Welcome.

Mindfully Spent is about managing finances, time, and more in pursuit of meaning. It chronicles my journey to use money and moments for things I truly love.

Save money. Pay off debt. Simplify. Do the unimaginable big things that you want with your life. Look back on your dollars and days and find they were Mindfully Spent.

25 Free Dates (because relationships shouldn't be built on money).

25 Free Dates (because relationships shouldn't be built on money).

When someone comes to the end of their life in the movies and they are reflecting on what truly mattered, we usually see a parade of memories that include the people they loved best. For nearly every one of us, it is our relationships that fill our life with meaning. These relationships come in many forms - friends, family, romantic partners, mentors - but in each case I would argue that the feeling of connection outweighs whatever label we've stuck on it.

Deciding to be mindfully of one's dollars doesn't mean that relationships have to suffer. In fact, relationships can be nurtured without spending a dime. Sometimes all it takes is a listening ear, a thoughtful letter, a willingness to help someone move for the bajillionth time, or a creative idea of how to enjoy some time together. Below is a list of 25 date ideas to help you say close to the person you love best without breaking the bank. Many of the options work as friend/family dates too! (I'll let you choose which ones.) 

  1. Out on the Town Photo Shoot
    Get all dolled up in whatever way suits you best, go to a scenic place in a bustling city (a community festival works if you're in a rural area), and enlist strangers to snap some photos of you in your and your favorite at your finest. #cutecouple  
     
  2. Take a Hike!
    Free date + Free exercise. Take some deep breaths and unwind. If you are in the Pacific Northwest, Washington Trails Association can help you choose a hike. There are options for all levels. You'll wanna double check that your choice doesn't require park entry fees or a pass. Park websites often feature great local trails too.
     
  3. Get Familiar with One Another
    Take the Proust Questionnaire.
      
  4. Culture is Something That's Good For You
    There are a lot of ways to indulge in a free art/intellect date: 1. Many cities have a free monthly museum day or art walk, 2. Some museums have a "pay what you can" policy on certain days, 3. Local libraries often offer free museum passes for check out. 
     
  5. Dancing in the Street
    I love dancing in almost all forms, but it doesn't have to come with an expensive cover charge and overpriced drinks. Look up community festivals, street fairs, and block parties to find free live music that gets you moving.  
     
  6. Community Movies
    Many cities offer outdoor movies in the summer, but this option isn't off the table when fall and winter arrive. When the weather changes, you can often find free flicks in local libraries. Bonus points if you bring your favorite homemade concession.
     
  7. Take Your Romance to the Interwebs
    Spend an evening creating a Facebook Page or Instagram Account together. It can be as serious or as ridiculous as you'd like: Strange experiments in photoshopping, a friend's amazing laugh, the secret life of abandoned shopping carts, a shared pet, a worthy social cause, a type of plant/art/graffiti/architecture you both like... As long as you both like the idea, run with it! Don't want to commit to page upkeep? Throw together a meme and see how many shares/likes you can get overnight.
     
  8. Spa Spoiling (at home)
    Pamper one another: foot soak, manicures, moisturize, sugar scrub, massage, aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh... To keep this date free, look up homemade spa treatments or use what you already have on hand. 
     
  9. Storytelling Tryst  
    Choose someplace scenic or cozy, and read to one another. Fall in to the scene with a classic like Jane Austen or defy stereotypes by reading Chuck PalahniukMiranda July, or a graphic novel. Visit the library for endless options.
     
  10. Listen Up!
    Attend a free open mic event and compare your opinions on the performances afterward (somewhere where the attendees won't hear you!). Fancy-pants, talented folks might even take the mic themselves, but that should be totally optional.
     
  11. Let Out your Inner Evel Knievel!
    Shopping Cart Dare Devils: Race, do tricks, give each other rides until grocery store security decides you should call it quits.
     
  12. Put on Some Salesman Charm
    Write a craigslist ad together for a mundane household item, advertising it as the greatest thing of all time. Extra points for including a top ten list in the description. 
     
  13. Ask Some Loaded Questions
    Some people believe that these 36 questions can make any two strangers fall in love.  
     
  14. Kitchen Challenge!
    Try to recreate an amazing dinner you once had from scratch at home. Put on some music to suit the meal. 
     
  15. Follow the Sun
    Find the best place nearby to watch the sunrise or sunset. Bring what you need to be comfortable while you take in the sight (blanket, snacks, folding chairs).
     
  16. So Cozy
    Perfect for a rainy day, you can build a fort and snuggle inside. Tune out the world together, or have your fort include a television view and watch a favorite movie. 
     
  17. Lend a Hand.
    Get to know each other's softer side by volunteering together.
     
  18. Local Music Scene Experts
    Prep for this date by individually looking up and listening to local bands online. Share the best (and worst) of them with your beau. If you'd rather be more learned than hipster, you can use this same kind of date to explore a music genre that you'd both like to learn more about. Bonus Step: Take this date a step further and host a house show for the local songwriter you like best, bringing good music to you and your friends without expensive venue drinks.
     
  19. Playground Date!
    The couple that plays together stays together. Shoot some hoops or get silly on the kids toys. Our tiny town has a small scale climbing rock and a mini-zip line! 
     
  20. Kitchen Challenge 2: Electric Boogaloo
    Play Top Chef at home with what you have in the pantry and compete for bragging rights. 
     
  21. Where It All Began.
    Beat your parents to the embarrassment and compare baby pictures. 
     
  22. Double (or triple) Date Taste Test
    Have each person bring one variety of the same kind of item (Merlot, cheese, strawberry jam, salsas, popcorn topping, vanilla ice creams, ...) and then compare tasting notes. 
     
  23. Catch 'em All!
    It's an adventure date: Run around town playing PokemonGO together or try out geocaching. 
     
  24. Try the "Spider-Man Kiss" (one person upside down)
    ...then create and name other ridiculous kinds of kissing. 
     
  25. Go Shopping! 
    While unnecessary spending can break the bank, we all need some basic essentials. An afternoon taking in the ambiance of a bustling Farmer's Market can restock the fridge with healthy, in-season veggies; sometimes at prices that are even lower than the grocery store! Shop carefully to be sure you're getting a good deal on necessities, and avoid this option if you feel that you might get sucked in by booths selling crafts, ready made foods, or other non-essentials. 
     
  26. Bonus for The Married Folks: Fake Public Proposal(s)
    Who says you have to just one engagement story? Throw your rings in a box and head out into a public space to recreate an engagement scene. Make it as ridiculous or romantic as you wish, and then watch the faces of people around you light up with the special magic of witnessing big love. Repeat as desired. 
 25 free dates because relationships shouldn't be built on money!

Your Turn!
We'll feature some brave souls who test drive free dates over the course of the blog, but you don't have to wait for their reviews. Try out these or other free dates, and let us know how they go.  

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Post image cropped from a beautiful photo by Scott Haydon Photography.

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