The cost of a typical date night can sometimes be enough to totally kill the romance. When you add up dinner, a movie and babysitter, the average date can easily top over a hundred dollars. So whether you're just playing the field, dating or married, here are several ways to enjoy a lovely evening out without breaking the bank.
Hit the Happy Hour Circuit
Begin by taking advantage of happy hour, saving 30% or more on food and drinks. For added excitement, hop on a tour of several different happy hour spots known for their extra-generous specials like $1 oysters, $1 wings or $2 drafts. The free mobile app Happy Hours shows food and drink specials in over 100 cities.
If you choose to dine with wine, here's some guidance: avoid ordering by the glass. It's not uncommon for restaurants typically charge the full retail price of the bottle for a single serving of wine. Instead, seek out restaurants that have yet to secure their liquor license, where you can BYOB and usually without a corkage fee. Another tip? Skip the Chardonnay. It's America's favorite white wine, and therefore notoriously overpriced. Try a dry Riesling or a Grüner-Veltliner instead.
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Try Something Un-Comfortable
Next, experts say doing something outside your comfort zone can really pump up the chemistry. The trick of course is finding a low-cost activity that strays from your normal routine. "What our research shows is that when couples do things together that are novel, challenging, exciting, it dramatically improves the quality of their relationship," says Arthur Aron, social psychologist at Stony Brook University.
Take in the Arts
If you need inspiration, a new site, HowAboutWe.com offers singles and couples unique date ideas based on your location and preferences. Free-to-the-public museum nights, screenings or art openings are another option and - bonus - events like these often include complimentary wine and cheese, so you can save on date snacks. Or check out Timeout.com, Zvents.com or GoJotter.com.
Cook Up a Challenge
Aron says the only prerequisites for the activity are that it's fun, enjoyable and exciting. It could be taking an art class, sailing or taking a trip together. "[Cooking] is a great activity because there's the shared creativity of looking up the recipe or inventing a new dish," he says. In other words, don't just make dinner. Create an adventure! Travel to your farmer's market, butcher or your fishmonger. Get a great deal on what's in season then head home to try an ambitious new recipe.
Plan a Zero Dollar Blow-Out
If it's a special date, like a birthday or anniversary, and you want to go all out, you can still impress for less. Plant clues around your home or neighborhood leading up to a fun scavenger hunt or try a surprise hike to a romantic lookout. Infuse a little drama by getting up early or staying up late to watch the sunrise.
For movie lovers, check out warehouse clubs like Costco where you can often buy discount movie tickets in advance.
Take Advantage of Off-Season Discounts
If you're seeking an overnight date, consider a B&B during the off-season, when rates may drop to as low as $60 a night. Pairing nicely with an out-of-town B&B are wineries, where tastings are affordable and the scenery is priceless. Even if you don't live in Wine Country, many specialty wine shops offer free tastings, and if you pair this with a tour of local vendors selling cheese and meats, you can pick up ingredients for a romantic picnic.
Start a "Babysitting Swap"
Finally, to cover babysitting costs, start a date night babysitting swap. Schedule to watch a neighbor's child while the parents go on a much-needed date night in exchange for a night to yourself at another time.
In what ways are you saving on date night? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh, and use #Finfit.