12 Cheap (Or Free!) Date Ideas For Valentine's Day

Romance doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In this article, we’ve compiled a handy list of a dozen cheap date ideas you could try this Valentine’s Day.
Last modified: 22nd February 2024
William Jolly  |  

Love is in the air on February 14: On Valentine’s Day in 2023, just under one-third (32%) of Aussies celebrated it, up from 24% the year before!

While the remainder of us don’t intend to do something special this Valentine’s Day, either because they don’t have a partner (34%) or don’t want to (34%), it’s still a costly day. Dating can be expensive as it is, whether you’re on a first date or happily married. Add the cost of living crisis into the mix, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a costly day, indeed.

But romance doesn’t have to break the bank. In this article, we’ve compiled a handy list of a dozen cheap date ideas you could try- some of them are even free!

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Dating is a major expense in 2024

Being single can be hard for some, but did you know it can often be more expensive than being coupled up? Research from iSelect in 2023 found the ‘singles tax’ - known as the cost of living alone and not being able to split expenses such as food - can result in you paying an extra $7,691 each year on living expenses.

In order to find love, Aussies are spending even more money on dating. 2022 research from ING revealed the amount Aussie singles spend on dating has almost quadrupled since 2017, going from $11.7 billion a year to $42.8 billion a year!

The average single Aussie goes on three dates per month, compared to just one in 2017, according to ING’s research, with an average monthly dating spend of $384.28, compared to just $153.93 five years ago.

The rise of paid dating apps has also led to increasing costs: dating app subscription spending was just $80.7 million per year in 2017, but it has skyrocketed to more than half a billion in 2022! Aussie singles who are already paying for dating apps are also more likely to spend big on their first dates, with an average budget of $208.33, over $50 more than the rest.

“Not only are we going on more dates, we’re also spending more on those less-considered costs such as app subscriptions, pre-date beauty regimes or gifts,” ING’s Head of Daily Banking Matt Bowen said.

“But love doesn’t have to cost the earth, and a few small changes to the way you date can help keep those costs down. 

“From getting outdoors and enjoying everything free that nature has to offer to searching the web for restaurant deals and coupons or picking venues with happy hour deals, these are just a few handy ways in which Aussie singles can reduce their dating costs.”

Valentine’s Day - an expensive day

It turns out money often does buy love, or at least we think it does, particularly on Valentine’s Day. NAB data from 2023 shows Australians spent just shy of $850 million at restaurants, jewellers and florists during Valentine’s Day, a 7% increase from 2022. 

According to Finder, the average participant in the day of love spent $210 on their partner or date. Men spent more, at $242 each, compared to $172 for women. Millennials were the most generous generation, outspending baby boomers by $240 to $81 per person.

How much do you plan to spend on Valentine's Day for your partner?
Total$210
Dinner (Dining out)$86
Dining in (e.g. Uber Eats)$57
Presents$31
Chocolates$22
Flowers$14
Other$1
Source: Finder survey of 340 respondents who responded 'yes' to celebrating Valentine's Day, January 2023.

Roy Morgan and the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) found that flowers were the most sought-after gift (42%), followed by chocolates and food (29%).

12 cheap (and free) date ideas for Valentine’s Day

With the rising costs, both singles and couples in Australia are increasingly seeking ways to curtail their romance-related expenses. For example, Research by ubank shows Gen Z slashed spending on dating apps by 43.7% in 2023, closely followed by millennials at 40.9%.

This newfound thrift in our romantic relationships extends to going on dates, too. Whether you’re on a first date, second date, or 20th wedding anniversary, there are plenty of date ideas that are either free or very low-cost. 

While there are too many of them to list in one article, we’ve narrowed it down to 12 of the most common.

1. Have a picnic

Picnics can offer a delightful blend of romance, simplicity and affordability. Choose a picturesque location like a local park or beach, pack some snacks, sandwiches and drinks, and you’re good to go! Remember the picnic blanket, of course, and some speakers to play some quiet music.

2. Sightseeing walk

Discover the charm of your city or town with a sightseeing walk. Whether it's exploring historic neighbourhoods, admiring street art, or visiting iconic landmarks, this date idea is not only free but offers an opportunity to share your favourite spots with each other and create new memories.

