Living paycheck to paycheck with no real relief in sight is a reality for many people in this distressed economy. Mortgage, kids, and gas all come before fun when payday arrives. It can be hard to find entertainment money, but everyone needs to get out once in a while. Here are ten easy date ideas that won’t break the bank regardless of the time of year. And remember, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, so now is a great time to start planning.
This is date night 101: spending a lot of money. Dinner and a movie for two can easily cost over $60, perhaps even approaching $100 if you are really trying to impress. Consider the alternatives to an expensive meal followed by high dollar movie tickets and snacks.
Dinner: Want a change from frozen pizza and a stale couch? Learn each others’ favorite recipes or take a cooking class. Movies in the park pair perfectly with a picnic for a $20 date night. If you really need someone else to cook for a change, go out and split a meal and appetizer (where there are large portions) or go to that old drive-in with the homemade root beer…and still keep it under $30.
Movie: If the season is right, find local “movies in the park” or similar local events that are often free. A drive in movie can often net a double or triple feature for under $20. Too cold for outdoor viewing? Find a second run theater or go early for a matinee and you’ll likely keep the price at $10 or less. Go to the store first and buy snacks to “smuggle” in. This will – at least – cut the night’s snack expense in half!
At first you might think volunteering doesn’t sound like fun. However, nothing brings people together like seeing the best side of someone. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or help out at the local animal shelter. Although not a traditional date, it can really be a great experience. You just might be surprised at how fun making a difference can be! Total price: some of your free time.
Find a local venue (i.e., coffee shop or bar/restaurant) and you just might be able to say, “Oh yeah, I remember when they played my local coffee house. So much better than the huge arenas they play now!” There are talented musicians and performers all over and likely you do not have to travel far or buy a $50 concert t-shirt! You can usually get two people in the door for under $20 – and sometimes it’s even free. Happy hour before or a cocktail at home first, instead of overpriced drinks at the event, can keep a fun night out under $50.
During the right time of year, dress up (or down) and visit the local farmers’ markets. Local markets have a nice atmosphere and provide an abundance of local merchants who would love to earn your business. Fruit picking is always a fun day outside as well. Take your rewards home and make dinner together, or add to the outing with a picnic. You can probably bring $30 and come home with money.
Have fun with the weather! Find an ice rink and rent some skates for an hour or two. Skates,hot chocolate for two, and some awkward funny moments on the ice can be a great way to get out for well under $20. Or, grab your leg warmers and head to the roller rink. No skating rinks? Grab the kids’ sleds and head out to a big hill, or go tubing for a real adrenaline rush!
Tour a winery or brewery
Does going out for drinks break the bank? Try happy hour or, better yet, find a local brewery or winery and take a tour! Tours are often $10 or less, keeping it at $20 or less. The samples and tour allow for an entertaining and cheap happy hour (or two).
Take a class
Local community groups or business often offer classes to get out in the community. Take a cooking class and you just may learn how to make your favorite local restaurant dish. Cooking isn’t your thing? Sign up for a pottery class, or some friendly sparring at a self defense or martial arts/boxing class. Be creative and look for deals to keep this date under $30.
Find a Museum or Art Show
Art and old stuff really isn’t your thing either? Dress up, act snobby, and go to a school art program for little kids or find the cheesiest local “museum” you can find. I once visited a museum dedicated solely to toy action figures and had a blast! Again, a free date night idea if you stay local. Keep it under $30 for sure at a bigger museum.
Take a hike
Find your local or state trails and go hiking or biking and bring the dogs or pack a lunch. Many state forests have beautiful scenery, so bring a camera. This is another great date to bring a picnic along. A day out can easily be under $20.
Last minute reservations
Looking for something bigger? Find internet auctions and coupons to save big on hotels, dinners, rental cars, etc in your destination city. Whether you find a local radio station auction or Seize the Deal, you can save big on accommodations from a bed and breakfast or four star hotel to a remote cabin or resort-style ice fishing shack. Use other secondary market sites to find tickets to concerts or games. Partner this with dinner coupons and a weekend getaway can be under $300!
Connecting or reconnecting can be tough when money is tight, but keep these ideas in mind to enjoy each other…and huge savings!
If you want more ideas on how to create a better budget and savings plan, call LSS to schedule a phone or in-person appointment at 888.577.2227 or START ONLINE COUNSELING NOW. Which ever you choose, our Financial Counselors will help you take action to achieve your financial goals.
Author Malcolm Johannessen is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS and specializes in Foreclosure Prevention Counseling and creative frugality.