Sometimes, your perfect date night idea can’t happen. But that doesn’t mean you skip the date.
They sat on the storm surge wall, legs dangling toward the foaming water. Ben glanced over at Kara. What was she thinking?
He hated that he couldn’t take her to a nice restaurant. Instead, they grabbed a bagel and coffee at the little shop near the beach and walked out here.
She’d been quiet tonight. Was she upset? Taking another quick glance at her, Ben ventured, “Are you okay? I know this isn’t much of a date, but I haven’t had many hours at work what with my school schedule and all…”
Ben’s word drifted away on the gentle breeze as Kara turned toward him, a quiet smile lighting up her eyes.
“Ben, this is perfect. I’ve had such a busy day today with back-to-back classes, work, and soccer practice. I was just thinking that this was exactly what I needed. The feel of the wind on my face, the sound of the waves breaking on the shore, and even the slight spray from the waves. It’s absolutely perfect. Thank you.”
And with those words, she leaned closer to Ben. He tenderly put an arm around her, leaned in to place a kiss on her head, and breathed a quiet prayer of thanks for this girl who loved simplicity.
There’s a time for full-on fancy restaurant and flowers dates. But, what about those times when money is tight, yet you and your spouse need a date? What do you do then?
I’ve been there. Many times. And truth be told, most of my favorite dates involved something like a bagel and coffee (well, tea for me ?), a walk on the beach or in the park, and quiet conversation.
When you have kids, by the time you add in the cost of a babysitter, sometimes a fancy date night isn’t possible. Then there are the times when you’ve planned the date, hired the babysitter, and a few hours before you are to leave, you get a call that the babysitter is sick. Now it’s too late to get someone else, including any relatives. What do you do then?
Here are some date night ideas that cost little to nothing:
- Do a creative home project. Working together to fix up your home can be great fun. Especially if you allow yourself to be silly. Relax. Paint a room in your underwear or nothing at all. Makes clean up easier. Also might spark something else. ?
- Play a game together. Unleash your competitive juices and challenge each other to a game. Board games like Sequence, Aggravation, or MadGab will get you laughing. Have fun.
- Sing to your favorite high school tunes. Go ahead. Crank the music and sing along. When the memories roll over you, talk about them. Reminisce about the “good ole days.”
- Attend a concert in the park. Take the kids with you if you like. Make a picnic dinner. Grab the blankets, jackets, and drinks. As the evening wears on, if the kids fall asleep, you can snuggle together on the blanket under the stars while enjoying great music.
- In-Home fancy dinner. Preferably in your bedroom. Make the kids a simple dinner they love and put them to bed. Then, serve your special dinner in your bedroom. Use a card table, a blanket on the floor, or your bed as the table. Make it fun and romantic. Lots of candles. Open a bottle of wine if you like. Lock the door and let the evening progress naturally.
- Find a new view. Take a drive to someplace close and explore the view from a high vantage point. Take the kids or get a babysitter. It’s up to you. Do this in the afternoon (the kids can nap in the car) or in the evening when you can see the lights. Maybe a late afternoon with a picnic dinner so you can watch the setting sun together.
- Eat ice cream. For dinner. Go ahead. You’ll enjoy every bite.
- Create a scavenger hunt for your spouse. You decide what the prize is. But have fun using inside jokes and memories for clues.
- Visit a farmer’s market or street fair. Find the samples and try something new. Pick up some fresh veggies and then create dinner from what you found. We call this Farmer’s Market Dinner, and it’s never the same. It is a family favorite in our house.
- Go bowling. Bumper lanes are up to you. Just do it. Great exercise and a good laugh, unless you are an avid bowler (I’m not). Invite some friends if you’d like. Play as few or as many games as you’d like. Mix it up and go midnight bowling.
- Take a hike. Explore a new area nearby or follow a favorite path. Great exercise. Plus, the opportunity to talk is a bonus.
- Practice cloud gazing. Lay in the grass or on a blanket in the grass if you prefer. Look up at the clouds and tell each other what you see. Be a kid. Laugh and let your imagination run wild.
- Go skating. Roller or ice, you decide. Either is great exercise. And skating hand-in-hand is romantic. If you can find an outdoor ice rink, even better. Make sure you top off the adventure with some hot chocolate and cookies.
