Let's face it: we're living in hard economic times. But life is short and we shouldn't let our penny-pinching habits take a toll on our love lives. A good date doesn't have to be elaborate or fancy. What it comes down to is spending time with your special someone and having fun while doing it. We ran some ideas by Ellie Kay, author most recently of, The Sixty Minute Money Workout and came up with eight cheap summer dates that wont break the bank.
1. Picnic in the park
We all know that packing a lunch is more economical than eating out. Instead of splurging on a fancy dinner, have wine and cheese night outdoors. Bike over to your local park or botanical garden and find somewhere secluded. Grab a blanket, your favorite wine, some cheese and crackers (and bug spray!) and let the evening end with stargazing.
2. Go on a hike
Infuse romance with exercise and get some fresh air outdoors. Chose a dry day and enjoy the landscape your region has to offer. Hikes give couples the opportunity to challenge and support each other. End the day off by catching a sunset or a moonrise. The Sierra Club has regular national outings you can join. For more ideas, check out The Daily Green's tips for finding a great local hike.
3. Go to the market & cook dinner together
Taste-test all the fresh-picked local foods while exploring unique crafts and knickknacks at your local farmers' market. With all it has to offer, the market is the perfect place to unearth your partner's hobbies, interests, and tastes. It has something for everyone and it's bound to stimulate good conversation. Stock up on fresh produce, wine, and treats. Then, head home to impress your date with your cooking abilities. Find your local farmers' market by plugging in your zip code in the "Get Local Info" widget on The Daily Green's homepage, or by visiting LocalHarvest.org.
> Related: Dozens of Delicious Summer Recipes
4. Night of pampering
Skip the expensive spa and call it a night in. Light some candles, give each other a full body massages, and sleep in the next day. Turn off your cell phones because tonight you can't be bothered. Make de-stressing with your partner a regular activity and you'll have a date night to look forward to all week.
5. Go for ice cream
There's nothing more satisfying than your favorite ice cream on a hot summer day (besides maybe smudging some on your date's nose). Grabbing ice cream is much cheaper than a night out. Plus, it's sweeter. (Get it?) Take your date to an ice cream shop with a nearby park, take a slow stroll, and enjoy the simple pleasures in life. (Photo: Istock)
6. Plant a tree
Tell your man to grab a shovel. Planting a tree is one of the best things you can do for the environment, whether you live in an urban, suburban or rural area. Visit your local nursery to determine which plant best suits your soil and climate. The tree can be symbolic for a strong relationship, emphasizing the importance of planning for the future and setting down roots. Plus, you'll show him that you aren't afraid to get your hands dirty! For tree-planting tips, visit treehelp.com or arborday.org. If a tree is too big of a project, consider planting an herb garden.
7. Grab a paddle
Summer calls for spending as much time as possible outdoors. Why not enjoy an active day on the water with your partner? If you can, try borrowing a boat from a friend. If not, renting a kayak or canoe is usually cheap at most parks. (Don't forget lifejackets.) The calming silence of the whole experience will unite you with nature, and your man.
8. Go on a date that gets cheaper every time you go
If you buy an annual membership to an art museum, a science center, zoo, or aquarium, you can visit them as often as you like, and every time you do, you get more of your money's worth. Scrap the dinner and movie; surprise your date with a unique experience. If such an investment is not in the cards, browse private art galleries, which are often free, or take advantage of special deals; many museums offer occasional deeply discounted or free nights. Talk about a cheap date!
To save money on a traditional date night, Kay recommends two tips:
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