Money & Policy

6 Free (or Almost Free) Date Ideas

These fun activities are easy on the wallet

(This article appeared previously on Grandparents.com.)

Here are six great ideas for spending time together with your spouse or partner without spending too much. 

1. Visit Memory Lane. Who doesn’t like to relive the good ol’ days? Plan a date that includes, for example, the path you used to bike when you were dating or the bowling alley where you spent Friday nights.

Include places that were meaningful during your courtship. It's fun to see how the places have changed — and stayed the same. You can end the evening back at home looking at your dating, wedding and early marriage photos over a glass of wine or coffee.

2. Embrace culture. Most cities offer art walks one night of the month — sometimes the first Friday or third Thursday — in an area where art galleries are in close proximity.

Designed to get people into the cultural districts, these art walks offer an ideal date situation: Most galleries offer wine, cheese, desserts, even music, at no charge and you can meet and talk to the artists. Especially in warm weather, art walks are well-attended and lively and a chance to see good art for not very much money.

3. Dance the night away. Many dance studios offer free introductory lessons or charge a very reasonable price (as low as $5 per lesson) for a newcomers series that also lets you bring a date for no extra money. If a dance studio is too stuffy for you, try a local country western bar, many of which offer free line-dancing lessons.

(MORE: Win the Digital Dating Game)

To find who offers what in your area, go to your favorite search engine and put in “free dance lessons + your city.” Then get ready for an evening of fun exercise while holding your main squeeze as you two cut the rug.

4. Hit the drive-in. Ok, there aren’t tons of drive-in theatres left, but if you’re lucky enough to live near one and the weather's manageable, make some popcorn, toss in some cold beers, add some candy and head to the movies.

If you’re really into this, rent or borrow a convertible (you may need to wait a few months where you live) and enjoy the fresh air, the stars, a movie — plus some cuddling. If you don't live near a drive-in, how about pulling out the old family movies and settling in to watch precious family moments like the birth of your kids, graduations, and weddings? Note: You might want to keep a box of tissues nearby!

5. Recreate a meaningful meal. Ina Garten (a.k.a. The Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network) deserves credit for this idea, since she’s the master of recreating special meals for her husband Jeffrey. His favorite lunch at a Paris bistro — no problem. Sunday brunch from his childhood — easy peasy.

(MORE: Thinking About Dating Someone? Try Cooking Together First)

True, she’s a former caterer, but anyone with a computer can research recipes for special dishes. (If it’s something from a restaurant, do a web search with as many keywords as possible, including the restaurant. For example: The Palm + Steak a la Stone + recipe). After you secure the best recipe, dive in. Maybe even cook together. The evening will be as much fun for the special menu as for the effort put into it.

6. Head to the water. Nothing is more soothing or seductive than a pretty body of water. If you live near an ocean, a lake, or a river, you’re in luck. (Again, this may be an idea you'll need to do when the weather's better where you live.) Even if you don’t, a fountain, a pond or a stream will do just as nicely. Get there before the sun goes down to catch the real “wow” factor.

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