Couples say thinking outside the box, paying attention to events is key to inexpensive date nightsWhether you’re casually dating or in a serious relationship, planning dates can be tricky. Everyone loves going to the theater, but weekly dinner-and-a-movie dates can get old and expensive. But there are plenty of options that provide a little variety without breaking the bank.
By: Jasmine Maki, Grand Forks Herald
Whether you’re casually dating or in a serious relationship, planning dates can be tricky.
Everyone loves going to the theater, but weekly dinner-and-a-movie dates can get old and expensive. But there are plenty of options that provide a little variety without breaking the bank.
Tyrone and Becca Grandstrand, of Grand Forks, who have been married for almost four years, said they are always discovering something new to do together.
“We just, in general, try to take advantage of what Grand Forks has to offer in terms of the Greenway and downtown, and we pay attention to events that are going on,” Becca said.
Explore the arts
From attending the Art & Wine Walk in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks to visiting a local art gallery, there is an abundance of art to be discovered, they said.
The Grandstrands enjoy going to gallery openings at the Blue Door Gallery because the events are free.
“We have a lot of connections in the arts, so we know a lot of artists and people who run the gallery, so not only is it going to an event, but it’s being with friends,” Becca said.
Tyrone and Becca said for a date night, they try to go to at least one SPA performance every year. This year, they went to “Beauty and the Beast.”
“We took my little sister and her boyfriend to that, so it was nice to have a double date,” Becca said. “(Performances) are a little more pricey, but if you were to think about going to a theater in Minneapolis, you’d be spending triple the amount.”
The tickets run about $17 each, but Tyrone and Becca agreed that the quality of performance is well worth it.
“‘Beauty and the Beast’ was super, super good,” Tyrone said.
The couple also attends many events at the Empire Arts Center, where Becca works as the development and communications coordinator. Sometimes after the Backdoor Project at the Empire, Becca said she and Tyrone will walk over to Ojata Records and Comics and enjoy some hot dogs.
Get active together
If they’re not taking in the arts, the Grandstrands enjoy being active together.
“Ty and I are really involved … so to find time together is difficult sometimes,” Becca said. “When we do, it might seem like more ordinary things that some people might not consider a date, but for us, it’s special because we don’t have that time together necessarily.”
Something as simple as going for a walk or a bike ride can turn into a date. Becca and Tyrone often take their two corgis, Baylee and Moo, for a walk or to the dog park to run around.
Tyrone’s favorite date, though, was when Becca surprised him by renting a tandem bike from UND.
“We used it to go from campus … to Caribou and had coffee,” Tyrone said. “It was a little bit of a workout, but it was fun.”
They’ve also trained for a 5K together, and now Tyrone is helping Becca train for a 10K by biking alongside her while she runs.
Megan Havig and Joel Hineman of Fargo, who have been dating for almost a year, also spend many of their dates exercising together, whether it’s canoeing at the lake, going on nature walks or going for late-night swims.
On their first date, Megan said Joel asked her to go longboarding.
“We packed a little tea and went longboarding all over Fargo and didn’t spend any money,” Megan said. “Anytime you can use nature to the best of your ability … that’s what makes things special. It’s not the money you spend; it’s what you do that makes it special.”
Sometimes Megan and Joel will go on nature walks with her old film camera. They’ll experiment with the camera by placing different colored film over the lens or by hitting the bottom of the camera as they snap the photo. Megan said a disposable camera works just as well for creating fun effects.
Create something together
Whether it’s taking photographs with cool effects or doing crafts together, Megan and Joel like to create. Megan said she’s been planning a paper-making date for a while.
She writes children’s stories and love letters for Joel and wants to make them even more special. She said they plan to collect leaves, flower petals and other materials from the special places they’ve visited, like Maplewood State Park. Then, they’ll use the materials to make special paper for her writings.
“You can put anything in it, flower petals or the rinds of fruit,” Megan said. “You grind it up, put starch in it and let it dry.”
They plan to make the craft a fun group date with a couple of their creative friends. Another date they have planned is an ongoing cook-off. “I’ll cook one week, and he’ll cook one week, and we’ll have his roommates judge,” Megan said. “We kind of wanted to make a game out of it.
Megan said sometimes she’ll just sit in Joel’s bedroom and write lyrics while he learns a new song on guitar.
“It’s kind of fun when we don’t have a lot of money because we have to get creative,” she said. “If I did the same thing all the time, I’d go crazy.”
‘If you’re not friends, it’s not going to last’
Both couples agreed that you don’t need to spend a lot of time or money, but you do need to make an effort to go on dates.
“It’s really important,” Tyrone said. “If you’re not friends, it’s not going to last, so you have to do fun things together.”
Becca added: “You have to put in effort to make a marriage work. It’s definitely not easy, but you can make the dates fun, and something you look forward to doing. You can learn together, exercise together … and I think Grand Forks does offer quite a bit if you’re willing to look for it.”
More inexpensive date ideas
• Drive around. Hop in your car, turn on your favorite tunes and drive around town. You can check out new neighborhoods, and you might even discover new parks to visit together.
• Stay in. Grab your favorite board game and battle it out. A little friendly competition can spice up a relationship.
• Take a late-night swim. Whether or not you have lake property, you’re more likely to get some privacy at the lake if you wait until the sun goes down.
• Go on a nature walk. Grab a camera and go on an adventure together.
• Share a favorite. Whether it’s your favorite energy drink or favorite ice cream bar, get something you each love and share it together.
• Visit a small town. Drive to a small town and visit the local cafe and any specialty shops. You never know what treasures you’ll find.
• Stargaze. Throw some blankets in the back of the car and drive to the country where the city lights don’t interrupt the night sky.
• Attend a matinee. A simple solution to expensive movie nights is attending a matinee when tickets are cheaper. Afterwards, grab ice cream and go for a walk in the park.
• Plan a picnic. Pack a couple sandwiches, some fresh fruit and drinks and head to the park for an afternoon. Lie in the grass and talk or bring a Frisbee to throw around.
• Get coffee. Coffee shops provide a super-relaxed atmosphere that’s perfect for a date. You can have an intimate conversation or laugh over a card game while you slowly sip your coffee.
• Be a kid again. Grab all the blankets off the bed and make a giant fort in the living room. Spend the night sharing your favorite childhood memories in your fort.
Maki covers Arts & Entertainment and Life & Style for the Herald and can be reached at (701) 780-1122, (800) 477-6572, ext. 1122; or email@example.com.