Times are tough for just about everyone on the financial front right now. If you own a home, chances are good it’s not worth what you paid for it (or even what you owe on it). If you were responsible enough to invest in the stock market or put money in a 401k, you investment has plummeted, and is only now slightly recovering. And for many families, layoffs have hit home which can mean frustrating job searches, living on savings, or taking a pay cut because something is better than nothing. It can all seem so depressing!
In a time when finances are so grim, going out on a date may seem like a luxury. But the truth is, if your family finances are suffering, you and hubby need a date now more than ever. Financial difficulty can really tear a couple apart, and it’s important to stay connected, spend time together, and have fun together. Here are some cheap date ideas to help save your bank account and your marriage.
1. Exercise together. Couples who stay fit together stay together. Grab a couple of tennis rackets and hit your city courts. Throw on your bathing suits and go for a swim in the community pool (or backyard, if you’re lucky enough to have one!) Go for a walk, run, or bike ride together. If you still have gym memberships, head to the gym together. Or, just turn on some good music and dance with each other. Cheesy, yes, but it will get you laughing!
2. Cook dinner together. No budget to head out to a gourmet restaurant? Flip through some cookbooks and find a new recipe you’d both like to try. If you’re feeling like a splurge, go for seafood or beef. If not, check out interesting vegetarian dishes. Go grocery shopping together for the ingredients and then cook the meal together. Working as a team in the kitchen to create something delicious can be really fun and rewarding!
3. Dine al fresco. Pack up a picnic and head out for a romantic outdoor meal. Plan it on a night when there’s a free summer concert available (http://www.realocmom.com/blog/things-to-do-in-the-oc/summer-concert-schedule/), or if you’re looking for something a bit quieter, try one of our beautiful beaches or parks.
4. Catch a movie. Okay, okay, movies aren’t the cheapest date around. But they can be if you get creative. One of the cheapest options is Redbox, where you can rent a DVD for 24-hours for $1. That’s right, $1. No catch, no coupon needed. They are usually located inside grocery stores, and the best part is, you can go online ahead of time and reserve a movie (http://www.redbox.com/). Selection isn’t always fantastic, but for $1, what do you expect? There are also lots of discount theaters around OC. The one in Irvine charges $1 on Tuesdays and $2 all other days (https://starplex.tstickets.com/ticketing.aspx?theatreid=1013). Or there’s one in Huntington that’s $3 all the time (http://www.regencymovies.com/main.php?theaterId=7). And the old Edwards Cinema at Triangle Square in Costa Mesa, which is now a Starlight Cinema, is $4 for a movie every Tuesday and Thursday (http://www.trianglesquarecinemas.com/). And if you really want to go on a Saturday night and see a newly released movie, remember you can buy discount tickets at many credit unions and at Costco. This will save you about $3 per ticket.
5. Play a game. We have a ton of games in our hall closet that rarely get touched. But a few weeks ago, we had another couple over for dinner, and after we put our daughter to bed, the four of us played a game together, and we had a really fun time. There are lots of fun ones out there for groups – Partini, Taboo, Pictionary, Apples to Apples. And if it’s just the two of you, get competitive with a game like Scrabble, Monopoly or Rummikub.
6. Hit a local happy hour. You can get some great deals on food and drinks in a fun, adult atmosphere. One of our favorites is the Bluewater Grill at the District in Tustin. Here’s a great “happy hour finder” with listings by city by OCStandard: (http://www.ocstandard.com/OC_Happy_Hour_Finder.html)
7. Subscribe to a coupon service and see what comes up. There are lots of great coupon websites out there now like Groupon (http://www.groupon.com/orange-county/), Screamin’ Coupons (http://www.screamincoupons.com/), and OC Register’s Deal of the Day (http://dealoftheday.ocregister.com/daily_deals/279). By allowing them to spam your inbox once a day, you get access to some great deals, like back bay kayaking, half off restaurant gift vouchers, Duffy electric boat rentals, massages, and more. Not only do you get a great price, you may be inspired to try a new activity or restaurant! Note: Screamin’ Coupons allows you to select a school to receive a portion of all your purchases, so you can feel good about contributing to your child’s school, too!
8. Attend a sporting event. Not necessarily a professional team, because that can get expensive fast, but consider watching a game at nearby UCI and cheer on those Anteaters! Get the sports schedule and purchase tickets at: http://www.ucirvinesports.com/tickets/ucir-tickets.html
9. Host a dinner party on a budget. Provide the main dish and ask each couple to bring a bottle of wine and a side dish or dessert. Make it a themed dinner, like Italian, Greek or Mexican for fun and encourage everyone to get creative.
10. Talk. For the ultimate cheap date, put the kids to bed, and when the house is dark and quiet, sit and talk. Hold hands. Kiss. Cuddle. Remind each other of all the things that made you fall in love in the first place.
And as hard as it may seem right now when times are tough, try to keep your perspective. Laugh often, delight in the little things, and weather the storm together. This, too, shall pass.