Just two weeks ago, my wife and I celebrated our 4th anniversary. We had just enough in our date budget to share a meal and some strawberry cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory and go mini golfing. Although pregnancy sickness nixed the mini golf, we still had a wonderful evening and were excited to celebrate our marriage. For those of us who know us personally, we’ve been through a lot in the last four years together, so that bond is one I doubly cherish.
One of the things we’ve struggled with since we tied the knot in 2010 is our finances. When we got married, I switched from full-time to part-time so we could spend a little time together between work and school. Before that, neither of us needed student loans, but they quickly became a necessity. Every month, we diligently pored over our budget to see how we did and how we needed to improve. We vetoed my regular sushi lunches and cut back on some of her clothes shopping. We lived without air conditioning for almost two years and hit up friends and relatives for free or cheap furniture.
But we left the date budget untouched.
I guess to say we left it entirely untouched is inaccurate, which I also guess makes me a liar. But instead of doing a fixed monthly cost, our date budget is variable depending on what our income and other expenses looked like. But we never left that category with a $0 balance.
Why a Date Budget
After you get married, things change. Sweats and no make-up become more commonplace (don’t get me wrong–my wife rarely wears a lot of make-up and I love it), and burping and farting are no longer completely outlawed, although still not appreciated 🙂 But no matter what new things you find out about your spouse that you didn’t know before, the most important thing is that you spend quality time together and keep that courtship going.
We’ve put a lot of effort into finding ways to spend time together on the cheap. I even wrote an article on 50 cheap/free date ideas. But even we sometimes revert back to wanting to do some of the things we enjoyed when we were dating–like bowling or going out to eat. And honestly, after working long hours all week, the last thing I want to do is think up some cheap creative way to spend time together–so we compromise. We keep the date budget low, but we don’t make it so low that we’re tempted to break it.
Not all Dates are Equal
When we first got married, we spent a lot of time watching movies together. It got to the point where that’s pretty much all we did. All we had to do was walk down to the 7 Eleven to pick up a Redbox, then pull our couch up closer to our 19″ TV that came free with our bedroom set. But the more did that, the harder it was to stay connected with each other.
We still spend time watching movies. In fact, we’re on a Veronica Mars kick right now and have burned through two and a half seasons in the last few weeks. But we also make it a point to do things that help us stay bonded. Sometimes we go buy some brownie mix and ice cream and play games, or we’ll hit up Groupon and snag a delicious meal. This last weekend we went to a Texas Rangers game tickets courtesy of the in-laws (but we paid for parking, so that counts :))
The point is, the more time we’ve spent together doing things together rather than just vegging on the couch, the closer we’ve become and the more we like each other.
Invest in Your Relationship
Obviously everyone is in a different financial position here. While we’ve got debt (click here for the juicy details), there are people out there who are in a lot deeper than we are. I get that getting out of debt is an emergency, but be reasonable. If your marriage/relationship is a priority in your life, invest in it.
Sometimes our date budget is only $10-$20, usually because I’m actively trying to find ways to score gift cards. But on average, we’re sitting anywhere between $50-$75/month. For some of you, that’s barely anything. For others, that’s a lot. For us, it’s just right. Find your own balance and be reasonable.
And if you don’t have a date budget category, create one. Your relationship is worth investing in, and having an active date budget means you’re consciously making your relationship a priority.
Do you keep a date budget? What are some fun cheap date ideas you’ve tried out?