By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
Let’s face it. In this economy? Many of us are scrambling to buy groceries, let alone pay for elaborate dates. Who has recently bought milk, bread, and eggs and come home wondering how you will pay for your electric bill? And now you want to take your significant other—or even a “new” other—on a date? No one wants to look cheap, but let’s be realistic too. Sometimes, that’s exactly what we have to be to make ends meet.
Never fear! Some places and activities are classy, engaging, pleasant, and even top the most expensive restaurant experience.
Let’s look at some ideas to make dating more budget-friendly this fall:
1. Movie and a Pick-Up Truck
It may be a little too country for some, but you can also glam it up if need be. First, you’ll want to pick a quiet, secluded location (but where electricity is still available, lol!) to set up for an outdoor movie. Whether the screen is a white sheet or an actual television doesn’t matter. Worst case scenario, you can opt for a tablet with Internet and not worry about the magnificence of the large and impressive.
Then, get your pick-up truck ready. Glamp it out with a mattress, cozy bedding (keep it moral, so if you’re not married, maybe opt for no mattress and camp chairs instead), string lights, or even get some bouquets of wildflowers or lavender and nestle those in the corners of the truck for décor. Can’t afford flowers? Opt for some colorful branches and leaves.
Oops! Don’t have a pick-up truck? Never fear! You can still do something similar in the back of a minivan with a few modifications. Or skip the vehicle angle altogether and just make a cozy setting on the lawn or the back porch.
Sometimes aesthetics mean more and make a more meaningful impact than the most amazing atmosphere created by someone else. Don’t be discouraged if you’re not a talented decorator. If the person who loves you or the person you’re getting to know appreciates you, they will adore the effort you put in to make this Autumn evening a delight.
2. Flea or Farmer’s Market
Perhaps markets are more your jam! Consider taking the day to explore not only the colors and the Autumn beauty but also the various markets in your region. In the Midwest, where I’m from, flea markets and farmer’s markets are popular—even in the fall. Chrysanthemums and corn, gourds and pumpkins, various other squashes, and the like are beautiful for décor and even eating (well, not the mums), and they’re relatively inexpensive.
Flea markets can be a treasure hunt, and if you’ve never been to one, it’s a fun place to learn about each other’s styles and interests. From jewelry to antiques, to vintage postcards, to toys, you can spend hours scrounging around booth after booth to find that one tiny (or big) treasure that costs minimal. Or maybe you don’t even purchase anything but just have fun on the adventure of exploring the various vendors and what they have to offer.
Another option would be an Amish market or grocery. With fresh baked goods and assortments of other tools, utensils, and goods, an Amish market can bring a lot of simple joy into an afternoon when you’re on a tight budget. So don’t be afraid to explore the various markets that will be open as long as it doesn’t snow.
3. Trail Hiking & Waterfall Exploring
Maybe you’re more active-minded, and your partner is also. If neither of you is afraid to get up and go, with the cost of a State or National Park sticker, there is so much to explore that you’ll never run out of budget-friendly date ideas! And be careful not to just look at the superficial options these parks have to offer. Those are the highlights, and these parks typically have a lot more to offer!
In the spirit of adventure, look for trails that lead to waterfalls you can discover. Or choose a hiking trail with an intermediate level or even advanced. You’ll have fewer people to share the trail with, more of a physical challenge, and often, these trails have the best views and sights because they’re just simply harder to get to.
And don’t discount water activities in these places also. Depending on where you live, some parks have natural hot springs to discover, lakes and rivers to canoe or kayak, and cliff overlooks to perch on at sunset.
4. Dinner for Two
If you’re more of a foodie and simply must have a dinner experience, you can cut costs by embarking on creating your own dinner for two. Don’t cheat yourself out of the full experience, either. Be sure to head out to the store or marketplace where you want to purchase fresh ingredients—even build your list together before you go! Then, bring it back to the home place and spend your afternoon preparing the dinner together.
Maybe you’re trying a menu neither of you has ever cooked before, which can be an adventure in and of itself. Or perhaps one of you prefers to cook and the other to prepare the aesthetics of the table and the area you wish to dine.
Regardless, you can still have an elegant and intimate dinner for two with the experience of bonding together as you prepare it. You’ll eliminate the large restaurant check and the twenty-percent tip. Of course, cleaning up and dishes are also a part of the experience, so for a little romantic fun, be sure to add enough dish soap so you can have a little fight with the suds!
5. Candlelight Walks
Sometimes, a date can be as simple as lighting a candle and going for a walk at night. Bonus points if the sky is clear and the stars are out in force! Get a Mason jar so you don’t have to worry about burning your hands. Light the candle and allow the wax to drip inside the jar, and then blow out the candle and position it inside the jar on top of the wax. Allow it to cool, and the candle will have become stabilized.
When you go for your nighttime walk, light the candle, and if you’re worried about the jar becoming too hot, you can wear gloves or, if you’ve prepared in advance, you can get all sorts of “sleeves” for Mason jars to fit into that make them comfortable to hold.
Then, identify a route for your walk. It might just be around the block. Perhaps you head to your nature walk areas, or if you live in more rural locations, you can actually go for a gentle hike in the woods. Regardless, light the candles and eliminate the flashlights. Carry some extra matches or a lighter in case your candle goes out. Mostly, enjoy the time together as you experience the Autumn night in all its cool and inviting ambiance.
And there are so many more options for budget-friendly dates, too! Never disregard popcorn and a board game, a big quilt to snuggle under, and a book to read together, going for a run, or even checking out a local zipline course. Being creative is half the solution to saving money. Not every inexpensive date needs to be a movie on the couch. There is so much to be explored and experienced, and these types of dates encourage communication and interaction.
Oh! And one more thing. If you do any of these dates, set your devices aside. Yes, it’s always great to have your phone on you to take a snapshot to remember the event. But then set it aside. Turn it to silent. Take the opportunity to exist together without the interruption of devices. You won’t regret it. It will turn a date into the most valuable investment you’ve ever made.