Ah, Valentine’s Day, that one day of the year that you spend, spend and spend on little tokens of love for your sweetie. You probably BUY a card, BUY candy, BUY flowers, BUY dinner, etc. See the running theme here … it can get pretty costly, but it doesn’t have to. Just because it is one of the most commercial holidays of the year, you can still show your love and appreciation for your partner at little to no cost, and more often than just one day a year. A date night is a way to reconnect as a couple. But you don’t have to have the typical dinner and drinks to make the experience romantic. With a little bit of planning and imagination, your date nights can be memorable and cheap. Here are 14 fun and creative ideas that won’t break the bank, but still show you care:
At-home dating. First and foremost, if you’re married with kids, babysitting tends to be a luxury … so why not tuck the kiddos into bed and then have an at-home date night? Some fun ideas include a movie marathon, complete with fresh popped popcorn and some homemade smoothies or setup your laptop or tablet, click on your favorite music site such as Pandora for a fun night of karaoke. Trust me, pick a station that you both enjoy and it will provide hours of laughter and is quite the bonding experience.
Dewey Decimal dating. Head on over to your local bookstore and spend some time exploring. Best part about this one is that it is totally FREE! If you don’t think that’s romantic, remember a few films that allowed libraries to get top billing: Paul says the L-word to Holly in a library in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the romantic Beast gives Belle an entire library to symbolize his love in Beauty and the Beast.
Food is love. Cooking together is always a fun idea and less expensive than going out to dinner. Plus you avoid all the crowds and lack of reservations available around Valentine’s Day. Find your favorite restaurant dish on Copy Kat Recipes. Go shopping together for the ingredients and then cook as a couple. Pick a theme and go with it. Feel like going to Paris for the evening? Well then grab a baguette, some sparkling wine and a few cheeses for a tasting. How about Italy? Easy. You just need some pasta, a bottle of Chianti and a yummy tiramisu. Even if the meal doesn’t taste like the restaurant option, you’ll make memories cooking together in the kitchen. You could also make your own fondue, homemade pizza or have breakfast for dinner.
Look to the stars. What’s more romantic than stargazing with your loved one? Head to a local park or even your backyard with a blanket, download the free Star Chart app on your smartphone for an easy map of constellations, and pack your favorite beverage. Make sure there aren’t any lights nearby to make it easier to see the stars.
Daytime love stories. Who says date nights have to take place at night? Go on a nature walk, create a scavenger hunt for items to find, pick some flowers along the way and end with a romantic picnic. Dust off classic game options like Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit. Make it interesting by raising the stakes with romantic bets. Or start watching a corny soap opera as a couple – the classic late 60s American gothic TV series Dark Shadows, is now available on Amazon.
Drink smarter. Find a local winery or wine shop for a tasting or go on a free winery tour. These might have free snacks and local music, if you’re lucky. At restaurants, wine is marked up 300% or more. Instead of drinking your favorite bottle out on the town, pick up wine at the local liquor store. Serve your own wine flights or cover each bottle for a blind taste test. As you sample, savor each sip and compare notes on the flavors and your preferences.
Give a little. Find a local volunteer opportunity or service project in your area and serve together. You’ll spend quality time together while helping out the community all at no cost except for your time.
Make some music. Are you musically inclined? Write a song together. How awesome is that? If you don’t, why not take a class together, or learn to play using a video?
Deal a date night. Keep an eye out on your local deal sites such as Groupon or Living Social for discounts to Paint your Own Pottery or Canvas outings. You can typically save up to 50% off per person.
Treasure hunt dinner. Still want to go out to eat? Have a progressive date night. Choose a few different restaurants around town and start out with drinks at one place, then head over to another for appetizers, try out a new place for the main meal, and finish up at your local bakery or ice cream parlor for dessert. The best part about this is that you don’t spend as much money if you’re there for a specific item, and you can sit at the bar for most of these, so it’s more laid back.
Stage right. Want to see that musical or play but the price is too steep? Call around to see if your local theater sells tickets for dress rehearsals. You pay less than the actual ticket cost and get the same experience. Or, see if you can find a discounted ticket from Goldstar.
Make it. Build something together. Order in pizza and open up that DIY Pinterest inspiration board you have been filling with ideas. Pick your favorite and get started.
Flex a little. Into fitness? Get a free day pass to a gym whose membership may be a bit out of your budget and spend some time with your sweetie getting physical. Challenge each other to a fitness competition, take some classes, and then take advantage of the gym’s sauna or pool, if it has one. Or get some fresh air and plan a day of play in your neighborhood. Go for a bike ride to a local park or shopping district. Play a fun and low-impact game like Frisbee golf, mini golf and bocce ball or visit the batting cages.
Look while local. Be a tourist in your own city. Go online and print out a travel guide, set your sights on a few locations, create an itinerary and play tourist. Make sure to take pictures along the way. Spice it up by searching for inexpensive places you’ve never visited before. Some local museums offer free or cheap entry. Look for local parks or trails, farmers’ markets, free live music, free outdoor movie nights and more.
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