Monday, February 17, 2014

Frugal, but fun date nights

 Before I begin this post, let me be candid for a moment. My husband is a hard working man. He has a good job and finds joy in the fact that his jobs ultimately helps children. We know what it is to struggle financially. I can not work due to disability and choose to take the opportunity to homeschool our kids. Our kids have some health needs and have doctors' and therapy appointments on a regular basis. I have numerous medical bills due to tests and hospital stays that are all part of the process of discovering exactly what is causing my disability. This is not meant as a complaint or woe is me moment, but rather background for this blog post.

This year, I have decided to put my marriage at the top of my priority list.  One thing that I decided to try to do this year is have a date night once a month. That's not always an easy task when you live on a shoestring budget. With Valentines' Day this past weekend and our wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks, I am thinking creatively so that we can make it all work. It can be disappointing when we look at our budget, and there simply isn't the money there to go to dinner at a sit-down restaurant or see a movie or play. In my preparation and planning for our anniversary, I've come up with different ideas that would be both fun and frugal. I can also save whatever we don't do for our anniversary for another date night this year.

Here are some of the ideas I've come up with:
  • Make your spouse's favorite dinner and ask each other questions about dreams or goals for the year. (The key here is to really listen and not laugh at your spouse's dreams or goals no matter how unrealistic they may seem. Your spouse will respect and love your willingness to let him/her dream and join in on the dream.)
  • Find a special deal at a restaurant that you can afford and go out to dinner. If you enjoy dressing up, do it! 
  •  Pretend that you're on a cruise ship or vacation. After dinner go somewhere and keep pretending that you're visitors there. You may find that looking around as if you're a visitor/tourist that you see things you haven't noticed before.
  • If you prefer to stay home, pick up a few groceries and make dinner together. Watch a movie you haven't seen in a while or one you have never seen at all. Just spend some time snuggling or laughing together.
  • Even though money may be tight, it can be fun to go to one of your favorite stores and window shop. DH and I enjoy going to home improvement stores and looking at items that we hope to put in our dream house one day.
  • Board games can be a great way to fun. Change up the rules a bit and make an old game, new again.
  • If gifts are important to your and/or your spouse, try making him/her something special. A favorite cookie or dessert can be just as special as a store bought gift. If you sew, crochet, knit, paint, write, make him/her something that shows you really know what your spouse likes. Or make him/her something that would be meaningful for years to come, a calendar of the kids' pictures or a collage of memorable moments. 
  • Go for a walk.  One of my favorite memories with DH is walking barefoot around the plaza. We can't do it anymore, but I'm sure it's something I won't ever forget.
  • Watching a movie at a theater can be quite expensive, consider renting a movie from the Redbox or borrowing one from the library. Another option is attending the second run ($1) theater.
  • If you enjoy spending time with other couples, consider hosting a snack food pot-luck game night. It could be with just one other couple or several. Everyone brings some snack foods and a favorite board game to play. Just be sure to not be so busy hosting that you don't join in the fun.
  • Finding a babysitter can often make date night difficult. We live close to family and they often help us out with free babysitting. (It's a win -win because DH and I can have a date, and the grandparents/aunts & uncles get to spend time with the kids.) If family babysitting is not an option for you, consider having babysitting partners. Your "partners" watch your kids one evening/weekend and you watch their kids another evening or weekend that month. Your kids will enjoy getting to spend so much time with their friends and the adults will enjoy having an evening off to spend together.
  • Sometimes going out or finding a babysitter just isn't possible. Try to find an evening that you both can stay up "late" and spend some time together doing something you both enjoy (watch a television show or movie, play a game, or talk).
It can be disappointing when you want to take your spouse out on a date, but it's not fiscally responsible.  Take a few minutes to think about why you married him/her. What are five of your favorites characteristics in your spouse? What are some of your favorite memories? Use the answers to these questions to help you plan a fun and frugal date night. Don't be afraid to be creative or have the night not go exactly as you planned. Just try to positive and have fun with the love of your life. It will make a lasting memory and help your marriage be stronger.
Our anniversary date last year. A local restaurant had a special for dinner, and we went window shopping after. Some friends watched our kids for us. We saved money and had a nice time together. (Unfortunately, I'm on my phone listening to a voice mail from a family member.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A poem "Struggle"

Sometimes I find it hard to breathe.
The world closing in around me.
Icy fingers reaching out to grab hold
Of whatever joy I have left.

Where is the hope I need?
Where are the answers?
Why does it seem when things are finally better
It was just a lie?

Can I find my hope in God?
Can I give Him my heart?
Will I trust Him to do what is best for
My family and for me?

I know that I should be faithful.
Miracles I see each day,
People whose lives have been saved
Because of God's mercy.

No, I cannot doubt His existence.
I cannot doubt His amazing power.
But some days, I feel alone
And wish I could see His mercy for me.