HOT DATES FOR COLD NIGHTS
The weather outside is frightful and wintertime fun can get mighty expensive in many parts of the country. A day on the ski slopes or a meal at a hot new restaurant might cost more than $100. Don't let that put a chill in your relationship. Even when the wind is howling and the snow is piling up at your door, there are fun things to do on date night that don't take too much cold, hard cash. Cheapism.com dug up 12 ideas for cheap dates that will get you through the depths of winter.
PLAY IN THE SNOW
Weather disrupting your plans? Don't cancel. Bundle up and invite your date to enjoy the snowy landscape. Have a snowball fight, build a snowman, go sledding, make snow cones. Depending where you are in the relationship, there are ample opportunities to come in from the cold, from hot chocolate at a cafe to a warm bath at home.
GO ON A DOLLAR DATE
The Dating Divas invented something called the Dollar-Menunaire Date. That means everything you do on your date should cost $1. So go out for a bite to eat, but order off the dollar menu. Then find some dollar movies and hit the dollar store for sweet and salty movie snacks.
SHOW OFF A FAVORITE SPOT
Fill a backpack with snacks, a thermos of coffee or bottle of wine, and a blanket and head to a treasured local site. Whether you live in a big city or a small hamlet, there's probably a special spot for conversation, contemplation, and companionship. In New York City, this might be a particular bench in Central Park; in Los Angeles, a warm car parked outside the Santa Monica airport; in Childress, Texas, an abandoned hunter's shelter in a grassy field.
GO ICE SKATING
Ice skating is a classic winter pastime, especially when enjoyed with someone you love. Find a nearby rink, indoors or outdoors, and splurge on hot chocolate afterward. If you can't find an ice skating rink, try a roller skating rink instead.
TOUR A BREWERY OR WINERY
There's at least one winery in every state. In most places you can expect to find budget-friendly tastings, free tours, and wine education. If you like the products you try for free, you may be able to buy more at a discount.
HEAD TO AN ARCADE
Game rooms are good for a first date or an outing with a long-term companion. It's hard to lose at an arcade. Games such as Pac-Man, Galaga, Street Fighter, and air hockey offer plenty of sweet nostalgia and a whiff of flirtatious competition. If you're lucky, a claw machine might let you win a cheap prize for your date. Take some pictures at the photo booth and then head over to the nearest pizza joint or bar.
Instead of going out to eat at the same restaurant and ordering "the usual," create a romantic dinner atmosphere at home. Make your significant other's favorite meal and serve it with a bottle of wine at a candlelit table.
Bond over giving. There are countless ways to give back to the world, even on a cheap winter date. Seek out opportunities that generally aren't advertised, such as babysitting a friend's child, cooking meals for a new mother, or cleaning your elderly neighbor's house. Or go to Volunteer Match to learn about structured volunteerism with various organizations. Even if the relationship cools off, you'll take comfort in knowing that your contribution is lasting.
STOP BY A DRIVING RANGE
Regardless where you live, there's probably a golf course in close proximity. But forgo the expensive and time-consuming 18-hole investment in favor of a bucket of balls, which often costs just a few dollars. Many driving ranges are open year-round, especially in the less frigid parts of the country, and hit the spot for a winter date at any stage of a relationship. Spice things up by helping your date with his or her swing.
JOIN GROUP HANGOUTS WITH YOUR STEADY
Instead of broadcasting to 587 of your closest friends that you're in a relationship (here's to you, Facebook), break the news slowly. Make a winter date out of group activities you're already involved in -- the weekly poker game, bowling night, book club, Bible study, office happy hour, maybe even Friday night family dinner. Most of these gatherings are free, or at least inexpensive, and provide a meaningful way to forge a deeper connection.
GET INSPIRED BY DAILY DEAL APPS
Try searching Groupon or other daily deal apps for inspiration. We recently saw a Paint Nite deal in Columbus, Ohio, for just $25 per person, marked down from $45 apiece. Cooking classes are also a regular offer on daily deal sites. Something like this would make a fun and different date night without costing a small fortune.
STAY IN AND SNUGGLE
If all else fails, you can always have a cozy night at home. Put on some sweats, order take-out (delivered, of course), and download a classic movie. Re-enact a childhood pleasure by building a fort in the living room with sofa cushions and blankets. Being couch potatoes from this lower vantage point has its benefits.