Nourish Your Marriage: 20 Fun Date Ideas On The Cheap

This post is brought to you my Passionate Homemaking’s monthly contributor, Vina Barham.

Going out on “traditional” dates with your hubby can be a challenge if you have small children. There’s having to find a babysitter, paying the babysitter, and then having to shell out money for a pricey dinner. And because you’ve spent so much money on all of that, there’s an added pressure to make a spectacular date night out of it.

Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer a much more laid-back (and frugal) approach to date nights. Not having to worry about the expense opens me up to more creative ways to hang out with my hubby. And I know it makes me a better mommy when I do. Many of the ideas below are mostly for afternoon dates, when other fellow moms, trusted friends or other family are able to watch your kids.  Enjoy!

1. Pack your favorite sandwich, drinks and snacks and go for a day hike.

2. Go out for a drive to a nearby scenic view, bring some chocolates (fair-trade of course) and sweets, and kiss!

3. Play your favorite board game at home after the kids have gone to bed.

4. Trade a happy-hour early dinner date with another couple.

5. Have a cheese-wine picnic in your backyard while the kids are asleep.

6. Go to your local bookstore, pick a book and read to each other.

7. Pour yourself a cup of cocoa, grab a big blanket and do some serious stargazing in your lawn.

8. Pick a sport your husband likes and play with him. Or vice versa. Winner gets to step in the shower first, and the loser shortly thereafter. :)

9. Eat your favorite ice cream on the patio together. Of course, feed each other!

10. Head out to your hubby’s work and bring him lunch.

11. Watch a movie together. Make homemade popcorn, or something healthier if you’d like, dim the lights and give it a go.

12. Go for a swim at the local community center.

13. Look into local coffeeshops hosting free live music. Dress up and go.

14. Take a bubble bath together.

15. Make smores in the backyard.

16. Go somewhere scenic, bring a camera and take pictures of each other.

17. Give each other the gift of massage.

18. Make a fancy dinner at home after the kids have gone to bed, light up some candles and pretend you are on your first date.

19. Or reminisce.

20. Go for a long walk on the beach.

What about you? Do you have any ideas to add to the list? Or share something you’ve done on this list and how it turned out.

About Vina

Vina spends much of her ordinary days getting to know her winsome daughter and seeing the world through her eyes. She loves learning about everyday simplicity and authenticity, which she shares in her blog, A Nourishing Home.

39 Responses to Nourish Your Marriage: 20 Fun Date Ideas On The Cheap

  1. Lori Lynn April 12, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    I’ll be getting married in a little over a month and can’t wait to put this list to good use!

    My fiance and I have started a playlist that we call our “At Home Date Night” playlist. We’re both music lovers, so we decided to start a playlist of romantic songs that we both loved. No song is added to the list unless both of us love it :-) That way, when we want to make a regular week night an at home date night, we already have the mood music ready to go!

  2. shanti July 12, 2010 at 10:38 pm #

    great post…dates are so important. would like to suggest my favorite ~ Date Night with Sushi…

    much love

    keep on inspiring!

  3. date ideas are creative July 7, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    These date ideas really are creative. I just got married this year and look forward to trying most of these. The bubble bath sounds real good.=)

  4. Diana June 15, 2010 at 8:01 am #

    I have designated this summer the “Summer of Fun” for me and my husband. On the weekends, when possible, we are trying to do something fun. I have to admit that he was not thrilled with my “Movie Under the Stars” idea at first, however, he was a big fan afterwards.

    You can read details here:

  5. Liz June 1, 2010 at 9:33 am #

    What a great post – and a great blog! Thanks, glad to have found you. Dates with (especially small) children are always hard to get either the time or money to do, so these are great and fun ideas!

  6. Maureen May 31, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    We just did a post on a cheap “date night” you could have!
    find it here…


  7. dustin May 28, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    Thanks for this list! Your hubby is a lucky man :) We just had our third baby earlier this month so date nights are a no-go for a while, but we could actually swing some of the things you mentioned! I’m even going to print it off and tuck it somewhere for future inspiration.

