Dating on a budget

Fun and Frugal Dates

by Steven C. Smith

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Dating can certainly take its toll on our bank accounts. With today's rising costs, frequent trips to the ATM can become a requirement for even a modest night out on the town. Whether you're a discount dater by nature or by necessity, you can plan a cheap date without feeling like a cheapskate.

While many people believe that dating on a budget is a bore, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, even if you do have to keep a close watch on your finances, there are many fun and affordable dates waiting to be experienced, such as the Dollar Night Out Date or the Due for Something New Date. So whether you're a starving college student trying to impress your date on meager funds or a well-to-do married couple looking for some new and exciting date ideas that won't drain the family inheritance, the following will give you many examples of how you can have a quality date without breaking the bank.

Historical Tour Date

Did you know that Gilroy, California boasts as being the garlic capitol of the world? (Not even a giant breath mint could freshen up this town.) In Dallas, Oregon, they once had the dubious distinction as being the world's leading producer of prunes. (Nothing but "regular" folk living there!)

So how about your town? What's it famous for? Make it a date to find out. Spend part of your day browsing through the historical records at the library, and then tour locations and well-known landmarks. Have a picnic on the site where the pioneers settled and made claim to what resides today as your hometown.

Share a Crab Date

Head on down to the local fish market or ocean diner and pick up a couple of whole cooked crabs. Take them to a fun location, such as the pier, boat dock, or a wind protected cove at the beach, and enjoy a mouthwatering lunch together.

Grandparents Date

Take some time out from your busy schedules and do something special with your grandparents. You and your date can help Grandpa out with some of the outside chores like mowing the lawn or chopping some wood. Assist Grandma around the house with the laundry and kitchen duties, or help her pick a bouquet of flowers during a walk through the flower garden. After a full afternoon of chores, retire to the front porch and enjoy some of Grandma's homemade peach cobbler and ice cream as you relax and listen to them take turns sharing some of their fondest memories as a dating couple.

Dutch Treat Date

Pitch in a few dollars each and try to come up with the most creative date imaginable with the money you have pooled together. Attempt to stretch your funds as far as they can go. Buy a newspaper and solve the word puzzle at a creative location; purchase a disposable camera and take creative pictures of each other being silly; share a malt at the corner drug store and play old songs on the jukebox. Combine your funds and your ideas to make this date truly unforgettable.

Monster Cookie Date

Go to a local cookie shop and team up with your date to devour a monster cookie together. If there's not a giant cookie big enough to satisfy your ferocious appetites, ask them if they'll do a special order of monumental proportion. Be sure to lug along a gallon of milk to share, as you'll need it to get through to the last bite.

Dollar Night Out Date

Plan out an entire evening where you spend no more than $1 (or as close to $1 as possible) for each activity you choose to do together. Select a venue for this date that best caters to the one buck budget plan (i.e., novelty gift shops, swapmeets, college campuses, etc.). Here are a few ideas for you and your date to consider:

  • Rent a dollar movie (free at the library).
  • Snack on a dollar's worth of your favorite penny candy.
  • Go to the arcade and spend four quarters on video games.
  • For dinner, buy some pizza by the slice.
  • Share a scoop of ice cream for dessert.
  • Buy a small cup of coffee and a newspaper and read the funnies to each other.

Do one, do two, or do them all. Let your budget be your guide.

Report Card Date

Anyone who's been in school knows what a challenge it can be to balance school with dating. It can be difficult to concentrate on your homework when you can't keep your eyes off your cute study partner. But here's an idea to scribble in your notes that is sure to bridge the study versus dating gulf.

Plan to have a creative "end-of-the-semester" dinner date with your study partner. Together, plan out a Report Card Menu that designates an entree item for each possible letter grade. For example, if your final grade is an "A" then you receive a "Grade A" dinner. A "B" earns you a "Grade B" dinner, and so on. The lower the grade you receive in your class, the lower the grade of the meal.

Here's an example of what a Report Card Date Menu might look like:

Report Card Date Menu

A Steak Dinner
B Pizza
C Hot Dog
D Peanut and Jelly Sandwich
F Bread and Water

Study hard! You don't want to be slurping down a hot dog while your date is savoring filet mignon.

Due for Something New Date

Do an activity you've never done before, such as take a dance lesson together, sit in on a town hall meeting, race mini-grand prix cars, or go to the gym and workout.

Go somewhere you've never gone before, such as a famous historical landmark, another section of town, or take a drive to a nearby city and explore the surroundings. If you're content with the dinner and movie aspect, then at least try a new food. Go out for some sushi, Rocky Mountain oysters, or a veggie burger (yum!).

Be daring and try something out of the ordinary. If you need a little coaching with this date, let this book serve as your "personal dating trainer" to motivate you with ideas to help get your dating life into shape.

Underdog Date

Life is full of activities and events that are competitive in nature. Whether they be political, relational (heaven forbid), sports, or business related, there's an innate part of all of us that will, from time to time, catch ourselves rooting for the little man, the mom and pop, the dark horse . . . the underdog!

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So in honor of the underling, team up together to create a date plan full of ideas and activities that'll make your Underdog Date a real come-from-behind victory. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Visit a locally owned bookstore rather than a national bookstore chain.
  • Eat at a "dive" or "hole in the wall" restaurant instead of a well-established one. (You just might find the food and the service to be beyond honorable mention.)
  • Go to a high school J.V. football game (usually free) versus the marquee varsity game and root for the team with the worst record.
  • Although it may take bit longer, take a bike taxi (more romantic anyway) versus a regular taxi.
  • Shop at a clothes for less store or outlet mall rather than a department store.
  • Pass on the amusement park and instead go to the city park and "amuse" yourselves by taking turns giving each other an "underdog" on the swings.

Whatever "underdog" activity you choose, give your full support and encouragement to what or who is least likely to win.

Steven C. Smith is the author of Cheap Dates: Fun, Creative, and Romantic Dates That Won't Break Your Budget

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