Can’t buy me love- but you can buy your squeeze dinner and a movie. But dinner and a movie might just blow your entire month’s entertainment budget (have you seen movie prices these days?!!) and (hopefully) you want to see your squeeze more than once a month. What’s a Romeo or Juliette to do?
To date without breaking the budget, you have to get a little creative. The main thing that makes a successful date is a little planning- not spending. Here are some of my best suggestions for dating on the cheap- each city I have lived in has different resources so some of these may be appropriate for different areas of the country.
My boyfriend calls these Kate Dates (if you just vomited in your mouth, I apologize. We can’t help it).
- Picnics are always a good idea! Go to your local park with a blanket (put down a shower curtain liner or a dry cleaning bag underneath if it’s wet). Make some sandwiches, grab some sunscreen and some books, buy yourselves some sparkly lemonade or those individual wine boxes that my family calls “juice boxes” (there are no children in my family, it’s totally cool.)
- Go for a hike or a bike ride. Pack a picnic! Alone in nature with a view and the one you love…sigh.
- Check out community events. There are probably historical tours, guest speakers, interesting/and or funny museums, outdoor movies (this is very common in the summer), festivals, free concerts, holiday parades. Everywhere I have ever lived (urban or rural- and I mean RURAL) had community events that were worth checking out.
- Speaking of museums, check for free admissions days or night openings. I know of a few museums that had jazz nights or cocktail hours in the evenings- not necessarily cheaper, but you got more bang for your buck when you got to hear music and see art at the same time!
- Gallery openings have free wine, cheese, interesting art and interesting people.
- If you are a theater fanatic, see if you can volunteer to be an usher. Being an usher is more of a regular commitment, but you go early, help people to their seats (or take tickets) and get to watch a free show! This is a great way to see a large variety of performances.
- Colleges and universities often have concerts, sports events and performances that are very affordable. No major league baseball in your area? Grab a bag of peanuts from the grocery and check out your college team. No college nearby? Check out your local high school teams!
- Hopefully one of you has a reasonably clean kitchen. Why don’t you try learning a new recipe together? Have a frozen pizza on hand just in case.
- Watching movies at home becomes a lot more romantic if you planned a gourmet popcorn and a special cocktail or drink for the night. My favorite popcorn recipe: put olive oil in a smallish pot with a lid. Add salt. Let it get hot. Add popcorn kernels to cover the bottom of the pot and add some fresh or dried rosemary. Cover and shake over high heat. Stop when the pot is full of popcorn (DON’T BURN IT!). There you go: incredibly impressive Olive Oil Rosemary Popcorn for about $.17 total.
- Spending too much on movies at home? Check out the selection at your local library.
- Make a string of dates around a theme, like “Finding the best donut in town.” Sounds like multiple trips and multiple donuts…yum!
- Try to check out popular locations in the off season or play hooky on a weekday to avoid crowds. I once visited my friend in LA and instead of going to $90 Disney world, we went to $30 Knotts Berry Farm on a weekday in the off season. There was no one there and we went on every single ride (except for that one that drops you 5,000 feet because we are weenies). Sure beats paying more to stand in line all day!
- My family is full of board game fanatics. You know what is a fun date? Board game night! You can make your famous Olive Oil Rosemary popcorn!
- Take a day trip to a nearby city that you don’t know very well. Be tourists! If you want to stay overnight somewhere, I have had good luck with AirB&B as an alternative to hotels or hostels.
- Actually, most people miss out on tourist attractions in their hometowns as well. Pretend you are moving in six months. What should you have done in the area that you just haven’t gotten around to doing? Go do it!
- Going to or live in NYC? Check out todaysthedayi.com for some creative activities in New York that you probably wouldn’t find on your own (written by my beautiful and talented friend Lydia)
- You know what is romantic? Stargazing. Especially if you have done your homework and know what’s what up there.
- I am a sucker for sunset picnics at the beach.
- Bowling is usually pretty affordable and also pretty fun. Ditto darts or pool. A little friendly competition never hurt anyone (and if it does, dump him/her immediately. Life is too short to date someone who can’t lose gracefully.)
- Pay attention to little perks you might pick up from your everyday life. Your work might offer free sports tickets or tickets at a discount. This year I got a 4 pack of major league baseball tickets for free because I bought bras (that I was going to buy anyway, all I had to do was take a photo of the receipt) and I also got a 4 pack of Steve Winwood tickets (I know, you are totally jealous) because I subscribe to the Sunday paper. Both of these events required me to do about three clicks worth of work with my phone, I don’t get any spam mail because they are from two companies that I already buy from and the total value of the tickets is over $400. Awesome.
- Groupon, Living Social and Restaurants.com all were invented so you can live like a manager on an entry-level salary.
- What if you volunteer together? Pick a cause you really believe in or work that you enjoy. I have had a number of lovely days helping out with Habitat for Humanity and I picked up some home repair skills, as well!
I’m sure you get the idea. To have a successful date you
1. need to like the person you are with and
2. need to do a little planning.
Other than that, you can wine and dine your squeeze while not spending a lot of money, as long as you have spent a lot of thought! Have fun, you two!
I would love to hear about your own successful Kate Dates.