I’m going to start this post with a bit of a rant. Apologies in advance.
The other day, I was facebook stalking some friends from highschool (don’t act like you don’t do it too!). A few clicks here and there and suddenly I was on some random girl’s profile. She had this status up with a picture of a martini and then the caption was something along the lines of “Date night at Ruth’s Chris Steak House! We needed this!”
A little background—I think she’s 23 or 24, her boyfriend is somewhere around the same age, and from what I know, they have normal jobs (read: not making $100k) and don’t have a huge family trust fund that they’re living off of.
So why on EARTH would people in their early twenties decide that they NEEDED to go to Ruth’s Chris steakhouse? For those who don’t know of it, it’s a really expensive restaurant. I just tried to scope out their menu to give you some examples of the prices, but they don't even list prices! That means it's bad...
A bit more stalking of her profile (seriously, I'm creepy) revealed quite a few more of these “date night” statuses- usually including a nice dinner and then sometimes out to the movie theater in town (where movies are maybe $12/ticket?).
So by my very imprecise calculations, these two are probably shelling out $50-$100 EVERY time they go on a date. Just to spend time with each other! Is that what our generation has come to? Do people think that they have to go to fancy restaurants and brand new movies to impress their partner?
Listen, I get it. The dating scene can be scary and if you find someone you like, you might want to spoil them a little to make sure they like you. But let me tell you, you don’t HAVE to take them to a fancy steakhouse JUST for a regular ol' date!
In fact, I think I mentioned this before- Mike and I had our first date at Chipotle and I absolutely loved it. I don’t need a guy to take me to a fancy restaurant to be able to tell if he likes me or not.
Alright. To keep me from starting up a rant again, next time you have date night, how about you try a few of these cheaper alternatives? I promise they’ll still score you some major points with your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/friend-with-benefits ;)
Instead of going to the movies...
Check out your local library- they probably have a selection of DVDs you can check out for free! And don't worry, they have normal DVDs, not just weird books made into movies. I saw Wedding Crashers (unrated!) at our local library yesterday.
If you don't see anything you like at the library, check a movie out from Redbox (and use a coupon code!).
Does your city have a cheap movie theater? These are theaters that play movies that have been out awhile and are getting close to DVD release. Normally you can score tickets for around $5, and they might have discount days, too. The cheap theater in my hometown has tickets for $2 on Tuesdays!
To complete your movie experience, pick up some cheap candy (bulk bins at a grocery store are always a good option) or make homemade popcorn.
Instead of going to a restaurant...
Cook dinner at home. If you are a new cook, start easy with something like spaghetti or homemade pizza. You can't really mess those up :) Slowly graduate to things like burritos or stir fry! Find a dessert recipe, too, and it’s a whole night of cooking fun!
Have a picnic! Pack up a homemade lunch or dinner (sandwiches/chips/cookies work well for this!) and have a picnic in a park. Or, if it’s too cold out, set out a blanket and have the picnic in your living room!
If you have to go to a restaurant, pick a cheap one! You already know this, but I really like Chipotle. For ~$6, I can get dinner and enough leftovers for lunch the next day. A good idea is to choose restaurants where you don't get served by a waiter so that you don't have to pay for tip.
Also, if you have to go to a restaurant, use coupons! Instead of immediately throwing out those newspaper inserts that get sent to you every weekend, take a look and see if there are any good deals. You’ll probably find some 2-for-1 deals, $5 off $15, 25% off, or something of that sort. Find one of these and then go out to a restaurant! Note: if your date wrinkles his or her nose at the use of coupons… you might want to reconsider dating this person. Everyone should like using coupons. DUH it saves you money, who could possibly hate that?!
Other possible activities...
Depending on the season, go to a farm/orchard and get some produce! Apple picking is fun, and I think there are things like peach picking, strawberry picking, and probably tons of other fruits/vegetables.
Go on a hike. If you don't know where to go, google something like "hiking trails near [your city name]" and you're bound to find some trails.
Walk around your neighborhood or a neighboring town. You'll discover so much more than you do when driving!
Are there any cool places to drive within an hour or so of your house? Hop in the car and take a mini-road trip! Once you get there, wander the streets and see what the town has to offer. Just don't get sucked in to any cute little stores- you're there to save money, not spend it!
It's a little old school, but go bowling! It's normally pretty cheap entertainment and sometimes alleys have good beer specials.
I'm not the biggest fan of Groupons & Living Social deals (every time I see one, I want to buy it. It's not good for my wallet) but peruse those sites if you're looking for a big date for cheap! I've seen offers for ghost tours, restaurants, sporting events, day trips... tons of date ideas!
My personal favorite activity is beer or wine tasting. Check to see if there are any breweries or vineyards near your house. Usually they'll offer a tasting (and sometimes a tour) for around $5-$10. It's a fun and fairly cheap activity!