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"Getting money is like digging with a needle;
spending it is like water soaking into sand."

Japanese Proverb



couple at a restaurant  

Ideas for Inexpensive Dates

Dating doesn't have to cost a lot to be fun. When my husband and I were dating, some of the times I remember most were going for bike rides on warm summer evenings and stopping for ice cream cones along the way. The mosquitos were bad that year so we had to eat the cones fast before the mosquitos ate us. Yet of all the dates we had, including going to expensive restaurants, football games and plays, I fremember the bike riding the most.

Here are some other suggestions for cheap but fun dates:

  1. Many museums have free days. Check out your local museums' web sites for details. For example, the San Francisco Academy of Science normally charges $24.95 for each adult admission, but the third Wednesday of each month is a free admission day. The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago normally charges $13.00 for an adult admission, but its web site has a list of about fifty days where you can visit for free. (Prices and free days are as of this writing, so be sure to check the museums' web sites for current information in advance of your date.)

  2. One thing to keep in mind is that if you spend money on something intangible, like dinner or a movie, that money is used up that night and then is gone for good. However, if you spend money on products that help to make a date more fun, then you can reuse those products over and over again on future dates.

    Some examples of "dating gear" you may want to invest in are:

    picnic basket with food   What can be more romantic than a wicker picnic basket filled with wine, cheese, strawberries, French bread and chocolates for dessert? Check out the Doller Stretcher site for more date ideas and also the forums at Mothering.com. The digerati Life has a doo post on Finding the Perfect Gift for the Lady in Your Life.

    A. An old fashioned, wicker picnic basket and a special blanket for picnics in the park.

    B. A small grill, a beach ball and Frisbee for a day at the beach.

    C. A fondue pot, scented candles, a fancy cheese board, special wine glasses, and a romantic music CD for special evenings at home.

    E. A variety of ethnic cookbooks for making special meals at home for or with your sweetie.

    F. A lawn game set with horseshoes, croquet and bocce balls for a fun day in your back yard or at the local park.

    G. Binoculars and and a camera for a bird watching expedition.

    H. Sketch pads, pastels and lawn chairs. Set up in a local wilderness area and draw the local flora and fauna.

    I. A wok, a Chinese cookbook and bamboo place mats. Go to an Asian market for the first half of your date and then come home and cook up all your favorite Chinese foods. Get an authentic tea set for added ambiance.

  3. Join a co-op. Before we had kids, my husband and I used to belong to an outdoor adventure co-op affiliated with a local university. We would go on overnight whitewater canoe and raft trips with the club, either for free or perhaps a small donation for food or other group expenses. This was a huge savings over the local commercial trips.

    In our area there is a local sailing co-op that offers free, introductory sail boat ride to the general public. If you decide to join you can then you can rent the equipment on your own or sign up yourself to free cruises for you and a guest.

  4. Join a club. Our archery club only costs $85 a year to belong for a family membership (plus some work hours). Membership includes free equipment rental and free use of the range and club house for a year. If we use it only every other week, that comes out to under $4 for an afternoon of fun shooting arrows at targets. I think that is a great deal and would make an unusual and exciting date. Another local archery club has free lessons one Sunday a month for prospective member.

    So get on the Internet or check your local newspaper for clubs in your area and see what events they have to offer to prospective members.

    starry sky at night   Lie on your back and look at the stars. - H. Jackson Brown, Jr. (from Life's Little Instruction Book)

    We also belong to an astronomy club with a $36 annual membership fee. With this membership we get to go to free astronomy lectures once a month, plus a free, members only viewing night at the local observatory. What can be more romantic than a night out in a beautiful setting atop a hill looking at the stars?

    If you love the outdoors, see if there is an active Sierra Club chapter in your area. Our local chapters usually have 50 - 100 hikes and other events each month, many of them free to members and their guests. Local Sierra Club activities near us include canoe trips, hikes, canine hikes, lectures. classes, camping trips, ski trips and pot luck dinners.

Selected Resources -

1. "Cheap Date? If you can do it, we want to hear about it! (City Life)." The News & Record (Piedmont Triad, NC). News & Record. 1997.

2. Sara Noel, "Readers share some inexpensive dating tips." Post-Tribune (IN). 2008

3. "43 intimate, brilliant, easy, cheap, thrilling, over-the-top, romantic, sexy date-night ideas: Redbook's new book, 500 Great Dates, has tons of fun plans for you and your guy--no matter how much (or how little) time, money, or babysitter access you have!(Survey)." Redbook. Hearst Magazines, a Division of the Hearst Corporation. 2007.


A bargain is something you have to find a use for once you have bought it. ~ Benjamin Franklin

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