Date nights — even for married couples who may not be trying to impress — can be expensive. The average cost of a date in the U.S. is about $100, according to a survey from Match.com, the online matchmaker. Even if you go on only one date every other week, that adds up quickly.
However, there are ways to enjoy each other’s company without breaking the bank. It just takes some creativity, which may prove more alluring to your partner than your willingness to waste money. Here are 15 cheap date ideas ideal for fall and winter months. Take a look.
A fall favorite that can be enjoyed until the end of October, apple picking (along with a visit to the cider mill) is a perfect date that will cost no more than an express-lane checkout at the grocery store—perhaps $20 or so for the apples you pick and a gallon of cider. It’s also one of the last few chances to enjoy good weather before the snow rolls in.
Take a Haunted Hayride
If you didn't have Halloween plans this year, make sure to write this down for next year. For a good, ghoulish scare, consider a haunted hayride—especially if you're close to farm country. For about the cost of a movie ticket, break from your ordinary routine with this once-a-year opportunity. Spend a little extra on a costume if you're in the mood.
Visit a National Park
Outdoor lovers should consider making hiking a regular date. There's always something new to see. Most treks are free endeavors, but you'll pay $5 to $15 per person or $10 to $30 per vehicle for entrance into many national parks. Or, wait for regularly scheduled free entrance days at national parks; in fall and winter months, they're on Veterans Day in November and Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday in January.
Take a Day Trip
Visit the sights in your region or another nearby city without a costly overnight stay. For little more than the cost of gas, pick a scenic route to drive and enjoy the fall colors. Pack a light lunch or snacks to keep costs down, too.
Visit Open Houses
If you and your sweetie are in the market to buy a house, or simply want to explore different approaches to home design and decor, check out open houses for sale. You might even score a free cookie or two from real-estate agents filling the homes with welcoming aromas.
Sip Some Suds
As the weather gets colder, you'll want to be indoors. Consider a local brewery tour or wine tasting. For example, Bell's Brewery, the maker of Oberon Ale, offers free tours at its two Michigan locations. Troegs Independent Brewing in Hershey, Pa. offers a free self-guided tour daily, or you can sign up for a guided tour for $10. And Hopworks Urban Brewery, in Portland, Ore., offers tours on Saturdays afternoons. Plus, if you have little ones, some breweries are also becoming more family-friendly. And some will even welcome your dog. Just make sure to call ahead if you have any questions.
Go Ice Skating
What's more romantic than holding hands while skating? Whether it's an indoor or outdoor rink, ice skating is a classic winter date idea that won't make you want to freeze your wallet. Costs include skate rental and maybe a cup or two of hot cocoa to warm up.
Shop a Holiday Market
If one or both of you need to do some light gift shopping, stroll through a local pop-up holiday market or bazaar. Vendors tend to be local, so the items will be unique.
Tour Local Botanical Gardens
Get your fill of eye-catching foliage while staying warm indoors with your sweetie with a trip to your local botanical gardens. For an extra dose of out-of-season warmth and humidity hit the tropical plant section.
Visit a Museum
If the goal is to stay indoors, the museum is the ultimate date. It gives each of you time to wander, talk and even take some creative license such as sketching or photography. The Smithsonian network of museums in Washington, D.C. are always free, and the Getty Center in Los Angeles has free admission (parking is cheaper after 3 p.m.). Many other museums accept name-your-price donations rather than charging a fixed entrance fee.
Or if you're a Bank of America, Merrill Lynch or Bank of America Private Bank customer, you maybe to snag one free admission to one of more than 200 museums across the country, thanks to its Museums on Us program.
Holiday Train Ride
The Polar Express can be more than just a movie you watch this year. Holiday train rides are a unique experience for kids and adults alike. While many are thematically tied into the classic children's tale, others take a more adult tack: The Napa Valley Wine Train in California has a Santa run, and the Grapevine Vintage Railroad in Texas has a Christmas Wine Train as well.
But plan ahead. Tickets sell out quickly and prices aren't as cheap when compared to other date ideas listed.
Cook at Home
Indulge (or show off) your culinary skills with a cook-at-home adventure. Pick one or two of your favorite recipes to cook together and share, or choose a recipe out of your comfort zone. Heck, if you're so inclined, turn it into a cooking competition—reality-show style. Plus, any leftovers could be eaten for lunch the next day.
Or skip straight to dessert. Do you love eating the cookies left out for Saint Nick? Or sharing your holiday sweets recipes with coworkers? Consider baking some sugary treats together with your sugarplum. Add in some hot chocolate or coffee, and you have yourself a cozy evening.
Compete against your partner, or team up, in a home game night or bar trivia. If you choose to stay in, invite a few friends over and turn it into an event. You may even be able to save by checking out games from your local library.
Watch a Holiday Light Show or Local Tree Lighting
Take in the sparkly feeling of the holidays by going to a local tree lighting ceremony or holiday light show. If you know of a local neighborhood famous for competing holiday yard displays, lead your own self-guided holiday lights tour.
The holidays are a time to spread goodwill and cheer. What better way to do that than to volunteer—together? There are a variety of options—consider helping out at local food banks, hospitals and nursing homes, or animal shelters. Just check with the organization ahead of time to see if any orientation or training is required.
Rivan joined Kiplinger on Leap Day 2016 as a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. A Michigan native, she graduated from the University of Michigan in 2014 and from there freelanced as a local copy editor and proofreader, and served as a research assistant to a local Detroit journalist. Her work has been featured in the Ann Arbor Observer and Sage Business Researcher. She is currently assistant editor, personal finance at The Washington Post.
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