31 Anniversary Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank

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When you’re looking for fun anniversary ideas, you want to focus on spending quality time together in honor of a special day. It could be anything as simple as a recreation of your first date or a bucket list activity like taking an air balloon ride while wine tasting in the air.

The latter might feel a little too expensive, but plenty of wedding anniversary ideas won’t break the budget. In fact, you can celebrate a romantic anniversary without spending much besides a little creativity.

plate of shrimp with pasta on a red cloth with wine glasses.

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Bryan and I are approaching our 29th wedding anniversary. Rather than spend the money on anniversary gifts, we like to focus on experiences together. With six kids (five still at home) life is full, so taking the time to spend with one’s partner alone is invaluable.

Over the years we’ve celebrated many budget anniversaries, often out of necessity, but now that there’s a little extra in the bank, there’s no “thing” that we’d rather have but time together.

Consider these anniversary ideas that focus on experiences rather than stuff.

Why Do This

Experiences make memories. While there are all kinds of special gifts you can buy, stuff usually wears out. Memories, as they say, last forever!

Choose one or more of these anniversary ideas to make the most of your time together and have fun, too.

Tips for Success

Ask your partner what s/he wants to do. Bryan and I have been together for over 30 years, and we still can’t read each other’s minds. Imagine that! Have a conversation in advance to see what kind of anniversary date your spouse wants to have. It might be something new or it might not. (We’ve been talking about this for several weeks now and our anniversary is mid-May!)

Set a budget. It’s easy to get carried away in planning an anniversary celebration. One thing leads to another and you’re hosting a dinner party for 50 at a bougie restaurant, something that you don’t really want to do anyway. Discuss in advance how much money you want to spend and let that guide your plans.


What anniversary should you celebrate?

You should celebrate every wedding anniversary. However, depending on the season your marriage is currently in, those celebrations will look different from year to year. If it’s been a rough year together, consider what you can do to improve the health of your relationship. Reading a book together or going to counseling may be more valuable than a meal out.

What can I do for my anniversary with no money?

Love, thankfully, is cheap. Expressing that love doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. We’ve rounded up dozens of anniversary ideas to help you celebrate, many of which are absolutely free.

woman and man smiling at camera with ocean sunset in the background.
This is Bryan and I at sunset a few months ago. Our kids are now at the age when we can hop in the car and drive the couple miles to the beach, just to watch the sunset.

Anniversary Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank

When a special occasion rolls around, it brings with it the temptation to “do it up big.” Usually, that signifies “do it up expensive.” A few too many “special” occasions and you can find yourself in the poor house.

Or at least with a few too many bills and too little money!

Yet, you certainly don’t want to let your anniversary slip by without doing something special. I think one of the secrets to not overspending on special occasions is to find frugal or longer-lasting alternatives.

Consider the following anniversary ideas that are easy on the budget:

Recreate your first date — IF it was a good one. If it wasn’t, consider another date that was special and recreate the food and experience. Our first date was breakfast at a diner, then a few rounds of ping pong. I’d totally do that again. Another memorable date included a bike ride, flying a kit, drinking rootbeer, and eating pizza. Again, that works for me for a fun anniversary celebration!

Make a playlist of your favorite songs, including those that go back to your dating season. It’s the modern-day equivalent of a mix tape, the ultimate 80s symbol of love. I recently dug up the mix tapes Bryan made me when I was in France in 1992. I added those songs to a digital playlist that we can listen to in the car.

Prepare a special dinner at home. This could be a recreation of your wedding dinner or just a favorite meal that you haven’t made in a while. Be sure to set the table with special serving ware and light some candles. I’ve done this for several anniversaries that we celebrated with kids. Our wedding dinner was grilled tri-tip, a hearty red potato salad, the classic 90s’ Caesar salad, and fresh baked Italian rolls. Go figure, it’s one of our kids’ favorite meals!

Pack a picnic and go exploring. You could even plan a food scavenger hunt. You can pay a service for this (use the discount code jessica-igp2 if you do) or simply plan a few stops with clues for your partner to solve. At each stop, you pick up a favorite food item.

Plan a weekend road trip. You can make it a day trip to save money, go glamping if you have the inclination, or spring for a hotel or B&B, budget permitting. We’ve found that this can be lots of fun. Over the years, we’ve gone to San Diego, Julian, and San Luis Obispo.

