local farmer’s market, picking ingredients with character, and bringing them into your home to craft a delicious work of love.

I mean, I know this is for date ideas, but this is soup for the soul stuff. You’ll get moving, use all of your senses, make educated decisions, and culminate the whole affair with a tangible result.

The less sophisticated viewpoint will just sell you on the fact that you can stuff your face with fresh, delicious food.

Either way, it’s a cute idea for a free Saturday. It’s even better if you can share it with someone you love.

(16) Have an Indoor Picnic

Who cares if you don’t have a kitchen table in your apartment and no privacy from your 4 roommates?! Cover a storage bin with a tablecloth, dine in the privacy of your room, and sit on the floor while eating a steak dinner picnic for two.

What, you didn’t have this experience? 😂

That is the next-to-ideal version of what I’m talking about from the archive of my dating history.

What I really mean is have fun with your grub dates. If you are both binge-watching a show, consider making a little indoor picnic out of it for lunch. Want dinner and a movie? Make a picnic in the comfort of your living room but maybe hold the steak for another time.

(17) Go to Your Place of Worship

Cole and Ace’s Story:

I would be remiss if I did not include this on the list because Cole and I basically had our first date at Church. It was as simple as me telling him I typically had no one to go with, so he volunteered to go with me. After, I proceeded to take him home, and that was all.

Now, 6 years later, we go with each other every week that we’re together, and it is definitely a big reason why we are still together today.

(18) Go “House Hunting”

Drive around your local area (or further away) and point out homes that you’d like to live in someday. Whether it’s the architecture of the home or the color of the front door, it’s fun to look and pick out things you like or optimistically imagine what your home could look like someday.

(19) Sit on the Beach at Night

There is nothing like being on the beach at night with the cool, sandy breeze blowing as you sit beneath the stars.

As you sit in front of the immense ocean below the even more immense starry night, it puts a lot of things in perspective. The Earth is expansive but somehow you made it to this moment, right here with the person beside you. It’s serendipitous.

Whether I inspired you or entertained you with my stories for a brief moment, I hope you enjoyed this post filled with love and friendship.

I feel so blessed to have spent the last 6 years tackling adventures with Cole, and I only wish the same for you.

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