  8. Christy May 27, 2010 at 7:16 pm #

    Great ideas, Vina!

    I made this list a few years back:

    I’d forgotten. Thanks for the reminder to spice things up again! Sometimes I just go blank when I think date night.

  9. Justina May 27, 2010 at 4:18 pm #

    My husband and I have enjoyed doing a jigsaw puzzle together. It was quality time, and it enabled us to talk a lot.

    We also enjoy nature hikes, having a catch(he’s a baseball fan!), and we enjoy playing games on the wii. Thanks for your post!

  10. Anna May 27, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    These are great ideas, Vina! We have a 3-month-old and haven’t really established a date night (yet). Before we had him, we liked walking around the outdoor mall or doing the traditional walk on the beach. :-)

  11. sarah @ syrupandhoney May 27, 2010 at 6:31 am #

    Just found your site through Roost, and so happy I did! What a beautiful space full of wonderful ideas.

  12. Autumn May 27, 2010 at 6:07 am #

    Great list, thanks for this post! I’ve done a few of these, but my favorite is #18, cooking a nice dinner at home after the kids have gone to bed. I’ll admit that it was a lot of work to cook a full, fancy dinner at 7:30pm, but it was really worth it! I set up a table on the lawn with some candles and we enjoyed our fancy steak in the twilight and had great conversation. The work was definitely worth the memories we have now. :)

  13. Sienna May 27, 2010 at 4:58 am #

    LOVE this post! I love playing cards with my hubby after the kids are in bed. Or Scrabble. Also we are big fans of getting them down and then having a drink together on the porch under the stars-….Can’t say enough about shutting off the TV (which we don’t even have), the internet, phones, etc….Can I also just put in my two cents about trying (and we all know how hard it is some days!) to create a restful environment for our husbands to come home to? It makes all the difference in the way your evening at home goes….The best dates are free too!!! Thanks for all the ideas….

    • Bethany August 4, 2010 at 6:25 am #

      Yes! That’s my goal every day as well… to make a peaceful safe haven for my hardworking husband to come home to.

  14. Jenni @ DrMomEssentials May 26, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    I LOVE just going out for dessert, but I think my favorite date is going to a used book store to browse, talk about the books we love and find a few great deals.

    I used to trade babysitting all the time when my kids were young. Now I find young, but responsible teens close by to watch my kids. Luckily, they don’t charge too much.

    Thanks for the great ideas!

  15. Pat in TX May 26, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

    We have definitely made good use – for many many years – of an early dinner for the kids, and then we retire to our room for a special dinner of grilled steaks, cheese fondue, and dessert. The children always left us alone and allowed us to really enjoy the time; we trained them that our time was important! The only thing I have to say is: SKIP the MOVIE. Talk. Play a game. Work on a project together. Do something to interact, rather than vegging out with a form of entertainment with very little interaction; its your time TOGETHER.

    After our oldest was about 14, we even had a few *weekend retreats* in which he cared for the younger children Friday night thru Sunday morning in one part of the house while we retreated in our room. Those were amazing to a couple of parents who couldn’t *get away* for 14 years:-)

    Raising a large family on a very limited budget made us all the more creative; I wouldn’t have traded our sweet moments together for all the expensive options out there!! Amazingly, we typically still use the same methods to date, even though we now have grown married sons who will happily take the younger children for an evening or a weekend. It is such a blessing to know we FINALLY have back-up, but we typically find restaurants too crowded and noisy, and let’s face it – homecooked food is soooooo much better:-)

    • Vina May 26, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Pat! An early dinner is a great idea! I would say though that my hubby and I enjoy good movers and we can talk afterwards about it! I love really good movies that make me think and unveil some parts of life invisible to me.

