7 Fun, Cheap Summer Date Ideas

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When love is in the air, a person's mind for spending goes limp. It's easy to blow all your cash on romantic evenings out, but there's no reason to go for broke by end-of-summer; we don't care how cute those baby blue eyes are!

Here are some romantic and affordable date ideas designed to keep your loving strong and wallet large.

1. Sunset Picnic.

Have an outdoor, candlelit dinner at sunset by filling a basket with blanket, candles, food, and wine. You might even want to break out your iPod and portable speakers for audible ambiance. Or, track down your local outdoor summer concert series schedule on citysearch.com. Either way, cuddling and noshing on a warm night amidst trees and flowers beats any crowded restaurant.

2. Brunch v. Dinner.

The great thing about meeting for brunch is your date could last until the evening (if things go well). And, there are some amazing brunch deals at top restaurants this summer. For example, $20 to $30 at swanky Barbounia in New York gets you unlimited champagne and a tapas brunch. Check opentable.com

for brunch deals in your area. Followed up with a nice stroll around your town, this is one date that adds up to more time for less money.

3. Camp Out.

Think about long walks through nature, roasting marshmallows over a fire, and snuggling under the stars. If you can stand a few bugs, summer camping is romance on a budget. Campgrounds average $5 to $10 per night for national parks and $10 to $40 per night for private grounds. Gocampingamerica.com and reserveamerica.com are great sources for finding campgrounds near you.

4. Fine Cooking.

The Food Network and endless online recipes give us the opportunity to create meals fit for a five-star restaurant. And, there’s no reason to cook alone! Conjure a date and check out some of our favorite online recipes.

5. Bonfire.

The beach is great by day, but can be even more fun at night. Grab your date, a few friends (preferably one of whom can play acoustic guitar), and some s'mores, and build a fire in the sand. Before you build your fire, check to make sure your town allows them. If you weren't a girl scout, here are instructions on building a bonfire.

6. Getaways with Friends.

We can't all be lucky enough to have a second home, so why not share with friends and pretend? Get permission to spend the weekend at a friend's summer home, or house-sit while she’s away. Replenish her fridge with food, bring smiles, and stock the beer—she’ll be happy to invite you back. You can also find house-sitting opportunities at housesittersamerica.com, or check out our ideas for a long weekend getaway.

7. Do Good.

Volunteering is rewarding, both philanthropically and emotionally. Studies show that volunteer work has many positive psychological benefits, so why not coordinate a date night in which you give back? Volunteermatch.org lists amazing opportunities through which you can help kids in need, serve dinner at a soup kitchen, or anything in between. Follow up your do-good-date with some dessert and feel the rewards sink in.

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