9 Budget-Friendly At-Home Date Ideas

At-Home Date Night Ideas

A couple of months ago, I was reminiscing about when my husband and I were dating then newly married but didn’t have kids yet… we also didn’t have much money but it didn’t matter because our favorite thing to do was just spend time together. In keeping with our focus of giving experiences instead of gifts in our family, we’ve been working on ways to rekindle that early dating spontaneity and find creative ways to spend time together.

Of course, life and 5 kids happened and while it is wonderful, it does make it a little tougher to spend quality time alone together. I wouldn’t trade our life now for the world, but there was something special about those early days of our relationship when a perfect date was just spending time together.

Date Nights: Then vs. Now

Pre-kids, when we wanted to go on a date, we would just go. Usually it was something free or very inexpensive because we were on such a tight budget, but even a walk at the park or a picnic was great.

As any parent of young children can probably appreciate, these days, going on a date is more of a nine step process:

  1. Decide to actually go on a date and have enough time to ask the other person if they want to go
  2. Call 3-5 people until you finally find a babysitter
  3. On day of date, pre-make food for whichever meal you’ll be missing at home so the kids are well-fed
  4. If the date is at night, also pre-bathe children so the babysitter doesn’t have to
  5. Remind kids to clean rooms, do chores, etc
  6. Find something to wear… if you’re an over-achiever, maybe even put on makeup
  7. Make list of all instructions for babysitter
  8. Finally make it out the door to go on the date
  9. Almost fall asleep during dinner/movie/etc because you have small children and aren’t used to staying awake after 9:30 PM

Date Cost: Then vs. Now

The cost to go on a date has changed a lot too over the years!

It used to cost $0-$10 to go on a date because we would go for a walk or hike or to a free event at a local outdoor theater. If we were really splurging, we would go to a bar for drinks or out for coffee.

Now, a babysitter usually costs at least $40 for an evening, a nice-ish dinner is easily $30+ and if we went to a movie, that is another $22. $92 for a basic dinner and a movie seems like a lot, especially because there aren’t great restaurant options where we live and I’d honestly rather watch a movie at home.

At-Home Date Ideas

A few years ago, out of necessity (for budget and time) we decided that we would make weekly date nights a priority, but also that many of these date nights would happen at home after the kids were in bed (cheaper, easier, and not a problem if we fall asleep by 10 PM).

Over the years, I’ve developed a list of some of our favorite at-home date ideas. We’ve found that even if we are just spending un-interrupted time together after the kids go to bed but are intentionally not on our phones or computers, we have a great time and can rekindle some of that fun quality time spontaneity and romance of our early dating years.

1. Massage (My Favorite)

The whole five-babies-in-8-years has made me a big fan of getting a massage. Pregnancy and nursing are a big demand on the body and my back/neck were often sore from carrying or nursing babies. Unfortunately, a good 60-minute massage can cost at least $70 in our area, and as a mom, it is hard to get away for over an hour on a regular basis, even if budget allows.

A great solution would be for my husband and I to give each other massages, but for a long time I was out of luck because he didn’t enjoy giving them and I didn’t want to always nag him to massage my shoulders when they were sore.

A few months ago, he gave me one of the best gifts ever and not only got an at-home massage course but watched the videos and learned how to do it!

The PG-rated Melt Massage For Couples course is taught by a husband and wife team in an easy-to-learn format and the full course costs less than a date night away from home or both of us getting only one massage.

Check it out here and get the foot massage course free through 12/24.

2. Sports (His Favorite)

Marriage is about compromise… my favorite date night involves getting a massage, and my husband is a great sport about those date nights, even though I have a suspicion that they aren’t his favorite.

I’m lucky because one of his favorite date ideas is also a favorite of mine: watching sports. We share favorite baseball and football teams and have weekly dates to watch games.

Not an at-home idea, but for big anniversaries or birthdays, I’ll try to work out getting actual tickets to a game so we can go together.

3. Chess

If you don’t already have a Chess board and set, you can pick up an inexpensive one and learn to play together. It’s fun and great for your mind, and also a great game to teach your kids!

4. Rekindle the Fire (Literally)

We built a fire pit in our backyard and some of our favorite at-home dates involve sitting by the fire, sipping wine, and just talking.

5. Documentary Date

We enjoy watching documentaries together and often this leads to good conversation about a controversial topic. Some great documentaries that are available on Netflix or Amazon to stream online are:

  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi
  • Fed Up
  • The Business of Being Born (my fave, not his)
  • Man on Wire
  • Microbirth (another one I liked)

There are literally hundreds of options depending on what type of documentaries you like.

6. Personality Quizzes

Really fun date ideas that also help you learn more about each other. There are several personality tests you can take for free online (Myers Briggs Free Version, Love Languages, Color Code Basic Analysis, etc.) and some that are low-cost and really interesting (Color Code Full Version, Fascinate, etc.).

7. Hiking or Camping

These require a babysitter or leaving home, unless you happen to live on a lot of land, but spending time outdoors and disconnected from technology is a great way to reconnect.