- Be a tourist in your hometown. There’s always something we don’t see in our hometown. Visit one of the places you tell your friends to visit when they come into town. Look at where you live with fresh eyes.
- Go shopping together. Pick out some clothes for your spouse. The only rule? You have to try on what the other one picks out. You might surprise each other with how well you know what looks good on the other.
- Run through the sprinklers. Chase the kids. Chase each other. Fully clothed or swimsuits. Doesn’t matter. Splash. Get soaking wet. Cool off on a hot day. Then follow up the fun with a picnic or some popsicles or ice cream.
- Check out the local talent. This could be a comedy club, an open mic night, or local band competitions. Check your local listings.
- Create a triathlon. Activities can vary. Be creative and the sillier, the better. Some ideas could be jump roping, a video game competition, and popcorn eating. Use your imagination to come up with competition ideas. Make sure there’s a grand prize for the winner.
- Exercise together. What do you like to do that your spouse also enjoys? Mix it up. Even if you aren’t doing the same exercises, do them in the same vicinity. Give words of encouragement to keep going. Tell your spouse how thankful you are that they continue to take care of their body. If your spouse is just starting an exercise routine, find ways to encourage them in their progress.
- Discover a new hobby. Are you both interested in photography? Painting or other art classes? Woodworking? Baking? Cooking? Explore it and learn about it together.
- Check out a bookstore. Wander the aisles. Look for a new book you are both interested in reading. Find a new genre to explore. Then grab a beverage and talk about why you picked that book.
- Sit in front of a fire. There’s something magical about sitting in front of a fire. Turn off the other lights. Grab a beverage of choice. Talk to each other about whatever comes to mind. Remember special moments from the past. Snuggle. As the embers die out, keep the lights off and go where the mood takes you.
- Visit a museum. Watch for periodic free or discount admission days and take advantage of them. Wander. Take your time to explore the various rooms. Talk about what catches your eye and why. Hold hands. Saunter.
- Play the Penny Arcade. A town near ours has an old Arcade building. Each game costs little to play. Some of the old favorites are there like Skee ball. Challenge each other to several games. Then grab a treat nearby and explore the town.
- Host a game night. Invite some friends over to play table games. Pop the popcorn, ask your friends to bring their favorite snack food or beverage, and enjoy some lively competition. Start this with two to four couples at the most. Paper plates, cups, and napkins make clean up a breeze.
- Attend a high school game. Pick your favorite sport and find a local game. Include some concessions if you want. The pep club will be thrilled with your support.
- Have a movie night. Decide ahead of time what movie genre. Then, put the kids to bed, pop some popcorn or grab some other movie snacks, add some beverages of choice, find a cozy afghan, turn the lights down or off, and snuggle together while watching the movie.
- Create a themed food night. This Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day. Plan a party around a green color scheme. A friend of mine used to do this regularly. Sometimes just for her family, other times she’d invite friends as well. It was always fun to see the creative ways she incorporated the color scheme into the food. Green potatoes anyone? J
- Dream night. When life gets busy, one thing we often forget to do is dream. Set aside a night once a quarter to talk about your dreams. This can be over a candlelit dinner, coffee or tea, cookies and milk, or no food at all. The whole purpose of this night is to resurrect old dreams and open your eyes to new dreams. What would you do if money wasn’t a problem? Dream big, extraordinarily big. The only restriction: no shooting down any dream. You might just find something brilliant and life-changing in one of those dreams.
Whether you have kids or it’s just the two of you, it is important to continue dating.
On those occasions when you want to spend a little more, you’ll find several options. But, don’t stop dating because of expense. I’m sure you can come up with many more low or no-cost ideas than these to keep the spark alive.
Playing together is important. It helps us remember what attracted us to the other in the first place.
Oh, one more thing. Date conversation does not include the kids, your parents, work, or anything like that. There are several conversation starter apps if you need help finding new topics. Check them out.
This week, plan a date night to surprise your spouse. Would you take two minutes to share a couple of your great ideas with us in the comments below? Thanks.
If you need help, please reach out. I promise to listen without judgment and help you take the next step.