5 Ways We Spend on Our Marriage

What’s one value that should absolutely make its way into your values-based spending plan? Your marriage (if you’re married, of course)! Let’s face it: the health of your marriage is very important, but it’s also easy to ignore.

People may avoid spending on these areas because they perceive that it will be very expensive. As with anything, you could use the label “value” to justify lots of ridiculous spending. No one needs to spend hundreds of dollars a month in order to prioritize marriage.

It’s true you can’t buy love, but don’t cheap out on your marriage. That’s like telling your spouse, “Honey, I love money more than I love you.”

Here are 5 ways we spend on our marriage, and three price-points that should satisfy anyone

1. An annual getaway.

Before having kids, we jaunted around the world when we wanted to and could hang out alone at home. Now we’re in full-time parenting mode and quality time has to be planned ahead–and away. So we escape alone together for a night or two once a year. If you can pull it off twice a year, even better!

We are very grateful to my mom for babysitting for the weekend of our 11th anniversary this year. Getting an overnight sitter isn’t the easiest task for some, but it’s worth the effort if at all possible. More on that below.

The $$$$ way: Dinner at the city’s fanciest steakhouse, tickets to the best show in town, and drinks at a posh bar afterward. Pay full-price for nice hotel. (Seriously, this is not a terrible way to spend your money once a year.)

The $$ way: Book free hotel with rewards points. Our weekend away included free entertainment like the beautiful city library and art museum (I’m a hopeless nerd). We spent on our favorite ethnic foods and incidentals like parking. We packed snacks and drinks for the hotel.

The broke way: Drop them off at sitters, head home, promise not to clean or fix anything, explore free entertainment in your town, prepare meals together, or inexpensive local dining.

2. Monthly dates.

Getting outside your home and spending time together really makes a difference when you’re in the thick of parenting or just the busyness of life.  It’s easy to be tempted to clean up, work on projects, or veg out in front of the TV. Netflix and take-out is a great way to relax, but in my experience, not always the best way to connect. Especially when dinner conversation consists of talking about Star Wars with a five-year-old. Again.

The $$$$ way: Fancy dinner and a movie (or other pricey entertainment) every time.

The $$ way: Moderate dinner, split an entrée, go to relatively inexpensive place like Chipotle or whatever you like. Neil maintains that our best dates have been at Taco Bell. We also like hiking, biking, or visiting parks or thrift stores. Sharing a common hobby or experience together is a great relationship- builder. Dating is about connection, not consumption.

The broke way: Get takeout during lunch specials, and reheat after kids the kids are in bed. Turn off the TV, hide your phones, light a candle, pour a glass of box wine, and try to stay awake. Or go out for ice cream, coffee, or a walk.

3. Babysitting

#1 and #2 may require another expense: babysitters. We realize not everyone is as fortunate as we are in this department. But there are plenty of options for finding a sitter, and worth the effort to find one. A good babysitter is an invaluable asset for your family.

If you don’t know anyone who can watch your kids, I’d suggest trying to forge a relationship with someone who can. Think neighbors, friends, local high school or college students, people from church, or resources like Care.com.  And if the cost is a concern, I’d recommend looking for other areas to cut back in to allow for some childcare spending.

The $$$$ way: If you don’t know anyone, you can hire from Care.com or a similar website.

The $$ way: We hire a sitter for our weekly home church, and events or dates when our parents or friends aren’t available.

The broke way: We also swap babysitting with other families, and ask friends and family members.

4. Appearance

I’m not a made-up kind of girl, but I do occasionally purchase new clothing or makeup to look nice for my husband. This is an area where you need to “know thyself.” If you live in yoga pants and haven’t showered in three days (moms represent!), maybe you could allocate $20 for sprucing up for your next outing. If you have a history of over-spending in this area, mix it up with what you already have.

In short, I try not to look like complete hell all the time, just to save money.

The $$$$ way: Buy a new outfit for every event. (NEVER!)

The $$ way: Occasional thrift store or clearance chic for a special occasion, or update “date night shirt”.

The broke way: Borrow clothes from a same-size friend or family member. Or ask a talented friend to do your make-up or hair for your next date.

5. Gifts

Some people don’t exchange gifts with their spouse because they are frugal. We choose to buy gifts for one another, because we are frugal. We often delay purchases and ask for the item as a gift. Or surprise each other with something we noticed the other could use. After 14 years together, we are way past any danger of trying to buy each other’s love. But gifts can be a thoughtful way to express love, and some people feel particularly loved this way. If your spouse is one of them, please give them gifts!

The $$$$ way: Pricey gifts for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Anniversary, MLK Day (j/k).

The $$ way: Modest gifts for Christmas & birthdays.

The broke way: Skip the gifts to save money. Craft them something, make a special dinner, or write a heartfelt card.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Neil went all out for me this Christmas. I’m typing this on a new laptop! In addition to its killer specs, it has amazing features such as being able to close the screen, having all the keys connected to the keyboard, and not crashing if you don’t put it in sleep mode. Thanks Neil!

How do you spend on your significant other? Where do you tend to fall on the broke-to-$$$$ spectrum?

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23 Responses to “5 Ways We Spend on Our Marriage”

  1. Tonya says :

    I’ve never been married abut I imagine you have to work pretty hard at maintaining the ahem, “romance,” but you’re right, it doesn’t, or shouldn’t break the bank!

