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$20 Dinner Date Night Tips

Note: I wrote a little bit about this almost three years ago, but I thought it might be time for an update.

Mr. FG and I have a somewhat loose $20/week budget for a date night, and while we sometimes go over, most weeks we manage to stay right around $20.

Obviously, a $20 budget eliminates a lot of date night meal options, but there definitely are options at that price point.

So, I thought I’d share the main ways we keep our date night budget costs down.   Ready?

Skip restaurants with a waiter.

If we have to tip a waiter, we’re pretty much guaranteed to go over budget.

And honestly, unless it’s a super fancy date night, like what we do for our anniversary, we don’t really enjoy having a server that much.

On the regular, a casual, self-serve meal is good by us!

Skip drinks.

Most places will give you a cup for water and that costs $0.00.   Plus, it’s healthier than almost any beverage you could choose.

Don’t get appetizers.

Appetizers + entrees usually end up being too much food for the two of us anyway, and appetizers are awfully overpriced, as a rule.

Eat sandwiches.

Subs (hot or cold), burgers, deli sandwiches, and so on tend to be on the very affordable side of things.

Five Guys, Firehouse, Panera, Jimmy John’s, and Jersey Mike’s all work well for us.

Eat pizza.

Pizza almost always makes a cheap date night.   We like Mod Pizza and Bertucci’s, plus some local pizza places.

Go casual for whatever cuisine you choose.

For example, Pei Wei is cheaper than P.F. Changs (also, no waiter!).

And the taco truck or Chipotle will be cheaper than the sit-down Tex-Mex restaurant.

Consider the grocery store.

Mr. FG and I have spent our $20 on really good scallops before, which we’ve brought home and grilled.

We’ve also picked up lobster rolls from the seafood department at the grocery store, brought them home, and eaten them while watching a movie.

If your grocery store has a hot foods bar (on the East Coast, Wegman’s and Harris Teeter do), you could each pick something and eat it at home, or take it to a park for a picnic.

have a breakfast picnic

Not a date picnic, obv. There are children in this photo!

Skip dessert and stop at a drugstore instead.

The dessert at most restaurants is just not that good, and it’s expensive.   Plus, we’re not usually hungry enough for a full-blown dessert.

anniversary chocolate

So, Mr. FG and I usually pop in at a drugstore and we each pick out a candy bar.


What else would you add to my list?

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Friday 10th of December 2021

My husband and I have a date budget of $40/month. We rarely go out for a meal because it's usually too expensive. Most of the time we just go out for a beer (and maybe fries) or dessert. If the weather allows, we'll go for a walk/hike or bike ride or even run errands together. (We have done winter walks too!) We have a friend who is frequently available to sit at the house in the evenings, but if she's not available we'll do drinks and fun snacks from Trader Joe's at home and play a game or watch a movie after the kids are in bed.


Wednesday 28th of February 2018

This is interesting to me as I reflect on our date nights. My husband and I love to cook and love good food. We rarely go out and when we do we splurge on food we wouldn’t ordinarily make. When we first got married we decided that all of our gift budget for each other (birthday, valentines, anniversary and winter holidays) would go toward a good meal. So, about four times a year we pamper ourselves with date night. Not sure if it’s Frugal, but it is delicious and fun.


Wednesday 28th of February 2018

I’ve been wondering about your date nights and how they work out to be frugal!

Personally, we prefer to spend more money, less often. Last month, my husband took a day off from work and we had a “day date.” We didn't go nuts, but we definitely spent over $20.


Wednesday 28th of February 2018

We have Jason's deli where we live and they have a great salad bar. Ingredients like artichoke hearts, real bacon bits, hard boiled eggs, pasta salads, three kinds of greens, fresh veggies, mini corn and gingerbread muffins, deserts and soft serve ice cream. I get the dressing on the side and take what I don't eat home for lunch the next day. They also have soup, sandwiches and pasta if you want warm food. It's easy to stay under budget when we drink water with lemon slices and have plenty of time to sit and talk without feeling like the restaurant wants us to leave so they can get new paying customers in our seats.


Wednesday 28th of February 2018

We enjoy putting puzzles together! We'll pick them up at Goodwill, and keep them out running for weeks at a time (probably easier for us with no kids around).

My partner enjoys playing video games, so he introduced me to a few games that he thought I'd like. Now we play against each other (friendly competition!) for relaxing date nights in.

We also do the fast casual restaurants, split a fancy coffee treat and take a walk, wander the mall and window-shop, or pick up deli food from the grocery store and take it to a park for a picnic. We also pick out recipes, do the grocery shopping together, and then cook the meal together. Or we'll just run errands together, which makes it way more fun to get groceries or other things. One thing I didn't see mentioned yet is coloring books. They have so many fun adult coloring books out now, so I bought my partner one that I thought he'd enjoy, and we sit and color together. It's relaxing, and we still chat and laugh while we do it.

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