If you've ever felt that dates were too expensive, or if you are saving for a big goal and need to cut costs but don't want to cut out the romance, or if there is just too much month and not enough paycheck, this list is for you. Here are some of my favorite free or affordable dates.
* Check out a movie from the library. Pop popcorn on the stove top or in an air popper.
* Have a campfire in the backyard. Roast marshmallows and snuggle under a blanket.
* Take a long walk through the neighborhood (provided you aren't saving money by living in a dangerous area). It's a great way to spend time talking and be active together.
* Call area museums and ask about free days. Some museums have free days weekly, monthly or annually. Have fun, get a bit of exercise while walking around and learn a little something.
* Go to a concert or poetry reading at a coffee house. Unlike a concert at a bar, you can get away with buying one drink and nursing it through the evening, or get a bottomless cup of regular coffee. For $5 you can have a night out.
* Look for special promotions for area restaurants. Some that we've enjoyed: free coffee at a chain coffee house on Earth Day when we brought in reusable mugs, free coffee and samples at a cafe when they were rolling out a new menu, $.50 iced coffees on the first day of summer at a fast food restaurant, free small lattes when McDonalds was starting McCafe, $.25 kiddie cones on Wednesdays at a chain ice cream shop, $1 coffees at another chain one day each week.
* Go to a second run theater for special promotions. My area theater sells tickets for $1.25 one day a week and $1.75 all other days. Skip the popcorn and soda.
* Go to the beach for swimming, tanning and playing.
* Have a do-nothing day. Don't get dressed. Don't run errands. Simply hang out at home, cuddle, talk, eat junk food, take a bath, whatever. Relax and enjoy each other.
* Go for a bike ride.
* Make a good meal together, especially a labor intensive one. Trucker and I like to make Chinese food together. He'll chop the veggies and meat for stir fry while I'm assembling egg rolls and crab rangoon. We get to talk and giggle together while preparing the food, and the cost and taste are far superior to what we find at our area Americanized Chinese buffet.
* Go to an antique mall and explore. There are many things to amuse or awe you. We look out for antique kitchen wares that are affordable and in good, usable condition. You don't have to buy anything though, so this can be a free date.
* Take a drive. While high gas prices make this less of a good deal than in previous times, this is still a fun date. Drive out of the city to explore the countryside or drive through the woods during autumn for a color display. A favorite of ours when we were saving for our house was to drive through different neighborhoods and discuss whether we would buy a house there and why.
* Take the bus to a new neighborhood with a set amount of money in cash, say $10, and see how long you can make it last. Explore the neighborhood on foot. Stop in every store and look around. Spend your money on small things, like the $.50 rack of books outside the used bookstore, penny candies, or a bagel to split from the small corner bakery.
* Go to a used book store and look around. Look for bargain racks or clearance sections.
* Look for coupons in the Sunday paper for restaurants. Once, I found Buy One Get One Free coupons for Caribou Coffee. I dived a recycling bin for extra coupons and for months we had $1 dates (Two regular coffees using coupon, plus additional money off for bringing reusable mugs and correctly answering trivia questions).
* Sign up for thrift store newsletters and text alerts. A few times a year, our favorite thrift store sends out coupons for $5 off a $10 purchase. We go to the thrift store and try not to spend over $10 so we can get half off. We score some great finds, but don't fall into the trap of buying a ton of stuff because it's so cheap.
* Go for a hike/nature walk. Most cities have a decent metro park system and you can find lovely walking trails. Take your camera for nature shots and silly pictures. Look for interesting plants or weird bugs.
* Have a picnic in the park or the backyard.
* Go to a free concert or play in the park. In my city a theater troupe puts on Shakespeare in the Park. Some people go all out, bringing little tables in and setting up elaborate picnics complete with wine.
What are some of your favorite affordable dates?
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