20 Cheap At-Home Date Night Ideas Whether You’re Together or Long Distance

A young couple kiss at home while having a date at home.
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Relationships are complicated, and longer term ones benefit from regular date nights. You can turn off the rest of the world for a little while, and just be a couple. There are a lot of ways to have date nights, whether you are in the same room, or hundreds of miles apart.

Many couples have had to deal with one person being far away. Remote working isn’t the only reason couples may be apart. It could be a military deployment, an out-of-town assignment, or a regular regional route. Thanks to technology, there are some ways to re-create a date experience via long distance.

Coming out of a pandemic but heading into economic uncertainty because of supply chain issues and inflation seems like a big damper on romance. Not necessarily! You can still celebrate your relationship and loved one on a budget.

Sometimes being creative with your time together is more rewarding and romantic than a fancy (and expensive) dinner out. The only inflation you will have to deal with is how much more you enjoy your sweetheart.

A couple hold hands as they enjoy dinner in their backyard.
Kenny and Celina Beaumont have a date night in the backyard of their home in Orlando, Florida. Photo courtesy of Kenny and Celina Beaumont

We Have Lots of Date Night Ideas for Just a Few Dollars

If you’ve been with your sweetie for a while, it can be tough to find something special to do when you’re spending most of your time together. And if you have a long-distance relationship, it’s hard to establish a connection when you’re apart.

But there are still free and low-cost ways to keep up the date night tradition.

Although they’ve been married for over a decade, Kenny and Celina Beaumont have always realized the importance of romance — especially after having kids.

“If we’re not happy and having fun,” Celina told us in an interview, “our household’s not going to be happy and having fun.”

So they’ve kept their long-standing date night tradition alive through the pandemic with some pretty adorable dates — one of which you may even have seen a glimpse of on John Krasinski’s “Some Good News.” (Look for the fine dining experience around 7:55!)

But dinner dates are just the beginning. Here are some of our favorite at-home date night ideas.

At-Home Date Night Ideas if You’re Together

  • Fancy dining experience
  • Ballroom (or any other kind) of dancing
  • Game night
  • Virtual home town tours
  • At home DIY spa
  • Relationship scavenger hunt
  • Do a jigsaw puzzle
  • Play sexy MadLibs
  • Find a starry sky
  • Go on a late-night drive

If you were already cohabitating, there are plenty of ways to set aside some special time for each other.

1. Fancy Dining Experience

You can definitely recreate the restaurant experience at home, complete with dressing up for the occasion and actually sitting down and being waited on. That’s exactly what the Beaumonts did. According to Celina, Kenny and the kids had been conspiring about the idea for several days before surprising her.

They printed real menus, got dressed up and dined al fresco on a three-course meal at “Jack & Olivia’s” — so named for their kids. Kenny cooked up the steaks, while the kids made the salad and dessert.

2. Ballroom (or Any Other Kind of) Dancing

You might not make it out to your local Arthur Murray studio, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to dance. Some couples’ counselors suggest that a tango or two can be as good for your relationship as it is fun.

Crank up a YouTube video, clear out a spot on the living room floor, and give it a whirl. After all, nobody except your SO — and maybe the cat — is watching. Make you could even do a TikTok dance challenge. Just think, you could go viral.

3. Game Night

It might not sound like the peak of romance to some, but sitting down to a game of Scrabble or Chess together is a great way to spend some quality time while also giving your brain a workout. If you’re really geeky, you might even take on a match or four of Magic: The Gathering.

We recommend adding fancy duds to the equation to make it feel even more date-y.

4. Virtual Hometown Tours

If you didn’t grow up in the same place as your SO, and you’ve yet to show them around in person, Google Earth offers a great date night opportunity: a virtual tour of your hometown, complete with stops at all the most important places.

Even if you hail from the same place (or have already gone home to meet the parents), you could use Google Earth or Google Maps to show your sweetheart around your college campus — or explore a city you’re hoping to visit together someday.

