cheap date ideas

Fun for Free

One of the things that sucks about a partner losing a job is that the lifestyle you were once used to gets drastically changed. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, either. Michael and I used to eat out a lot. Both foodies, we’ve been spoiled with the opportunities to eat at some of Portland’s best restaurants. While restaurant eating was one of the first things to go when Michael lost his job, I can’t say that I was entirely heartbroken. In all honesty, I always felt like we ate out too much for my waistline to handle.

Being forced to reign it in for awhile wasn’t the end of the world. We had the opportunity to try a bunch of new recipes and really get creative with the food we had on hand. When we have gone out we used our Groupons and ordered smart to save money.

Michael and I very active people. We love the outdoors and luckily–THAT’S FREE! The downside, the weather in Portland in the winter is nasty and not really the kind of thing we want to do. So that automatically ruled out things we love to do in nice weather like hiking or bike rides. We did go snowshoeing several times–which is free except for the gas money (our shoes are paid for).

We started doing things with friends around the house instead. We met some friends for happy hour–much cheaper. We had another couple over for snacks and card games. We have another couple coming over for a movie night, and we provide the popcorn. Doing things at home immediately cuts down on costs–and we can tell our friends to BYOB.

We took advantage of the free Jazz Festival events. I’m also really good at finding deals in Portland. Here are just a few:

  • The first Sunday of every month OMSI is only $2 per person (instead of $12 per person)
  • The Portland Art Museum is free the fourth Friday of every month from 5-8pm (instead of $15 per person)
  • Last Thursday takes place on NE Alberta and features kooky art and galleries, street performers and food – Free!
  • First Thursday is the yuppie version of Last Thursday in the hoity-toity Pearl District art galleries.
  • Portland State University and Reed College also provide free lectures.

In order to prevent us from sitting at home every weekend feeling mutually depressed about our situation or vegging out in front of the TV, I tried to plan as much fun “free/freeish” stuff for us to do. I also found a list of “recession dates” for us folks that can’t afford much. It’s  a decent list, with some free things and some almost-free things.

  1. Browse the local farmers’ market.
  2. Go on a picnic. All you need is a blanket, fruit, sausage, cheese, crackers and water.
  3. Fly a kite.
  4. Enjoy a romantic home-cooked meal.
  5. Cook dinner together.
  6. Go apple picking.
  7. Give a massage.
  8. Go to the beach.
  9. Attend an open-air festival.
  10. See an art-house movie matinee.
  11. Build a snowman.
  12. Have a barbecue.
  13. Share a sundae.
  14. Attend an art gallery.
  15. Take a hike.
  16. Go to a book signing.
  17. Go for a bike ride.   
  18. Play miniature golf.
  19. Attend a wine tasting.
  20. Go fishing.
  21. Go sledding (with a thermos of hot cider or cocoa).
  22. Visit the zoo.
  23. Rent a movie.
  24. Pick up movie at your local library.
  25. Drive go-carts.
  26. Go window-shopping.
  27. Invite friends over for board games.
  28. Do a Google search for free things to do in your city.
  29. Eat out with a gift certificate from
  30. Drive through the country (especially good around Fall).
  31. Play at a playground (swings and teeter-totters are fun!)
  32. Attend a planetarium show.
  33. Browse antique shops.
  34. Go to an open mic night at a coffee shop or bookstore.
  35. Volunteer at a favorite charity.
  36. Attend a high school sporting event.
  37. Watch Shakespeare in the Park.
  38. Have an indoor picnic.
  39. Star gaze (Orion is an easy constellation to spot).
  40. Take a pottery class together.
  41. Go bowling.
  42. Play pool.
  43. Go to the local community pool.
  44. Feed the ducks at a local pond.
  45. Go ice skating.
  46. Go roller skating.
  47. Play laser tag.
  48. Play frisbee.
  49. Go kayaking or canoeing.
  50. Skip rocks at a lake.
  51. Watch a meteor shower (here’s when they happen).
  52. Attend a local high school, community college or university play or musical.
  53. Go camping.
  54. Play basketball together.
  55. Visit a botanical garden.
  56. Go spelunking (but be careful!)
  57. Get a cup of coffee together (hopefully at a spot that offers free refills).
  58. Take a factory tour. Breweries that offer free samples are especially fun.
  59. Take dance lessons at a local community center.
  60. Visit local historic landmarks.
  61. Put together a puzzle.
  62. Carve pumpkins (around Halloween).
  63. Go strawberry picking.
  64. Attend a flea market or swap meet.
  65. Check out yard sales.
  66. Assemble a model airplane then fly it in a park.
  67. Go out for brunch (cheaper than dinner).

If we did everything on that list, we’d be busy for awhile! That on top of our home remodeling projects, we’ve been super busy during Michael’s unemployment.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite type of free or “freeish” date?