When you’re in the mood for a little romancing, the first idea that comes to mind is probably one that costs a lot of money. You’re laughing, champagne is flowing, the tablecloths are crisp white linen and the food is prepared by a leading French chef.
But times are tough and dating shouldn’t break the bank. Instead of dipping into your savings, consider some of these low-cost dating ideas to charm your partner without harming your budget.
Go for a walk in your cityNothing keeps the conversation flowing as much as when the legs are going! Show each other the suburbs you grew up in, stopping at favourite landmarks along the way, or sign up for a free walking tour in Johannesburg or Cape Town.
Budget and transport allowing, you can venture further afield and do hikes in the nearby countryside, or even do paid tours of historical areas.
Be cautious, though, about springing a surprise walk on your date – they’ll need the right shoes, a hat and sunblock.
Go for a picnic Nothing says “romance” like a picnic. Head to the beach or a local park with a blanket, and something delicious in a cooler box. Put some thought into packing the picnic basket – find out your date’s favourite foods, and include treats like chocolates and strawberries and a bottle of something special. Bring along a fun activity, like a Frisbee or a board game, to complete the outing.
Play sport together While it’s not essential for every couple to have a lot of things in common, it certainly helps. If your date is a sports enthusiast, arrange an outing to do something that you both enjoy – whether you book a tennis court, go cycling around a lake or in the forest, or just enjoy a round of ten-pin bowling.
Being together in a competitive space gives you and your partner the opportunity to work out how compatible you really are.
Cook a meal together This might be a bit intense for a first date, unless you already know each other quite well, but cooking a meal together is a great way to get to know each other better in an intimate home setting, with the promise of a delicious (you hope!) meal at the end of it all.
Discuss what you’d like to cook in advance (or surprise your date), make sure your home is tidy, plan the music, dim the lights and get ready for romance.
Read your favourite books to each other If you are both the reading type, choose a book that has meant something to you – even one you read when you were very young – and set an afternoon aside to read each other your favourite passages. Even if your tastes in reading differ, you’ll learn a lot about each other and you might even broaden your literary horizons as well.
The reading date can easily be combined with the picnic date mentioned above.
Have cocktails by the pool With summer a breath away, you’ll soon be soaking up the sun and chilling by pool. Double up your fun by having a private party for two at the poolside, complete with bar snacks and a cool summer cocktail. Find a recipe for a mai tai or mohito recipe and stock up on those cute little paper umbrellas to create the perfect cocktail vibe.
Host a home movie evening with popcorn and the works Consult with your date on their favourite movie genre – romance or horror are best for date nights because they’re all about the cuddling – and stock up or download a double feature. Then pick up some popcorn, drinks, chocolate and nuts to set the scene. Dim the lights, press play and let the magic begin…
Do an act of charity together If you and your date are socially conscious and believe it’s important to help others, think of a way that you can make a difference together. Visit a local children’s home with donations of food and toys, and read the children a story while you’re there, or volunteer to help with the clean up of a nearby beach or park.
Sometimes the best thing that people can do together is take care of someone else.
It’s better together
The great thing about going on a cheap date is that it allows you and your partner to get to know each other better, rather than just trying to impress with cash. Take turns in picking outings or adventures that are meaningful to you but that don’t break the bank, and you will have invested real time and effort – rather than just money – into your relationship.