June 28, 2017

4 Date Ideas for $20 or Less

couple and city lights

Dating can be an expensive ordeal. Traditionally, a date night would consist of dinner and some other form of entertainment, usually taking hours of one's time and enough money to keep the more frugal among us from even wanting to go out. This can especially be a challenge for married couples looking to save their money. Finding affordable ways to go out doesn't mean having any less, fun, however. It simply means that you'll have to get a little more creative than "dinner and a movie." The extra effort, however, will pay off in more than just a few saved dollars. You may find that some of the best dates you'll ever go on will cost around $20.00, or even less. Spending loads of cash doesn't mean that you or your date will have any more fun that evening. We've all been to fancy restaurants where we ordered $40.00 meals that we ended up hating, or going to mediocre concerts where the tickets were $50.00 a pop. When it comes to having a great time, it's the experience that matters, not the amount of money spent. Therefore, the following date ideas, though not pricey, may afford you and your date time together that is more special than the cash you'd have otherwise missed.

For a romantic night in, and to show your date that you really don't mind putting a little effort into your time together, create a dinner at home that rivals that of any restaurant's. Start by selecting a three course menu, complete with salad, entree, and dessert. It sounds costly, but salads cost next to nothing, and desserts that are homemade cost only a few dollars. Where you'll actually splurge here is your entree. If you are serving a meat, choose the best quality cuts that you can afford, and try to get a deal on accompanying sides and vegetables. In other words, asparagus is pretty much asparagus anywhere you buy it, but a steak must be selected very, very carefully. Cuts full of fat should be overlooked from the beginning, and anything not exuding freshness and quality shouldn't touch your date's dinner plate. As a general rule, all products being prepared for your date night should be purchased the day of the event to ensure freshness. Finally, prepare your dining area for a five star meal with fresh linens, real napkins and napkin holders, and your best serving dishes, china, and silverware. If you don't have these pieces, borrow them. Then, select a small bouquet of fresh flowers or two lit candles for centerpieces. You will have instantly created an elegant evening for two.

If you would like to go out and do something a little more traditional, take your date to a movie night under the stars. Many cities offer monthly movie events where large screens are placed in a picturesque area and old, romantic movies are shown for free (or close to it). Remember to bring a few blankets to sit on, and bring a little extra cash for refreshments (which will cost much less than movie theater snacks). Your community may also have a working drive-in theater for a similar experience, again at a very low cost.

If you prefer an indoor theatrical or musical experience, check out your community calendar for upcoming events. It's likely that you have a community exploding with talent, and that talent is probably put on display two to three times a week in historic theaters, music halls, and college campuses. Most of these events are $5.00 or less, and they offer hours of high quality entertainment that may surprise you with the elegant date atmosphere that they can provide. Check your city's online homepage for listings of concerts, plays, and exhibits that may interest you and your date.

Finally, don't underestimate the romance that a retreat to the lake or park can provide. National parks offer some free days during the year. While many state and local parks are generally free of charge (you may be charged for parking), and they offer visitors several different options for recreation. Most allow swimming, fishing, boating, and hiking trails for their guests, and some even offer miniature golf and arcade activities at indoor facilities. Pack a lunch for two and take a picnic, followed by swimming, hiking, or whatever activity you like, or simply go and relax under the picnic tables and enjoy the scenery. You can spend hours at these parks without putting a strain on your wallet.

Whatever you decide to do, remember not to rely solely on free entertainment if you can help it (unless you are a couple and have both agreed to spending less on date nights). While most dates will appreciate the extra effort and thought that goes into any of the above suggestions, they may still be counting the dollars are that lost at their expense (and equating that loss to their value as a date to you). Therefore, you may wish to follow up a free or low cost event with a trip to a café or local eatery to top off the evening (neither of which should cost much, as long as you avoid larger chain stores). Make sure that the events line up together in theme and are well thought out, and it's likely that your date will be too impressed with your thoughtfulness to worry about the lack of cash that went into the whole experience.