By Chris Dato • September 15, 2014
In preparation for my girlfriend’s upcoming birthday, I had a lot of relationship responsibilities to take care of. I fancy myself a pretty good boyfriend, so I took on the project with much excitement. After searching for the perfect card and finding just the right gift, I will admit I may have been feeling a bit of boyfriend hubris. That is, until I realized that I was still missing an essential element to a great birthday night… Dinner!
Possessing no culinary skills of my own, my new goal became clear: Get the classiest, most romantic dining experience possible with the limited funds I had left. But as it turns out, this mission proved to be much more achievable than I had anticipated. This is because I was able to find some great tools and helpful hints to not only make the evening romantic and memorable, but also do it on a budget.
Date Night Checklist
There are a few things you can do before the evening has even started to get off on the right foot. The first is to pick a restaurant and make a reservation. Reserving the table costs nothing, and there is nothing classier than showing up to a fancy restaurant and telling the host, “We’re on the list.” OpenTable.com makes the reservation process even simpler by allowing you to do it completely online, then sending you a confirmation email. They even allow you to inform the restaurant of any special circumstances for the night, like celebrating a birthday.
The reservation itself is classy, but why stop there? Get a bouquet of flowers earlier in the day before dinner, and take them to the restaurant. Let them know your name and the time of your reservation, and ask them to put the flowers on the table before they seat you that evening. This is a great way to show how much forethought you put into the evening. FlowersFast.com has great deals on beautiful flowers, and they offer free same day delivery!
Another way to save before you even set out for the restaurant is by purchasing discount gift certificates. Restaurant.com allows to search by city or zip code, selling gift certificates for pennies on the dollar. The gift certificates are sold in varying denominations, so be sure to pick up a couple before you go out.
Affair of the Evening
Obviously, the place you pick is going to have a big impact on the cost of the night. Take advantage of places that advertise a happy hour. Half priced appetizers and drinks are a great way to stretch your dollar, as well as try a plethora of different items.
While you are at it, don’t forget to check-in to the restaurant on your phone. Many places offer some kind of perk for doing so, like a free drink or appetizer. It literally costs you nothing but a second of your time!
Icing on the Night
Instead of ordering dessert at the restaurant, think about bringing your own and making it part of the evening. Pack a basket with a couple candles, a blanket, and some dessert. After dinner, go to a park or the beach and enjoy dessert by candlelight under the night sky. Weather permitting of course. This can prove to be much more romantic than simply purchasing dessert at the restaurant. If you really want to put the cherry on top, make the dessert yourself.
The purpose of these tips is not only to save some money, but to do it while enjoying a sophisticated, upscale evening. In the end, my girlfriend got a birthday dinner she can brag to all her girlfriends about, which was the ultimate goal. It is important to allow yourself to enjoy the finer things in life every now and then, especially if you can find a way to do it without spending a fortune.
Chris Dato A Southern California kid born and raised, Chris is happiest with sunglasses on his face and sand under his back. Although a self-proclaimed master money saver, he prefers the term 'responsibly frugal' to 'cheap.'