Invest in your relationship

13 fun and affordable ideas for your next date night, plus 4 tips to ensure it’s successful.

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When is the last time you and your significant other had a date night? If you’re like many people it may have been quite a while since you had a night out, just the two of you. From demanding work schedules to keeping up with the needs of kids, aging parents and our high-tech, fast-paced lifestyles, it can be hard to find time for a date night. If you’re on a budget, date night can fall even lower on your list of priorities. But putting your relationship last can be a big mistake.

According to Melanie Schilling, psychologist and relationship expert, date nights are not just important, they’re critical.

“While many of us are happy to work on our fitness goals or career goals or family goals, when it comes to our intimate relationships we tend to neglect them,” says Schilling. “Without investing in that relationship and really prioritizing it, it can be really easy to grow in different directions without being aware of it.”

The good news is that making date night happen doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. All it takes is a little creativity and a commitment to making the time and effort to spend time together regularly, putting the focus on each other instead of all of life’s other demands. Need some ideas? Here are several that cost next to nothing.

  1. Build a campfire– Use your own backyard, head to the beach or a visit local camping area. Make s’mores if you like or just bring a bottle of wine. Get reacquainted with one another by asking each other these 50 questions, developed by Christine Stockton from the blog ThoughtCatalog.
  1. Work out together– Do something positive for your own health by taking a power walk, cycling, kayaking or hitting the gym.
  1. Wander the hardware store– Head to your local home improvement center and walk through the aisles planning everything you dream of doing to your home and picking out favorite products. Since you aren’t actually buying anything the sky’s the limit and you can reconnect over a shared dream home.
  1. Be amateur astronomers– Sneak out late, when the sky is most dark and the stars likely to be brightest. See how many constellations you can spot and tally sightings of shooting stars. Bonus points for bringing a blanket so you can lie side-by-side while you stargaze.
  1. Volunteer together– Reinforce shared values, broaden your experiences and do something for others by getting involved as a volunteer in your community.
  1. Visit a local museum– Be a tourist in your own town and visit that museum or art gallery you drive by every day. Look for free admission days or find out if a membership allows you discounted access to other museums you may like to visit in the future.
  1. Go for a drive – Take the family car for a drive and visit the site of your first date, drive through your favorite local neighborhood and look at the houses, or just cruise the country roads and take in the scenery. Want to spice things up a little more? Head to your local car dealer and test drive each other’s dream cars.
  1. Learn to dance– Whether you love to dance or have two left feet, it’s never too late to learn a few new steps. Look for a local studio that offers couples classes, or clear the living room and find a lesson on YouTube. You don’t have to be great at dancing to have a great time!
  1. Hit the theater – No need to spend big bucks to see a Broadway-style show in the city. Community theater groups offer excellent entertainment for significantly less cost, and you are giving much-appreciated support to local performers.
  1. Have dinner– Nope, not another dinner at your tried and true date night spot, instead make an occasion out of making dinner together at home. You can make it even more of a shared experience by choosing a new cuisine or unfamiliar recipe, shopping for ingredients together and then sharing the cooking tasks. Make sure to set the table with your best dishes and light some candles!
  1. Take a photo tour – Choose your favorite park, beach or area of town, and take a walk with the goal of seeing the area as if you were a photographer. Look for unique architecture, the beauty in nature and details you might not normally notice as you go about your daily routine.
  1. Seize the season– Summer and early fall are perfect for enjoying you-pick fruit farms (and, if you’re feeling really adventurous, doing some canning or making jelly/jam), October is the perfect time to carve pumpkins and winter is a great time to build a snowman or ice skate.
  1. Write your bucket lists– It’s fun to dream of all the things you’d love to do and places you hope to see, and you might even learn something new about your significant other. Take it a step further by getting online to research and plan some of the items on your lists – no booking required

Four tips to make date night count

It might seem tempting to use your time together to vent about work stress, talk about your kids or try to figure out just what that weird noise is your car is making. But you’ll get much more satisfaction and reconnection out of your date night by sticking to a few guidelines.

  1. Schedule your dates – Whether it’s once a month or once a week, get that time on the calendar and commit to it.
  1. Put away your phone – Choose one phone to keep on vibrate in case the babysitter needs to reach you, and turn the other one off, otherwise it’s too tempting to check your social media or text back your best friend.
  1. Focus on each other – This is the time to check in on your partner’s goals and dreams, or to reminisce about your first date, not the time to talk about bills, kids or work.
  1. Dress up – This doesn’t mean you have to get fancy, but a little effort goes a long way to help keep romance alive.

Most of all, remember that it doesn’t matter where you go or what you do. What matters is focusing on each other and taking the time to reconnect on a regular basis.