Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.
A date night is a way to reconnect as a couple. But you don’t have to have the typical dinner and drinks to make the experience romantic. With a little bit of planning and imagination, your date nights can be memorable and cheap.
Become the chef
Instead of going out to dinner, find your favorite restaurant dish on Copy Kat Recipes. Go shopping together for the ingredients and then cook as a couple. Even if the meal doesn’t taste like the restaurant option, you’ll make memories cooking together in the kitchen. You could also make your own fondue or homemade pizza, or have breakfast for dinner.
Heat things up at home
Design a romantic setting in your backyard. Sit on a picnic blanket with a few snacks, turn on some music, light a few lanterns — and then communicate, one of the most important keys to a successful relationship.
Sip and savor
Alcohol kills the budget. At restaurants, wine is marked up 300% or more. Instead of drinking your favorite bottle out on the town, pick up wine at the local liquor store. Serve your own wine flights or cover each bottle for a blind taste test. As you sample, savor each sip and compare notes on the flavors and your preferences.
Challenge each other
You may learn something new about your partner when playing a board game. Dust off classic options like Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit. Make it interesting by raising the stakes with romantic bets.
Be tourists in your own city
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut in your own town. Spice it up by searching for inexpensive places you’ve never visited before. Some local museums offer free or cheap entry, especially after-hours on a certain weekday. Look for local parks or trails, farmers markets, free live music, free outdoor movie nights and more.
While you’re there, do some people-watching. Take up residence in a crowded place like a shopping mall or coffee shop, sit back and, as inconspicuously as possible, analyze passers-by or those sitting near you. Try to read lips and watch body language and then compare notes with your date. You’ll probably never know if you’re right about what’s going on, but hearing what each of you think is entertaining, and the sport is totally free.
Watch a series
If you have a few hours on your hands, start a new show together on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Some couple-friendly options: “Friday Night Lights,” “Weeds” or “Mad Men.” Pretend you are at the movies by serving popcorn, candy and homemade sodas.
Get some exercise
Get some fresh air and plan a day of play in your neighborhood. Go for a bike ride to a local park or shopping district. Play a fun and low-impact game like Frisbee golf, mini golf and bocce ball or visit the batting cages.
Walk along the water
Water tends to soothe the nerves and encourages conversation to flow. If you live near water, whether it be an ocean, a lake or even a stream, walk and see where it takes you. Bring along a picnic or small snack, and stop along the way to refuel and enjoy the view.
Go to your local bookstore
Visit your local bookstore, get a cup of coffee or tea if it’s available, and look for your favorite books. Then trade with your date and see what he or she thinks of your taste in literature. You’ll discover what you both like to read and may find common interests.
Create a date night bucket list
Sit down together to talk about your own inexpensive date night ideas. Write each option on a notecard and keep it in a box. Next time you have a night together and need to stay on a budget, pick a random card and go with it!
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