1. Take a trip to the bookstore.
This is a date for the outdoorsman or interior decorator, cook or computer buff. Whatever your interest, you'll find it here. If you didn't get to the beach this year, head to the travel section and dream. If you need a good laugh, pick up some comic books. Many of the larger bookstores now sport overstuffed chairs and latte cafes. Sip your Mocha Latte Cappuccino, sink into a chair next to your main squeeze, and tell him how smart he looks with those glasses on.
COST: $8 for two lattes and a biscotti
2. Go to a high school sporting event.
There's football in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring—or choose soccer, tennis, swimming, hockey, or lacrosse. Whatever the game, sit in the stands and root for the home team.
During the game, talk about your high school memories. Would you go back if you could? Would you do anything differently? Or better yet, discuss the fashion styles the students are into. Soak up the sense of community at high school events. Enjoy the team spirit and yell until you're hoarse.
COST: $3-$7 per ticket, plus $3.50 for popcorn and two sodas
3. Spend a morning volunteering.
What better way to feel rich than to serve those in need? Organizations such as Habitat for Humanity are in constant need of volunteers. Schedule a time to wield a hammer with your honey. Or volunteer at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or nursing home. You're working together for a common purpose. This kind of shared experience forges bonds beyond the scope of conventional dating. A volunteer morning will expand your perspective and enrich your relationship.
COST: Free, but $5 to splurge on coffee and doughnuts
4. See a local theater group perform.
If movie prices send you into sticker shock, theater tickets will put you into cardiac arrest. But fortunately, not all the actors are on Broadway. Community theater offers the experience without the high price. As an added benefit, local playhouses are smaller and give the productions a more intimate feel. Choose a show you'll like, but not one you saw the Royal Shakespeare Company perform. You might enjoy dressing up as part of the "out on the town" feel. Casual or Sunday best is up to you, but don't miss the chance to see your local stars shine.
COST: $5-$10 per ticket depending on your area
5. Learn a new skill at a home center.
Not all couples can do home improvement without marriage counseling, but these classes are different. Whether your house is new or a fixer-upper, you'll enjoy these classes. Learn to build a deck or stencil a room, install a ceiling fan or plant a garden. Check with your local Home Depot, Menards, or Lowe's. Since you're both there to learn, the pressure's off. Tell the truth, haven't you always wanted one of those orange aprons?
6. Eat only an appetizer and/or dessert at a fancy restaurant.
A full meal at a fancy restaurant will cost a lot more than $20, but this date is more about the experience than the eating. Since restaurant portions are usually generous, choose a hearty appetizer. Then order the Death by Chocolate dessert and try to be discreet when you lick the plate.
COST: $20 if you both order water
7. Visit a historic cemetery.
We're not talking about walking around Shady Acres. This is for the history buff or the philosophizer. Every town has founding fathers; go visit them. Are your ancestral roots nearby? Look up your great-great-great grandparents. If your life is busy and frantic and loud, consider this: Cemeteries are quiet and reflective and beautiful. Nothing brings out the thinker in us like rows of lives summed up in a sentence each. Take a picnic and reflect together.
COST: Free if you pack the picnic at home
Colin B. Morris, a freelance writer, lives with her family in Georgia.
Copyright © 2003 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.