One of the most important things you can commit to do as a couple – and never get away from – is the Date Night. To keep the fire stoked in your marriage over the years, you have to do the things you did while you were first dating.

And therein is the obvious clue: when you were just dating, you were dating.

We certainly remember that, especially early in our relationship, we couldn’t spend a fortune on dates. If you’re lucky enough to be affluent early in life, great for you (though as a financial planner, Jeremy says you’d better be saving a LOT of it). For the rest of us, though, nights out often had to be sacrificed for financial reasons early in our marriage.

But dating doesn’t have to break the bank. It’s about spending time with each other, learning something new about your partner. Deepening the bond. And just having an enjoyable few hours together!

Here are 10 ideas for date nights that should run you under $50. (If you need a sitter, that’s extra. We usually asked the grandparents or an aunt to watch the kids for a few hours, and they were always happy to do it.)

Jeremy starring as Randle McMurphy in the Camille Playhouse production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in May of 2015.

Community theater – Jeremy is partial to this, because he does the occasional acting gig when he gets the chance (this is him in a recent production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).

Community theater is a great choice for a few reasons.

First, because it’s far less expensive than professional theater, which has in most cities become so overpriced, it’s only available to the 1% ers. (Shakespeare is spinning in his grave.) Second, because you’re getting to see people doing it solely for the love of the craft. Third, because it supports extremely important arts programs in the community.

Most community theaters will run $20 – $25 for tickets (musicals are generally a little more per seat than “straight” plays, because they cost more to produce). Google “community theaters near me” for upcoming shows and ticket prices.

Escape room – This one was new to us but we discovered it and gave it to our kids as a Christmas gift this year.

An Escape Room is a physical action adventure for a small group of people to solve a live-action puzzle or problem in a set amount of time.

It might be a murder mystery, or a “Temple of Doom” kind of adventure, or a themed room like pirates or a cave adventure. Solve the puzzle in the time frame, and you and your team win (and “escape”).

These can cost a bit more than $50 per couple but you can often find deals and coupons if you look closely. We found a coupon that cut the normally $24 tickets in half. Shameless plug: we found several around our home city of Denver (just Google “escape rooms near me”).

Shameless plug: we got tickets to Escape Reality Denver.

Take a winery tour. Just remember not to drink every sample. – Jeremy

Winery or brewery tour – You can easily spend more if you’re prone to buy a lot of bottles after the tour, but taking a slow tour of a winery, and sampling their wares, is a great way to spend an afternoon. We did this once in the Hill Country of Texas on a Sunday morning, and Jeremy was sloppy drunk before lunch (Kari kept telling him he wasn’t supposed to drink the sample).

Winery tastings can cost about $20 a person, plus any bottles you might purchase afterward.

Brewery tours are pretty cool. They are usually free with some free tastings after the tour, and it’s fascinating to see not only how beers are made, but how a large brewery controls every bit of its waste through the entire process.

We’re in Colorado, so the Coors brewery sits close by, but you can find brewery tours of any of the major breweries (and a good portion of the smaller microbrew tours).

(On a related note, if you’re ever in and around Denver, take the Celestial Seasonings tour just outside of Boulder. Another freebie for the tea drinkers in your life.)

Local gardens / parks – Prices can vary widely here, from free for a local park to $12 – $15 for adults at a professional botanical garden (like the Denver Botanical Gardens).

You can see an amazing amount of flora and plants so exotic you’ll be thinking “Audrey II”. And guys, it’s not as dull as it sounds. The displays can be AMAZING and there’s a lot of science to dig into while you’re checking out the pretty flowers that’ll thrill your pretty lady.

Drive in the mountains / country – There is no cost to this other than gas in the car (and maybe something to eat while you’re out there).

We LOVE taking road trips through the Colorado Rockies, especially in the fall when the autumn colors are changing.

You may run into national or state parks that will charge for you to enter, but there are many other national forests and just mountain passes and byways that will give you a breathtaking day.

And if you’re a flat-lander, fear not. Nearly anywhere just outside your city limits will be an off-the-path drive through the country or woods.

The purpose here is not to find absolute perfection in nature. It’s not a scavenger hunt. It’s just time to relax, enjoy the time with your spouse, and breathe some fresh air.

Stop at some roadside cafe and have lunch. Drive a different route home. Explore. You don’t know your own area nearly as well as you think you do. Go have an adventure close to home.

Live music at local venues – we used to love to meet up with friends at a local bar playing really awesome music. We also knew of a coffee shop that had live music certain nights of the week.

The cost can get out of the $50 range if you’re at a bar and drink a lot. But that’s not what we’re advocating here. It’s about the music.

Free Days at zoo, museum, art museum, etc. – If you live near a major city, you’re bound to have a zoo, natural history museum, war museum, art museum, etc. Because most of these are taxpayer-supported, most of them are obligated to have “Free Days” from time to time (though the regular admission price to most of these will be far less than $50 if you go any other time).

Keep an eye on local media, or search the venues’ websites themselves to find their free days.

Some cities also have a combination pass that lets you visit several of the city’s attractions for one price. We did this in Houston several years ago and enjoyed the Nature & Science Museum, the Houston Zoo, a Pink Floyd laser show in the planetarium, and more, all for one set (and drastically reduced) price.

Need we say more?

Bike ride together – This one is self-explanatory, as long as you have bikes. If you’re in a downtown area, like Denver, you can even rent a bike for a few hours from automatic vendors on the street.

The key here is to bike away from congested traffic. Find a bike path that gives you a scenic ride and gives you a little time to chat while you ride.

Swimming / Sports at Rec Center – Kari and I loved playing racquetball and tennis, and who can hate spending a little time in the pool and hot tub?

By far the least expensive way to do these kinds of activities is to head to your local rec center, and you can usually do it year-round. You can pay for most rec centers by the day, and many of them are $5 or less for a day pass for all of the activities inside.

You haven’t lived until you’ve watched a movie at the Drive-In.

Drive-In Movie – this might be showing our age a little, because they’re getting harder and harder to find, but if you can find a Drive-In Theater, GO TO IT.

For one, it’s critical to support this dying slice of Americana. Almost everyone over the age of 40 has childhood memories of getting in their pajamas before dark, climbing in the back of the car or truck with blankets and sleeping bags, and heading out for a couple of movies in the crisp summer night air. There is NOTHING like watching a movie at the drive-in.

What makes this so cheap is, usually you pay by the carload, not by the person. And, you can bring your own food in if you want. So you can bring a cooler of soda, your own popcorn if you want, even pizza or burgers or a bucket of KFC.

The point is, TWO movies (or even three), plus the food you want to bring, for far less than $50. (Even if you got your food there, you ought to be able to squeak out for less than $50 for the two of you).

A local drive-in theater near us shows THREE movies for $8 a person.

So that’s our first 10 ideas! What did we miss? Give us your ideas and hints for a fun (and cheap) night out!