Stay home. Send the kids to a friend’s house and have an at-home date night instead of paying for a babysitter and a night on the town. You can sleep in your own bed (hubba hubba) and enjoy peace and quiet and ….

Get cooking. Cooking classes are super popular with some couples, however, cooking classes can be expensive. Consider gathering the ingredients to make your favorite restaurant dish at home and watch a YouTube or other video class to make it together.

Check out the local art museum. Many have one night a week when they are open late. A night at the museum can be so fun, a little twist on every day.

ticket to art museum held in front of the museum building.

Stroll through the cemetery. Seriously! We’ve done this on our anniversary before, walking and imagining the stories of those long gone. You can learn a lot from headstones, and the time spent in the quiet often breeds a lot of thankfulness, for life and for each other.

Write a love letter. Bryan and I had a long-distance romance when we were dating; we have the box of love letters to prove it! It’s so great to reread these, to reminisce but also to see how far we’ve come. Spend a few minutes letting your partner know just how much you care.

Take a dance class. You can do this in person or via the Internet. It can be loads of fun and is actually a great practice to take up as you age. Grow old together dancing the tango. 

Create a video or slideshow of the past and take a virtual walk down Memory Lane. 

Prepare a “blind” Would-You-Rather game. You’ve likely seen this trend on social media. Brainstorm some activities to do together, offering them two at a time, for your partner to choose from. Video of them choosing blindly while the camera sees the options is pretty fun!

Visit a local comedy club or open mic night. Often the cover charge is pretty reasonable and can be loads of fun! Alternatively, find an online set to watch at home.

Brainstorm a bucket list of things you’d like to see, do, and experience in the coming years. Have fun being creative with markers, stickers, etc. There are journals you can buy or if you’re short on creativity, buy a box of ideas and work through them, starting on your anniversary. 

Play a favorite game. Think about what you enjoyed playing before kids; it could be a video game, a board game, or cards. Dig it out of storage or go buy a new set and have some fun!

Try a new sport. Depending on where you live, there are lots of adventures to try: rock climbing, jet skiing, skydiving, bungee jumping, etc.

Have a movie marathon. Line up your favorite movies, pop some corn, and settle in for a cozy night.

man driving a convertible at sunset.

Take a vacation day. Bryan and I started doing these monthly days off for birthdays and anniversaries, but now we do them once a month. We hop in the car with no agenda and just go where our whims and appetites take us.

Play the tourist in your town. There may be all kinds of hidden treasures in your community. Go to the local visitors center or visit their website to determine local must-sees that you might have missed.

Go hiking. The All Trails app is great for finding nearby trails. Be sure to pack water and snacks.

Watch the sunrise — or the sunset. Bundle up, weather requiring, and watch the day begin or end, depending on what works for your schedule.

Go stargazing. You might need to do a bit of research to find the best spot, but it will be worth it. Check out the National Parks Services tips. 

Create a time capsule. Put together a box of keepsakes to mark your life today and include some notes for each other. Make a note in your digital calendars so you remember to open it together on a future anniversary. 

Do a craft together. Stroll the aisles of the craft store together and choose a project to do together.

Get dressed up. You can put on your own togs or for fun, go to the thrift store to find some wild outfits on a budget.

Bake yourselves happy. Choose your favorite cookie or cake recipe and bake and decorate together.

Go bowling. Or miniature golfing. Or whatever cheap amusement is local.

Read a book together. Choose a classic that you both love or a new release that you both want to read. Take turns reading chapters together.

Take a food tour. This might be one you pay for but you can save money and have a good time by planning your own food tour. Choose a flavor profile or type of food and spend a few hours enjoying a progressive dinner.

Build a bonfire. Either in the backyard, at the beach, or at a local campground, spend some time cozy around the fire. Toast marshmallows, make smores, and enjoy some hot drinks together.

What works for you?

Leave a comment below and let us know what works for you.

collage of anniversary ideas that won't break the bank.

This post was originally published on May 14, 2010. It has been updated for content and clarity.

