You Can’t Afford Not to Date
Call us old, but Date Night is a non-negotiable. We even observed a date night while dating, since our busy schedules and separate residences didn’t allow for us to spend most evenings together. We still spend many evenings separately. Thus date night has always been sacred to us.
The Case for Dates
Budget for it as Entertainment, Dining, Date Night, or Marital Survival, but you can’t afford not to date your spouse or significant other, especially if you have children. After about 3-4 weeks without a date our communication stalls out. We start taking the others’ statements the wrong way. I start resenting that I can never finish a sentence at the dinner table. I start wondering if I need therapy, or we need marital counseling, or I need to read more parenting books. But then I remember I just need to get the heck out of my house, away from two-to four-year-olds, and have a fun time and a complete conversation with my husband once a month.
Dates won’t fix all your marriage problems, nor can dating alone ensure the success of a marriage or relationship. But surely never spending focused time together is not a recipe for a happy, healthy lifelong bond. Marriage counseling is expensive. Divorce is really expensive. By comparison, date night is a bargain.
Staying unified with your spouse is a powerful step toward working as a frugal team. Dating even renders the boring budget meeting dispensable for us. Quality time together is the perfect context for dreaming about financial and life goals while emotionally fueling your motivation to work toward them. Nothing will stall your progress like an unhappy marriage. You really can’t afford not to date!
Is Dating Expensive?
Our early dating ranged from expensive theater tickets to cooking dinner together in the dilapidated house Neil rented with up to 12 other guys. Now with kids we aim to get out once a month. I was indignant the first time Neil questioned our $50 per month dating allowance. That time means so much to me and to our relationship, I’d pay just about anything for it. But saying something is valuable doesn’t mean it has to cost a lot, an important tenet of pretending to be poor.
While I don’t find Taco Bell to be a romantic venue, we have found cheaper ways to enjoy our time out without feeling deprived. Zero entertainment spending isn’t a possibility for most parents. Instead we do our best to find volunteer babysitting (thanks to our moms & friends) when possible. Often we swap babysitting with our friends. It’s quite the endeavor with five kids aged seven & under between 2 families, but well worth it. When these resources are exhausted we are happy to hire one of the qualified teenagers we know.
The days of relaxing and connecting by eating leftovers & watching movies at home ended shortly after the birth of our first child. We always buy food when we’re out. If we had to eat dinner at home before leaving, we’d never get out the door. Plus, I produce about 87 homemade meals per month. I need a night off. And I bet you do, too.
How to Be a Cheap Date
Some thrifty date ideas we’ve implemented:
- Split an entrée.
- Go to Taco Bell, Chipotle, Chick Fil A, or buy prepared grocery store foods.
- Use a gift card or coupon.
- Split a fancy coffee beverage.
- A grocery store chain in our region has nice cafe areas where we can chill while splitting ice cream or snack for about $3.
- For more ideas, see Going Out Without Going Broke.
Some free after-dinner activities:
- Peruse a thrift store, library, or book store together.
- Go for a hike or walk in a park.
- Ride bikes.
- Go to a free outdoor concert or festival.
- Walk through a plant nursery.
Neil’s taken me on a lot of awesome dates by scoring free or cheap tickets to things like:
- Professional sports games.
- Professional orchestra tickets (redeeming himself after sports game).
- Boat rides.
- Art museums.
- Performances at a university.
Keep an ear out for free events, concerts, and museum nights in your area and you’re bound to find something to do. We have a somewhat harder time finding frugal diversion during the winter, but we can always chat over coffee or ice cream, laugh at the random stuff in the thrift store, or fantasize over travel guides in the book store.
Dating is about connection, not consumption. Once you have kids you need somewhere to go connect. It’s about conversation, which is universally tied to sharing a meal. It’s about common experience; do something outside your routine. It doesn’t have to be sky-diving or horseback riding, but it probably shouldn’t be grocery shopping, either.
We also aim for one overnight getaway per year where we’re solely focused on spending time with one another. We usually get a free hotel room using Marriott Rewards card points. Pretending to Be Poor isn’t about being a tightwad; we’re happy to spend money on what we value while minimizing costs wherever reasonable.
Be generous toward your spouse. Invest in your marriage while keeping it affordable. Your husband or wife is worth it.
What are your favorite thrifty date ideas? Do you budget for alone time with your significant other?