  16. KGR's Mom May 26, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    I have been thinking about this a lot lately, so bear with me as I “preach” to myself. We have 3 kids, 8, 6 & 2 and we used to have weekly dates out, then biweekly,and now, it is maybe once every 2 months. Why do I let lack of childcare be an excuse? I think it would do my kids good to know that we are having a date. They could have an early dinner and then play or watch a movie while we enjoy an uninterrupted special dinner. Add a movie after they are in bed and we have a date. Yes, we have to make do with what we have available during this season of our life, but that doesn’t mean we have to go with out. Has anyone tried this successfully?

    • Vina May 26, 2010 at 1:30 pm #

      Hi KGR’s mom, I appreciate your thoughts here. We don’t have weekly dates either, and like you we simply make do with whatever time we have. That’s why many of these ideas are, like what you suggest, after the kids are tucked in bed. Or for weekends when Grandma/Aunts/Cousins are free to play with our kiddo. For me, it’s spending time with my hubby. Which is still very few and far in between. But sometimes, we need a little bit of creativity so we don’t get “stuck” doing the same things. Movie at home cuddled with your sweetheart sounds perfect!

    • Vina May 26, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

      Oh and I think you are right, it’s healthy for little ones to know daddy and mommy are hanging out. :)

  17. Emily May 26, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    One of the best dates my husband and I went on was to a nickel arcade. It was inexpensive and we had a ton of fun, especially playing air hockey and making fools of ourselves on Dance Dance Revolution.

  18. Jenny May 26, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    we love doing yardwork together during naptime on saturdays, and we love falling asleep on the couch together on sunday afternoons. also during naptime. : )

    • Vina May 26, 2010 at 11:19 am #

      Gotta love the simple things.

  19. Josephine May 26, 2010 at 10:02 am #

    My husband and I thrive when we have weekly dates! However, we find that we need to get out of the house to connect the best. Just being around our “work” isn’t relaxing enough for us to just focus on each other. To help make this do-able and not out of budget, we swap kids with our good family friends. That way we don’t have to pay a babysitter and know our kids are actually getting great play time with their friends too! This also builds in accountability to actually HAVE weekly dates. Sometimes it is easy to let the calendar get full, but when another family is counting on you too, it is harder to cancel dates! Our last date was garage sailing together on a Saturday morning! :)

  20. Elisabeth May 26, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    One of my husband and I’s favorite things to do is to do the weekly grocery shopping together. My husband and I both love to cook, so sometimes we take off on our own for a few to pick all the ingredients to make a secret dessert for the other during the week. It’s nice to look forward to a surprise sometime in the week :)

  21. Tarena May 26, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    WE LOVE CHEAP DATENIGHTS!!! I honestly believe it is more fun when you have to figure out a date for $7 (or whatever the amount is that week!)

    My favorite kind of date nights are when we have “picnics” indoors…we spread a blanket and eat on the floor w/a themed dinner….I make our own version of chinese or or favorite food of late. We ususally have candles going or something romantic.

    We also love movie nights…we either get one of the $1 rentals, buy a cheap VHS from a thrift store or borrow a movie. Then we have a small “treat” from the store or I make our own popcorn on the stove.

    One of our favorite kind of “going out dates” is when we only have dessert at a really nice resturant…it is sometimes SHOCKING at how inexpensive it is to share a dessert at a really nice resturant. We try to go when it is not busy, and because we usually say, “Oh, were only here to have dessert.” To the waitress, she knows she isn’t going to get a huge tip from our table, so they usually leave us alone-it is wonderful! =)

    We try to have at least some kind of small date each weekend, we find little ways of just being together…even if it is just chatting or playing the card game Phase 10. (ps…card games at stores usually only cost a few dollars-CHEAP date night!)

    Thanks for all the awesome ideas too!! We are so excited for this summer as we just moved out into the country and now get to have some awesome datenights under the stars! =)

    • Shannon May 26, 2010 at 10:31 am #

      I like that idea of ‘going out’ just for dessert – smart! :-)

      • Vina May 26, 2010 at 11:18 am #

        Ii second that!

