Cheap Thrills

With a little creativity, you can enjoy a regular night out with your mate -- even if money is tight.

When Greg and I married, I didn't give much thought to having a regular date night. When we're together, I thought, every moment will be filled with thoughtful gestures and hours of meaningful conversation.

But between his youth ministry with a growing suburban church and my job one-hour away, we spent our time together talking about practical matters before going our separate directions. So when Greg and I moved to the small church where he would be pastor, we decided to spend more time together and discovered that planning dates is a smart idea.

Having a regular date night doesn't mean having to spend a wad of money. To celebrate my birthday this year, for example, Greg and I drove to the lake and watched the sunset. Our conversation on the beach was better than any steak dinner.

There are inexpensive possibilities around every corner. You can create your own to fit your shared interests. (If you have small children, swap date nights with other parents. One night you watch all the kids while the other couple goes out. The next time, it's your turn to go out while your friends baby-sit.) Some examples:

  • Go shopping for antiques at garage sales.
  • Find a two-person play at the bookstore or public library and read it aloud to one another.
  • Go to an arrival gate at the local airport and people watch.
  • Enjoy a creative cooking extravaganza. Get a jar of olives, cream cheese, peanut butter, saltines and anything you can find in your kitchen, and make your own hors d'oeuvres.
  • Become your own reading group. Pick a book you would both enjoy. Read it separately during the week and then discuss it over dinner.
  • Spend an evening at home with your favorite music and a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Rent (or check out from the library) each other's favorite movies on video and run a double-feature at home.
  • Go camping in your back yard.
  • Buy each other gifts at an everything's-a-dollar store. Over dessert, present your gifts and explain why you chose them. Time is precious and money can be tight in the ministry. But a little creativity and planning can go a long way in keeping the spark in your marriage.

Looking for something a little more extravagant? Try one of these ideas:

  • Rent a model of your dream car — especially if it's a convertible — and ride into the country-side with a picnic lunch or dinner. (Cost: $40 to $55.)
  • Go to the symphony or another favorite concert and top off the evening with a dinner at your favorite restaurant, a ride in a horse-drawn carriage or an overnight stay at a nice hotel in town. (Cost: $100 to $275.)
  • Spend a night in a bed-and-breakfast inn. If you live in a rural area, you may enjoy a night in a nearby city. If you live in a city or suburbs, get out into the country. To find a "B and B" in your area, phone the Bed and Breakfast Reservations Services Worldwide at (504) 336-4035. (Cost: $75 to $125.)
  • Hotel chains may offer reduced rates during off-peak seasons. Some travel experts advise that you make reservations directly with the hotel rather than through the central toll-free number. You may be able to negotiate a lower price with hotel staff.

Taken from "Pastor's Family" magazine, Feb/Mar 1997.
Article copyright © 2003, Ruth Burgner.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Used by permission.

Ruth Burgner is the director of communications for the Mission Society for United Methodists. She attends Antioch United Methodist Church in Gainesville, Ga., where her husband, Greg, is the pastor.