Despite what jewelry commercials and store advertisements insinuate, winning someone's affection does not have to be based solely on material goods. In fact, the modern ritual of dating is meant to be a fun process focused on making a connection with another person, not an exercise in creating debt. By thinking outside of the dinner-and-a-movie box, there are plenty of ways to come up with fun, romantic and cheap date ideas.
Spending quality time in nature is inherently romantic and can be adapted to suit any time of the year. Winter calls for bundling up and going ice skating at a local rink or pond, while fall is best suited for taking hikes and going apple picking. When spring and summer roll around, the opportunities are nearly endless: homemade picnics, an afternoon at the beach, bike rides, drive-in movies, star gazing, local sports games and outdoor concerts. Stay up to date with community newsletters and websites to find free events in your area.
Museums and historical landmarks are good for much more than just school field trips. Spend an afternoon taking in Renaissance art or learning about your state's founders. Your date will be impressed at how cultured you are, and you might pick up some trivia along the way as well. Most museums with entrance fees offer student discounts or have community weekends with reduced fares.
Embrace the Traditional
There's nothing wrong with wanting a good old-fashioned dinner and a movie, but there's no reason to spend your entire paycheck on a single date. Tie on an apron and put whatever culinary skills you have to the test by making a fancy meal out of your own kitchen. Check with your local butcher for the most economical cut of steak or fish and dress it up over a bed of pasta or rice. Dessert can be as simple (and romantic) as a bowl of fresh fruit drizzled with melted chocolate. Afterward, pick up a stack of romantic movie rentals or hit up your Netflix queue for some evening entertainment. If you just have to get out of the house, look for a second-run or indie movie theater in your area, which is likely to have much cheaper ticket prices than the big chains.
Take on a Project
One of the quickest ways to get to know a potential mate is to put your teamwork skills to the test and take on a project together. Spend a few weekends crafting a new coffee table for your apartment or offer to help put a fresh coat of paint in your date's kitchen. From the planning phase to actual execution, having a mutual project will give you an excuse to stop by your date's apartment (to take measurements, of course) or call your date at odd hours of the day (to suggest color schemes, surely), all while encouraging bonding and communication in the new relationship.