The flowers, the dinners out, the concerts, the movie tickets, the lattes, and maybe a new outfit to make *just* the right impression . . . the modern date night often brings with high expectations not to mention high ticket (even if you choose to go dutch). Why we’ve so inextricably linked getting to know someone and then eventually romance with exorbitant spending perplexes me. While the Hollywood appeal of being swept off my feet by a tall and handsome suited up fella strikes a certain sentimental cord, no one can afford that sort of affair every. single. weekend.
And maybe even if we ever get to the point where we’re rolling in the dough and can afford regular high dollar date nights, we should ask ourselves the question of whether or not it’s the best way to spend the money we’re given to manage. Speaking from experience, our evenings out look much different after having paid off $127K in debt. Yes, we can afford to spend more, but rarely do we choose to do so. Slogging through years of learning how to give, save, and spend well while also paying back what we owed taught my husband Brian and I that the simplest of pleasures are the best, a principle that is certainly transferable when we choose to spend time together.
Hit the Trail
Look, nothing adds a layer of dimension of intimacy to your relationship like learning to sweat together. This crucial step in a relationship falls somewhere after exchanging pleasantries for the first time but still on this side of passing gas or belching in front of one another. I’ve always argued that while a first kiss ranks high in memorable moments, no one forgets the painful memory of passing wind on a date. I digress. Find a trail to hike together this weekend. Exercising and exploring the great outdoors together is a great way to get to know one another or deepen an already existing relationship. Not sure where to roam? Ask your friends for input. Pack a few snacks and plenty of water. Make sure your phone is charged. And then get lost (metaphorically, not literally).
Check Out Community Concerts
During the warmer spring and summer months, communities fill their outdoor amphitheaters with local talent. While the performers may not ever make it out of your metro district, the shows often provide a fun date night without the sticker shock. And even if the show doesn’t satisfy all of your musical longings, it’s still great to support an artist with a dream. Search your city or town’s website for a community calendar. News stations also often have an area like this on their website, too. You may even want to check out the local Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Many detail free events going on in your area.
Host a Game Night
When was the last time you participated in a mean game of Spoons (how is it I end up injured every time I play?!) or displayed your superior Just Dance skills? Why not make it a double or triple date and gather together some friends to play games. Have a specific plan in mind or the evening will turn into a never ending, always repeating “What do you want to do?” “I don’t care; what do you want to do?” Pop some popcorn and spend the evening having fun and trying not to take yourself too seriously.
Establish an Epic Movie Marathon
While the latest and greatest of blockbusters might be typical date night fodder, you want to show that special someone you are anything but typical. Why not relive an epic movie together? Whether you’ve seen LOTR a million times and still love it or somehow missed the cultural phenomenon that is Star Wars (WHAT?!), choose a series to watch in order together. Raid the refrigerator to prepare some snacks, dim the lights, and let the hours slip away in your cinematic favorites. Bonus points for those who put a unique spin on this experience by turning an iPhone into a projector and screening films on a sheet outside.
See the Sights
No matter where you live, there are likely to be landmarks and well noted scenes in your community. Create a list of 5-10 places you’d like to visit together. Read the historical marker signs and learn a little something. And of course, snap a quick photo or three to record the night’s escapade. Don’t know where to begin? Do a quick Internet search to look for historical sites near you. From that weird billboard that’s always been there to the statue you’ve always wanted to know more about, adventure is out there. And adventure is free.
Rather than focusing on yourself, find a local organization or individual who needs your skill set and free hours. Serving together creates a habit of realizing that the world doesn’t revolve around us, as individuals or as a couple. If at all possible, skip making this a random date night and make it a regular part of spending time together. Making a difference matters and when you can make a difference and spend time together, your relationship hits a sweet spot. Don’t know where to begin? Ask around and think outside of the box. From clearing out an elderly neighbor or friend’s flower beds to watching a single mom’s kids so that she can get an hour or two for herself, there’s plenty you can do to change the world on a date night.
I’m not a complete killjoy. There’s a time and a place (if you have the money to afford it) for a fabulous dinner or the more traditional date night. But let’s not fool ourselves. No matter how many times the Chainsmokers chant “we ain’t ever getting older,” we are. We need to be smart with our money and smart with our romance.
Sidebar: could a song be any more financially irresponsible and how exactly do you pull off stealing a mattress anyway?
You can build a relationship without dropping wads of cash and you can get to know someone without traveling the conventional path of spending money. While it may take a little more ingenuity, you’re likely to create memories for a lifetime and far fewer problems for your bank account.
My book is now available: Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After. You can also check out The Debt Free Devotional on Kindle.
This post contains an affiliate link. That means when you get a great deal or maybe even something for free, you also help our family pay off our mortgage early. And for that, we royally thank you!