Money Saving Tips: 10 Date Ideas For Lean Times

Looking for fun dates on a limited budget? Consider some of these low-cost nights out!

Whether you are going on a first date or your four hundred and first date, there are romantic things you can do that will not break the bank. Try one of these date ideas for a low-cost night out that is sure to please both you and your companion.

1. A night at the café

Millions of French know the best way to date: linger over strong coffee in a sidewalk café, chat and watch the world go by. Cafes are everywhere, even popping up in bookstores and malls. Many of them offer free events to their patrons such as poetry readings, live music and game nights. Visit some local cafes to find one that isn't too loud, has a comfortable ambience conducive to settling in and check out their offerings. For the price of a cup of coffee - some even offer free refills - and a biscotti, you can spend time actually talking to your date.

2. Commune with nature

For daytime dates, nothing is better than an afternoon in the outdoors. During nice weather, get to know your local hiking trails and parks. For the cost of some bottled water and snacks, you can spend an entire afternoon pleasurably exploring trails. In colder weather your treks should be shorter but a walk through new snow surrounded by frosted trees can be as beautiful and romantic as a flower-filled meadow in springtime. If you are feeling active or adventurous, invest in a sled, toboggan or cross-country skis.

3. Dance the night away

If you are an avid dancer, you know the night spots for tripping the light fantastic. But, dancing can offer novices great date opportunities too. Investigate local dance schools and sign up for Ballroom, Folk or Latin dancing. Learning something new together is a marvelous way to discover one another and dancing is inherently fun and romantic. While Ballroom dance is more traditional, the sizzle of Latin dance can heat up virtually any relationship. Some schools even offer free trial courses so you can make sure you have found the right style for you.

4. Massage school

A perfect date for the partner you know well and would like to please is an evening at your own massage school. A quick trip to your local library can arm you with a book on massage techniques; a small bottle of massage oil, some candles and a romantic location will round out the evening as you release each other's muscle tension and spend some quality time alone.

5. Take in the arts

Share a love of the arts as you discover one another. Most art museums are inexpensive or even free to visit. Stroll through the galleries as you learn one another's taste in all things artistic. While many museums are not regularly open evenings, they have generous weekend hours and some offer limited evening viewings. Another art alternative is to visit art galleries. Get on the mailing list for some of your favorite galleries to receive invitations to gallery openings where you can meet the artist and enjoy drinks and hors d'oeuvres.

6. Putt-putt-putt

When was the last time you hit the miniature golf course? Commonly thought of as an activity for children, miniature golf can be fun for all ages. Mini-golf is no longer just artificial turf and windmills; many modern courses have elaborate holes with themed scenarios. Throw away your age-based inhibitions, pick your club and go for par with a partner.

7. Skate through your date

Whether ice skating, roller skating or rollerblading is your activity of choice, skating is a fun and active skate past-time. Contact your local rinks for rates and specialty events; many rinks offer themed evenings like disco nights and hip-hop parties that are especially conducive to dates. In the winter if you live in a cold climate, look for outdoor ice skating on a local pond, followed by toasty hot cocoa and chocolate-dipped graham crackers. Or, try a local park with long flat paved surfaces for an afternoon rollerblading date.

8. Pack a picnic

A classic way to spend an afternoon, the picnic has been too easily set aside by more expensive pursuits. Whether you simply pack a loaf of bread and jug of wine or create a more elaborate meal for your sweetie, there is timeless romance in eating outdoors, surrounded by nature. If you have a nearby lake or ocean, consider picnicking on the shore. The sound of flowing water is the perfect complement as you lean back on your red checked blanket and sip your drinks. Ants are optional.

9. The sporting life

Tickets to professional sporting events have gotten pricey, but there are still inexpensive live spectator sports. Investigate local minor league games; there is an extra thrill to knowing the players are there for the love of the game rather than a big paycheck. Or, for real local fun check out kids' sporting events; Little League baseball is free and often offers the spirit and heart missing from today's professional games.

10. Game night

If you would like to have your date at home but want something more than a romantic dinner, plan a game night. Game nights are perfect for double or triple dates because the games instantly break the ice and keep everyone amused for the evening. Serve low maintenance munchies; pizza and sandwiches work well in addition to chips, dips, crudités and cookies. Make sure you have an assortment of games on hand so if the party begins to stagnate you can spice it up with a new amusement. If you play betting games for real money, keep the stakes low; penny ante poker keeps everyone "in" for a long time.

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