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Romance on a Budget: Is it possible?

Couple Mulsanne
photo by Mulsanne

Danelle Ice from Homemaker Barbi emailed me with a few thoughts on romance on a budget:

One of the most common topics in arguments between couples is money. Worrying about having enough money to care for your family’s needs can put a huge burden on your shoulders, and that financial burden leads to enormous stress.

Focusing on the stress of finances can oftentimes knock relationship priorities off the top of the list. We have to remember that our marriages are the cornerstone of our frugal families. If we fail to take care of our relationships, then all the frugalness in the world won’t matter anymore.

It makes sense then that frugal couples need to be mindful of the state of their marriages and the quality of their time together. Always make sure that time for romance and your relationship are a top priority, no matter what is going on in your budget!

You have the power to foster love and rekindle the romance in your marriage right now, and it doesn’t take a lot of money to make that happen. I believe that husband and wife date nights are a great way to stay connected. You can keep romance alive on a small budget, or even no budget, when you focus on the things that really make your spouse feel loved, valued, and appreciated.

Plan fun things to do together such as an indoor picnic or an at-home romantic dinner for two. Or what about taking an evening stroll holding hands and talking about your day?

If you have little ones and you can't seem to find the time to really talk but you also can't afford a babysitter, you might consider going on a romantic nighttime drive. This is a date even the kids will like (before they fall asleep, that is)! Have the kids get dressed in their jammies and bring their pillows and blankies into the car. Go for a nighttime drive (the kids will fall asleep) together to talk about non-kid topics. Load up your favorite romantic music or even “your song”, and drive to a scenic lookout point where you can see the city and stare out at the stars together.

You don’t need to have a special occasion to make plans for a romantic date with your husband or wife. Keeping regular free and cheap dates on your weekly schedule serves to strengthen your relationship and keep your intimacy strong in a fun way. Spending time together doesn't have to cost a lot, just use your imagination and you can keep your romance alive on a budget!

–Problogger Danelle Barbi Ice is the editor of Homemaker Barbi an online Home and How-To magazine specializing in homemaking, frugal living, printable checklists, and more.

What are your ideas for keeping romance alive on a limited budget? I'd love to hear!

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  • Davonne says:

    Our church recently began a “Parent’s Night Out.” Here’s how it works – each parent signs up to host (at the church building) one month, and all the other parents bring their kids to the church building. This occurs one Friday night a month from 6-10 PM. So, the parents all babysit one night, then they get about a full year of free monthly dates!

  • Christie says:

    My husband and I have three small children. He goes to work a little earlier than most dads, so we try to take advantage of the early morning hours before the kids are up. While he is getting ready for work, I make a pot of coffee and get our Bibles ready. Even if we are only able to get 15 minutes of time in the Word and a short prayer time together, this time still bonds us intimately in a way that all the romance in the world never could. When we are faithful to center our relationship on the Lord, the romance often takes care of itself.

  • annette says:

    once a week we crawl into our bed and watch a show on Hulu on my husbands lap top. we don’t have TV in our home so a once a week FREE show is a treat. and we get some alone time just to be together

  • Mrs. Q says:

    What a great idea about nighttime drives! Never thought about that one before 🙂

  • Tracy says:

    I just posted about a frugal date my husband and I had on my blog

    We took a coupon for a free portrait package and spent an hour just the two of us and a photographer taking fun pictures just like we had when we had gotten engaged. It was hard to stick with just ordering the package from the coupon, but we did it. We spent $5.35 for an hour long photoshoot — had a great time, and felt like newliweds without kids again.

  • make6306 says:

    My husband and I love to blow up our air mattress in the middle of the living room and make totally unhealty nachos every once and a while and watch a special sporting event (like a championship game or great rivalry game) on TV. It’s cheap and fun! 🙂

  • pope crunch says:

    Many communities have free events that make good ‘dates’, and many of those are kid-OK if not outright designed to be kid-friendly. For instance, the next town over from where I live has ‘Date Night’ every other week on Saturdays, where they project a movie on the back of the town office (which is huge, it’s a decent sized city) and give away lemonade and popcorn. Summers are great for this, parks and recreation departments almost always have SOMETHING going on for free or cheap, be it a summer concert series or a twilight nature walk.

  • Danika says:

    We have made it a goal to have a weekly date. Some weeks we go out and hire a babysitter, but if we don’t have any particular destination (or money for a babysitter) we have an “in-house” date – just talking, watching a movie together, eating dessert, etc. Sometimes we get so distracted by everything (sports, internet, blogging, chores) it’s hard to make/take time, but I always feel happier and more refreshed after a few hours just focused my husband.

  • Amiyrah says:

    Take advantage of bedtime!

    The kids gotta go to sleep sometime, and the earlier you make it, the sooner you and your honey can relax and spend time together. We reserve “dessert time” just for us most of the time. After dinner, we get our son ready for bed and once he’s asleep, mom and dad have dessert at the table.

    Also, depending on how much time we have between the time our son goes to sleep and our bedtime, we may even get to watch a movie or show together.

