Dating can be fun, nerve-racking and exciting. But let’s be honest: it can also be hella expensive.

Movie tickets can rack up to $18 each and dinner at a nice restaurant can easily fetch up to the $100 mark. Throw in a couple of over-priced cocktails and you can kiss goodbye your weekend spending money in just one night.

Luckily, you don’t need to squander your savings to impress a special someone. There are plenty of ways to get creative with date ideas that can be done at home – all without the expensive price tag.

Besides, ‘dinner and a movie’ has been way overdone.

Candlelit home-cooked dinner

They say the way to one’s heart is through their stomach and this is yet to be disproven.

Home-cooked meals are intimate, thoughtful, and a great way to show you really care. Why not sneakily find out their favourite meal and surprise them by cooking it? They’ll find the gesture so sweet it won’t even matter if you make a wreck of it. Because it’s the thought that counts, right? Right?

To set the mood, switch off some of the artificial lighting and replace them with candles. Candles create the perfect ambience for a romantic, relaxing night. To take it up a notch, invest in a couple of your favourite scented candles to fill the house with a delightful aroma.

Throw on some Sam Smith or an acoustic playlist from Spotify, and you’ll be in for an evening of romantic bliss.

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Games night

An oldie but a goldie, board games and cards can be played all night to your heart’s content. There are plenty of entertaining, two-player ones to choose from like Jenga or Scrabble. Perhaps you could turn it into a drinking game by having the loser of each round take a drink. Alternatively, for a classier date, pair it with a bottle of red (hey, $10 bottles win awards as well) and a cheese board platter.

It might have been a while since you last played, but a game of Hide and Seek through the house can also make for a light-hearted time that will have you both feeling like kids again.

Build a fort

Speaking of feeling like a kid, why not devote an entire night to it? Building forts like you might have done when you were young is still just as fun when you’re an adult – if not more. It also makes for a completely cost-free date night. All you need to make an epic fort are the furniture pieces and bedding you already have. Use pillows, sheets, tables and pegs to put together your ultimate castle in the living room.

Deliberately build your fort around the TV and fill with comfy blankets for a spin on the classic Netflix and chill.

Massages at home

When you want to spoil your partner – or the person you’ve been dating for just a couple of months but who seems really cool – why not offer up your massage services for a night of indulgence? To step it up, purchase an inexpensive bottle of baby oil and be sure to watch a couple of massage tutorial videos.

To finish, draw them a hot bath with bath salts, lit candles and soft music playing. Not only will it be pure luxury for your date but your bank account will be feeling the same.

Water balloon fight

All you’ll need to purchase for this are the balloons! Have an action-packed afternoon in the backyard with this competitive game and see who can best the other with as many water balloon soakings as possible. The stakes could be made beforehand that the loser has to organise dinner for the night. Up your antics for the win to ensure it remains a cost-free date for yourself.

A scavenger hunt that leads to a backyard picnic

If you have time on your hands and you’re feeling imaginative, creating a scavenger hunt for your date is sure to impress. Write out clues and hide them strategically around the house for your date to find. Have the last clue lead them to your backyard where a picnic you’ve put together in advance is waiting their arrival.

This thoughtful gesture will be a guaranteed hit regardless of whether you’ve been dating 3 weeks or 3 years. Maybe not for the first date though. That would be a bit weird.

With these inexpensive, easy date ideas you’ll be sure to win over the person you’re seeing as well as keep your savings intact. And don’t worry, you can take all the credit too – we won’t tell.

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