It’s Valentine’s Day. And before you groan about the commoditisation of love, and that it’s just a day for greeting card sales, remember this: commercialisation or not, being romanced feels pretty darn good.
The thing is; treating your main squeeze to a special treat isn’t easy when you’re on a budget, and there are times when we’re all at a pinch. Regardless of who is footing the bill, here are some date ideas for penny-pinching lovers.
Go on your own food safari
What’s the point of living in this amazing multicultural society if we can’t enjoy the food? Take your paramour on your own little food safari. A cheap Vietnamese dinner, or go on a kebab crawl (avoid the raw onion, though). Or better yet, head to Chinatown and go on a dumpling hop. Create a little score card so you can each rate dumplings in each restaurant – a true sign of whether you’re a perfect match.
Learn to salsa
Who doesn’t want to get all hot and heavy with some Latin moves? And you can do it for free in the privacy of your own home with the endless video tutorials on Youtube. Find your favourite tutorial and if you want to really impress, have a little rehearsal before the big date.
There are a lot of options here. Show off by teaching each other a creative skill that you both have, whether that’s writing haikus or dusting off your recorder from Year 4. Depending on how far along in the relationship you are, try some life drawing where you model for each other. But if that’s too much for you, a visit to a free art gallery or museum in your city will give your date an arty flavour without the nudity.
Set up a scavenger hunt
This takes time to set up but does have the potential for maximum time spent together and maximum brownie points earned. Plan a route that takes your date around the area you want to explore, leaving hints at each spot for the next location. Set up activities and specific destinations, like a meal at your favourite restaurant (time for another visit to your favourite dumpling joint?). Or set up a set of challenges, like taking photos of landmarks all around the city.
Must love dogs? Visit the dog park
A visit to your local dog park can give you a cute-fix. It’s a great way to bond by selecting which dog you’d like as your imaginary pet, which is a great way to talk about your future together without scaring the other person off. Or contact your local dog shelter to see if they accept volunteer dog walkers.
Take a long walk
Spending time in the outdoors is a great way to bond, and walking together can help remove any pre-date anxiety. Harvard psychologist and author of Presence Amy Cuddy once described her perfect first date with her husband – two days walking around Paris. “When people feel powerful, their walking becomes more expansive, their strides are longer, they move their arms more,” she said, explaining that it helped she and her husband feel more ‘present’ on the first date.
Get busy in the kitchen
Show off your kitchen skills with your signature dish. Ask your date to bring dessert and you supply the drinks. You don’t have to blow your monthly budget buying ingredients either, a simple dish like this homemade, authentic margherita pizza is bound to impress. Making the dough together will give you an excuse to get hands on.
Throw an old fashioned picnic
Pick a spot that has special meaning for the two of you. All you need is a blanket a bottle of red, and some cheese and biscuits. That’s the makings of a great date.
Have a games night
You may love Monopoly, or maybe Scrabble is more your forte. Whether it’s word puzzles or a round of poker, there’s nothing like some healthy competition to help the sparks fly. Throw in some drinking games if you want to get really risqué.
Organise a movie night with your favourite snacks
We don’t mean just your average rom-com. Opting for a foreign film with a European twist rather than an unrealistic cliché will show your date you’re smart, with many layers. We recommend Audrey Tatou in Delicacy. And what’s a movie without popcorn?
Fall in love in 36 questions
Social psychologist Arthur Aron believed that two strangers could fall in love by answering a set of personal questions, prompting the couple to become even more intimate. Covering hypothetical questions, to deeply personal questions, it’s bound to take your relationship to the next level. Plus, it costs no money at all.