By Amy Goldizen Illustration by Aline Decat
You don’t need to break the bank in order to have the perfect date. A little can go a long way with the right intention and focus on what’s most important to your partner. Whether you have unlimited funds or just a hard-earned twenty bucks, the key really is attention to detail.
If you’re looking for a go-to date guide, consider this your starter pack for some creative options that won’t leave your bank account running on empty.
Visit an Art Museum
To start, Google museums in your area and see if there are any exhibits or permanent collections that connect with your date’s interests. If you’re not a frequent museum-goer you might be surprised by the diversity of art available, especially at major metropolitan museums like the MET where admission is $25 per adult, or $12 for students. You can find anything from avant-garde fashion to performance pieces to video games, all for an affordable price — even free. (Yes, a lot of museums actually offer free admission at least one day a week!)
Not quite convinced that an art museum is the right setting for your next date? According to Psychology Today, studies have attributed the viewing of art to an almost instant increase of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that boosts feelings of pleasure, like the feeling you get when you’re in love. Sounds like the perfect date idea to us!
A Walk in the Park
Don’t you want your date to feel as stress-free as “a walk in the park” suggests? Take your partner by the hand and invite them to join you on basically the most chill experience ever. This may seem less-than-thrilling, but hand-holding paired with some outdoors-y-ing is the perfect way to enjoy some QT with your cutie. (See what we did there?)
In fact, studies have shown a correlation between fresh air and focus. According to psychologists, connecting with nature relieves stress and provides an expanded sense of focus on the most valuable assets in our lives – like our relationships. In other words, after that walk in the park you’ll enjoy a heightened appreciation for nature and for each other. Take advantage of your new focus and take turns sharing your values and interests with one another. You’ll leave with a better understanding of who your partner is and a deeper connection overall.
Channel Your Inner-Kid
Remember in “Big” when Tom Hanks’s character Josh pulls Elizabeth Perkins’s character Susan on the trampoline with him, and that carefree jumping ends up being the greatest moment OF HER LIFE? Well, couples who have fun together stay together – and research proves it. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, couples who try new and exciting things of mutual interest are generally more satisfied with their relationships.
Sure, “Big” is weird because Josh’s inner-child is actually just a child, but forget all that! Pretend like you’re under some Zoltar magic spell and have fun. Try getting sporty by playing basketball or soccer, or live it up at an amusement park, or load up on candy and treat yourself to a sugar-high date night. You can do a lot for the cost of a week’s allowance.
It costs almost nothing to drive around your community — and if you live within a bustling urban metropolis like New York City, trekking around on foot won’t cost you a penny. Be spontaneous and head out with your partner to discover the local neighborhoods and small, unique businesses you might miss in your day-to-day. Just don’t get too distracted by shopping at these cool establishments that you forget about your budget!
Spontaneity has been shown to renew enthusiasm in a relationship. You know that feeling of invigoration when you meet someone new who you really like, or when you visit an exciting place for the first time? Studies show that relationships lacking surprise and excitement make partners bored, and subsequently less attracted to each other. Don’t lose that lovin’ feeling — bring it on back with a little spontaneity.
Prepare a Meal Together
Instead of going out and getting a pricey meal, stay in and cook dinner. You don’t need to be a chef to have a good time in the kitchen together. You can share stories and jokes or listen to your favorite podcast together while you prepare. Cooking together gives you time to catch up and enjoy each other’s company — while enjoying the added company of food!
Research revealed that cooking a meal together invigorated communication between couples. And with communication being one of the most important components of a relationship, we encourage planning any date that gives you the opportunity to have some healthy and intimate dialogue.
Okay, okay, a massage as a date might seem like the setup for a cheesy music video, but have you actually tried it? If you’re sore after a tough workout or from some terrible office chair, or you just want to feel like you’re living your best life (hashtag spa day), a massage catered towards your preference for touch can be really therapeutic. Just please don’t try some extreme chiropractic spine realignment — you don't want your date night to end in the E.R.
Massage has repetitively been shown to release powerful mood-boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin and endorphins. By giving your partner an affectionate rub-down you’ll not only be helping them unwind, you’ll also be caring for their mental well-being — which is a great foundation for healthy relationships.
Share Love Notes
Texting kissy face emojis is cute, but taking the time to write down your feelings about your person can be a really thoughtful practice. You can make a date of it by deciding to each write something and then share by reading aloud to each other. You don’t need to be a skilled writer to do this; in fact, the more natural and earnest, the better. Try not to get too hung up on composing a masterpiece and just let it flow — as Elsa would have sang if she was a writer.
Writing has been shown to be a helpful tool for expressing your innermost feelings. If you’re having trouble articulating your thoughts in person, you might surprise yourself with just a pen and paper.
A great date doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Hand holding, eye contact, and distraction-free one-on-one time may seem insignificant, but those are often the most intimate and valued experiences couples share. Being intentional about these affectionate gestures in your low-budget date can help boost the romantic vibes. Just remember that your person hasn’t chosen you because of your disposable income, but because of how you make them feel when you’re together.