What is better than being young and in love? Being young and in love with a couple extra dollars in your pocket. Especially on Valentine’s Day—it seems practically designed to get you into debt. So this year, instead of making the reservation at the expensive five-star place that neither of you really likes or can afford, try these cheap and creative date ideas with your sweetheart.
As drive-in theaters become less common, a piece of Americana slips into oblivion. Recreate the fun Mom and Dad encountered by hauling a DVD player and a projector out to the backyard on a starry night with a blanket and some bug spray. The neighbors might think it strange, but you’ll have a blast.
Eat dinner at home. Later, go out for Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donuts. Stop at the ice cream parlor. Just get a snack together, which is definitely cheaper than a wholemeal. Or instead of going out late, get up before church and go out for breakfast. Or just go out for lunch afterward. Most restaurants have lunch and breakfast specials, and it’s cheaper than going out for dinner.
Watch the paper
Most communities have a free newspaper or website that lists fine arts events and festivals in the area. You might find a place to take free clogging lessons or to see a junior high ballet or choral concert. When local communities sponsor festivals, you can browse the vendors’ tables, get cheap hot dogs from a youth group and maybe even see a live bluegrass band.
Dress up nice, like it’s a date to Carnegie Hall. Even if it’s dinner at McD’s, how grand would it be to eat cheeseburgers in fancy clothes?
The admission fee at your local zoological park is probably less than five bucks a head. You can spend the whole day watching the monkeys pick lice out of each other’s heads, or you can just walk around and enjoy the landscaping.
The wild animals can lead for some pretty interesting conversation, and conversation can help you get to know each other better—which is why you are dating, right?
Need we say more?
Live music and poetry readings, with a three-dollar cover and a two-dollar cappuccino is quite romantic. You can sit there all night. Just drink slowly. It’s a great atmosphere-calm and laid back, and perfect for conversation. If they have an open mic night, write a silly love song or poem and surprise your date with a performance. Even if you have no talent, the sentiment of making a fool out of yourself to say, "I love you," is very romantic.
When you have to run to Wal-Mart to pick up toothpaste or drop by the post office to mail off bills, make a date of it. Not that a trip to the dentist is a particularly romantic experience, but it’s a great way to get to know your date. In a dating relationship, people often put their best foot forward, and it’s easy to give someone a false impression. Doing everyday things together is a great way to see each other for who you really are, and it might even offer some of the
most unexpected romantic moments. All it might take to remember it’s Valentine’s Day is a thoughtful card thanking him/her for spending the everyday with you.
Look at old stuff
Go to a museum. They are inexpensive or free. Spend some time walking through the exhibits, and talk about it. Talk quietly, though, or they will kick you out.
History has a very romantic appeal to it. While the dinosaur bones may not be that romantic, spend some time in the medieval section and talk about chivalry. Or look at the World War 2 section and find some pictures of love-hungry sailors, and then take turns making love hungry faces at each other (but seriously, don’t do this—you will be mocked, and deservedly so).
My place or yours?
Cook each other dinner. Or cook dinner together. Have a blast by going to the grocery store together first. Pick out some exotic food neither of you has tried before. Restaurants are expensive, and for the cost of dining out once, you could probably make two or three dinners at home.
Get 17 billion friends and go to the park and play ultimate Frisbee, or go jump in a swimming hole together. The more people, the more fun you can have. Romance doesn’t have to be limited to when you are alone. If you all go out to dinner together and ask for separate checks, you will definitely frazzle the waitress, which isn’t good. So to make it easier on the restaurant industry, order pizza and then have everybody pitch in an equal amount at the end of the night. For a large group of friends who pile into a diner, file into separate booths. Split up by couples or foursomes. It will be less overwhelming than trying to seat forty-three people at one table.
The great outdoors
Picnics, hikes, sunset walks, swimming at the beach or a community pool, bike riding: Who says a date has to mean dinner and a movie? Spend some time connecting with the great outdoors and each other. Watch a sunset, lay out a blanket in the park and snuggle and read. Go boating at the lake. Go dancing in the rain, or puddle hopping. Wake up early and watch the sunrise at the beach. For thousands of years, restaurants and movie theaters were non-existent and people still dated and romanced each other. Love poets from Solomon through Shakespeare compared their lovers to the beauty in nature. Their inspiration had to have come from somewhere!
This article originally appeared in the book
Cheap Ways To …
, which is currently available in the RELEVANT Store as part of the $5 Book Sale.