What Makes a Date Night Count (Plus, 10 Creative Date Ideas!)

While reading, listen to Lovesong by Mariee Sioux.

Sometimes, you're ballin' on a budget.  

And sometimes, you have a little extra to spend and spoil. Reed and I have experienced both in our five years together. Early on in our dating relationship, money was so tight, we used to spend date nights sitting in the aisles of Barnes and Noble, reading how-to books or laughing in the Children's section. Other times, we would share a waffle at the local diner, before our morning classes. During different seasons of better-paying jobs and cheaper rent, we had a little extra to spend and we'd treat ourselves to the best sushi in town (Nobu, at the time), or get each other nice gifts for birthdays and anniversaries. Looking back, I appreciate all of the ways we have enjoyed time together. As the years go on, you learn that fancy doesn't always equal important, and cheap doesn't always equal second-rate.

I knew I was in love with Reed when just driving around in the car with him was my happiest place.

When sitting together at the coffee shop on my campus felt the same as a fancy Italian restaurant, because the conversation was so meaningful. Ultimately, when the relationship is right, quality time doesn't have to look one way. As the busyness of life continues, and a million things tug at your attention, simply making time for one another is what is important. Date nights and quality time say, "In the midst of it all, being with you is a priority." Whether you are a few months into a dating relationship, or have been married for over 20 years with a handful of kids, making time to enjoy one another's company will keep the relationship healthy and thriving.

Reed and I love dressing up and going out for a nice dinner, or planning a getaway to enjoy some little luxuries, but those are not the things that make up our typical dates together. Living in the Bay Area is expensive, and with several trips coming up, there isn't much financial margin for $100 meals or extravagant adventures. Still, we are committed to weekly date nights, because we feel they are a simple way to keep romance and connection blooming in our relationship.

On these date nights, we don't expect the activity to be what connects us, it is our responsibility to be present and interested in each other.

Reed and I put our phones away, we ask good questions, and we try to be good listeners. We compliment each other and go out of our way to serve one another. I'm not perfect in this, but I always want Reed to feel like he is my #1 human priority - especially when we are on a date! I want him to feel adored, valued, and special. Before we go on a date or spend any time together, I ask the Lord to help me put my own selfishness aside so that I can selflessly love him. When I decide to put any unrealistic or selfish expectations aside and choose to "out-serve" Reed, I always feel fulfilled and connected to him when the night is through.

So what to do? And on a budget?! Well I have some creative, and budget-friendly date ideas that Reed and I return to again and again. I hope that as you try some of them out, your relationship grows! Let me know in the comments if you try any of them! I'd love to hear all of the mushy gushy details...I'm a sucker for that sort of thing.

10 Creative Date Night Ideas 

  1. Have a Takeout Picnic - Something Reed and I love to do is order our favorite take-out (Chinese, Thai, Pizza, etc.) and when it's delivered, set it up like a picnic in our living room, or take it with us to a local park on a warm evening. Good takeout does not have to be expensive, and eating together in a creative way, without the noise of a restaurant, makes for great conversation. 
  2. Go to a High School Sports Game - Though bleacher seats at a professional sports game aren't that expensive, perhaps you want to stay local, and you don't want to be tempted by those $12 garlic fries. Save up for a professional game later in the year, and in the meantime, enjoy some local sports! Support a local high-school or college campus, buy their nachos, and cheer like your life depends on it. 
  3. See a Local Play - Same goes for local plays! Of course we would all love to see Hamilton or Wicked, but those tickets are hard to come by. Support a local production (tickets are usually no more than $6-$10 a person!) and still enjoy a show! Even if the quality of the show isn't top-notch (just being honest), it's a great way to get out of the house and spend some time together. You never know, it might end up being impressive!
  4. Take a Scenic Drive (w/ a great playlist!) - In college, this was our go-to. First, because Reed loves to drive, and second, because I love making playlists. We'd usually stop by a Thrifty's or Wendy's and get some $2 ice cream, then find a dirt road somewhere. These drives always include singing at the top of our longs, lots of laughs, and holding hands (a few of my favorite things). If you want a playlist for your romantic drive, check out this one.  
  5. Visit a Book Store - Reed and I are still regulars at our local bookstore. A fun idea is to peruse on your own and pick out a book for the other person. Buy the books separately and then give them to each other with an explanation! This is a simple way to treat the other person while also testing your knowledge of their tastes and interests!
  6. Go to the Beach - If you are lucky enough to live within a drive's distance to the beach - take advantage of it! Reed and I go to the beach at least a couple times a month. The beach is our happy place and it is mostly free (unless you have to pay for parking - but try to find entrances that don't require it!) When we go to the beach, we often bring books, blankets, snacks, and a bottle of wine. 
  7. Build a Fort and Watch a Movie - One night, early on in our marriage, Reed asked if we could build a fort. My answer: DUH. We grabbed all of our blankets, pillows, pushed the furniture together, and voila! A fort was made. We snuggled up, watched a movie on our laptop, and ate pull-apart chocolate chip cookies. This is still one of our favorite things to do. If you're married - try sleeping there that night! It's so funny waking up in the morning, and realizing where you are. 
  8. Breakfast in Bed (for dinner!) - If you're a married couple, and you don't often get to spend mornings together, try this! Make waffles, omelettes and bacon, or whatever your heart desires, and enjoy breakfast in bed - for dinner. There is something so relaxing about putting on your pajamas, crawling into bed and enjoying some of your favorite breakfast foods, at the end of a long day. You could easily add a movie to this if you have more time! 
  9. Play Games at a Local Coffee Shop - Grab a board game or card game you already own and play it at a local coffee shop! Order your favorite drinks and enjoy. (This is a fun double date too!)
  10. Go for a Hike or Walk - Reed and I love the outdoors, and we are lucky enough to have plenty of beautiful trails not too far from where we live. Wherever you are, get outside and go for a nice, long walk! Whether it's in a residential area or a woodsy trail, getting outside together is relaxing and a great way to make some memories. 

Snapshots of some of our little dates...

What are your go-to date ideas? Do tell! I hope you enjoyed this post and will try some of these soon! Share in the comments if you do! Until next time...