Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.
A date night is a way to reconnect as a couple. But you don’t have to go for the typical dinner and drinks to make the experience romantic. With a little planning and imagination, your date nights can be both memorable and cheap.
Be the Chef
Instead of going out to dinner, find your favorite restaurant dish at Copy Kat Recipes. Go shopping together for ingredients and then cook as a couple. Even if the meal doesn’t taste like a restaurant option, it will make memories cook together in the kitchen. You can also make your own homemade fondue or pizza, or have breakfast for dinner.
Heating things in the house
Design a romantic spot in your backyard. Sit on a picnic blanket with a few snacks, turn on some music, light some lanterns – and then connect, one of the most important keys to a successful relationship.
Sip and taste
Alcohol kills the budget. In restaurants, wine is coded at 300% or more. Instead of drinking your favorite bottle in town, buy wine at your local liquor store. Serve your own wine tours or cap each bottle for a blind tasting test. As you sample each sip, compare notes on flavors and preferences.
Challenge each other
You may learn something new about your partner when playing backgammon. Ditch the classic options like Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit. Make it fun by raising the stakes with romantic bets.
Be a tourist in your city
Easy to get stuck in a rut in your city. Spice it up by looking for cheap places you haven’t been to before. Some local museums offer free or cheap admission, especially after hours on certain days of the week. Find local parks or trails, farmers markets, free live music, outdoor movie nights, and more.
While you’re there, do some people watching. Take a place to stay in a crowded place like a mall or a coffee shop, sit down, and analyze the passers-by or people seated as close to you as possible. Try lip-reading, watching body language, and then comparing the notes with your date. You’ll probably never know if you’re right about what’s going on, but hearing what every one of you thinks is fun, and the sport is completely free.
If you have a few hours on your hands, start a new show together on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Some couple-friendly options: “Friday Night Lights,” “Weeds,” or “Mad Men.” Imagine you are in the cinema by serving popcorn, candy and homemade soft drinks.
Do some exercise
Get some fresh air and plan a day to play in your area. Go for a bike ride to a local park or shopping area. Play a fun, low-impact game like frisbee golf, mini golf and bocce ball, or visit the batting cages.
Walk along the water
Water tends to calm nerves and encourages the flow of conversation. If you live near water, whether it’s an ocean, a lake, or even a stream, walk and see where it takes you. Take a picnic or a small snack with you, and stop along the way to refuel and enjoy the view.
Go to your local library
Visit your local bookstore, grab a cup of coffee or tea if available, and find your favorite books. Then trade with your mate and see what he thinks about your taste in literature. You will discover what you like to read and may find common interests.
Create a bucket list for the date night
Sit down together to talk about your inexpensive nighttime ideas. Write each option on a notecard and keep it in a box. Next time you’re spending a night together and need to stay on a budget, pick a random card and use it!
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