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10 Budget Friendly Holigay Dates

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, even though my bank account would strongly disagree. It’s the perfect season for hopeless romantics like me because we get to watch all the cute Hallmark movies about meeting your dream partner and falling in love! The reality is, even if you do have the partner of your dreams, we can’t all vacation to a ski chalet to drink hot cocoa and enter their gingerbread house contest for a weekend. However, I am determined to bring the love-dovey season of lights and giving vibe to my dating life, so I came up with a few budget friendly or completely free Hallmark-adjacent options for us. Most of these holiday date ideas could be used with new-er partners or your long-time life partner. Happy dating!

Go look at holiday lights in a wealthy neighborhood

a decorated house for the holidays

If you already live in a neighborhood or complex that goes all-out with lights, then take a little intentional stroll around town to check out your neighbors’ hard work. If you don’t, or you just want to see some wild front-yard configurations, head to the nearest “nice” neighborhood with the large houses and watch the light show that one house does that’s always the absolute most. The fun part of this is making comments back and forth about what you would do differently, or how this one yard is your dream yard. Bring a warm beverage to-go for added enjoyment!

Visit an animal shelter

a cat and a dog in santa hats

I only recently learned you can just show up to shelters during operating hours and look at all the cute animals. You can always say you’re looking to adopt (and then not), but I have not gone on this date, because I will indeed end up taking home an animal, which I guess would really elevate the date. Many shelters are having wild deals on adopting right now, so if there was ever a time to get a pet with your partner, maybe consider doing it now! However, do this at your own risk.

Make a TikTok together

two women at a holiday market having cocoa

Sometimes I roll my eyes at TikTok couples doing “couples challenges” or even just, I don’t know, being themselves on camera, but for a one or two-time thing this could be fun! It will vary depending on your interests, but you can search for couples’ videos in your TikTok search bar for inspiration. The most important part is to let yourselves have fun and be a little silly.

Attend a middle school/high school holiday concert

a young woman singing a christmas song dressed as a reindeer

If you have children, this might already be an obligation (but still cute if you have an adult date to bring!). If you don’t, check out the calendars at your local high schools and middle schools for their winter events. Usually, the schools will put on a band or choir concert of some sort, and it’s often free to attend! You might be thinking (like I am right now) isn’t this kinda weird if you don’t have kids? I ran this by colleagues of mine of all different ages, who assured me it isn’t, especially since you’re supporting local community arts.

Build a non-traditional gingerbread house

a small red gingerbread house

You can build whatever type of house you want, but I think it’s much more exciting to choose something slightly questionable. The mystery and complexity of it all brings more excitement and laughter to the date! Target always has new versions of gingerbread houses on the shelves, like this football stadium or treehouse, but my personal favorite is this house Publix released of a Publix store.

Nighttime photoshoot

a person looking at a christmas tree, with an artsy lighting effect

Pick out some cute outfits and find a spot that really illuminates after dark. This could be a Christmas market, a park, or even your own front yard. Have a little photo sesh where you each take photos of the other person doing various poses (silly or sexy)! The important part is hyping each other up like they’re the most fabulous model in the world.

Dinner and a movie, but better

a woman with a bowl of popcorn about to watch a movie in bed

Instead of going a move theater and paying for overpriced food, why not do this whole date but from the comfort of your own home! The added twist is that you’ll theme the food and/or drinks around the movie you choose. For example, you could watch Happiest Season and plan to make one of the many meals Harper’s family makes around the holidays. I’ll admit, some movies are much easier to theme than others (insert any straight Hallmark movie involving making cookies), but just have fun with it!

Cooking competition

whisking an egg into flour

No grocery shopping allowed! You and your partner go head-to-head in the kitchen using only what you already have to make the most festive, scrumptious dish you can think of before the timer goes off! If you’re more of a cooking person, stick to entrees, but if you both prefer baking, maybe choose something inspired by a certain theme or word. This date gets particularly fun and challenging when you’re near the end of your latest grocery shop and ingredients are limited.

Go to a hotel bar

a bartender handing a cocktail to you

You may not be able to go to a ski lodge for the holidays, but what you can do is find a hotel in the closest major city near you and go to their bar for drinks! This will give you the chance to look fancy and pretend you’re in that Hallmark movie without actually paying the price. Just get one round of drinks and split a dish to keep costs low. Typically, larger hotels will decorate for the holidays, so you may even have an opportunity for a few romantic photos.

No tech night

two people looking at a night sky

Choose one intentional night of the week and set a time frame where you both can’t use any type of technology. This includes phones, TVs, computers, etc. You might need to start off small with 30 minutes, but sometimes the most intimate moments can manifest if you spend three hours of uninterrupted quality time together. Some of the activities you could do in this tech free time could be stargazing, lightening a few candles and playing board games, going on a walk, cuddling and reminiscing about funny moments you’ve shared, or simply just sex.

Do you have any holiday dates planned this month? Let us know what they are!

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Em Win

Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Em now lives in Los Angeles where she does many odd jobs in addition to writing. When she's not sending 7-minute voice messages to friends and family, she enjoys swimming, yoga, candle-making, tarot, drag, and talking about the Enneagram.

Em has written 71 articles for us.


  1. Some great ideas here.

    I’d hope it would go without saying but please don’t visit a shelter (outside an event) and pretend to be looking to adopt if you aren’t. It’s extra work for the staff, can be stressful for the animals, and honestly sounds super depressing all around.

    Animals aren’t decoration.

  2. These are all such fun ideas! Going to look at holiday lights in a fancy neighborhood is definitely on my list – so festive and free. And building a non-traditional gingerbread house sounds like a hilarious way to get creative together. Love this list!

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