  22. c May 26, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    I LOVE this post. We are about to move into our new house with pretty much no money left and little twin girls. After being with my parents for a long time and knowing that we have a lot of apart time in our future, I love the idea of “date” things we can do after they go bed without leaving the house or getting a babysitter. I will be using LOTS of these ideas! Thanks!

  23. Sarah May 26, 2010 at 7:46 am #

    We love bookstores! My husband and I are addicted to books. Our recent date was going to a few different bookstores in the area, last one being barnes n’ noble, so we got coffee there and sat outside and just talked. It was one of the best dates we’ve had :)

  24. Deanna May 26, 2010 at 7:39 am #

    My husband and I don’t have kids yet (though one is on the way) but time is precious and money too. Last Valentine’s Day we literally had just 12 dollars to celebrate with and we had such a good time! I made a special dinner, set out a beautiful tablecloth I had been saving for a special occasion, set the table all pretty and lit a candle… it was awesome and we had 2 dollars to spare! We live near a drive in theater and a dollar theater which we love to go to sometimes, but if we are really slim that week, we DVR a movie and watch it together on the couch.

    • Krista May 26, 2010 at 11:20 am #

      Last Valentine’s Day (our second one being married…the first one in our new house – so we’re tight on money), while I had a bubble bath and a glass of red wine, my husband made an amazing dinner for me (and so cheaply, too!). He made filet mignon (which he got for close to half price), asparagus, red potatos, all with an amazing red wine/balsalmic sauce. And for dessert we had our favorite candy bars, served on china!!! It was at least as good as some dinners for which we’ve paid $50 each. We used our china and a lace tablecloth, and I wore something I wouldn’t wear to a fine restaurant. ;) It was a great valentines day, and it couldn’t have been cheaper. :D

  25. SomeGirl May 26, 2010 at 6:53 am #

    Great ideas! I’m sharing it to others now! ♥ Michelle

  26. Gabrielle May 26, 2010 at 6:19 am #

    Great list! One of my favorite dates ever with my husband, before we got married, was a trip to the bookstore. Somehow we ended up in the children’s section, sitting at a tiny table with our knees up to our chins, reading “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” one of my favorite books from childhood.

  27. Vina May 26, 2010 at 6:08 am #

    Erin, We love ice cream and bookstores too! Great Idea!

    Debra, I hear you! I am also an advocate of everyday stuff in marriage. It’s nice to be able to get out in awhile, though. But there’s always something fun and creative and meaningful to do. I tell my hubby it doesn’t matter, as long as we’re doing it together. :)

    Shannon, Oh yes, this list is for me too because like you, I also just get too tired (and lazy!) to come up with them on the spot!

  28. Vina May 26, 2010 at 6:08 am #

    Erin, We love ice cream and bookstores too! Great Idea!

    Debra, I hear you! I am also an advocate of everyday stuff in marriage. It’s nice to be able to get out in awhile, though. But there’s always something fun and creative and meaningful to do. I tell my hubby it doesn’t matter, as long as we’re doing it together. :)

    Shannon, Oh yes, this list is for me too because like you, I also just get too tired (and lazy!) to come up with them on the spot!

  29. Erin May 26, 2010 at 4:57 am #

    Great list! One of our favorite date night activities is buying an ice cream cone and walking around a bookstore. Its less than $10 and lots of fun!

  30. Debra May 26, 2010 at 4:48 am #

    I was getting really irritated that we never got to go on a date night because the babysitters weren’t available, until God helped me realize that what we really needed was to make the most of the time we had. That meant picking one evening of the week as our date night where we turn off the computers & tv and whatever else we were working on and spend time with each other. Playing games, bubble bath, dancing, etc. The occasional night out is great, but nurture your relationship in the every day! Thanks Vina for some great ideas to help us do that!

  31. Shannon May 26, 2010 at 2:17 am #

    What a great bunch of ideas! Sometimes my mind is just too tired to think of something creative on my own – this list will come in handy for sure….