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  1. Happy Belated Anniversary! My husband and I celebrated 5 years of marriage on the 14th, too! We did endulge a bit this year–we live two hours from Chicago, and we planned a trip there. We have lived close to Chicago for 5 years, but we have never visited, and we thought that we should before we relocate to California in a few months! We had an economical trip, though–thanks to Amtrak tickets, Hotwire.com, and Restaurants.com.:) We took our 2 year old with us, and that really didn’t cost us any more money, since most attractions are free for 2 year olds and under.:) Taking to train to and from Chicago worked well, and we were able to walk or use public transportation to get to the places we wanted to see (Willis or the Sears Tower, Navy Pier, and the Museum of Science and Industry). We stayed at the Hyatt Regency for one night at a budget motel rate (took the train in on Friday morning and back home Saturday evening). It was fun! And of course, none of it was paid for with credit.

  2. CONGRATULATIONS!!!! I think your celebration seems just right, enjoy!

  3. Happy Anniversary!

    I hope you have a great night. I feel like it doesn’t matter how much you spend as long as your doing something together! I am celebrating my 7th wedding anniversary on Monday. We are not getting gifts or doing anything fancy. I would love to save on do something for our 10th if it’s in the budget.

  4. Happy anniversary!

    It makes me so excited when debt-free people get to do something awesome! Because when you’ve worked so hard to become debt-free and then save up, you really deserve it. When I hear these stories I always share them with my husband, because that’s how we dream of being someday (hopefully soon!).

    And yes, I want a fruit tree or pot of herbs! I also told my husband that, lol. For our “3-month anniversary” (of our wedding) he made me the breakfast we’d had the morning after our wedding and brought me a potted Venetian violet. 🙂 So I think he’s already on the right track!

  5. Thanks for this post, it has made me feel better that my husband and I won’t be “doing it big” for our 10th in a few weeks. While we are no longer in debt we still need to live frugally in order to stay that way. Anything unlike any other day around here is just not in the budget. Thanks to all the posters who have give me a bunch of new ideas for way to celebrate our milestone. And thank you to everyone for reconfiming that spending money does not equal a celebration!

  6. Congratulations on your wedding anniversary and being in that happy place of balance related to finances! We spent the last two years unemployed and were able to get through it by having a strong foundation, love, humor and frugal attitude! Your site offers so many great tips and I really appreciate you sharing your space with us! Here’s to a lifetime of happy anniversaries! My article this week is about finding really good quality butter in a commerical world. It’s out there! You just have to look hard!

  7. We will be 15 years this year in June. We used to go out to dinner or a movie but for financial reasons we have stayed in more recently.

    This year I have a surprise. I have had our wedding VHS transferred to DVD (something that needed to be done anyway). My dd (4) has never seen the video and we haven’t watched in years. So I plan to make a nice dinner and pop in the wedding video. I am sure some good laughs will be happening!

  8. Happy Anniversary! Ours is today (14th) – 22 years! And yes, I agree with how easy it is to overspend on special occasions. What are we celebrating tonight? Pancakes & sausage! 🙂 (We have a gift card to a fancier restaurant & will use that at another more convenient date.)

    I find too that having a good working budget, couponing, stockpiling, meal planning (my weakest area) really puts the ‘joy’ back into showing hospitality & special events.

  9. Happy Anniversary!

    Some of our best dates have been when we stayed home and the kids went to Grandma’s house.

  10. Congratulations!!! We celebrated our 5th anniversary this year and our budget was only $75 to celebrate (we are also working to get out of debt). My mother in law watched the girls while hubby and I enjoyed the day together.

    One thing I asked hubby to do instead of buying me fresh flowers is to buy me fake ones. Fresh flowers die after a few days but if he buys fake ones I will have a bouquet that just keeps growing through the years!

  11. Jessica,
    From an Indian to a Centurion have a wonderful anniversary!
    God Bless,

  12. Happy Anniversary!!!

    I’ve been married for over 8 months and I’m looking forward to having our 1st wedding anniversary 🙂

  13. We don’t usually celebrate our anniversaries in a big way. Our first anniversary we did. But not really since then. One year we tore up the carpets in our new house (moved in 2 days before our anniversary), another year we attended my father-in-law’s funeral….. I’m fine with the not overly celebrated day.

    Happy Anniversary, by the way!!!