  • Heather says:

    My husband and I trade babysitting with another couple. One week they watch our little ones, the next week we watch theirs, so each couple gets a date night every couple of weeks. Even if we just run errands together or go for a drive, we enjoy the time together just the two of us. And we don’t have to pay for the babysitting!

  • Lynette says:

    When my kids were little we shared this idea with a neighbor. She would have my kids over for late afternoon, dinner, up until bed time. When my husband came home, I was showered, clean house, dinner ready. We could have a nice lesiurely, quiet, dinner and share time together without the kids until bedtime. Very nice. Then the next time, it would be my friend’s turn to dine with her husband! Cheap, fun, different and very enjoyable. Usually, it would be a kinda last minute idea and a fun surprise for my husband!

  • Kristina says:

    We love going to our local State Park and walking the trails. We put our two youngest in strollers and my three year old walks with us. It is so fun. We talk, laugh and enjoy the feel of the sun on our shoulders and wind through our hair. I also always feel closer to God when surrounded by nature. At the end of one of the trails is a small lake and an two observation shacks where our kids can look through telescopes at the ducks (when they are there). The kids have fun and my husband and I do to and we reconnect. Plus sometimes it helps the kids get their energy out and they go to sleep earlier which leaves us with time alone.

  • Rachele says:

    My husband and I send each other love letters via email while he’s at work at least a couple of times a week. It makes a big difference in my day, since having a spouse on the night shift can get lonely, and it helps us stay connected day to day, when we might otherwise miss so much of each others lives on opposing schedules.

  • Dawn says:

    We used the free redbox rental code to get a free movie last night after the kids were asleep. My husband works at a college and we often get college students to watch our kids and pay them with baked goods.=)

  • Sarah says:

    My husband works night shift and he works 16 hour shifts on the weekends. His day off is Tuesday, so needless to say, there isn’t much going on in town. So we usually, get a redbox movie and wait until the baby’s sleeping. We will light the tiki torches and sit on the back porch and listen to music and dance under the stars and then come in and watch the movie. It’s nice.

  • Melissa S. says:

    We do Redbox and a bowl of popcorn. 🙂 Total cost=$2 tops

    If we’re behind on our favorite shows, we’ll watch on Hulu.

    I’ve even been known to surprise hubby with a candlelite dinner after everyone else is in bed. 🙂

  • ADollarSaved says:

    Although nights out can be fun and romantic, nights IN can be just as romantic – even more romantic – at the fraction of the cost.

  • @Davonne: I love the idea of your church’s parent date night! What a great way to keep spouse time available all year long.

    Danelle Ice / Homemaker Barbi

  • @Amiyrah: I’m also a big believer in early bedtimes. It’s important for parents to have adult time together without the kids regularly. It’s even possible with older kids- they can have extra quiet time for reading in bed or other individual relaxing activity in their room before lights out. Everyone wins!

    Danelle Ice / Homemaker Barbi

  • @Rachele: Using the computer for little love notes is such a nice way to show affection while apart during the day! Even a little tweet here and there to your hubby (my hubby tweets me sometimes) can be a special surprise that is absolutely free! Thanks for sharing about your date night tip!

    Danelle Ice / Homemaker Barbi

  • We love to go out for ice cream, eat a picnic in the park, take the dogs for a walk, those kind of “frugal” things for our date nights.

    Thanks for the fun article.

  • leah says:

    We trade babysitting every other week with another family each Thursday night from 6-8pm. We picked a night during the week when most likely both couples will be in town. We each get two dates per month… it is wonderful!

  • Andrea says:

    My boys love their daddy…which means when he hits the door they attack him. This also means when don’t get a lot of time together some nights. We have the advantage of a set of grandparents near by so at least a couple times of month we plan for them to come over & watch the boys. My hubs & I sometimes go to eat(using a coupon of course), the library, the grocery or just anywhere alone. It’s a great time to have some uninterrupted conversation and just be together. We also ALWAYS take advantage of the free Redbox codes! 🙂

  • Avary says:

    *Sonic Happy Hour on the weekends, and go for a drive 🙂
    *Picnic at a park
    *Switching with friends to baby sit

  • Going out for ice cream cones is my favorite! We LOVE McDonald’s ice cream cones, which are around a dollar each!!! Sometimes we’ll park the car somewhere, eating them and talking. Other times we’ll just come home and hang out. It’s so affordable, and ladies, it’s only 150 calories!!!

  • Joy says:

    Just last night we went to Chili’s with a coupon, total w/ tip was $13.84
    Then we went to Baskin Robbins for $1 scoop night, total cost was $2.10
    Went to the nearby park to eat it, sat and watched the sunset.
    Got a free Redbox movie with a code.
    Got a bottle of wine to have during our movie $5.94
    Grandma babysat, free
    Total for a wonderful date night was around $20
    All of this paid for by some broken gold jewelry that had been in my jewelry box since I was a kid. I sold it at a local jewelry store for $21.30

  • Cassandra says:

    We’re lucky enough to have free babysitting by Grandma, and my absolute FAVORITE cheap date packing a night-time picnic on the beach. The beaches are all but deserted on weekday nights, and there is NOTHING more romantic than listening to the waves crash while lying under the stars!

