Jennifer Lopez famously said, "Love don't cost a thing" and I tend to agree. Look, I am not going to say "no" to C inviting me to a fancy restaurant (or climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge) but that isn't why I fell in love with him or why our relationship is so strong. Those memories are highly cherished, but my 'favorite' ones are of us dancing in the kitchen as we cooked dinner or singing to the Frozen soundtrack while driving back from Oporto's where we had picked up a $20 Bondi burger deal.
We shouldn't have to choose between paying rent or going on a nice date with an attractive person we are getting to know more intimately. This is especially true for those in academia who seldom get stipends above the poverty line. So how can we enjoy our partner without breaking the piggy bank? Here's what has worked for me...
go to a festival & Try a food truck
Festivals are such a wonderful (and inexpensive) way to explore some amazing food but also further explore the city you call home. Or, it allows you to venture to a new neighborhood while eating some home-made food that will either be delicious or give you a funny story for later.
Do a puzzle together
One of the first things C and I did while in lockdown together was make a puzzle. Mumma (C's mom) had bought a few and the first few weeks were a flurry of us trying to make this ocean-themed puzzle and one that had different dogs. It was fun to race one another to get certain squares or spots done and it felt amazing whenever one of us got a large chunk done! The relief we felt when we pressed the last piece in place.
Build a blanket OR PILLOW fort
It's no secret: I'm pretty much a child inside a 27-year-old body. I'm lucky that lets me unleash my "inner kid" all the time, and that goes for building blanket and/or pillow forts. We could watch movies, snuggle, talk, or eat popcorn and eventually it ends with me pretending I'm Stitch and tearing it apart before we place all pillows and blankets back where they had come from.
HAVE A PICNIC
Whether you go for a traditional, outdoor picnic or put down a blanket inside (or on your balcony or roof, if you have access), a picnic is a great way to shake things up on the cheap.
Make a bonfire
If the weather is chilly, there is nothing better than finding a cozy spot to set up a bonfire. It doesn't have to be fancy wood from your local 7-11 but grabbing some wood from your neighborhood forest and finding a match to lit it all up. We did this and grabbed some ingredients for smores from the local Aldi and then cozied up by the warm fire. It was a great night to just chat - and show the aussies what they are missing when it comes to smores.
VISIT A MUSEUM
Do you guys like museums? Nothing better than getting cultured on a budget! Some museums have steep ticket prices, but many have free or discounted days or hours during weekdays.
Go Window Shopping
"The Rocks" are probably one of my favorite areas in Sydney to do just this. We don't have to spend a penny, just walk down the cobbled streets and check out what stores are currently selling or the designs currently adorning their windows (especially during the holidays). The trinkets usually lend to lively conversations!
Visit a Pop-Up
I love, love, love pop-ups. These "here today, gone tomorrow" stores are often inexpensive and are filled with goodies that are bound to lead to a good time. We've been to a few pop-ups and looked around and every time it has been a fun-filled experience seeing what's out there.
Go On a Roadtrip
You do not have to go far in a car in order for it to be considered a "roadtrip." C and I went on numerous roadtrips to Wollongong for their beaches and cafes during the pandemic; this was only 45 minutes away but felt like a completely different area from the manicured suburbs we lived in. Piling into the car and just driving five, ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes away can introduce you to a whole bunch of new stuff to do and be a part of!
I really want to go to a paint and sip experience, but man do they get pricey. We recreated that experience with something similar at home - buying "paint by color" art (we once both painted a tiger, then I did an Australian map and he did a forest mountain piece), a cheap bottle of wine, and some cheese and crackers. We not only got to go at our own pace but we did all of this for less than the ticket price for the usual paint and sip experiences. Plus, we got to joke around and end up painting each other, too.
VISIT THE LIBRARY
I stand by this: libraries are a totally fun (and underrated) place to go for a date. From attending an event together to going on a book scavenger hunt to simply just going to pick up some reading material so you can sit side-by-side in bed or in a park... there is plenty to do!
Make an At-Home Spa
Your girl here was desperately needing a facial and massage during the lockdown and while a mask was easy enough to get at our local KMart, the spa experience was harder to get. Unless you recreated it at home. So that's what we did - drew a bubble bath, lighted a few candles, put on some soothing tunes, and threw in a soothing massage. And this wasn't just for me - I gave C his first "spa experience" and loved it. Try it out with your partner(s)!
VIRTUAL DATE IDEAS
In the age of COVID, whether you are in lockdown, quarantined, or in a long-distance relationship from the person or people you're dating... date night is a bit different. Here are a few ideas to keep things alive even while apart.
Binge watch a show or movie together
Thanks to apps like Netflix Party, you and your partner can not only watch a new series (or your favorite) or movie together while giving you the option to chat. We do this every "Movie Monday" and it's nice keeping that tradition a lot.
Get ready to enjoy a tasty meal at home - and one you will share with your significant other! Pick a recipe (either one you have tried and love or something completely new) that you will both be able to confidently make and then choose a nice to make it. Grab the ingredients you need at the grocery store, get on that video call, and start cooking! C and I did this for Valentine's Day a few years ago where we both made the same meal and we had so much fun!
take a walk together
Jump on the phone and give your sweetheart a call! While you both get some fresh air and exercise, you can catch up on your day and even send photos of your surroundings to one another.
Hi! I'm Melissa, an Australian-based Latina science educator, podcaster, and freelance writer. I spend a lot more time on Instagram and Twitter, but blogging is my first love. Thanks for stopping by — I hope you stay a while.
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