  14. Happy Anniversary!!! Thank you so much for you post. It just helped to reaffirm some of the the decisions I had recently made. When my husband and I got married, we had NO money and wanted to get married very quickly. Our wedding was not a lavish affair and only happened because of the genorosity and kindness of so many wonderful people who believed in us and wanted to see us living happily ever after. Occasionally I have been upset that we didn’t get to have my “dream” wedding or that I don’t have a pretty engagement ring or that we didn’t get to have a honeymoon. But lately I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter. I am spending every day with the most amazing man in the world, the one that God prepared just for me, and we are extremely happy. That is enough. I would rather spend the extra money we have in aggressively paying down our debt instead of having a fancy ring or an expensive honeymoon. While those things are nice, I now know that what really matters is what he and share and are going to share.
    Your post was a great reminder of that this morning. Thank you!

  15. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! Today (May 14th) is my anniversary too! 🙂 This makes 27 years for us! Wow! They’ve sure flown by!!! We are going out to dinner tonight, while the kids eat their favorite meal — DiGiorno’s Pizza! 🙂 I have a lot of built in baby-sitters now, so we just have to contend with the cost of the meal. For us, we pretty much have to get out of the house to have any uninterrupted conversation!!! It seems that there is always a line to talk to Mom or Dad! 🙂 Have a great day!

  16. Happy Anniversary!

    The past few years we’ve schlepped the kids off to the grandparents and had a weekend here at home. We watch movies, take walks, make shrimp(something we don’t often do with the kids because of the expense) for dinner, and just relax! It’s been awesome, we’re at a FREE bed & breakfast 😉

  17. Great celebration! I’ve got to get more creative about our anniversaries, because the memories can be so wonderful.

    Annie Kate

  18. Congrats on another notch on the belt or is it a year in the basket? I don’t know… do the boys make you guys anniversary cards? I hope it’s a nice time!


  19. We had to look up what our anniversary date was – and we’ve only been married 4 years LOL. We don’t exchange gifts, as that is not our love language. Instead we go out for dinner or make a special meal at home.

  20. When we first got married, my husband and I always talked about what we would do on our tenth anniversary. That seemed so long away, and we were sure that we would have more money by then. Well, our tenth anniversary was 7 years ago…and we still haven’t struck it rich! But my husband still talks about what we did for our tenth anniversary. Instead of taking a cruise or some fancy trip out of town like we had “planned,” we ended up going out to eat at Chili’s. We had just had our second baby (fifth pregnancy, very high risk, long story…) and we just decided to take the boys with us. So the four of our went out to dinner, ordered the less expensive dishes on the menu, and had a wonderful time. My husband says that he remembers walking out of that restaurant carrying a baby carrier in one hand and holding my hand (while I held our first-born’s hand) and feeling so incredibly happy. A million dollars and a cruise to the Bahamas couldn’t have topped that evening! And now after 17 years of marriage and five kiddos, we feel even happier…. 🙂
    Happy Anniversary to you!

  21. Happy Anniversay to you! How fun to have a delayed celebration to look forward to!!! Hope you had a wonderful time eating “adult” food!

  22. Happy Anniversary! Mine is tomorrow, 16 years as well! My, how the time flies.

    1. I’m guessing we have the same anniversary (May 14?). I wrote this as if it were Friday since it’s Frugal Friday. Ahem… 😉

  23. We’ve always tried to be creative in our anniversary celebrations. Because my children are older this year we’re going to have a picnic outdoors with candles after they are fed and ready for a movie. I like simple since we may not have the opportunity to have a complete conversation again for months!!

    1. Kristin, your idea sounds wonderful. We’re celebrating 18 years on May 25, and neither of us wants to spend a lot of money; and since it’s Memorial Day weekend, we really want to avoid crowds. My thoughtful husband constructed a beautiful outdoor kitchen for me for my birthday, and I think a simple picnic, with candles and music would be great! Thanks for the idea, and Happy Belated Anniversary! If I’ve missed it.

  24. Happy Anniversary! I don’t think each year’s celebration has to be “big.” Our tenth anniversary was last year, and I can’t even remember what we did. I just asked my husband, and he doesn’t remember either. Gosh, we’re pathetic.