5. At-Home DIY Spa

Treat yourself — and your beau — to some DIY indulgence. Whether you give each other manicures, facials, or massages, it’s bound to be a whole lot more affordable (and considerably more fun) than it would be in a salon. Check out this list of spa treatments you can do at home.

6. Relationship Scavenger Hunt

Use your imagination and create a fun date by leaving clues for each other, which will lead to a payoff for the winner(s). The easiest way to create a scavenger hunt is by first deciding what the prize will be. Both of you agree on how long you want it to last. Then plan it by working backwards from the last clue. Here’s a site with a lot of romantic scavenger hunt ideas.

7. Do a Jigsaw Puzzle

This can be a fun competition (who can get their section done first!) or a romantic cooperation. Two sets of eyes can make a puzzle come together quickly. Build rewards for finishing the corners or the outline. Plus when your hands are busy it is easier to talk about things.

8. Play Sexy MadLibs

Why not get a little ridiculous. Download these Mad Libs — a word game where one person gets a list of words from the other without context -— or make your own. Concentrate on being silly and spicy.

9. Find a Starry Sky 

Looking up at a star filled sky next to your love is just about as romantic as it gets. You can slow down time and feel part of the bigger whole, just from your backyard or a (safe) local park. If you do a little research first (try using a free skywatching app like Star Walk 2 or Sky View) you will know the best time to lay out, and which part of the sky to look at.

If there is a lot of light pollution, binoculars and telescopes bring the nighttime sky much closer. Extra bonus points for knowing some romantic starry quotes, maybe some E.E. Cummings.

“Yours is the light by which my spirit’s born/you are my sun, my moon, and all my stars.”

10. Go on a Late Night Drive

This isn’t exactly at home, but starts there. Even though gas is a little expensive, this will be worth it. Drive around fancy neighborhoods and imagine living in the houses, or through downtown and see what it actually looks like when you aren’t scouting for a parking place. Drive out to the beach or shore, or over a bridge and stop at the other end for a kiss. Driving with no place to go, just listening to music and chatting, is incredibly romantic.

Tips for Successful At-Home Date Nights

Even with the best of intentions and lots of planning, it’s easy for an at-home date night to feel like … well, just another night at home.

Here are some tips to keep it feeling romantic.

  • Put away your phone. Celina and Kenny say they make a point of putting their screens down during dates.
  • Wait until after bedtime. It’s fun to get the kids in on the action — but if they go to bed earlier than you do, those couple hours of quiet can be a great time to rekindle your connection.
  • Look for the silver linings. Although staying home is hard in a whole lot of ways, it also offers a lot of opportunity for closeness, especially in a world where we’re usually running all over the place.

“We never get to spend this much time with each other,” Celina said of her family. Try to look at your at-home dates as an opportunity to slow down and enjoy yourselves.

A woman FaceTimes with her boyfriend.
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At-Home Date Night Ideas if You’re Apart

  • Virtual coffee (or cocktails)
  • Reading to each other
  • Live streaming concert or events
  • Virtual movie nights
  • Art therapy
  • Attend a virtual art lecture together
  • Write letters to each other
  • Take an online class together
  • Feed travel or house dreams
  • Take a goofy quiz together

Many couples have had to deal with one of them being far away. It could be a military deployment, an out of time assignment, or a regular regional route. Maybe one of you is newly working remotely miles away. Thanks to technology, there are some ways to recreate a date experience even if you’re miles apart.

According to Earthweb, 14 million Americans are in long distance relationships. 60% of long distance relationships are successful. Of that 40% who aren’t, the 63% of the time, the culprit is a lack of planning for their future. Couples who are apart exchange an average of 343 texts a week!

11. Virtual Coffee (or Cocktails)

Video call applications like Zoom and FaceTime make it easy to re-create classic low-stakes, first-date ideas like grabbing a drink or a cup of coffee. It’s a good way to catch up on what is going on, make plans for when you are together again, and give a sense of normality to the relationship.

