10 Cheap and Memorable Anniversary Ideas

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A senior couple sits in their car while on a camping trip
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

A nice dinner out might be the classic date, but it certainly isn’t the cheapest (or most unique) way to spend your anniversary. According to a Zagat survey, the average restaurant meal now costs $71.30 for you and your spouse. Throw in a couple of 3-D movie tickets and popcorn, and you’d easily spend $100 this year – pretty expensive (and a little boring).

If you’d rather save money and do something more memorable this year, check out our ideas for cheap and fun anniversary dates.

1. Go camping

Want to get away from it all without paying for a hotel room? Camping is an inexpensive option with plenty of fun and romantic activities – like hiking, bird watching, or sitting around a campfire under the stars. Most campsites we checked out cost $12 to $24 a night. You can even book your stay online at any federal campground through the National Recreation Reservation System.

For camping equipment, borrow tents and gear from friends or family if you don’t have your own.

2. Go on a picnic

A picnic at a local park isn’t only cheaper than going to a restaurant, it’s also more memorable. Pack your favorite foods, a blanket, and an MP3 player and spend the day eating and relaxing in the grass. You can find local parks through the National Park Foundation’s Find a Park site.

3. Paint ceramics

Creating something together is a great way to commemorate your anniversary. Ceramic painting studios are inexpensive and don’t require a whole lot of skill. Just sit back and paint. Many studios also offer specials. For example, Sunshine Glaze in Southlake, Texas, has “Fee Free Sunday” — studio fees are waived the first Sunday of every month. You just pay for the ceramics you paint. Check out studios in your area for specials.

4. Visit art galleries

Art galleries are free to browse and many offer free wine and cheese plates to patrons. To make a day of it, head to a nearby city and spend the day walking through the art district, hopping in and out of galleries.

5. See a standup comedy act

You won’t find cheap tickets to big names like Eddie Izzard or Louis C.K. but you can still see some funny standup acts by amateurs. Many bars and clubs host amateur comedy nights with minimal or no cover charge. Check out your local newspaper for a list of upcoming amateur comedy acts.

6. Take dance lessons

Want to learn a new dance? Many clubs and community centers host weekly dance classes, and some are even free. For example, NOLA Jitterbugs Dance School in New Orleans hosts free swing dance lessons for adults. Classes last at least an hour, so you’ll have lots of time to learn and work up a sweat together.

7. Go back to the spot where you first met

If you’re looking for something more romantic, try re-creating the day you first met. Surprise your spouse by taking him or her to the first spot, or branch out and create a miniature tour of your best moments together. You can stop and take pictures at each place and reminisce.

8. Create your own walking tour

Tour companies often host walking tours of historic areas, but you don’t need to pay for the ticket. Grab a map, mark some places you’d like to see and spend the day walking around the historical district in your town or a nearby city.

9. Go floating

Whether you call it “floating” or “tubing,” spending the day lounging on the river on a rubber raft is a cheap and unique way to get some sun and relaxation together. Bring some food and drinks, stop in a secluded spot, and have lunch before finishing the trip.

10. Host a murder mystery dinner

A murder mystery night is a cheap and fun way to bring your friends and family in on your anniversary celebration. To cut down on the cost, host the party at home and make dinner yourself. Need some menu ideas? Check out:

If you want to liven things up, ask everyone to dress from a certain period – like the Roaring Twenties – and scope out thrift stores for cheap costumes.

Need help putting the party together? Night of Mystery has a how-to guide.

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