Picture this: you finally got up the courage to ask out your crush and they actually said yes. Next step is to impress them with a date that will hopefully lead to more dates in the future. Dating isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t cheap, but if done right, it shouldn’t have to break the bank. Instead of sticking to the typical dinner out and movie paradigm, switching it up with some low-budget date ideas can keep it fresh and inventive, while keeping your finances in the black.

Discover Who is Top Chef. There is something much more intimate about cooking together that a fancy restaurant just can’t capture. A date night in can be a fraction of the cost of a night out. Get creative with theme ideas like Italian or try using a particular ingredient in your meal. You can assign courses with one doing the main dish and one doing dessert. Worst case, you can throw food at each other like in every ‘rom-com’ cooking scene ever.

Give Back Together. Volunteering is a great excuse to do something outside-of-the-box while also keeping the budget in check. Local soup kitchens or schools are always looking for support. The more outdoorsy types can do trail maintenance or dog waking for the humane society. You can keep busy, without the awkward pauses, and can even squeeze in a walk or hike afterwards.

Make it a Craft and Games Night. Wine and board games is always a great date idea. Expand it into a double date idea with a craft beer or wine varietal theme as well. If you don’t have the numbers for a board game, crafts are a great substitute. Create a cutesy scrap book with couple pictures you have accrued. If a holiday is coming up you can craft festively; with carved pumpkins, gingerbread houses, or Valentine’s Day boxes and cards. Strapped for ideas? A quick google can bring up hundreds of craft-date-night ideas.

Explore a Museum Together. There’s something romantic about being surrounded by artifacts from the distant past. A day trip to a natural history museum can be both fascinating and engaging. If history isn’t your thing, art museums can be a fun alternative. With art museums featuring exhibits like Star Wars costumes there’s something for everyone. Best part: most museums offer free or discounted days to lure in new visitors. The list of Denver and Phoenix free museum days are readily available online.

Stargazing. My personal favorite. Escape the city for a few hours to catch a dark night full of stars. You can point out constellations, wish on shooting stars, and watch satellites soar by. Feel free to use your imagination to invent your own constellations. This date only requires a vehicle to escape the city lights and some blankets. Make it an evening out with a late picnic, watch the sunset, and then settle in to check out nature’s best light show. Bonus points if you time it during a meteor shower.

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