Getting out of the house when you have kids or other adult responsibilities gets harder and harder. Find a baby-sitter for your kids and/or dogs can be difficult and expensive. I know for us, we really needed a list of CHEAP as in FREE dates when our kids were really little. So this list is created based on what I have handy in my house, and should be either free or really cheap.
- Do puzzles
My husband is a whiz at puzzles. He can do super hard puzzles designed to be really challenging. I am sufficiently challenged with 500-100 pieces. Puzzles are great for if your kids are already in bed and you have a place to store your in-progress project, or if they’re small enough they can’t reach your puzzle surface yet. If you need a clever way to hide your puzzle from children (or cats), try putting it together on a piece of cardboard that you can slide under the bed to store. We’ve also used cookie sheets to sort pieces on, as they’re easy to put up out of the reach of kids and cats.
You can find puzzles for any budget! They usually have puzzles at the thrift store, if you don’t mind risking a missing piece at the end. Zulily often has interesting puzzles, and of course Walmart and Amazon have a huge selection. If you were to ask on social media, I bet friends and family would also loan or give you puzzles.
2. Audio book
I LOVE reading. My husband HATES reading, but loves BOOKS. He has Audible, which I highly recommend, since it lets him enjoy books without having a read. It has become our special grow up time to listen to a chapter of a book together some evenings. A romance book, a self-help book, Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, etc. You can often check audio books out from the library, so don’t skip this option if you don’t have Audible.
3. Take a Bath Together
Where we used to live we only had a shower. It was a glorious shower. Remodeled to be HUGE, like fit both kids and adults in it huge. It had two shower heads. It was lovely. BUT, we had no bathtub. At the new house, we have a common, one-person shower, but a jet-tub bathtub. It’s not the size of a hot tub or anything, but we can both fit in there…just barely.
This has started being a stay at home date night at least twice a month. We light candles, turn down the lights, run the water nearly 100% hot, and soak in bubble bath. This is great for us because: You can’t take your phone in the bathtub. I mean, there’s no law against it, but we’re not risking that important piece of technology. So we sit there in the hot water and quiet and we talk. We talk about work and our week and that funny thing that happened and the news. And no one is distracted by work or emails or relatives or anything. This one little date-night habit has made a huge impact on our relationship because there’s just something so safe and cozy about a hot bath full of bubbles. It makes it easier to open up.
4. Cook a recipe together you’ve never made before
My husband is a chef. Like, an actual “went culinary school” chef. This means I do most the cooking at home because he doesn’t want to deal with food by the time he gets home. Once a while, I will come up with something interesting and challenge him to cook it. We will work together and cook the exciting new thing and it’s always fun and delicious. If you are not a chef, that just means finding a recipe that you haven’t made before will be easier. Make sure you have all the ingredients and jump in!
5. Go for a Walk Together
I am not good at wasting time. I had it pretty well drilled into me that I should always be doing something useful. If I ‘go for a walk’ it’s either to walk the dogs or speed-walk for exercise. My husband and I have starting walking together in the evening if the weather is nice. I’m not sure ours counts as any sort of ‘date night’ because we are generally accompanied by kids and dogs, but at worst, it’s a family bonding activity. If you can go alone, a walk can be a great way to get conversation going because it allows you to focus on each other and your scenery. And of course, time together is never wasted!
6. Plan house remodel
If you rent, plan your dream house! If you own, plan what you would change to make your house your dream house! Research what people are doing with your style of house to update it. Get on pinterest and pin ideas. Talk about color schemes and furniture styles. Where could another room go? Do you need more or less yard? What about a green house? Tree house? Chicken house? You’ll learn about each other and you can see how much your dreams align or where you might need to compromise someday in the future.
7. Plan dream vacation
We have never gotten to go on a real vacation. So this is one we have done, just a little. We would love to go to Fiji. I have a Pinterest board to pin ideas about this vacation, search what I pack, when I plan to go, when to book the flight and hotel, what to see when we are there, etc. Plan a mega-dream vacation, then plan a stay-cation! Plan a vacation that takes you to see something in your state that you haven’t seen before. Or something in your TOWN that you haven’t seen before or haven’t seen since it was a school field trip. Planning together is a great bonding activity.
8. Back massages
You can’t lose with a massage. Pick some nice smelling oil and put on music from when you were dating or first met. Set a timer and take turns massaging either other’s neck and back and legs. Agree no hanky panky until both people have gotten a turn (I know how this goes).