12. Reading to Each Other

This one’s super romantic whether you’re at home together or apart. If you’re not in the same place, you can read to each other over video chat or over the plain-old phone.

The options are endless: You could pick a book neither of you have read before or revisit an old favorite.

13. Live Streaming Concerts and Events

From superstars to local up-and-comers, lots of entertainers have transferred their live shows to streaming services. Many are free, though it’s nice to drop a tip for these struggling artists.

Re-create the concert experience at home with a cocktail and maybe a band T-shirt, and enjoy unlimited bathroom breaks without having to snake through a pushy crowd.

14. Virtual Movie Nights

There’s nothing quite as cozy as snuggling up with your sweetheart for a movie, whether at the theater or on the couch at home. But even if you’re stuck apart, you can spend time in front of the silver screen together.

A browser extension called Teleparty easily syncs Netflix, Disney, Hulu and HBO videos for multiple parties while also providing a scrolling text chat along the right side of the screen.

If your movie or TV show is on another service — or if, quaintly and adorably enough, you’re going to watch the same DVD in separate houses at the same time — you can always hop on the phone and queue up the video. Don’t forget the popcorn!

15. Art Therapy

A seriously romantic idea for the bold: paint each other while on a video chatting app like FaceTime.

Rather than draw each other, you could simply spend time together being creative, whether that means knitting, cross-stitching, painting or something else entirely. You could even make plans to give each other the products of your art session.

16. Attend a Virtual Art Lecture Together

During the pandemic many museums started virtual curator tours of new shows. Google has an Arts & Culture app that lets you explore farflung arts destinations, insert your face into famous art works, and see famous art works at a macro level. If there is a city you both love to visit, choose one of the museums where you can see both familiar and new works.

17. Write Letters to Each Other

Here’s a low-tech romantic, long distance night that will only cost you a stamp. Write each other a romantic letter, and set up a time to read them out loud together over the phone or facetime. Sometimes it is easier to write how you feel than say it out loud. Best of both worlds — you get to write it and they get to hear it. Swoon.

18. Take an Online Class Together

You can sign up for online classes or study a language together. Duolingo is a free language app, and you can work on exercises and lessons virtually, practicing on one another. Or learn about mountains and maybe plan to meet on one soon. One extremely popular course is The Science of Well Being, offered through Yale, for free.

Working together on something that is low stakes can be fun and romantic, low cost and take only a couple of hours a week.

19. Feed Travel or House Dreams

Keeping a long distance relationship warm is going to involve some fantasizing, but we’re talking PG level here. Pick places you want to visit, or live, and go house hunting online. It is fun to look at homes you may never see IRL.

Or head over to home share sites like Airbnb or VRBO, and pick a fantasy place to go. Maybe you will be on an island in the Caribbean, or a villa outside of Rome. It might turn into a real trip some day, or lead to finding a part of the world you didn’t know you would be interested in.

20. Take Goofy Quizzes Together

There are plenty of websites that have quizzes, ranging from specifically about relationships, like the Love Language Quiz, which 80s movie character you were in high school, or play trivia games. You can each pick quizzes and the person with the best score gets to pick the next one. It’s always fun to laugh with your hunny bunny.

Tips for Successful Date Nights Spent Apart

Here are tips to make it feel more like you’re actually together.

  • Get dressed. It’s all too easy to lie around the house in pajamas all day and even attend your dates that way. Wearing real clothes can make you feel more like you’re on a real date.
  • Connect often. If you can’t be with each other in person, spending digital time together is extra important. Maybe try to move your date night tradition from one night a week to two or three. Text each other every morning a picture of the clouds or breakfast, or one at the end of the day of the moon.

The Penny Hoarder contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a coffee shop in St.Petersburg, Florida, and has hosted an arts show on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years. Jamie Cattanach is a former contributor. 


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