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7 Ideas for Budget-Friendly Date Nights

Valentine’s (or any other occasion) doesn’t have to break the bank. There’s plenty to do around the Midlands to make your time together special on any budget (even a non-existent one).

Here are 7 (it’s a lucky number, just sayin’) ideas for a date night for under $50 … perfect for Valentine’s Day or a night together with your sweetie.

7 Ideas for Budget-Friendly Date Nights

1. Date Night at Home (with or without other couples)

Invite a few friends over and grill steaks. Have each couple bring their own meat while you provide the sides and a nice bottle of vino. No muss, no fuss and you will have a great time with people you love. Better yet, why not a progressive dinner? Start with appetizers at one home, dinner at another and then finally dessert at the most centrally located person’s house.

Not feeling social? How about dinner and a movie with your sweetie? Make a big Italian meal at home. It’s usually not expensive to prepare, but can be a bit labor intensive. For our family this means lasagna and cannoli cake. YUM! Then watch an old classic film. We have several that we love to watch over and over. If it’s Italian night, we always go with The Godfather.

2. Active Date Night

Go ice skating. The Plex in Irmo has ice skating for under $10 a person. You can take coffee in a thermos and pack some fun sandwiches to have when you are finished playing on the ice.

3. Nostalgic Date Night (warm weather)

Figure out a place you went to as a new couple and revisit it. For my husband and me, it is the Riverfront in Columbia. On warm evenings, we like to take a stroll along the familiar walkways and then have a cocktail at home as we reminisce about the old days.

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We love to stroll along the Riverwalk on warm nights … just like we did when we were first dating.

4. Nostalgic Date Night 2 (cooler temps)

If it is a cold evening, think about somewhere indoors you used to spend a lot of time as a couple, whether it be curled up on the sofa together or grabbing a bite to eat at one of Columbia’s many longstanding restaurants. For my husband and me, Yesterday’s in Five Points always brings back memories for us and their menu will not bust our budget … after 17 years Donald still orders the Arkansas Traveler.

5. Super Cheap Date Night

When I was in grad school, I worked only part time and we really had to pinch our pennies. My husband and I love to read, so we would go to the public library in downtown Columbia. We could enjoy magazines we could not afford to buy, check out books (you can even check out music and movies now too!), look at books with our toddler-aged daughter (no money for a babysitter), and stop for ice cream on the way home. To be honest, I miss those days. Things were simpler.

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It’s more than just dusty, old books! The public library has a lot to offer (for parents and kids alike)!

6. Dinner on a Budget Date Night

Speaking of restaurants that will not bust the budget, my husband and I have found that 2108 State in Cayce has great food, a decent wine selection and great prices. I had the best jerk pork tacos and a glass of wine for less than $11. We also like TakoSushi on Assembly for this very same reason. There are lots of restaurants that have similar specials. Check out menus online ahead of time and consider going during Happy Hour or the “Early Bird” time frame for greater savings. Looking to save even more money? Consider a lunch date where prices are a lot less.

7. Hybrid of Ideas Date Night

If you really want to go out and stay on budget, have appetizers and cocktails somewhere nice, but save the main course and dessert for home. Prepare as much of your dinner beforehand as possible, that way when you return home you won’t have to spend time slaving over a stove. An even better idea might be to pick up something at the grocery store in their ready-made section.

One of our favorite hybrid date nights is a cocktail and Truffle Frites at Oak Table. Then take a walk around the State House grounds. After our walk, holding hands of course, we head home for spaghetti and meatballs with a nice glass of red wine. I just put the meatballs in the slow cooker, a salad in the fridge, and bread already wrapped and ready before we leave and prepare the noodles when we get home. Easy, and budget friendly.

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The State House grounds are BEAUTIFUL! Perfect for a romantic walk with your sweetie.

I think too many times I have bought into the idea that we need to really blow the budget for Valentine’s Day, but not necessarily. The most important thing should always be doing what you love with the person that you love.

Here’s to more joy and less worry about money this year with my honey! We are getting ready to send the love of our lives off to college in 18 months … gotta save our pennies!

What’s the best budget friendly date night in Columbia you’ve had?

State House photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ahren_d/3048806819/; book photo credit: ekelly89 / Foter / CC BY

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