Date Nights: Fun & Frugal Ideas


Although I am not a relationship expert and don’t play one on TV, I have been dating the same man since 1996 (married since 1999).  And I intend to date this man until we are old and grey, over-the-hill and can hardly manage to get up from our easy chairs. To this day, he’s still the one that makes my heart flutter and my emotions soar from one extreme to the other. Just keeping it real, people!  After all, we are human!

Although our relationship has endured numerous changes, various seasons and major transitions, one thing remains constant: the importance of spending real time with one another (quality and quantity) in order to nurture and grow this sacred relationship.  To this very day, it remains a priority for both of us. (Seriously, we are going on a date this very evening!)

When we were dating, we determined work-related functions were not, and never will be, considered a date. If it’s a work-event, one of us will be performing a job not investing in or focusing on the other person. Then, after getting married and having kids, we realized how much babysitting costs. Therefore, we decided if we were going to spend the money on childcare, it was gonna be for a bona fide date.

From the start of our marriage, we made a point to continue pursuing one another,  going on dates, etc.  Over the years, our definition of what constitues a date changed. We realized that a date was any time spent together, which drew us closer to one another. No longer was date night relegated to dinner and a movie or, for that matter, even leaving the house. Instead, it was about finding any and all creative ways and means to invest in and nurture this significant relationship without breaking the bank.

Folks, marriage takes work! And we signed up for a long-term investment and return. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part. He’s stuck with me! Poor thing! So, we’ve determined to make it fun and fabulous! Over the years, my husband and I have come up with some creative ideas for fun and frugal dates. Check ’em out!

1. Coffee Talk

Our very first date was at a coffee shop, and we continue to enjoy coffee dates.    Now, whenever our kids have a class or activity that involves both of them, we do our best to arrange our work schedules to be off at the same time. Even if it’s just for an hour, it’s nice to have some uninterrupted adult conversation.

Several years ago, we saved up and purchased a swanky espresso maker. Hands-down, it was one of the best investments. Yep, it was significant moola on the frontend, but in six months it paid for itself.  (We used it so much it died, and were surprised to receive another one for Christmas.)  In the comfort of our own home, we can create all sorts of coffee creations, and have a date without leaving our humble abode.

2. Dinner and a movie

This used to be the typical date night for us, especially pre-kids when both of us worked full-time and funds were flowing freely. Now, we enjoy eating a nice candlelit dinner at home. Since I love to cook,  we splurge on fabulous ingredients for our dinner and rent a movie from Red Box (Seriously, a dollar for a movie! Come on folks, little investment for serious returns!)  

Sometimes, we wait until the kids have gone to bed. Other times, we plop the kids in front of a kid-friendly movie downstairs, while we enjoy a movie upstairs.  Of course, the dishes still have to be washed, but our kids have  inherited that responsibility! See, being an adult isn’t all bad! 🙂

2. Let’s Get Physical

Get your mind out of the gutter! Although that is a free and frugal date option, if you are married, it’s not what I am talking about at all. Head outdoors. Take a hike. Go for a walk or jog. Now that our kids are older, we leave them for a few minutes and take a walk up our cul-de-sac. When they were younger, we’d pile them into the wagon, bundle them in layers in the wintertime, and walk around the block. A few years ago, we joined the YMCA.  The membership provides two hours of child-watching. Folks, let me tell ya, that’s a serious commodity. Workout for an hour, then enjoy a cup of tea/coffee and adult conversation. Score!

3. The S’more the Better

When we lived in Denver, we purchased a fire pit, which was another great investment. During that season, our kids went to bed super-early (6:30/7PM). You can better believe we took advantage of those glorious evening hours. We kept a box filled with S’mores supplies. After the kids were down and out, we’d light the fire, snuggle on the porch swing, and enjoy a few moments together. This tradition continues to this day, minus the porch swing that got left in Denver! 🙂

4. Fun in the Sun

Especially since we live in the Pacific Northwest, if it’s a sunny day, you’ll find us outside. Sometimes, we might work in the yard, relax on our deck, go on a bike ride, or take a nap on the trampoline.  Remember the YMCA membership? It includes the option of checking the kids in while we enjoy a walk/ride around the lake. Huge membership perk! On other gorgeous days in this area of the country, we love driving into Seattle, walking around the Market and taking a ferry ride.

5. Road Trips

From the beginning of our relationship, we have enjoyed road trips. One of mine and Jon’s first (parent-approved) road trips was a non-stop drive from Louisiana to Southern California. Yes, non-stop. Well, other than the necessary pitstops.  I accepted a new job in Southern California, so Jon flew from Seattle to Louisiana and drove me and all my earthly possessions to my new home. He earned significant brownie points with my dad!

Although gas is no longer cheap, we still love taking day trips. To make the trip cost-effective, we pack a thermos of coffee, snacks and a picnic lunch. Most often, our kids come with us, so we make sure to have audio books. They are entertained by the story, and we get to have an actual conversation while we drive along the back roads or through the city.

On your road trips, pretend you are tourists: take pictures, read the historical markers and make many memories. Don’t forget the tunes. Road trips need good music. There’s nothing like rolling down the windows and cranking up the music.

6. Park-ing

Again, NOT what you think. Although that’s fun, even for old married couples! Since many of our dates involve our kids, we have discovered several area parks from Bellingham to Tacoma and many towns in between that have great playgrounds.  Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a few hours. While the kids play, we enjoy catching up.  You just might find us reliving our childhoods. I mean, come on, don’t you still like to slide or swing? No! Well, you should try it. You’re never too old or too cool.

7. Study Dates

Now some would say this isn’t a date, but remember dates are anything that brings husband and wife closer together. For us, this does. It all started a few years ago, when we were both enrolled in doctoral programs and working. Date nights were cherished. So, we made the most of a busy season, and realized it was quite enjoyable to engage with one another in this way.

Currently, we are both taking classes with books  to read and papers to write.  Bouncing ideas off of one another is mutually beneficial. Not to mention, we find it gets the creative juices flowing. Plus, it makes the mundane tasks more enjoyable. And I quite enjoy gazing across the table at such a handsome man, especially when he’s deep in thought! 🙂

8. Power Shower:

This one will make my Southern grandmother blush, but sometimes you gotta get creative! Plus, my husband insisted I include this one! You may laugh, but we have some serious discussions in the shower.  Our kids enjoy screen time, which is a big deal in our home, and the parents get 15 -20 minutes of uninterrupted talk time. Plus, I mean, come on, we enjoy a few smooches, too! You gotta shower. You gotta pay for the water. And when you have kids, you gotta be creative!

So, get creative and invest in your marriage! A date doesn’t have to break the bank to reap big returns! Now, please excuse me while I go and get ready for my date! 🙂

So what about you? Do you make date nights a priority?
Have some fun and frugal ideas you can share?


2 responses to “Date Nights: Fun & Frugal Ideas

  1. Betty Jo Leuallen

    Brandon and I work together on Saturday nights. We have a 4 hour drive round trip and it’s the best talk time. Brandon works so much that we were having trouble finding the time to be together. One thing we have learned is, because we are virtually opposite in every way except our morals and values, if we don’t spend regular time together, we grow apart very quickly. So we now leave Elie Jo with my parents and spend Saturday nights together. I like how this fits into your idea that a date is anything that brings the two of you together. 🙂

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