My husband Daniel and I met at 19 and were married by 21.
At the time, many people urged us to rethink our young marriage. Nobody was against us getting married to one another, but most seemed against the idea of marrying at such an early age.
The most common reason for cautioning us? Money — and we didn’t have very much.
We’re now both 26-year-old parents to two daughters, Penny (3) and Georgia (18 months) — and still broke.
We don’t regret marrying young, and we certainly don’t regret having children. But we understand what everybody was talking about when they said it would be difficult.
Being married with children, it’s been important to carve out one-on-one time together to talk, laugh and be the young people we still are. Over time, we’ve found plenty of ways to enjoy each other without spending a dime on dates.
Here are 14 free date ideas to get you started:
1. Feed the Kids First
Arranging for a babysitter is expensive — and stressful — not to mention actually going out for a nice dinner, and having to pay for that, too!
Instead, make a cheap and fast dinner for the kids, then put on their favorite movie in another room.
Spend an hour or two with your spouse making a delicious homemade meal together. Then sit down to have an adult conversation at the table.
Make it romantic — light candles, get dressed up and play soft music.
2. YouTube Exercises or Dance Classes
YouTube is a great free resource for finding instructional videos.
Instead of plopping on the couch as soon as the kids are in bed, roll out a mat and do couples yoga.
3. Take Photos of Each Other
If one or both of you enjoy photography, grab your cameras and take some photos together.
You don’t need to be a photographer to take a good picture. Read about good photography basics, get outside and have some fun.
4. Come Home for Lunch
If you and your spouse are lucky enough to work in the same city, come home for a quiet lunch together.
Since I work from home, my husband will sometimes come home for a quick bite while our kids are in daycare. It’s a nice way to take a break from our work and catch up in a quiet house.
5. Have a Games Night
Most of us have a few board games collecting dust in a cupboard somewhere.
Dig them out and start a Game Night. If you find games boring, look for a fun twist, like these board game hacks.
6. Watch the Sunset
This is a pretty cliché recommendation. Plus, it’s usually cold, the ground is hard and a twig keeps poking me in the butt.
Still, the sunset is beautiful — there’s a reason it’s a cliché.
If you live in a colder climate, take a drive to the top of a hill and stop the car to admire the view.
If the weather is warmer, climbing a hill with your own two feet will make for a romantic moment with your significant other.
7. People Watch
Go somewhere public and spend time people-watching together, like the mall food court at the mall or an outdoor park.
Make up fun stories about the people passing by, or come up with funny conversations they might be having.
It may sound like something only couples in movies do, but some improvisational humor may be just what you and your partner need.
8. Create Art Together
Buying art supplies is expensive.
Instead, get creative with the supplies you have. Raid the kids’ art stash and create something fun together.
Whether it’s coloring a picture, making a pipe cleaner family or finger painting, enjoy a crafts night with your partner. Display the art you create together to remind yourselves of your fun night.
9. Make an Epic Blanket Fort
It doesn’t matter how old you get, an epic blanket fort always makes for an evening well spent.
Bring in lamps, Christmas lights and lanterns. Make popcorn and watch a movie snuggled in your fort, or even consider a sleepover.
If you have kids, they’ll think you’re the coolest parents ever when they wake to find you sleeping in the living room surrounded by bedsheets, pillows and rearranged furniture.
10. Read Old Love Letters
Consider heading to bed early and snuggling under the covers, reading old love letters and journals.
It should make for beautiful moments of reminiscing, lots of eye-rolling and laughter.
To up the ante, write individual love letters to each other at the end of the night and exchange them. Keep them in a safe place to read years from now.
11. Be Rich for a Day
J. Lo had a blast pretending to be rich in “Maid in Manhattan” — why not try it out yourself?
Spend some time putting together outfits fit for the rich, get dolled up and head out on the town. Take expensive cars for a test drive, or go to open houses in a ritzy area.
Fake British accents are a bonus.
12. Have a Competition
Having a friendly competition with your partner.
Face each other in a video game battle, or see who can make the most delicious dinner. Duel it out on the basketball court with a friendly game of 21.
Whatever it is, keep it light and fun. Remember: We’re all winners here.
13. Recreate Your Favorite Romantic Movie Scenes
We all love a good romantic comedy, right?
Re-create your favorite movie scenes with some role-play fun. Cameron Diaz and Jude Law in “The Holiday,” anyone?
14. Have a Lip Sync Battle
Jimmy Fallon, Ellen DeGeneres and even Tom Cruise have mastered the Lip Sync Battle.
Thanks to Fallon’s show, everybody is all about that Lip Sync. Why not have a fun night battling your partner?
Get rid of your inhibitions — nobody else is watching but the love of your life. Just have fun, and start pretending to sing.
Your Turn: Will you try some of these free date night ideas? Let us know in the comments!
Brianna Bell is a professional writer living in Guelph, Ontario. She is married to her college sweetheart and has two kids under three. You can visit her blog: mrsbriannarose.blogspot.com