3. Take a hike, pal

For adventure-loving couples, a hike can be both exhilarating and intimate. Choose a trail that matches your fitness levels and enjoy the natural beauty on offer, with plenty of time for conversation while you walk.

4. Go star gazing

On a clear night, find a quiet spot away from the city lights, lay down a blanket, and gaze at the stars. This peaceful activity can be both romantic and awe-inspiring. You might even bring along a telescope or use a stargazing app to pretend to know what you’re looking at.

5. Watch the sunset

Find a scenic location like a hilltop, beach, or a quiet park to watch the sunset together. This simple yet profoundly beautiful experience can be the perfect backdrop for a romantic evening.

Alternatively, you could watch a sunrise together if getting up early is your thing.

6. Local museums and galleries

Many museums and galleries offer free or discounted days. This date idea is perfect for art lovers and those looking to add a touch of culture to their day. It’s a chance to explore new exhibits and discuss each other's perspectives on different pieces.

7. Botanic gardens are nice

Botanic gardens are ideal for leisurely strolls among beautiful flora. These gardens often feature exotic plants, themed sections, and picturesque landscapes, making them a serene backdrop for a date.

Plus, they’re often free or at least very cheap to enter, and there are usually plenty of cafes and bars nearby.

8. Explore local markets

Visiting a local market and browsing through stalls of fresh produce, artisan crafts, and street food can be an exciting and sensory-filled experience. It’s a great way to support local businesses and find unique items while enjoying a casual outing.

9. Go bike (or e-scooter) riding

Renting bikes or e-scooters can be a fun and active way to explore your city. Ride along a scenic path, a beach boardwalk, or through city streets and stop along the way to chat. This type of date combines physical activity with the opportunity to see new sights together.

10. Cook together

If your date is comfortable with the idea, choose a recipe and cook a meal together at home. This can be a fun and engaging way to collaborate and learn about each other's cooking styles, which can be a dealbreaker for some people.

11. Volunteer together

While this might not be for everyone, an interesting date idea is to choose a cause that you both care about and spend your date volunteering. This could be helping at a local shelter, community garden, or food bank. It's a meaningful way to spend time together and give back to the community.

12. See an outdoor movie

If movies are your thing, check if your city hosts outdoor movie nights, which are often free or low-cost. Bring a blanket and some snacks, and enjoy a film under the stars.

If it’s raining or too cold, there’s always the option of seeing an indoor movie at someone’s house. You can make it like the real thing by dimming the lights, turning your phones off and munching on some popcorn or overpriced lollies.

Show your finances some love

One thing you could do in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day is to go through your finances and give them some attention they’ve been craving, updating your budget, removing unnecessary expenses and switching ongoing bills to more affordable plans.

This can be done if you’re single or as a date night activity for a couple. If you’re with a partner, just grab some drinks, put some music on and comb through your bank statements together.

If you’re not currently shacked up, updating your finances can boost your love life. Financial responsibility is one of the biggest things that can make or break a relationship (see the graph below), and so, too, is having a good credit score. A 2015 paper called Credit Scores and Committed Relationships by the US Federal Reserve found that people with higher credit scores are more likely to form committed relationships relative to other observably similar individuals" within a year and are more likely to maintain relationships.

Bloomberg money x relationships

If you’re looking for some inspiration on saving money this year, read some of our budgeting & savings articles to help you get started:

Valentine's Day isn’t about spending money

Many people these days feel pressured to spend money on Valentine’s Day. That pressure might be to treat a partner to an expensive dinner and presents. For single Australians, they might feel like they have to buy subscriptions to dating apps or fancy cocktails for a date. 

But the core message of Valentine’s Day isn’t spending money. The day has become over-commercialised (like most special days), but ultimately, it’s still about love. Whether it’s self-love by taking care of yourself or showing a partner how much they mean to you, the best memories won’t necessarily be the ones that cost the most money. 

And if you do spend Valentine’s Day by yourself, that’s perfectly okay, too! Don’t be tempted to break the bank just because you feel like you have to. 

Sorting out your finances?

Written by - William Jolly

Content Manager
William is the Content Manager at Jacaranda Finance. He has worked as both a journalist and a media advisor at some of Australia's biggest financial comparison sites such as Canstar, Compare the Market and Savings.com.au, and is passionate about helping Australians find the right money solution for them.

You can get in touch with William via williamj@jacarandafinance.com.au.
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