30 Affordable Dates To Impress Bae

Photo: Everett Collection.

In rom-coms, the perfect date might involve flowers, a cab ride (no nasty subway rides in fantasies, thank you very much), and a romantic but not cheesy excursion involving gondolas, serenading, and lots of wine.

Realistically, however, those dates cost money — sometimes, lots of it (gondola rides are hard to come by). And since the majority of the world doesn’t have the extra cash to pay for a private jet to Paris, we decided to come up with 30 easy and affordable date ideas, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

With suggestions from Refinery29 staffers, these 30 dates are designed to help you bond with your love interest without breaking the bank. Set aside $30 for your special date night, and click through to see all the fun, interesting, and sometimes weird options out there. Flower cost not included.


This story was originally published in February 2016.

Figure Out Your Local Museum’s Free Day

Major museums often have free days or nights, where you can avoid the $15 entrance fee for a night of wandering by a Warhol or two. Do your research for these special days at your local museum, or keep an eye out for discounts. Sometimes students have a lower admission fee, while certain banks or companies might offer free museum days on them (like Bank of America).

Photographed by Emma McAlary.

Discover A New Band

You might not get to see Justin Bieber for free, but local bars, clubs, and even restaurants in major cities host free gigs for up and coming bands. Find a good venue near you (Rockwood is great for New Yorkers) and keep an eye on their show schedule. If you’re an avid concertgoer, sign up for Jukely, a music subscription service that offers last-minute free tickets to concerts in more than 20 cities ($25 a month, $45 for a plus one).

Photographed by Jennifer Avello.


Learn How To Dance

You know those couples who always tear it up at every wedding you go to, twirling around effortlessly to “Shout” while everyone else awkwardly tries to bop along? Well, you can be that couple. Ballroom dance studios will often host discounted dance parties (along with a free lesson), so you can learn how to salsa, cha-cha, or even swing dance on the cheap. Google is your friend here.

Photographed by Winnie Au.


Picnic In A Park

You don’t need to be active to enjoy the great outdoors. An outdoor picnic is a classic date idea, and one that two parties can chip in on. One Refinery29 staffer suggests setting a budget for $15 each, with one person buying a bottle of wine, and the other buying the cheese and crackers. Bring your own blanket and utensils, find a nice spot in a park or by some water source, and have a happy hour picnic.

Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.

Go To A Comedy Club

There’s a reason comedy clubs tend to be cheaper than you’d expect — these smaller shows act as trial runs for new material from seasoned comedians. This means you can potentially see a headliner (Louis C.K. and Jon Stewart have popped up at the Comedy Cellar before) for the price of a beer.

Photo: Matt Petit/Getty Images.


Take A Walk

If you live in Chicago (or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan), maybe avoid the walking date until spring comes around. If you’re in warmer areas, however, exploring a new neighborhood on foot could lead to new favorites, whether it’s a local bakery that serves the best cobbler you’ve ever had, to a home goods store perfect for presents.

Photographed by Mark Iantosca.


Raid Each Other’s Closets

Even if sizing is an issue, accessories are always fun to swap. Who knows? A forgotten scarf could turn into a beloved necktie.

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh.


Take A Free Improv Class

Improv schools tend to host free improv class nights to introduce newbies to the genre. There’s no better icebreaker than having to pretend to be someone you’re not in front of a room of strangers.

Photo: Araya Diaz/Getty Images.


Go To A Drive-In

Yes, drive-in theaters still exist, and yes, they do show modern movies. A little research might be necessary to find one near you (and within a certain price point), but a night reliving one of America’s oldest pastimes (and pretending you’re in Grease) is certainly worth a quick Google search.

Note: Don’t have a drive-in near you? Head over to a matinee showing at your local theater, and sneak in your own snacks and wine. Pop open the wine bottle during opening credits.

Photo: Matt Carr/Getty Images.


Bake Something Sweet

Cookies and cupcakes might be the most obvious choices, but if you’re feeling adventurous, trying your hand at macarons is definitely an all-day endeavor. Just don’t do this on a first date — nothing deflates the mood like a failed pastry experiment.

Photographed by Winnie Au.


Try A New Recipe — & A Hard One, Too

Prefer savory foods? The best recipes are the ones that are hands on — not just chopping and slicing and frying, but also folding, mashing, and molding. Dumplings, pierogies, and raviolis are all great foods to make together, but Blue Apron is also an excellent tool to try something new. It’s $60 for three meals, each feeds two, which means three dates for $20 a pop.

Photographed by Janelle Jones.


