When I started dating my (now) husband just over 15 years ago, I was a Grade 12 student with a part-time job as a waitress, and he was an assistant teacher. (More on this interesting love story in the next blog!) So as you can guess, our dates weren’t extravagant. We got seriously creative with our …budget dates without it ever feeling cheap. After a decade (++), I am still dating my husband and here are our top tips and ideas!
“They” say you should regularly date your spouse. Sounds easy enough, right?
I know that four kids later, there sometimes just isn’t room in the budget for fancy date nights. Sometimes, there isn’t even room in the budget for a cheap date night. Sometimes, we don’t have anyone to watch these kids… So what are you supposed to do? Well, I can tell you what not to do: do not stop dating your spouse! The most memorable dates aren’t necessarily the most expensive ones. Instead, let’s get creative and think outside of the box.
AT HOME SPA DATE
I loooooove going to the spa. But ooooooh…there’s not always room in the budget for someone to massage my worries away while playing some soothing tunes in the dim-lit room.
So, with a little creativity, you can create your own spa right in your own home. Light a few candles, run a hot bubble bath and spend the evening relaxing with your husband. You can even end the evening by giving each other a nice relaxing massage… (hint-hint…nudge-nudge… SHOVE!)
LOCAL EVENT DATE
One of our first dates – and to this day one of my favourites – was when we went to watch the Stellenbosch University Orchestra do Handel’s Messiah. Oh. My. Hat. It was incredible. I felt so grown-up. And the end when they do the Halleljah Chorus: goosebumps! And you know what, it did not cost me an arm and a leg. (Student budget, hello!)
Search “events near me” or go a step further, and find out if your local university choir or drama or orchestra is doing any performances. Make it a full dress up opportunity!
This also makes for a perfect Valentines’ gift if you’re looking for something different. It’s super easy – buy a stack of icelolly sticks at your local craft shop (stores like PNA and plastic stores sell them as well). Write a cool date idea on each one with a check mark on one side so you’ll be able to see which one’s you’ve completed. Date Nights SA has some great date ideas if you’re stumped! Find things that you two love to do, or things you’ve always wanted to do. Make sure to include a few stay-at-home dates, some more expensive dates, some super fun and childish ideas, and perhaps throw in a couple raunchy ones for good measure! Throw them all in a jar/tin can and tie a bow around. Sorted.
Why not? Forget all the expensive stuffy restaurants and find a fresh and healthy alternative at your nearest Farmers’ Market. If you and your spouse can take an hour or so to walk around, holding hands, discovering all the local treasures, I’m sure you’ll rediscover some treasures in your spouse you’ve forgotten about. And go ahead, feed him those grapes. No one is looking! 😉
These are my absolute favourite dates. True story. I adore the picnic foods, the scenery, the vibe, the romantic high-school feel we get. And picnics have no rules. You pack what you love.
We have silly picnic traditions we’ve accumulated over the years – like a certain type of drink we only buy when we picnic. We do Simba chips sandwiches (hey, don’t knock it till you tried it!) and we always do chocolate mousse.
Another thing I love about picnics, is that we don’t always have to do paid parks or venues. Drive to a new neighbourhood/town, and find a quiet-ish neighbourhood (usually the more upperclass areas) and stop when you find a park. We’ve discovered some gorgeous places where the kids could play and it was quiet and peaceful. (Without kids makes your picnic slightly less noisy…)
This one is our next date, so it’s new to me too. (Watch my Insta-stories for when I share our experience on this soon!) It’s very easy and can be as long or difficult or silly as you want. This is how it works:
First, decide beforehand what the reward will be for the winner. It can be whatever you wish, and suits your budget. Be it the winner pays for the meal, or a gift, money, or that favour you want him to do… 😉 Then, make a list of items you need to find and photograph. (birds, colours, certain shapes, people talking on phones, purple shoes, tattoos, etc ) First one to check off all the items on the list, wins! The venue for your scavenger hunt can be any place from your local mall, a work function, or walking around town.
Sometimes we become such adults that we forget what it feels like to be a kid. To be silly. Make your next date night a night to the arcade. Buy R100 worth of coins and do ALL the silly ones. If, after R100, you want to add a few more, do that! If you feel you’ve had enough fun, go grab some take aways and sit in the food court like teenagers and talk about your favourite games and who is really the queen of the night. (We all know it’s you..)
LOOK FOR DEALS
There are so many sites that can help you save money on dates and trips and meals etc. Look for those. If you have a birthday coming up, Valentines Day or a special anniversary, try the following apps and websites first. You could literally save thousands!
Get the Entertainer app. Also, if you’re an FNB user, you can get the app for free! (True story!) The Entertainer offers thousands of Buy-1-Get-1-Free vouchers in food, activities, spa’s, wine tastings, travel, and retail. Our idea with this app is not to go out more than we usually do (hello, sticking to the budget here!), but when we do go out, we use this app so we can spend less!
Then there are these three websites that we also visit quite often; Hyperli, Daddy’s Deals and WikiDeals. All three can be customised to filter deals by where you live and type of deals you’re looking for. Even that romantic weekend away!
Some extra tips that can save you money when you’re already out and spending, but want to spend a little less. Go on dates in the morning or lunchtime. Food is generally cheaper. Also, you don’t always have to order a drink. When I realised it’s an eat-out habit, and not something I always do at home when we eat, we changed to only ordering a drink if I’m thirsty. Sounds logical, right? But try not ordering something to drink and see how weird that feels at first!
Use your gym membership, if you have one. Most gyms have childcare, so take full advantage of this time together. Challenge each other, encourage each other, and baby, work up a little sweat. And perhaps go take that shower at home…together. (Hey, we’re still saving water here in Cape Town!)
Do Happy Hour. Drinks are cheaper, and some foods are marked down, or halfprice. (Share that large platter!!)
Lastly, take turns. After being married for over a decade, I’ve realised there is still so much I can learn from my husband. We all grow, find new interests, or rediscover old ones. Allow you spouse to make a choice on something they would like to do, and agree without that face you pull. You’ll get your turn next time. You might just find you like playing Xbox. And he might discover he’s quite good at the tango.
May you and your love rediscover each other this year and not worry so much about not being able to afford date nights. DATE your spouse. Whatever it takes. Remember when you used to anticipate their needs and listened with interest to all their stories while you were dating? Do that. We all want to feel we’re important enough. And loved.
All my dating-romantic-20-something love,