8. A New Show

We don’t watch much TV, but over the years, there have been a few series that we’ve really enjoyed and that gave us an excuse for regular date nights at home. We usually don’t watch them live but record them or watch on Hulu or Netflix later so that we can avoid the commercials and watch once the kids are in bed.

9. Cook Together

Another activity that I probably enjoy more than he does, but cooking together can be a lot of fun, especially when trying new recipes or cuisines. Pick a recipe to make together. If you have the time, pick a movie that corresponds to the cuisines and enjoy dinner and a movie. Make an Italian meal and watch an Italian movie together, or try your hand at sushi making and watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

There are probably many other stay-at-home date ideas that I haven’t thought of. What other one’s do you enjoy and would recommend?

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Reader Comments

  1. Our favorite at home date night used to be pizza (gluten-free, homemade) & a movie (on Netflix – documentaries are a favorite for us too!) with a bottle of wine.
    I say “used to be” because we have entered that time of life when the kids are too old to go to bed at 7:30 and still too young to stay home alone while we do anything else.
    Nowadays, pizza & a movie has become a family night activity. Occasionally, though, we will split up & let the kids have pizza with a movie on the TV, while we stream one on our iPad in another room.
    As they approach the age of staying home alone, it’s bitter sweet. We’ll be able to go out again, but that will mean my babies are almost grown!

  2. I’m not a mom so I can only imagine the preparation that has to go into planning a night out. Even if you have a sitter on the spot, everything is getting so expensive. We can find just about any movie we want On Demand, pop some popcorn or heat up frozen appetizers. Or break out Scrabble (his fave!) I’m much more aware of our money and always looking for ways to not spend it.

  3. These ideas are great. My husband and the kids and I visit his grandmother a lot. She lives on 3000 acres in the mountains. On our visit last weekend, my husband and I just walked around in the quiet of the mountains. It was amazingly peaceful and romantic. We’ve also got 5 kids, and lost one of our twin girls this year to complications of extreme prematurity. It’s been a horribly trying year for us. We must have our time together often, or we’d go crazy. Sometimes we just reflect or just cry, but it’s needed. I want to thank you for your blog. Losing my daughter is when I really made the leap to all natural. We’ve always been healthy, but I just needed a big change after that. But that’s a long story for another day. 🙂 Anyway, thank you for such a wonderful blog, you’ve changed the life of this Mama you’ve never even met for the better!

  4. Thanks for the list, Katie, it will come in handy! My husband and I are opening a business next year, which will be very expensive, of course, so we are completely cutting out our entertainment budget for now. We don’t have kids, but still we really don’t go out all that often anyway, for several reasons, but when we do it REALLY becomes a special treat and I REALLY appreciate it!

  5. Could you post a dish soap recipe? I’d greatly appreciate it!

  6. We don’t know anyone that is willing to watch my kids (mainly because my daughter has a complicated medical condition and is very delayed). So, unless we are out of town with family, our date nights are either at home or involve the kids. Going out, movies are great because we can snuggle together and the kids can sit several rows away. Parks give us the opportunity for the kids to play or bike nearby while we can walk together and talk. We have been camping as a family and made a point of staying up later to drink wine by the fire and have alone time after the kids fall asleep. Our date nights at home usually involve movies, cooking, board games, or even video games. It was difficult to adjust to having the kids constantly with us at first (he is the step-father and we used to have every other weekend alone), but it’s incredible how easy it is to find time to connect when you make it a priority. And, obviously, it saves a ton of money!

  7. Another family and ours would swap kids every week on Fridays. Each couple then had two date nights a month with free babysitting. It was my friend’s idea. It worked wonderfully. We would sometimes grill out at home and watch a movie (Blockbuster at that time) or go out to dinner or to the movie theater.

  8. My husband and I have been married for 23 years. We’ve never been good about scheduling date nights but we’ve always been great about daily walks together.

    The dog(s) are always with us and when the kids were small, they were too, but now each walk is almost like a mini-date that’s cheap and healthy. 🙂

  9. This is such a sweet list and really gratifying and refreshing to read. Simple, precious ideas. Thank you for posting…

  10. My husband and I enjoy having active dates. Favorite activities are taking a bike ride together or going to the tennis courts. When it is too cold for that we like to play racquetball. Afterwards, we’ll go out for frozen yogurt.

  11. My husband and I enjoy game night for our date night. It’s a great way to make us turn the t.v. off and all the other devices, and reconnect with each other. On occasion we have sponsored our own take on “Minute to Win it” with a few friends. Activity ideas can easily be found on Pinterest and take little time or money to plan. Great way to reconnect with our friends and neighbors too!

  12. I think the long lost value of family game nights is quickly vanishing, however I see the true importance it played in the role of relationships….whether with partner or children. Kind of eating at the table together as a family! These ideas are oddly enough a good majority of what we do…and our relationship is 1 1/2 years young. So it gives me hope we are on the right track, but i still need a legit date every once in awhile. Even if it’s going fishing on our ONE day off together while kids are in school. Good ideas and wonderful article!

  13. How does one get the foot massage videos for free on the Melt website? I looked 2x but didn’t see it for free anywhere.

  14. I clicked the link about the Melt massage courses and did not see how the foot massage was added for free. Could you please let us know how to get that part for free? Thank you.