Have A Pajama Party

Because if they truly loved you, they wouldn’t judge you for eating pizza, Hot Cheetos, or chocolate in bed.

Photographed by Ben Ritter.


Have An Art Session

Scores of articles have covered the meditative benefits of adult coloring books. Grab one, a few art supplies, and start getting crafty.

Photographed by Winnie Au.


Have A Living Room Dance Party

Set aside the time to learn a new dance from YouTube. How about the “Thriller”dance sequence, or Drake’s dance moves? Make a few drinks, and get a little silly.

Photographed by Maria del Rio.


Go To An Arcade

Barcades are definitely a great date option, but if you’re averse to spending money on beer, try going to a classic arcade (like the ones in your local movie theater). “Just save up a week’s worth of change and you should be good to go — unless you try to beat Time Crisis(like my S.O. and I did once), in which case you’ll easily go over the $30 maximum,” one R29 staffer says.

Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP Photo.


Give Blood

This might be a little weird for a first date, but for those in serious relationships, giving blood is the perfect mix of doing something together that helps others. Make sure you have some snacks or food to keep your energy up. Find out where you can donate blood on the American Red Cross website.

Photographed by Jessica Nash.


Go For A Hike

Cities too crowded for you? Head to the great outdoors and go for a hike. Pack a few beers, some snacks, water, or a bottle of wine for when you get to a particularly scenic spot. If you’re feeling artsy, you could turn it into a little Instagram session. Bonus: If your date turns out to be a dud, simply pick up the pace and turn it into a jog.

Photographed by Anna-Alexia Basile.


Volunteer At An Animal Shelter

Another feel good, do good activity — except this time with puppies. As a note, volunteering might take a little more preplanning than expected, since shelters usually screen volunteer applicants. Careful though — you might end up with a new member of the family.

Photographed by Molly Cranna.


Go Window Shopping

Maybe you don’t want to spend a ton of money on nice things — but looking at them can’t hurt. Leave your credit cards at home, bring $30 in cash, and grab a Danish pastry and a coffee. Then take a walk along the ritziest street in town.

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images.


Eat All The Samples

Figure out what day your local supermarket or Whole Foods (or better yet, Costco) offers up free samples for snacks, and go be adventurous with your palate.

Photo: Courtesy of Whole Foods.


Browse IKEA Without A Plan

Eat meatballs, try out different couches, and channel 500 Days of Summer. Please note, this is completely different from going to IKEA with a plan, which can result in epic relationship-breaking fights.

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images.


Go Gallery Hopping

Unlike free museum nights, galleries tend to be free of charge — and less of a time suck. Hit up a few galleries before grabbing lunch or a drink.

Photo: Rochelle Brodin/Getty Images.


Explore Your Flea Market

Yes, some things might be pricey. That’s why you’re there mostly for kicks. One Refinery29 staffer used to make a game out of flea market browsing. After figuring out how much cash was at hand (typically around $6 to $10), each would peruse the flea market selection to find the cheapest and coolest treasure. “I had the weirdest shit in my apartment,” she says.

Photographed by Alice Gao.


Give Each Other A Massage

Because everyone has shoulder tension. Everyone.

Photographed by Maria del Rio.


Read To Each Other

You may not have read out loud since your high school days, but there is something particularly relaxing about having someone read to you. Choose your favorite book, or just make it silly by selecting 50 Shades of Grey for giggles.

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh.


Hit Up A Karaoke Bar

Go for a classic karaoke bar, where you not only make a fool of yourself, but you can sing along with others. Avoid the karaoke rooms, however, where you just awkwardly watch your friends try to impress each other.

Photographed by Winnie Au.


Go For A Bike Ride

If you already have a bike, this is a free activity that you probably do every weekend. If you don’t, this could easily dock in at under $30. Pack a backpack of snacks, ride to or around a park, and then stop midway to sit on the grass and picnic. Always choose the scenic route.

Photographed by Bek Anderson.


Go Rock Climbing

Truth, climbing is an expensive hobby, so an $80 class on a first date might not be the best idea. But if you’re already a climber and a member of a gym, bringing someone along for a date is worthwhile. Climbing is much more of a collaborate sport when you factor in the cheerleading and bell-ringing involved.

Photographed by Rachelle Manning.


Go For Happy Hour

Yes, easy and cheap, but sometimes, you just need a beer (and maybe dollar oysters) to have a good time. Bonus points if you find a puppy-friendly bar.

Photographed by Amy Lombard.


Netflix and Chill

Take it whichever way you want — it still works.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.

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