The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but all the fun and festivities don’t come without a hefty cost. And when you’re worried about budgeting for gifts for everyone on your nice list on top of managing your regular expenses like rent, bills, and student loans, spending extra money to go on a date night is probably the last thing on your mind. Prioritizing one-on-one time with your partner is vital though, and it’s important to avoid letting romance fall by the wayside during an especially busy and stressful time of the year. To prevent putting your relationship and your wallet at odds this holiday season, we’ve rounded up 12 of the best inexpensive date nights for the most expensive time of year, from at-home date night ideas to activities that you can do outside of the house that don’t cost a ton.
1. Have a holiday movie marathon
This is arguably the best time of year to cuddle under a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate in hand while you watch a feel-good holiday movie. Stock up on your favorite movie theater treats before your next date night and make a plan with your partner about what movies you want to watch. You can’t go wrong with classics like Home Alone or The Santa Claus, but scrolling through Netflix for new Hallmark-style holiday movies like The Princess Switch or Operation Christmas Drop is just as exciting.
2. Decorate gingerbread houses
There’s nothing like a little competition to spice up date night! Grab a couple of gingerbread house kits and challenge each other to see who can decorate the best one. You can judge creativity, assembly, sturdiness, and more to determine the real winner. But no matter who wins, you’ll both have a blast, enjoy eating some of the icing and candy along the way, and of course, make joy-filled memories you’ll cherish forever.
3. Bake cookies
Is there anything cuter than making a mess in the kitchen with your significant other as you attempt to bake something from scratch? We’ll wait. Find a holiday cookie or other wintry baked good recipe online or recreate an old family recipe before picking up your ingredients. Then, make sure your kitchen’s clean and your baking tools are washed and ready to go so your baking steps are a breeze. Regardless of how adept you or your partner are or aren’t at baking, you’ll have a blast doing this together and be rewarded with a well-earned treat to enjoy at the end.
4. Go ice skating
If you’re in the mood to move your body and get out of the house, this is the perfect inexpensive date night for you. Bundle up in a chic winter outfit and head to a local ice skating rink together. If you’re a beginner, use your lack of experience as an excuse to make it extra romantic and hold hands with your date as you skate around. But if you’re comfortable in skates, show off your skills! When your time on the ice is up, head back home for a warm meal and a cozy night in.
5. Take a holiday light tour
You know the holidays are here when there are holiday lights everywhere you look. Drive around town and look for houses with the best decorations, or bundle up to walk around your city and admire the stunning holiday storefronts. You can even check out a local tree lighting if you have one near you! There’s no shortage of light displays in the U.S., and it’s a great way to embrace the holiday spirit.
6. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen
This time of year is insanely busy, and it’s easy to get swept up in the chaos and forget how blessed you are. For your next date night, give back to the community by volunteering at a local soup kitchen (or another cause that is important to you!) together. Although volunteering is important throughout the entire year, giving people who need extra attention during this time is particularly special. Plus, it makes for a great bonding opportunity for you and your date.
7. Have a game night
Tap into your competitive side and take on your partner with a one-on-one game night. Break out a deck of cards and challenge them to a game of poker or dust off the Monopoly board if you’re feeling brave. If you’re in the mood for something steamy or romantic, light some candles and play Truth or Dare or a sexy card game. Whatever you decide, pair your game with a divine charcuterie board and drinks for the ultimate night in.
8. Have a pajama party
Consider this your permission to throw on your pajamas at 4 p.m. and recreate the slumber party of your childhood dreams with a holiday twist. Create a holiday playlist, put on your favorite festive pajamas (bonus points if you are matching!), stock up on beverages and snacks, and devour a pizza. Once you’re tired from dancing around and playing games, plop down on the couch and watch a holiday movie before lights out.
9. Head to a museum or art gallery
It doesn’t matter how much you love staying in—there are just some nights you need to get out of the house for a little bit. When that happens, check out a museum or art gallery with your date. Not only do most museums and galleries offer free or inexpensive admission, but they give you an excuse to dress up for the evening and enrich your cultural or historical knowledge while you’re at it. Afterward, end the evening with a nightcap at a nearby bar before tucking in for the night.
10. Mix up winter beverages
Level up your mixology skills and whip up some winter-inspired beverages with your date. Try your hand at a festive non-alcoholic beverage or go all out with the frosty martini of your dreams. Make a few different kinds, taste test each, and rate them on a scale of 1-5 to determine the drinks you will make for every holiday party for the rest of the season.
11. Play in the snow
If you’re fortunate enough to have snow on the ground during this time, take advantage of it by tapping into your inner child and playing in the snow. Build a snowman, have a snowball fight, make snow angels, go sledding, or even try snowshoeing if you’re craving a good workout. No matter what you do, you’ll create fun memories that’ll last a lifetime and can warm each other up with a steamy shower for two afterward.
12. Decorate for the season
After you’ve baked a decadent holiday treat and whipped up a wintry beverage, play some holiday music and decorate your space for the season ahead together. Regardless of whether this is your first holiday season together or not, decorating together will make the holidays feel that much more special. Likewise, it’ll also help you tap into the spirit of the season and encourage you to slow down and savor it all.