  • SarahJane says:

    We’re DINKs (not by choice!), and while we love spending time together at home, we’ve found that it’s important for us to get out together, to get away from the stress of work and household chores. Sometimes we just go walking or hiking, but once or twice a year we go to a secluded forest service cabin in the woods. It’s roughing it, but for $35/night we get a lake-side cabin with heater, fireplace, dock and canoe. We feel rejuvinated and have a great time.

    In addition to the $35 rental fee, on our last trip, we spent $2.79 on fuel driving to the trailhead and $1.85 for popcorn. For the rest of the supplies/food we made do with what we had in the pantry. Not the cheapest “date” but pretty good for a night away.

  • Melanie says:

    We find swapping with a friend once a week is good. We choose different days, but really once a week to watch someones kids isn’t a bad trade for our own date each week. Besides when I have other kids here, they seem to keep my kids entertained better anyway. A good rule of thumb is to swap with someone who has about the same number of kids as you do. Another thing my husband and I do while he is on his current night shift, is to swap during the day with someone else, which during the school year, means they have fewer of my kids and they never mind my youngest 2 (I actually get several offers from friends) and I don’t mind watching other kids at night- it’s not like they are taking away from “family” or “spouse” time. There is a lot more that can be done during the day, then you think, and a lot of places are less crowded- and lunch prices are so much cheaper! So, I know night shifts sometimes bite but, there are some added bonuses.

  • Leah says:

    Some good friends of ours and us trade babysitting. They go on a date one week and we go the next. This has been so great because it holds us accountable to going on the dates – we are always in a hurry for it to be our turn again so we bug the other couple to go on theirs (and visa versa). I highly recommend this!

  • Linda W says:

    Every now and then we’ll grab a loaf of french bread (fresh baked at the store) and a block of cheese and go for a nice drive out in the country, just looking around, or up in the mountains. Cheap trip and food that fills you up; not to mention some much needed time together!

  • Linda W says:

    Oops…forgot to mention doing that while having 3 kids still at home (7 altogether) makes it more difficult, but it’s an every now and then thing!

  • Stephanie says:

    We traded date nights with another family we knew…one week we would watch their kids and they would go out…the next week it was our turn. It helps that our town has a Dollar Movie Theater too!

  • Kristine says:

    I do a lot like the first poster and have created a babysitters club with friends. We designated the 2nd & 4th friday of the month for date nights. 6-10:30p. We rotate the houses for hosting. 2 families host each time. We go through the school year since nobody seems to stay put in the hot AZ summer. So we get from Sept – May, 14 nights of free babysitting and 4 nights of hosting. It is great and the kids have lots of fun too. It is like a party night for them.

    Some of our dates have just been coming back home to have a quiet dinner just the two of us, or going for a walk. It is nice to just be alone and keep ‘our’ relationship strong.

  • Jan says:

    Amen about kids going to bed early- the earlier the better 😉

  • Stephanie says:

    We put the kids to bed and watch a movie on the OLD lawschool laptop from the bubbly bathtub…(Seriously what’s not romantic about that?!)

  • kristen E says:

    My husband is not very creative in dates, he hates playing card games which I love. He would rather watch a movie, which gives me no social outlet which I need. He is in college so we have a limited amount money, but we both have membership to the gym on campus. He took a racquetball class and loved it so I decided that this was something we could do together since he enjoys it and we can talk about how we are going to beat each other, which amazingly creates unit. LOL!!! Go figure!! After working out it makes the other person more attractive I think. We have friends that live on campus so we ask them to watch our kids for an hour while we go play racquetball. Our friends don’t have kids so they are willing to do it since they still think little kids are cute and fun, and an hour is about all they can take before it becomes babysitting. Hope someone else can use this idea to get a cheap quick workout and date all in one. Our gym also has smoothies so if we had $$ we would share a smoothie, but we dont have that kind of $$.

  • Karen Rucker says:

    Mystery shopping at the movie theatres is my favorite. You don’t really make money doing it once you pay for the non-shopper’s ticket. But it’s a free first run movie for only a small amount of effort.

    We also look for promotional specials, like how Pop-Tarts boxes have tokens that you can redeem for free movies right now. Combined with a sale and coupons, it makes date night pretty cheap.

  • Jeannie says:

    With the only grandchild in both of our families, we often have relatives jumping at the chance to babysit! My husband’s sister gave us movie gift certificates and a promise of baby sitting services for a Christmas Gift. We love that our son is with family & they love getting to spend the extra time with him. We can sneak away to dinner (sharing an entre) or just run to home depot to figure out our next home investment purchases.
    Most of the time though, we prefer to stay in, our boy goes to bed at 7. The rest of the night is ours, to be J & N, not mommy & daddy. We borrow movies from friends/family and cuddle on the couch. Works perfect for us!

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