Date Night doesn’t have to break the budget!
Date night is not just for engaged couples or newlyweds. R & I have been married for nearly 16 years. Like any couple, we have cycles of up and down, closeness and distance, passion and apathy.
In an effort to help strengthen the ties that bind, I want to begin having date night more regularly.
When we were newlyweds, we had time and money. We had two incomes, the economy was much better, and we had more discretionary funds. We did everything together. Date night was often weekend getaways. Date night was sometimes dinner at a nice restaurant. She worked for an airline, and I had a company car; sometimes, we would travel domestically. We went camping, traveled with friends, went to the beach, or went to visit family. Date night might be the movies, bike riding, or hanging out with friends.
Now, we have two children and one income. The older daughter is VERY athletic, and attends public high school, in part so she can participate in organized sports. At school, in addition to JROTC, she is on the varsity basketball team, varsity soccer, and cross country. In the off-season, she is on a travel basketball team. Her coaches expect that she will get offered scholarships for basketball, as she LOVES the game and is an
Our younger daughter is homeschooled, so her schedule is a little more flexible. Still though, she is in Children’s Choir, with practice every Wednesday night. My wife works in the church nursery every Sunday. I have my day job during the week. Some Friday nights and weekends, I have events for my small business. I’m a DJ, and do 30-35 weddings annually, plus parties, school dances, corporate events, etc.
Why do I mention this (besides the fact that I am proud of our daughters)?
Because, life gets in the way of living. Date night is now going to Target, Lowe’s, or Wal-Mart. Often we are there for something the kids need. We have no family close by, so we can’t stay gone for long. Having kids is a blessing, but they are a big responsibility. Extracurricular activities take time and money. The need to make additional income for food, glasses, clothes, school supplies, and health insurance puts restrictions on the ability for the two of us to “get away” for date night.
In an effort to balance our desire for date night with the realities of our budget, I’m looking at more frequent, less expensive date nights. This is part of the “personal” of personal finance.
Since we are on a budget, I set a ‘soft” limit on most date nights to $25. There are many options for a date night on a budget. You just need a little bit of extra creativity and maybe some planning. Following are 25 ideas for date nights for 25 dollars or less.
Obviously, not all of these date nights will work for everyone. For example, we used to live one hour from the beach. Now, we live at least six hours from a beach, and fuel prices have at least doubled. There is no way we can visit a beach for less than $25 now, unless someone else is driving and paying for the gas!
25 Date Nights for Under $25
- Picnic – at the park, at the lake, even your living room floor if the weather is bad… one of our favorite dates, even before we were married
- Visit the beach – again, this used to be a favorite date, but we can’t drive there for $25 now
- Local arts and crafts festival – one of her favorite activities
- Visit a museum on half-priced or free day – A local art museum has a free Thursday night once a month. Perfect for date night! Also, if you have a membership to a local museum, often that membership is honored by other museums.
- Hike in a state park – it doesn’t have to be a long hike/camping trip… just watch out for poison ivy!
- Find a recipe, buy the ingredients, and bake something together. Invite another couple over to share your date night.
- Visit a free concert at a car show – downtown, at a high school, or in a park, this date night is popular during the summer in many cities
- Go to a matinee movie, “movie night in the park”, or have a double-date night with another couple at a drive-in movie
- Go to your local zoo – We haven’t lived in Houston for years, but the Houston Zoo used to be very inexpensive, due to corporate sponsors. They also had free days during the year.
- Libraries sometimes have drama night, where people will dress up and act out parts from a book. Another idea is a high school drama department play or show.
- “Taste of your city” – Local restaurants invade downtown and showcase their offerings.
- Groupon restaurant deal
- Volunteer in your community – the animal shelter, the nursing home, the hospital
- Take (or teach) a class at the library – art, beekeeping, dance, guitar
- Visit a local fair or circus (think Shriner’s, not Cirque du Soleil)
- Model clothing for each other at the mall… free date night, if you don’t buy anything
- Go shopping at a thrift shop or resale store – Goodwill, Salvation Army, ReStore, etc
- Do a home improvement project together – this date night could last several nights
- DIY decorations for your home – get an idea book at the library or look at Pinterest
- Visit a new neighborhood and look at model houses – get more ideas for your home improvement or decoration projects
- Have breakfast or lunch at a small diner or local “hole-in-the wall” café – ask the waitress what she recommends
- Eat at home, then go to a four-star restaurant… for dessert only 🙂
- Make dessert together, and invite another couple to bring ice cream
- Go meet the ice cream truck and buy ice cream for the neighborhood kids
- Use the $25 for gas and go on a day trip (just bring a lunch)
WHAT you do is less important than WHO you are doing it with. You are going on a date night to be together, as friends and lovers. Leave behind the distractions of work, bills, homework, business, yard work, and family responsibilities. Since your little ones aren’t there to be tugging on you, and your teens aren’t there to get grossed out… kiss, hold hands, look into each other’s eyes.
Most importantly, during date night, put away your phone. Focus on each other. Be present, be engaged, be in the moment of date night with the one you love.