Dating and new relationships are expensive, there's no doubt about it. Trying to impress the other person, wanting to experience new things and new activities together, getting to know them through romance... all of these can really be quite expensive and can put a damper on your budget.
First of all, I'm not sure if I'm just speaking for myself, but not everyone responds well to acts of "rote romanticism" whereby the woman get whisked away to concerts, plays, or fancy candlelight dinners. I for one know that I don't respond to this well, especially in the throes of a new relationship or romance. Sometimes I think that the most romantic moments involve the deepest spiritual connection, and this connection doesn't necessarily happen over a $88 concert or show. Sometimes the most romantic moments can happen when you're just sitting on a park bench, pondering about the meaning of happiness.
New relationships are about creating new memories, and new memories don't have to involve expensive activities.
Go for a Walk or a Bike Ride
Go for a walk at the local park or along the beach. For me, the most romantic thing is to walk hand in hand, talking and walking along a beach or a park. It shows patience, it shows interest, and it is simple. It doesn't involve competition, it doesn't involve showing off (e.g. if you were doing a more strenuous activity like snowboarding or skiing or swimming, that might involve demonstrating your skills).
Stay In and Cuddle
Not cuddling in that sense (get your mind out of the gutter) but staying in and cuddling under a blanket and talking can be really romantic. Learning about each other without having any activities or distractions. Talking about hypothetical situations. Talking about your values. Make a list of what you want to do together in the future. Sometimes when you're free from outside distraction or fear of judgment or evaluation, you can really feel free to be yourself and open up emotionally to another person. This emotional connection is really what connects two people and strengthens the budding relationship.
Grab a Coffee and People Watch
Although this isn't necessarily free, it does cost under $5. Most first dates happen over coffee. Coffee is non-commital, doesn't break the bank, and lets you evaluate whether you want to spend more time with this person (and not to mention, money). If you're developing a new relationship (because this is kind of awkward to do on a first date) people watch and make up stories of the people that walk by. This is a surprisingly fun activity and really lets you see the creativity of the person you're with. The only caveat is the make sure your stories aren't within earshot of the people you're talking about!
Connect in a Bookstore
Yahoo mentioned a free date idea of going to a bookstore which I think is great. What a fun way to stimulate the mind, strike up conversation, and connect over interests in books. For some reason though, I envision that this would be more appealing in a larger sized bookstore versus a smaller one.
Baking cookies together for a date night is a fun (and very romantic, might I add) way to share your creativity. Loving You has some great tips on how to plan the baking date night. The important thing to remember is that you're creating memories, not masterpieces. Baking or cooking together is a fun way to create something together and assess how they are with problem solving, and how well (or perhaps not well?) you work together. You can then watch a movie after or play some board games while waiting for the goodies to bake in the oven.
Whatever the free date activity might be, the important thing is to make sure you're having fun, show that you're open minded, and spark conversation and connection. Dating can be expensive but it really doesn't have to always be. Alternating "fancier" dates with free or almost free dates is a great way to get to know someone while developing a new relationship.
Bargainmoosers, what is your favourite free date activity?