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Try a few of these ideas for great cheap dates or combine a few together and have fun!
-Fly a kite in the local school yard, at the park or in a field nearby. Make your own kite (you can find books at the library) or buy a cheap one from the discount store.
– Rediscover the fun of a school playground and have a picnic. Or better yet, go to the confectionary store, buy your favourite childhood candy, and head to the playground. The evening is an ideal time for this kind of date as all real children are home and tucked in bed, leaving the whole place free for you!
Chase each other around the park or sit down and draw in the sand. Sit on the swings, eat your candy, and share with each other some of your childhood memories to get to know each other better.
Low cost “high culture” dates
– Go to a museum. You’ll be amazed how much fun you’ll have laughing at the intriguing works of contemporary “abstract” art or discussing classic art. Even the most expensive museums have free days, late afternoon or student specials. Make a few calls — it will be worth it. Sometimes a historic site will have a reduced rate on a relevant anniversary date.
Call up the aquarium and the zoo while you’re at it. Pack a lunch and enjoy it on the grounds of the museum or site.
– Listen to live music or a poetry reading or lecture at a book store. Big book stores with latte bars often have live bands on weekend evenings and lecturers at various other times. You can listen to the music for free or you can buy a coffee and a cookie and still pay less than you would at a nightclub — plus there’s no annoying cigarette smoke!
– Attend the local high school musical or drama events. So it’s not Broadway, but it’s entertaining and affordable and the admission goes to a good cause. Probably the best cheapest entertainment I’ve ever seen to date was my high school’s Drama Improv Games for two bucks!
Check out your own school or other colleges and universities in your area for campus events. Movies shown on campus are often discounted, though they may not be main stream or the most current. Art and music majors both are often required to give shows or recitals as graduating requirements so check out student art shows and productions. These are often free and open to the public. Other campus events include student fairs, guest speakers, readings, and sports. Keep your eye on campus posters, announcements and the campus newspaper for listings.
– Swing is back in! Take a break from the techno-pop dance club scene and go for a serial date by taking dance lessons together at a community centre. If you want to try something different, try ballroom dancing!
Home sweet home
– If you’re too tired or too broke to get dressed up for a night on the town, have a quiet evening at home and cook dinner together. Buy ready made cookie dough for an easy home baked dessert or venture out after dinner and go for coffee at a dessert house (or even donuts at Crispy Creme).
Gals, if cooking dinner at home would mean you’re stuck with all the kitchen prep, it’s the season for summer barbeques so have a romantic barbeque for two. I’ve noticed that guys are usually more than happy to take charge of the grill.
– The costs of catching a weekend flick can add up with admission, pop, popcorn and other goodies. Instead, rent a video or borrow one from the library or from a friend. Make your own popcorn (microwave is nice and easy!), buy a case of pop for the same price of one small drink at the movie theatre, and watch the movie in your own private home theatre. If you have time, start in the afternoon and do a movie marathon — Star Wars is one of the best!
– Have a music night. Hang out and play your favourite CDs or share your favourite tunes with each other by making some mixed tapes. Play retro music and have your own little dance party a la deux (for two).
– Let your brains get on the same wavelength and rediscover Scrabble or chess. Pick up some other board games at the local thrift store. Or break out the deck of cards which should last you a few hours. Play outside if the skies are blue. Be sure to bring some chips and salsa or dip.
The Great outdoors
– Go outside and enjoy God’s creation of nature by doing some sports and leisure. Go for a hike, toss a frisbee or enjoy a walk in the park, go rollerblading, biking, canoeing, or swimming at an outdoor pool. Winter outdoor date ideas include skating, playing in the snow (snow ball fight!) or tobogganing.
– If you’re blessed by living on the coast or near a beach, play some beach volleyball, walk along the shore, look for seashells, play in the sand and see who can make the better sand castle!
Picnics and more picnics
– Pack a picnic brunch, lunch or dinner and go to a city park. If you have more than one park in the area, have a few dates and try to go to a different one each time. Make sandwiches or pack leftovers in a container, add some fruit, granola bars, brownies and some pop.
– Add a twist to the classic and have a car picnic after a peaceful drive. Park the car at a scenic overlook or where you can watch planes take off, observe wildlife, or stargaze as night falls. If the skies are grey, you can stay in the car or if the skies are blue, spread a blanket on the hood and enjoy your picnic there. Bring a ghetto blaster or play some tunes from the car radio (but be careful not to drain the car battery!)
– Don’t like the outdoors as much? Have a picnic without ants (indoor picnic) by spreading a blanket in your living room with your favourite music in the background.
A Walk in the park… or the city
– Go for a walk. A leisurely stroll in the summer in the park or around the neighbourhood, or a brisk walk in the winter is refreshing. End off with an iced drink or hot cocoa or hot cider depending on the season.
– Do a photo scavenger hunt to make your walk more fun and adventurous. Take photos of each other, classic or silly, and get people walking by to take pictures of you together. If you so choose, you can do a photo album, frame or collage with those pictures mixed with others each of you has.
– The summer often brings low cost festivals or free music, movies and Shakespeare in the park programs through the season. These are great cheap dates!
– Go window-shopping in different types of shops where you wouldn’t normally shop such as antique stores and flea markets. Go to the thrift store or local discount department store and amuse yourself in there — the toy section can be quite fun!
Dates from the heart
– Take the focus off yourselves and put together a donation box to a charitable organization or volunteer at local soup kitchen together.
– Have an appreciation date and take time to verbally appreciate each other for all the things the other has done for you through the week. Start with a couple of minutes and see where it goes. Be sure to include both inner and outer qualities you appreciate.
All it takes is a little brain bending and creativity to drum up an endless list of affordable dates. Hopefully you’ll have just as much fun dreaming up your ideas as you’ll have on the date itself!
Gary Foreman is the editor of The Dollar Stretcher.com and newsletters including “Financial Independence”. FI is designed to help people explore how they relate to money and reach their financial goals.