    • Kalie says :

      Yes, I’m sure all relationships, married or not, experience a point when it starts a take a little more conscious effort.

  2. Amanda says :

    Love this, Kalie! I second spending a little money for some one-on-one time with your spouse. Even though our kids are older and we have more time, when we’re home we tend to work on projects (or laundry and dishes). Getting out of the house together gives us more focus – in nice weather, we like to hike. We also like going out for breakfast – it’s cheaper and I love to linger over a couple of cups of good coffee. But you did remind me – we haven’t had a night away in a couple of years…I think it’s time for that to change!

  3. Connie says :

    My husband and I live about 80 miles from a major shopping area. On a few occasions in the past year when we went there to shop we would stay overnight at a decent, inexpensive motel. We would either book ahead or use our points. Because the rates were more reasonable during the week than on the weekend, we would opt to do that. The motel has an indoor swimming pool so we would usually try to get a swim in at night and in the morning to combine some recreation with the outing. By combining a retreat with shopping we didn’t feel as exhausted as we would have doing everything in one day.

    • Kalie says :

      What a great way to combine purposes and make your big shopping trip more relaxing and enjoyable. Swimming sounds fun!

  4. FullTimeFinance says :

    If we didn’t take some one on one time away from the kids every so often it’d drive us both nuts. The reality is a divorce or an institution are way more expensive then a dinner out with a baby sitter. But I digress. We do a couples dinner about every other week and when we go on vacation we plan at least one day without the kids. That seems to be just right, not to expensive but keeps us happy together.

    • Kalie says :

      Yes, I do start to go crazy if we don’t get some time alone. Sometimes we miss a month or two because of busy schedules and I am really at the end of my rope by then. That’s great you’re able to get some grown-up time regularly.

  5. DC YAM says :

    My wife and I – and really my wife more so than me – have extremely busy schedules. She goes to school (literally) year-round except for August, all while working a full-time job. It’s impressive what she’s able to accomplish with the same 24 hours that we all have. Because we generally both go hard until we are burnt out, we try to book a fun trip each Summer to get away. We do travel hack but you can’t get everything for free (at least we can’t with hotels) so we save some money but the money we do spend is well worth it.

    Babysitting will definitely be in the budget when we have kids. For now we are trying to not take the lack of baby costs for granted!

    • Kalie says :

      Wow, your wife does sound busy! That’s a good idea to plan a fun trip in the summer and get a break. I think most travel hackers will admit there are always some expenses when you travel. But anything you don’t have to pay for is great.

  6. Brian says :

    We spend less and less over the years on each other. Making a home cooked meal for one another and watching a movie at home is a perfectly good way to spend time together. We do have one tradition that still stands. We go out to dinner for our anniversary each year. We typically go to a higher end restaurant. Our three are old enough to babysit themselves now. 🙂

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks for weighing is as a parent of older kids. We had lots of at-home “dates” before kids and I wouldn’t mind that making a comeback when they’re older. I think as long as both people can focus on each other, it’s a nice way to spend time together. And I love your anniversary dinner tradition!

  7. ChooseBetterLife says :

    We don’t have kids so in theory every night could be date night. . . But like exploring sites in the town where you live, it always seems like there’should no urgency so it’should easy to keep putting it off. We have to make a conscious effort to shut off the screens and spend more quality time together.

    • Kalie says :

      I think there’s value to spending time apart and doing your own thing, so long as you also make a point to get some quality time! And I agree, the local attractions never feel urgent and it’s usually easier to stay in. If there is something local we want to do we have to put it on our calendar.

  8. Josh says :

    It depends what’s going on in the month but we usually very between the Broke and $$ way.

    This Christmas was the $$$$ way for our date as we went to the Symphony Christmas Show and a sit-down meal. It might have only cost $100 total, but, its notably more than what we shell out the rest of the year.

    Usually when my wife & I are alone, we will go out somewhere and spend no more than $30 for food and other shopping/entertainments expenses.

  9. Fruclassity (Ruth) says :

    We used to be more the $$$$ types. When I turned 30, my husband took me to a 5 star restaurant in a limo. Our kids love that, but I cringe at the thought! What were we doing?! For our last few anniversaries, we’ve gone for an overnight camping trip : ) I’m much more proud of that. But in both cases, we were putting our money where our relationship was – and I’m with you in not ignoring that kind of investment.

    • Kalie says :

      At least it’s a fun family story, even if you have some regrets. I love the idea of a camping getaway. We need to stop celebrating near our actual anniversary in January. It was 15 degrees F during our getaway this year and hard to go anywhere!

  10. Francesca - From Pennies to Pounds says :

    Love how you allocate money for important parts of your relationship 🙂 sounds like you are doing a great job! My husband and I aren’t so good at that, ha.

  11. Mustard Seed Money says :

    We definitely tend to spend more money on trips together than we do on gifts to each other. We’re really lucky that our families are so close that we have built in baby sitters whenever we want to go out. But for the most part we’re pretty low key and like to spend time taking walks and playing board games together 🙂

    • Kalie says :

      That’s wonderful that you have family nearby who are willing to babysit. And also nice that you can spend low-key quality time together regularly.

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