9. Watch a well-loved movie
We both have a soft spot in hearts for Love Actually. It was just so amazing watching it the first time. We love it. I know there are articles about ‘what is wrong with it’, and I agree with many points made, but I still love it. We try to watch it at least once a year. You likely have a similar movie from your past that you can dig out and watch together. If you don’t have one you loved together, just pick one you loved before you met and share it. Cuddle up on the couch with popcorn and blankets. Laugh too loud and make the dog bark. It’ll be grand.
10. Listen to the music you listened to while dating
The soundtrack of when you first met or were dating can really take you back! Search for all the songs that bring back how you felt then; nervous, excited, happy; talk about how to you felt then and how you feel now and how you’ve grown as a couple. What’s the same? What’s different? We now have two kids and no horses, and back then we had no kids and several horses (Okay, I had several horses). I didn’t know how to cook. Like, at all. Now I do most of the cooking and design my own recipes! Let the soundtrack of dating take you on a walk down memory lane!
11. Slumber party in the living room
Pick a good date-night movie (silly? Scary?) and make a bed of blankets on the floor or fold-out couch. Cuddle down with dinner or cheese and crackers or candy, and enjoy your stay-cation.
12. Figure Out Your Love Languages
Take this free Love Language Quiz and then discuss how to better show love to each other. My son is a Gift and Physical Touch person. He is constantly giving little presents and hugs. I am Gift and Service, so I feel really loved if someone does a household chore that I despise, or brings me home a coffee.
13. Eat take-out my candle light
Now where we live, there is no delivery, but we could still bring home fast food to make this date night work. Dress up a fancy table and eat by candle light. Candle light makes everything fancier. Top it off with root-beer in wine glasses. Bring it to the next level by getting MULTIPLE courses from all your favorite places. Tacos? Pizza? Chicken Satay? Ice-cream? YES TO IT ALL!!!
14. Pokemon Go together
If you aren’t playing already, join the same team and hunt for gyms to battle around town! Take turns driving and being the passenger holding both phones to hit pokestops. Trade pokemon! Battle! This game is perfect for couples (and families) and can be played completely free. We like to figure out which of our favorite restaurants have a pokestop near enough to reach it from our table. It’s simple enough your kids can join in.
15. Play your favorite board or card game
What is your favorite game? Think about the games you loved as a kid. Do you own any of them? Figure out a game that works for two players and make it a date! Hot cocoa and Scrabble? Boggle snuggled in bed? Chocolate and cards?
16. Do water color painting together
Something I learned in my student teaching time is that water color painting is awesome because it’s very forgiving. Draw a cartoon sketch with a permanent marker and use water color paint to color it. It’s hard to make it look less than awesome. Go artsy, don’t worry about trying to be perfect. Frame your results and they’ll be wall worthy!
17. Paint with wine night
You can google a Painting with Wine class in your area and attend together, or just do it together alone at home. You can find very cheap canvas at Walmart or Amazon, along with cheap acrylic paints. Pick a Youtube painting tutorial video or just a calendar picture or image on your phone to paint. Get a glass of wine (or whatever is appropriate for you) and start painting! Both of you should attempt to paint the same thing. The difference in the results is part of the fun!
18. Breakfast for dinner
I love breakfast food. Crepes, pancakes, waffles, omelettes, sausages, hash-browns, biscuits and gravy, I could go on and on. I even love cereal. I just have one problem. I’m not a breakfast person. I usually eat my first meal about 11 AM when I serve lunch to the kids. So once in a while, I do breakfast for dinner. Make all your favorite breakfast foods and serve them for dinner! Top it off by serving it in bed. Backwards breakfast in bed.
19. Read a book together and then watch the movie
I love books. I also love movies. Some books get turned into great movies! They may not match up 100%, but they can still be awesome movies. Pick a book neither of you has read before and take turns reading it out loud or listen to it on audio book. Then watch the movie together! There are SO many books made into movies that you could turn this idea into a regular bonding time activity. Here is a list of books made into movies to get your starts: Books That Are Also Movies.
20. Konmari your bedroom together
If you haven’t yet watched Tidying Up on Netflix, it’s great. It’s like the cleaning motivation of Hoarders but happy. Watch it together, then pick a room or area to sort through. Get a box ready for things you don’t need to keep and plan a day in the next week to drop them off at your favorite second hand store (that way, they won’t ride around in the car for a year). My husband and I find it really pleasant to clean side by side and then you’ll feel super accomplished looking at the newly clean space!
I hope this list gave you some new ideas that work for you!