Even if you have money, spending it on your date won’t always impress. Creativity and resourcefulness can score more points than dropping big money on a fancy dinner that didn’t take much thought. If you are unemployed or thrifty, that’s no reason to stay at home alone. Ask your date what they like to do and come up with a plan that shows you listened and you put in effort.
Many of my free date ideas listed below are inspired by my childhood, when entertainment was often free and stemmed from a playful, adventurous attitude while appreciating what's abundantly offered by the universe. Most of these ideas have been tested and approved. If you don't have a romantic date, you can apply these to friend dates and they'll love you for it.
- Take a hike – tour murals, be a tourist in your own city or try hiking through a safe park or beach at night during the full moon.
- Light a fire – in your backyard and make smores while singing and playing guitar.
- Take a dip - at a pool, hot tub, lake or ocean or borrow a canoe, kayak or boat and go for a float.
- Sunset and a picnic – at local park, overlook, beach, or on your roof.
- Free dessert and drinks – ice cream and yogurt shops are great for free dessert samples or try a bike tour of a winery region or brewery with free tastings.
- U pick me - find a farm here and do a U-pick for cheap organic berries (okay, it's not free but you've got to eat something anyway). I've tried this one before, and believe me it's more romantic than it sounds.
- Cook dinner together – visit your local farmers market, volunteer with Food Not Bombs or dumpster dive your dinner to show your that you are resourceful. Make sure you ask about dietary preferences.
- Date on a bike – ride a bike in Critical Mass with your sweetie, take part in the festivities and then plan a special stop that offers more alone time.
- Popcorn and a movie – films are available gratis at your local library on YouTube, Ice Films and Bit Torrent. Let your date pick the film and try it outside if the weather is nice. Many movie theatres will give you their left over popcorn if you ask nicely.
- An evening of poetry – read your own, go to an open mic, or peruse a library poetry section and whisper to each other your favorite poems.
- Bookstore treasure hunt - create a list of things to find and share from the bookstore ahead of time, like good jokes, recipes, a book your date might love, a self help book for your date, or a travel book to inspire adventure together.
- Game night - invite some friends over and let them get to know your date. Try these DIY indoor games or backyard games, like create your own miniature golf course.
- Theatre in the park – many towns have free theatre or music shows in the park during the summer. Make it special by bringing a nice blanket and some delicious edibles.
- Decadent foot massage - dip your date's feet in a warm bubbly, peppermint tea or milkly foobath, wash them, and massage with vegetable oil (coconut is best) or lotion. Now switch.
- Lively music - if you have a friend with a band, ask them for free tickets in exchange for inviting more friends. Get dressed up in the spirit of it together, which may mean cowboy/girl gear or thrashed goth garb.
- Themed potluck (like bring your own sushi fixings) – they can be a great way to take the pressure off a first date and way to see how your date gets along with your friends. It can also be a way to show off your cooking skills so put in some effort and creativity. Free recipes abound online.
- Activist film screenings – share your passions with your date and fuel interesting conversation.
- Photo shoot - take photos while posing for each other, of scenery or random objects for entertainment and as a memento of your date.
- Roll in the hay – take your date to a barn dance, urban farm, or go horseback riding, if your friends have horses you can borrow. My honey and I actually met while working on a beautiful urban farm.
- Free museum day - explore a different culture, weird science or art together. Ask your date’s opinion on things you see.
- Play with shelter animals– pick out your favorite animals at the Humane Society and take them for a test run.
- Formal dance - dress up and have a dance party at your house. Try switching genders or cultures if that's not exciting enough.
- Fly a kite – make sure its a windy day so you can show off your flying skills. Bring a back up plan, like a frisbee, book or a game in case the wind dies down.
- Make believe - sit on a sidewalk bench, ride a tall elevator or climb trees and people watch, making up fake names and stories about the people you see or making up skits to interact with people you meet.
- Roller disco - go rollerblading/skating in a park with a boombox and disco music. I stole this idea from a popular camp at Burning Man and a regular event in Golden Gate park in San Francisco.
- First Fridays art openings - mingle with the local star artists, they usually have free drinks and appetizers too.
- Be a cuddly cub scout - Build a fort, camp out in your backyard and don't forget your star chart or telescope.
For more DIY date ideas, check out Dating Divas and Love Actually and please add your most creative, free date ideas in the comments! If you are inspired by this article to dive into the world of living without money see Shareable's other articles on the subject: