Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.
Reader Adam Lehman wrote with this request:
I’m a single, college guy so how bout some articles on creative, free dates or something. I’m sure this could apply to married men as well.
Great question — I particularly love it because it’s something that I’ve become good at myself over the years. Yes, I’m a cheapskate, but I’m also a bit of a romantic. So I’ve had to get creative in order to win my date over without spending too much.
What follows are just some ideas — the key is to use your imagination, and you’ll be able to come up with a bunch of your own. But here are some that have worked for me (read: I got another date instead of being rejected as usual), and that I hope work for you:
- Picnic. One of my favorites. I like to pack a basket with home-made sandwiches (really hearty, good ones with good bread), fruits, cheese, desserts, candies, wine, snacks and all the utensils and napkins. Find a great spot for the picnic — sunset is probably the most romantic time.
- Treasure hunt. Another favorite. I set this up beforehand, writing clues on pieces of paper and leaving them all around town. Each clue led to the next, and at the end was a gift. You’ll have a blast driving around. It’s best if the places and clues are meaningful to the two of you.
- Home-cooked meal with candles. A specialty of mine. Even if you can only cook one thing well, you’ve got it made. Pasta or steaks are easy and sure bets (although I don’t eat steak anymore). A good dessert tops it off well. The candles are a nice touch. Pick some flowers too. Most women love a man who can cook, especially for them.
- Massage. This is most likely only appropriate if you’ve been going out for a few dates, but if you’re close enough for a good massage, this will win her over. Get some scented massage oil. Do the entire body, starting with the head, down to the neck, the back, legs and feet. Skip the tempting areas (or at least save them for last) or the massage might not last long.
- The beach. I live on an island, so this one’s easy. If you don’t have a beach, any other nice natural setting, like lake or river or mountain, will also work. You can pack a picnic, or just get some bathing suits and some beer and have a great time.
- Festivals. Look in your local paper … you might find all kinds of festivals, from movies to dance to desserts and more. They cost very little, and they are a blast. Walk around, make jokes, sample everything.
- Old movie marathon. Nothing’s more romantic than great old movies. Rent a bunch of them on DVD, pop some popcorn, get some candy, and watch them in your living room wrapped in blankets. A few sure-fire recommendations: Casablanca, Roman Holiday, Some Like It Hot, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, hell anything with Audrey Hepburn.
- Window shopping. Walk around and look at stuff at some of your favorite stores — antique stores, used bookstores, unique clothing. Try stuff on. Make fun of stuff. Make it fun.
- Watch meteors. Get a blanket and look up at the stars. It’s best if there’s a meteor shower — shooting stars are magical. Otherwise, learn a few constellations and point them out to her. Ponder the mysteries of the universe.
- Play in the snow or water. If you’ve got snow, you’ve got magic. Otherwise, a pool or ocean or lake are also great ways to play. Playful is good. So is a little innocent physical contact. Roll around!
- Museum. I love museums. They’re fascinating. If the girl thinks they’re fascinating too, you’ve got a winner. Zoos are fun too. Also carnivals. Buy cotton candy.
- Family barbecues. If you’ve been on a couple dates, you might be comfortable bringing her to a family gathering. A casual one like a barbecue is probably better to start with than Thanksgiving dinner or something. Although, going to a wedding is also fun. Barbecues are great because there’s good food and it’s free! Also, if your family is a lot of fun, you’ve got free entertainment!
- Shakespeare. I like watching plays, especially by the Bard. If the girl likes that too … well, she’s worth her weight in gold, as far as I’m concerned. And Shakespeare is very romantic. Quote her some lines afterward.
- Sundaes. Delicious and fun. Share toppings.
- Poetry reading. These can be a lot of fun, especially if you have a poem you can go up and read. Write one especially for her and tell everyone it’s dedicated to her. Then have some beers and watch the others. Poetry can be very romantic (unless it’s the angry kind, in which case it’s a lot of fun).
Again, you can probably come up with a million more of your own ideas. I hope these spark some good ones! And if you use any of these, you don’t have to give me credit, but do write to me to thank me if you get lucky. ;)
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