18 Frugal and Romantic Dates at Home


If you're a parent, paying the babysitter can use up your whole date night budget. And even for couples without children, if money is tight, the cost of dining at a restaurant or buying tickets to the movies can be out of reach. Meeting in public may be important when you're first dating and need the opportunity to leave quickly if things don't go well. But once you're a couple, the occasional at-home date night becomes awfully attractive, both budget- and comfort-wise. (See also: Classy Dating on a Budget)

Really, what is a date about? It's about putting aside several contiguous hours to focus on enjoying your partner's company. There's nothing stopping you from doing that at home, if you take time to prepare something more special than what you'd normally be doing, and make sure that you won't be bothered by home responsibilities. Clean or tidy up the area where you'll have your home date in advance, so you won't be distracted by housekeeping duties. If you have kids, put them to bed or in front of a video, or banish teens to their friends' houses for the evening. Then, relax and indulge in one of these date night ideas.

1. Enjoy a Candlelit Dinner

Particularly special if you usually spend the dinner hour cutting up little ones' meat or reminding other "diners" that we do not shout "gross" at the table. My husband and I like to use the occasional dinner for two as an opportunity to order takeout that the kids would hate — like spicy Indian food — or cook something they wouldn't appreciate like filet mignon.

2. Take in a Movie

Watching TV at home with your sweetie might not seem like anything special, but you can ratchet up the sense of occasion by picking a new release movie in advance and stocking treats, like a good bottle of wine and gourmet popcorn. At our house, we find that if we are just browsing Netflix, we tend to pick something short and "easy" like a TV series. To mark those serious dramas off our to-watch list, we need to set a date.

3. Do Dessert

Don't want to make yourself a whole separate dinner? Sometimes that's just too much work. Why not buy something indulgent from that bakery you've always wanted to try, or just acquire some super-special dessert ingredients and make something together? The blog Couponista Queen suggests making sundaes at home.

4. Play

A game, that is. Put out a bowl of chips and sit down with Scrabble or another good two-person game, if you're into that kind of thing. A board game date is great because it forces you to sit down and spend a few hours together without getting distracted. One friend suggested strip Scrabble, but with the length of the average Scrabble game, that sounds...drafty.

5. Puzzle It Out

When my husband and I started a difficult, many-piece puzzle recently, we found it led to us spending many evenings together, without the benefit of a date plan. We could not stay away from that puzzle until it was finished, and in the process, we had a lot of nice talks and watched a few movies to boot.

6. Breakfast in Bed

Who says dates have to be at night? The blog Tammilee Tips suggests breakfast in bed. Prep an indulgent breakfast the night before and either surprise your honey or just treat yourselves. If it's Sunday, stay in bed and do the New York Times crossword puzzle together.

7. Have a "Console-Ation" Date

You can't afford to go out, but you still have a game console. Get it?? Maybe you're the type of couple who loves to mow down terrorists together, but even if you're not, chances are a karaoke game or Just Dance will get you laughing together.

8. Schedule a Massage

A shoulder rub between spouses may be routine, but again, preparation can up the ante here. Invest in a massage oil with that great minty scent that spas have. Set up the massage area with music and pillows to approximate the desired setting as best you can. Whether you're going for the atmosphere of a pristine spa or a seedy bathhouse is your own business.

If you have a budget for the date, you could use a Groupon for an in-home massage therapist or two to come work on you, suggests Marta Segal Block, blogger at Advice from Marta.

9. Take a Dip

Have your own pool? When's the last time you took a moonlight swim for two?

10. Stargaze

If you live in an area with low light pollution, this could be a nice way to feel like you are getting out — way out — without leaving your property. Borrow or buy a nice telescope to make this really special.

11. DIY a Drive-In

Nowadays, any place within the reach of your Wi-Fi connection can be a movie theater if you have a laptop with a big screen. Glamour magazine suggests a blanket on the lawn for your movie night, or try a comfy love seat on the deck, if you've got one.

12. Set Up Your Own Wine Tasting

Boring night in — open a bottle of wine, slug it down between loads of laundry. Date night in — write some keywords from Wine Spectator reviews on a little chalkboard in front of each bottle, line up glasses with tastes, swish it around in your mouth and throw around words like "hints of leather."

13. Cocktail Party for Two

Again, a simple drink at home is everyday. But when's the last time you crushed fresh lime for a real mojito or made sangria at home? Pull out all the stops — and the fancy glassware.

14. Backyard Campfire

If your area allows a fire pit, this is a great way to feel transported without leaving your property.

15. Take an Online Class Together

Did you meet in college? Miss those days when you'd lose track of what the teacher was saying because you were busy making googly eyes at one another? Plug in those laptops and start ignoring the teacher together again.

16. Have a YouTube Festival

You've seen Maru the cat with your coworkers, but it's even more fun to laugh with the one you love. Queue up a bunch of short videos on a theme, get comfy, and click "play."

17. Make Something Together

I don't mean like, whoopie. You don't need me to tell you how to do that. I mean: a craft project, a batch of cookies, a birdhouse. For some couples, these are fun times. For others (I'm not naming names) a joint project is just an opportunity to practice those "feeling words" your therapist taught you.

18. Make Out in the Car

What? It was romantic when you were in high school, so why not now? If your house is now full of nosy teenagers, maybe it's time to escape them the way you once escaped your parents. And chances are, you now have more comfortable upholstery.

What have been your best home date-night dates?

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Guest's picture

I love the idea of DIY Drive-In. I love spending nights in with my boyfriend and getting away from the normal nights we spend with all of our friends. Being at home together is about the only time we get real nights just the two of us because where ever we are, our friends expect us to meet them out after or they show up. Being able to hide away and spend quality time at home is great.

Guest's picture

Great list! They wifey would love the at home massage and candlelit dinner. We do the stay at home movies a lot already. Kinda hard to make out in the car with three kids and a dog hanging around.

Guest's picture

Combining some of these things also works great. Yesterday we combined making dessert, cocktails, and youtube. It makes for inexpensive, quality time together.

Guest's picture

My wife and I enjoy going on walks. Twilight in the city is very romantic and it gets us out and moving. We love to explore new neighborhoods and find hidden gems off the beaten path. Strap on some comfy shoes and get out there!

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