Making Ends Meet
8:29 AM EDT, June 8, 2012
It was another Saturday, another social event.
My editor had given me an assignment to write about a local strawberry festival.
I had covered the annual event in previous years. I remembered that the people there were charming and that the strawberry dishes bordered on divine.
But this year, when I walked into the festival, I was struck by something different.
I saw a young couple sitting at a table, savoring strawberry desserts while talking, smiling and gazing into one another's eyes.
I imagined love birds and cherubs circling in dreamy clouds above their heads. For a moment, I was reluctant to chime in on the harmonic tableau. But I figured it was better than standing there staring, so I said hi.
The newlyweds, Christopher and Kelly, told me that before going to the festival, they had been to a theater matinee to see a just-released film. They were on a "day date."
They said they did this "day date" thing a lot, that it was a lot less expensive than traditional weekend evening dates, and that it freed up evenings for relaxing at home.
I'm guessing that much of the talking, smiling and gazing going on was good, old-fashioned amore.
But there was also a tranquility, the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are doing something smart, something right. Something like not spending more money than you have, and using what you do have wisely.
They had gone to an area cinema that offers cut-price tickets and free refills on all sizes of popcorn and drinks. If they'd gone to the traditional theater in the evening, the movie with a tub of popcorn and two drinks could have easily cost them nearly $40. The day date matinee with freebies cost maybe $20.
If they had gone to a sit-down restaurant and paid for dessert, coffee and a tip, they might have dropped nearly another $20. Instead, they were served homemade strawberry shortcake and strawberries and biscuits for about $6.
That's not to mention the added benefits of non-traditional day dates. A big one for me is ambience. Restaurants are frequently noisy with unpleasantly loud music.
And in the summertime, most seem to jack the air conditioning up so high my arm hair stands on end with goosebumps. Cardigans don't seem to do the trick. To be comfortable, I would need to dress for winter.
In contrast, the strawberry festival was off the beaten path, among rolling hills in a quaint old schoolhouse. The sun was shining through the sash windows. The doors were thrown open to welcome a natural breeze. Some people even dined outside under a pavilion.
Another bonus, Christopher said, was the event was hosted by a local club, and he knew his money would be put to good use in the community.
The couple said they seek out pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners and other such activities. Different kinds of fundraisers prevent monotony and keep things interesting, he said.
They also hit farmers markets and yard sales.
"Last week, we spent $14 and went home with a car load of great stuff," Kelly said.
Other day date ideas include picnics, hikes, fishing, canoeing or biking; jaunts to the free museums and the zoo in Washington D.C.; and free concerts in the park.
I'm not promising dreamy clouds and love birds. But you will be likely to save a couple bucks and have a good time.
Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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